Half a year after we started the blog we started traveling every month to a different destination around the world (we have been following this habit for almost three years), but recently I’ve become 32 weeks pregnant and it was time to take time off from going abroad and basically take a break from flying for a time. I hope with the baby we can go back and fly and travel a lot, but for now we have decided that this break is good too and it will allow us to travel more in our country Israel.
This time we decided to take a trip to Acre, which is one of my favorite cities in the country. I grew up in Kiryat Bialik (10 minutes drive from Acre) and so I visited Acre a lot, but the truth was that I always did the same things and didn’t really research it.
So, before we went there this time, I did some preliminary research on what to do and was honestly surprised by how many things to do there are in the old town. We were there for two days and it left us with a taste of more.
Acre in short
We slept at the Zidan Sari suite.
We came to Acre by car and parked for free near the lighthouse
We took the trip in the beginning of October 2019
Trip duration: Two days
A bit about Acre (Akko)
The ancient city of Acre lies on the Mediterranean Sea in northern Israel (Between the Krayot and Naharia), it’s a magical mix of tiled streets which have seen Byzantine, crusader, Muslim and Ottoman rulers. It has a vibrant Arabic market; Amazing boutique hotels; renowned hummus restaurants and even better fish restaurants.
Where to stay when visiting Acre
It’s the first time we spent the night in Acre and it was truly an incredible experience. I found us the Zidan Sarai suite which I booked through AirBnB (A 150-shekel discount on your first order), notice that the payment through the website doesn’t include tax, like most Israeli websites. The suite itself is in the alleys of the old town, giving a homey and local feeling. From outside there’s nothing to let on the beauty of the suite, but upon entering it the first word is simply “wow!!!”.
I’ll start from the beginning and explain about the suite. It belongs to the Zidan family, run by the Arabesque hotel. The advantage to that is that the hotel’s reception allows you to check in and leave your bags there if you arrive early and want to go out into the city (You can do the same thing upon check-out). You can also eat at the hotel for another 100 shekels for a couple. I personally recommend the breakfast. The price is definitely worth what you’re getting (Salads served to your table, breads, eggs per order, eggplant in Tahini, cheeses and orange juice).
Additionally, the hotel has a rooftop balcony you can go up to with some coffee and baklawas (Also included in the breakfast) and enjoy the sea view. You can also stay at the Arabesque hotel (We didn’t get to see the rooms there, but I’ve seen its great reviews).
The Zidan Sarai suite
Anyhow, after walking around town, Moein came to take us to the suite. The suite is huge! About 80 square meters, belonging to a family. It was used as a carpentry by the family before they decided to set up a guest suite there. They built it in 4 years, with attention put into every detail. There’s a kitchen, living room, Turkish Hamam (Unique experience of this suite), bedroom and huge shower with two showerheads (So as a couple, each of you can have his own showerhead :))
Where to eat in Acre? Restaurant recommendations
This is one of the most recommended and well-known restaurants in town and for good reason. We ate there a few years ago and remembered the meal as very good, so we decided to come back. The restaurant is located across from the sea and it’s recommended to book there in advance. We went during dinner.
There’s a varied menu of fish and seafood, as well as vegan and vegetarian options. You can go for a tastings menu, which is what we went with. The concept of the tastings menu is that you tell the waitress if you have any food allergies or preferences (I let her know I was pregnant) and the chef accommodates you accordingly. Different dishes keep coming out without you knowing what they are, and as soon as you’re full – you ask them to stop sending them out.
We were there for about three hours. The meal was amazing, and despite us being full by the end- we still wanted to try more. For guests of the arabesque hotel and the suite there’s a 10% discount there, which is nice.
The meal cost us around 500 shekels including a glass of wine, tea, dessert and a tip. Map
An Arabic restaurant in the middle of the market. You’ll find fish, meats, seafood, salads and hummus there. Roman had two lamb skewers with chips and many salads (For 95 shekels) and I had a vegetable and chickpea salad. Service was good and the salads were tasty. Roman said the skewers were really good.
In conclusion, a great option for those who want to have a meal with different salads and meat or fish.
Sambousek and pita with Zaatar stand
This stand is also in the market and you’ll find different sambousek there made on the spot, zaatar pita, Druze pita and whole wheat pita. The sambousek with Bulgarian cheese and zaatar was amazing (15 shekels). It was so good we decided to take a few home, we also bought whole wheat pitas which were really great.
Hummus places – Sa’id and Sohilla
This time we didn’t get to eat at any hummus restaurants, as its not recommended during pregnancy, but there are two places you should know. The famous Sa’id hummus (Map) is in the heart of the market and there’s always a line, and Sohilla hummus (Map) is on the street before the entrance to the market, and to be frank I’ve been having hummus there since I was young and I think it’s really successful.
Things to do in Acre (Akko)
I was surprised to discover how many things you can do in the old town. We purchased a combined ticket from the Arabesque hotel for 60 shekels per person (Cheaper than over the counter), which includes entrance into all the museums and the templar’s cave, so if you’re planning on visiting them it’s highly recommended. The old town is really small (500 square meters), so you can reach everything by a short walk and get a lot done in one day. Opening hours for all the attractions in ancient Acre.
