An all-around family vacation in the western Galilee

Part 2 – Acre and the surrounding area

By TALY SHARON
September 8, 2019 07:00
THE CITADEL in Acre

THE CITADEL in Acre. (photo credit: TALY SHARON)

Part 2 – Acre and the surrounding area

Staying two nights at SeaLife Hotel in Nahariya, we spent a full day in the must-see sites of Acre: the Hospitaller Fortress, the Hamam, the Templars’ Tunnel and the market with lunch at Elmarsa restaurant at the port. We had a beer at the Malka Beer Yard at Yehiam and returned for a live concert of the band Full Trunk at the gardens of the Acre Fortress in the evening; as it turns out that there’s nightlife here as well!

The secrets of Acre the city above and below

The old sites of Acre are of the most impressive and must-see sites in the western Galilee. It is a gateway to the history of the city. One can spend a full day in Acre visiting the sites above and below ground – the market, the port, mosque, synagogue and the main historical attractions: Hospitallers’ Fortress (Knight’s Hall), the Templar’s Tunnel, the Turkish Bath House, the Okashi Museum and the Treasures in the Walls Museum. The sites are scattered around town. This time, we visited the first three.

The visitors’ center is accessed via an enchanting courtyard and garden. The self-guided tour starts here with an introductory movie and all the sites have either a self-guided audio tour (included in the price of the ticket, available in multiple languages), or built in presentations (at the tunnel). There is also a cool HTC-vive 3D movie that will take you back in time (for a few shekels) that we loved!

The tour took us back in time. Acre flourished during the crusader period, it was the headquarter of the Hospitallers between the years 1191-1291 and a gateway to the country, as 60-70 ships used to anchor here every day. The fortress and settlement included a church, hospital, dining hall, houses, markets and everything needed to serve the Templars and crusaders. The Mamluks conquered the city, followed by the Ottomans, who buried it and built a new city above it, thus creating the nowadays two layers – the city above and the city below.

The current site is the northern quarter that was discovered and excavated. Ancient maps found in the Vatican indicate a huge settlement that was here, and according to the map to match the finds in the area – the map is accurate and the area excavated accounts for only 4% of the entire city! In other words, this is the tip of the iceberg in terms of findings and excavated area! It is hoped that there will be a budget to dig the entire old city.

The tour passes through halls and tunnels that have been refurbished, arranged and installed with raised wooden floors, lighting, display signs and artifacts. Many halls have screenings illustrating the period, making the tour particularly impressive!

At the end of the main fortress tour you will reach a huge hall with a local arts and crafts market “Bazaar.” The development company has dedicated this artisan’s lane to local artists and small businesses from the area who sell their works at fair prices making it a good place to meet them, see their work in action and buy souvenirs and gifts!

After the main tour, we walked via the market and visited the Turkish Bath House and the Tunnel. Both are relatively smaller sites, and the visit is short but as impressive. The bath is luxurious and authentically demonstrates the life here back then, and the tunnel is extraordinary – walking along this historical path is something both adults and children can enjoy.

The site is accessible and is air-conditioned, which also makes it a great escape from the summer heat! Combo tickets are available to visit all the sites at a nominal price.

Old Akko Visitors’ Center, Acre, akko.org.il/en, info@akko.org.il,04-9956706

Elmarsa Fish and Seafood Restaurant

Elmarsa is located in the old Ottoman customs house dated 1210 at the southern side of the port in the area of the Fisherman’s Wharf. It enjoys the view of the busy small port and the sea. The restaurant is a creative fusion fish and seafood restaurant blending east and west using local ingredients. The chef, Alaa Musa, who is also one of the owners, worked at Michelin-starred restaurants in Sweden and this is evident in the presentation and taste of the food. Each plate is like a piece of art and there is great detail in the ingredients, cooking methods, herbs and seasoning.

The restaurant serves mostly fish and seafood, but also meat and vegan food. While everything was superb, including the very well-made beef, I want to recommend a few dishes we were mostly impressed with: pickled salmon that was served with divine capers tartar; calamari salad – the calamari was tender and melted in my mouth and the homemade spicy Labaneh it was served on was so yummy; the Seviche salad that was served like a drawing and so full of flavors! Lastly, the vegan dish of lentils with seasonal vegetables and eggplant was excellently made; this wasn’t obvious to me.

The prices are reasonable and if you get here during weekdays before 18:00, you can take advantage of the business offers.

Elmarsa Restaurant, the port of Acre, not kosher, en.elmarsa.co.il, 04-9019281

Malka Beer Yard at Yehiam

On weekends, the Malka Beer Yard is open at Yehiam (near the fortress). Malka beer is a boutique Israeli brewery that was established in 2006. The brewery has grown and moved to the industrial area of Tefen. The old place at Yehiam is now open on weekends as a beer yard serving light meals and all the beers that the brewery makes (currently six). We got here on Friday afternoon and enjoyed the surrounding hilly view as well as a glimpse of the fortress. The sitting is under the trees and it is family friendly. Note that they only open on Friday and Saturday between 12:00-17:00 (16:00 in the winter).

Malka Beer Yard, Kibbutz Yehiam, not kosher (but the beer is), malkabeer.co.il, 04-9941577

Live performances at the Acre Fortress

If you think that there’s no nightlife here, think twice! Many Israeli musicians and bands perform around here especially during the summer. The festival gardens at the Acre Fortress hosts many shows for a nominal price of NIS 69. We heard the Israeli band Full Trunk. Coming here at night is a totally different experience – the walls are illuminated, there’s a great sea breeze, there are food stands and everyone is in good mood drinking beer and wine. The fortress has a unique nightly magic! In the near future, known Israeli singers will perform here, for example, Micha Shitrit, Marina Maximilian, Aviv Geffen and others.

Show times and tickets are available at: https://2207.kupat.co.il/show/mia

For more information about the western Galilee, see: bgalil.com. The author was a guest of the Western Galilee Tourism Association and the sites mentioned in the article.


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