Haifa has less religious and historical significance than Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and many other cities around Israel. But it is definitely worth visiting, especially when you have the time and want to discover different aspects of Israeli life and culture.
Haifa is one of Israel’s most picturesque cities, thanks mainly to its famous landmark, the gold-domed Baha’i Shrine, and the symmetrical gardens surrounding it.
In addition to the Baha’i Shrine and gardens complex, there are many other sights to see in Israel’s main port city. Just above the Baha’i Shrine and gardens is the lovely Louis Promenade, which provides the perfect vantage for stunning panoramic views of the city and the breathtaking sunset over the Mediterranean Sea. At the foot of the gardens is the quaint and charming neighborhood called German Colony, a former settlement established by the German Templers in the 19th century.
The largest national park in the country, the Mount Carmel National Park, is not too far from the city. There are also numerous museums in Haifa, as well as other parks and attractions. Just like other cities in the world, there are also alternative things to do in Haifa if you look hard enough.
Haifa’s Masada (also spelled Massada) Street, a residential street located in the upper Hadar area, shows you a bit of Haifa’s cool side. With a plethora of street art and graffiti, it will instantly remind you of Florentin in Tel Aviv – that is, if you went there before. Masada Street is the perfect place in Haifa where you’ll want to let out all your hipster tendencies.
If you keep your expectations low enough, you will be surprised to find out that Masada Street is actually a rather enjoyable place to while away for a few hours. Masada Street is like a downsized version of Florentin Street in Tel Aviv – and it’s on the side of Mount Carmel. That makes walking around the area rather an uphill (literally) struggle, but cool nonetheless. But transportation is relatively easy to manage.
Aside from commuting via bus, the other way to get to Masada Street is to get off at Masada Station on the Carmelit subway. Carmelit is unique as it is the shortest subway and the only underground funicular railway in the world (well, it’s still disputed, though). Not just that, the railway is built on the mountain slope, which further adds to Masada’s (or the entire Haifa’s) cool factor.
Street art galore! There are fun street art works, as well as others that throw provoking social and political messages (including, not surprisingly, dissatisfaction towards the ruling government and the boiling tensions between the Israelis and Palestinians). Freedom of expression through art is very much alive here on Masada Street – it’s one strong proof of the vibrant democracy here in Israel. In addition to admiring street art, you can take your ease in between browsing shops and admire some of Haifa’s 1930s architectural heritage.
There are also numerous trendy coffee shops serving light fare and other business establishments interspersed between high-rise apartment buildings. You can see a used bookshop, a vintage clothing store, another store selling upscale and trendy clothing, a second-hand and antiques shop, and a clay work gallery. You can expect to find numerous bars as well. Yes, we know your hipster’s ears are up right now! Masada Street has slowly become a popular shopping street in Haifa.
But a fair warning: those cafés have signs that are only written in Hebrew (so, better brush up your basic Hebrew skills or get a local tour guide!).
Masada Street itself has slowly opened to tourists. And because of that, many locals and other residential properties have started to refurbish and open their apartments and other residential properties as Airbnb accommodations.
Apparently, there are also random street parties with live music and hipsters dancing. If you’re an artist, a writer, or a poet, you’re sure to find and befriend some like-minded folks on Masada Street. Masada Street is also the home of Broken Fingaz Crew, one of Israel’s popular graffiti collectives – aside from Haifa, they also operate in Tel Aviv as well as London and Mexico.
As you can expect from an artsy neighborhood, Masada emanates a laid-back, “chillax” vibe. But tiny little bohemian enclave in Haifa is a throbbing epicenter of bright and bold artistic ideas and endeavors.
The vibe on Masada Street may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but the place opens you to a more interesting, exciting, and eye-opening side of the lifestyle here in Haifa.
How to go to Masada Street
Masada Street is located only a short climb up the hill from the Israel National Museum of Science, Technology, and Space Museum (Madatech). The Carmelit subway stops on #38. You can also get a map of the street listing the various shops and cafés. It’s available for free (just ask).