Acre’s central market
This is one of the city’s main attractions and I personally love this market. You can find spices, souvenirs, coffee, clothes, desserts, restaurants, natural juice stalls and many smells of just about everything. While the fish smell isn’t the best thing in the world (In my opinion at least :)) but it’s part of the experience and you can find many treasures there, like natural olive oil soap, great olives, quality olive oil and more. The market is open every day, with opening hours changing during the holidays.
Built during the 18th century and abandoned in 1948 when the old town was conquered by the IDF. The market was clothed for many years, and recently the municipality decided to re-open it after restoration. Today you can find art galleries, cafés and restaurants there. Many young chefs opened their restaurants there and beyond that, the place itself is beautiful and photography fans will surely enjoy the market – as it’s very photogenic.
The market is open every day from morning till afternoon.
When I was a kid, I loved to jump between the rocks in the port itself and to watch the fishermen. There’s also the possibility to take a cruise on a speedboat or a ship (We didn’t do it this time, but I remember enjoying it in the past).
Around the port, many cafés, galleries and restaurants opened over the years and there’s a beautiful view of the sea.
Watching the swallows at sunset from the hotel rooftop
One of our favorite things on this trip was the swallow experience at night. I don’t know why, but towards sunset (When we were there it was around six twenty), suddenly many swallows appear, flying in the sky and cats on the rooftops try to catch them (And sometimes even succeed). Moein recommended we go up to the hotel balcony to watch this phenomenon and it was a great recommendation. We made ourselves coffee at the hotel entrance and went up to the balcony. Even if you’re not guests of the hotel and you ask to go up, they’ll likely agree as they are really nice there.
The Templars’ Tunnel
The Templars’ Tunnel is an underground tunnel under the Acre streets. The height of the tunnel is about two meters and at some points even less than a meter and a half. Let’s say that for Roman, who’s almost 2 meters tall, it’s a challenge – and with the pregnancy, crouching wasn’t the simplest for me. So, keep that in mind, but it’s definitely a nice experience and the section with the low ceiling doesn’t last long. It’s open all day long.
Roaming the alleyways
The old town is filled with alleys and we enjoyed just walking them with no special purpose. We discovered something new every time, a unique shop or a pretty photography spot. The people there are really nice and helpful and if you get a bit lost, you can always open google maps and save a marker such as your hotel.
Another thing we discovered while wandering in Acre’s alleys are special shops, like 192ART (Map), a handmade item shop by Galilee women. There are dishes, decorations and more, and everything is really colorful and pretty. If you’re looking for a nice gift for someone you love or just something for yourselves, this is a great place to visit.
By this shop you’ll find a jewelry shop from old coins, Meran Shavit. You have to enter this one, as it’s amazing how creative people can be. They made ring like jewelry from old coins and the prices aren’t too high either.
Chipping and stone sculpting workshops in Almadrasa
During our wandering in the Old City, we came across a structure with a sign for stonework and sculpting workshops on it. We decided to go inside and found an impressive workshop with lots of statues of stone and a lovely guy named Amar who is a craftsman and the owner. He explained to us a little about what he does and said he also gives private lessons to groups that book in advance.
The cost of an hour-and-a-half workshop is about NIS 120 per person, working with marble. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to do the workshop, but it looked really nice and I’m sure we will try it in the future. Even if you don’t plan on taking the workshop, you should check out his art as it’s really beautiful.
Museums in old Acre
Treasures in the walls museum
This museum is in the heart of the eastern wall of ancient Acre. Its purpose is to conserve the historic legacy of the city and recreate authentic visages from the past. What I liked about this museum is the exhibit of craftsmen from the city’s past. You can see how the shops and their owners looking, such as the shoemaker, the dentist and more… You can also see professions that no longer exist such as hatters and leatherworker. It’s worth a visit.
Turkish Hamam museum – Hamam Al Basha
The Hamam Al Basha museum is a combination of visual, static and dynamic elements and a soundtrack that combines the Hamam vibe into Acre’s stories. About every quarter hour begins a show which allows you to learn about the period when the Hamam was built, who built it and to what end. The Hamam is built from several rooms, each with its own unique story.
It’s an experience fit for children and adults alike and we enjoyed it a lot.
At the entrance you get an electronic player for the duration of the visit. You can choose between Hebrew, English, Arabic, French, Russia, German, Spanish and Italian.
The knights’ kingdom
An electronic player can be obtained at the entrance to the Knights Museum as well (this is included in the entry price and it is highly recommended to take it, as it is an important part of the museum experience). The place is suitable for both adults and children and includes stories and explanations.
The player is automatic and plays the appropriate part based on the location you are in, so you do not need to touch it or type numbers like some museums. You just walk through the huge fortress and every time the story of where you are is played.
A bit about the museum, beneath the fortress building built by the Ottoman ruler are the remains of a Crusader Hospitaller Citadel. Archaeologists have exposed the Crusader fortress over the decades.
The halls that were unearthed underground are also called the Knights’ Halls and thus allow a glimpse into the lives of the Crusader knights who lived here centuries ago.
By the way, outside the old town are the Bahai gardens which I’ve visited in the past, however we didn’t get around to them on this trip.
In conclusion, Acre is one of Israel’s unique cities. It has a fascinating history, magical alleyways, local markets, great restaurants and it’s on the shoreline. I recommend visiting it for at least a day trip, and I possible then overnight, since that allows for a different experience and there are many worthwhile boutique hotels and suites there.