Anchor in Acre

After centuries of historic significance as a major Mediterranean port, this mixed Arab-Jewish city is today laid back and low-key.

acre road 298 88 (photo credit: Old Acre Development Company)
acre road 298 88
(photo credit: Old Acre Development Company)
The charm of Acre's living, breathing old city is enough to draw visitors from far and wide. Although there are plenty of tourist attractions within the walls, the ancient port city has managed to retain much of its character while its residents continue their day-to-day lives. After generations of historic significance as a major Mediterranean port city and trade center, Acre today is much more low-key, especially in comparison with its southern neighbor, Haifa. However, its past reputation and preserved monuments, including a tunnel to a 12th-century Knight's Templar fortress, are enough to earn the Old City of Acre designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. While the new city built outside the historic walls far surpasses the old city in size, it is the unique allure and beauty of the old city that are most impressive. Although the overall population of Acre is mixed Arab-Jewish, with percentages nearing 50-50, the old city remains a traditional Arab neighborhood which adds to its authentic feel. If you work up an appetite during your trip up north, you might want to check out the culinary delights of the city upon arrival. Humous Sa'id For those who partake in the ongoing quest for a perfect bowl of humous, Humous Sa'id ((04) 991-3945, vegetarian, not kosher) is a mandatory stop. Located in the heart of the old city, on the main market road, Humous Sa'id is easily recognizable due to the long line of people snaking out of the small restaurant, waiting to be seated. As is the case with many 'serious' humous joints, Sa'id is a no-frills operation, serving only the basics (humous, ful, pita), and abiding by the early-closing tradition, shutting up shop by 2 or 3 p.m. Uri Buri If seafood is more your style than humous, Uri Buri ((04) 955-2212, not kosher) is the place for you. Near the lighthouse of the old city, and just meters from the Mediterranean, Uri Buri has a reputation as one of the best seafood restaurants in the country. While slightly pricier than a bowl of humous, the food is worth the cost. Owner Uri Jeremias is as passionate about the city of Acre, its turbulent history and diverse demographics, as he is about the food he and his multi-faith staff serve. Abu Christo Another Acre dinning staple by the sea, Abu Christo has been serving both seafood and meat dishes as well as salads and humus since 1948 ((04) 991-0065,, not kosher). It also offers a chance to dine on a patio overlooking the waves. The breeze is great as is the view of the bay and Haifa, but be wary of waves, on a choppy day you might find that both you and your meal get splashed! After a satisfying meal you should be ready to continue exploring the city, taking in the rich history and culture that Acre has to offer. Acre's Citadel For an overview of Acre's history, a trip to the citadel is a must. The walls and structures themselves are impressive, and exploring the treasures inside just takes it a step further. Travel through time examining relics from the Crusades and earlier and continue to remains of an Ottoman fortress. Finally, check out the upper level which exhibits British Mandate buildings before walking outside and returning to the present. Al-Jazzar Mosque Located on Rehov Ahmad al-Jazzar, the impressive green dome of the mosque is hard to miss. The marble work and carvings inside the mosque are equally remarkable. Built by the Turks in 1781/82, al-Jazzar is also known as Jama al-Basha (Mosque of the Pasha) and is the largest mosque in Israel outside Jerusalem. Opening hours are 9-5 p.m. daily, entrance is NIS 5. The Templars' Tunnel Discovered in 1994, the tunnel has been open to the public since 1999. The tunnel was built in the second half of the 12th century by members of the Templar Order to connect their fortress (the remains of which are now under the sea) to the city port, 350 meters away. The Templars were a military-monastic order that came to the region to protect the holy sites of the land. Entrance to the tunnel costs NIS 10. Old City Market To put your fingers on the pulse of the old city, a visit to the souq is in order. Filled with merchandise and delights for both locals and tourists, the market, which runs down the main street of the old city, is a great place to stroll and shop. Stalls of produce and fish so fresh they are still flapping are set up next to trinket shops and spice stands. There is also a wonderful street-food culture in Acre with stands selling sweets, nuts and fresh juice throughout town. Whether you are in the market for souvenirs or basic grocery shopping, you should be able to find it here. Sea Walk Promenade This walk along the walls of Acre is beautiful at all hours to take in the history and views of the city. But if you time it right, you can close the day in Acre while enjoying a stunning, vibrantly colored sunset into the sea.