Old Acre

Old Acre is an ancient coastal city that offers many different attractions. It turned it to a popular destination among tourists. I visited Acre many times (see Akko tag), but each time I visited only several attractions. In this post, I am combining most of those places. And visiting (some of) them together will make a nice (half) day trip. Let’s begin!

Basic Info

Acre is a historic city in Northern Israel. It is located on the edge of Haifa Bay (on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea). Both land routes and sea paths (Acre has a natural harbor) made Acre a commercial standpoint. And it is one of the oldest cities in the world, continuously inhabited since the Middle Bronze Age (around 4,000 years ago).

Old Acre is the ancient part of the modern city of Acre. It is a small part, and most attractions can be reached within a 5-minute walk.

Maps

Map of the area:

And here is a plan of attractions in Old Acre:
Arrtactions map of Old Acre

Acre And Napoleon

Since I mentioned Napoleon, then I should elaborate on this matter.

After the siege and capture of Jaffa in 1799, Napoleon attacked Acre.

The Siege of Acre of 1799 was an unsuccessful French siege of the Ottoman-defended, walled city of Acre and was the turning point of Napoleon’s invasion of Egypt and Syria. It was Napoleon’s first strategic defeat as three years previously he had been tactically defeated at the Second Battle of Bassano.

Source: Wikipedia

UNESCO World Heritage List

The Old City of Acre was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List under the following criteria:

  • Acre is an exceptional historic town in that it preserves the substantial remains of its medieval Crusader buildings beneath the existing Moslem fortified town dating from the 18th and 19th centuries.
  • The remains of the Crusader town of Acre, both above and below the present-day street level, provide an exceptional picture of the layout and structures of the capital of the medieval Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem.
  • Present-day Acre is an important example of an Ottoman walled town, with typical urban components such as the citadel, mosques, khans, and baths well preserved, partly built on top of the underlying Crusader structures.

Source: UNESCO

Parking Near Old Acre

I always park outside of Old Acre, i.e., in the modern part of Acre. And I do not recommend entering the old city by car. The closer you get to the main attractions the less parking spots there will be (including paid parking). And since I do not mind a 5 min walk, this is not a problem for me. But if you want a closer parking lot, you can continue driving to the Land Gate, and just before the gate to the right, there is paid parking lot.

I usually park not far from the Tunisian Synagogue (Eliezer Kaplan street 20, Acre) and walk toward the Land Gate. Before entering the gate, you will see the sea to your left. If you continue in that direction for 20 meters that you will see Acre port and walls:Old Acre

The Land Gate:
Old Acre Land Gate

The White Market

About 200m meters after you pass through The Land Gate you can see The White Market on the right side:
The White Market in Old Acre

The market’s walls and its sixty-four shops were whitewashed at the time they were built, hence the market’s name. The White Market is also filled with light and perhaps that is why the attribute is often used by Acre’s inhabitants to this very day.

Source: Official Site

Unfortunately today The White Market is not that attractive. There are some restaurants, shops and storage rooms. So, it entirely lost its original charm, and the only thing worth looking is the roof, which I showed above.
Our first stop was:

Hospitaller Fortress AKA THE KNIGHTS’ KINGDOM

I visited Hospitaller Fortress (also named the Citadel) about two years ago (you can find more info at this Akko post). And as in the previous trip, I bought a combined ticket to Hospitaller Fortress + Treasures in the Walls Museum + The Okashi Art Museum + The Templars Tunnel for 58 NIS.

The garden at the entrance to the Hospitaller Fortress:
THE KNIGHTS’ KINGDOM in Old Acre
Though the exterior has not changed, the interior has undergone renovations and rapid development. This exhibition is now called “THE KNIGHTS’ KINGDOM.” And if you have not been there for a couple of years, then it is worth visiting.

The exterior of the Citadel:
THE KNIGHTS’ KINGDOM in Old Acre
Model of the Hospitaller Fortress:
THE KNIGHTS’ KINGDOM in Old Acre

Short History

The Kingdom of Jerusalem was founded in 1099 following the First Crusade and the conquest of the Land of Israel. Jerusalem became the capital of the Kingdom and Acre subsequently developed into the port city and the main gate to the Holy Land. Following the battle of Hattin in 1187 and the defeat of the Crusader army, Salah ad-Din, who headed the Muslim armies, conquered the Kingdom. He ruled in Jerusalem and Acre for about four years. In 1191, following a two-year siege, King Richard the Lionhearted – who headed the Christian armies – re-conquered Acre. During this journey, which became the Third Crusade, the Christians were unable to free Jerusalem and established their new kingdom along the shoreline between Tzur and Ashkelon. Acre, the second most important city in the Crusader Kingdom, became the capital of the second kingdom.
The Hospitaller Order, which thrived in Jerusalem during the First Crusader Kingdom (1187-1099) transferred its headquarters to Acre during the Second Crusader Kingdom (1291-1191). The Hospitallers, who had a quarter there during the First Kingdom, returned to Acre, expanded their headquarters and rebuilt the site, which consisted of two to three floors around a central court as well as underground sections – water reservoirs and a sewage system. It was not the entire site that was excavated. To date, an area of about 5000 m2 was excavated, which encompasses the central court and the northern, eastern and southern wings. The western wing has yet to be excavated.

Source: Official site

New Halls

You start with an entirely new hall (the organizers opened it as a part of THE KNIGHTS’ KINGDOM exhibition.

Prisoners hall:
THE KNIGHTS’ KINGDOM in Old Acre

Archaeological items display:
THE KNIGHTS’ KINGDOM in Old Acre
The Eastern Street:
THE KNIGHTS’ KINGDOM in Old Acre

Audioguides

As you buy tickets, you can get an audio guide for free (included in ticket price). The unusual part is that these are electronic audio guides. How they know what track you should hear. As you go through the exhibition, you pass next to WiFi spots. As soon as you come close to one, it plays the right track.
Overall, this system works. But in many cases, you should not move too much while listening to a track. A couple of steps in the wrong direction and the audio guide automatically skip to another track. Also, there were two spots where you could not hear the explanations since audio guide kept jumping from one track to another. But overall, they did pretty good work.
They also added numbers to points of interest and arrows showing in which direction you should move. Most of them were clear, except this one:
THE KNIGHTS’ KINGDOM in Old Acre

The Beautiful Hall

THE KNIGHTS’ KINGDOM in Old Acre
One of the corridors:
THE KNIGHTS’ KINGDOM in Old Acre
The crypt of Saint John church:
THE KNIGHTS’ KINGDOM in Old Acre
Here is one of the new exposition telling about sugar industry. I had no idea that there was advanced sugar industry in Israel and it was exported to Europe:
THE KNIGHTS’ KINGDOM in Old Acre

Dining Room

One of the most beautiful halls, The Crusaders dining room:
THE KNIGHTS’ KINGDOM in Old Acre
Another new place is the pillars Hall:THE KNIGHTS’ KINGDOM in Old Acre

Artists Market

Besides the excavations that you can see in the photo above, the pillars Hall also holds the artists market:
THE KNIGHTS’ KINGDOM in Old Acre
When we visited the artists market, only about half of the stores were opened. And in some of them, we saw artists at work. For example, a woman was making a sculpture.

THE KNIGHTS’ KINGDOM in Old Acre

Hospitaller Fortress – Summary

That is it for THE KNIGHTS’ KINGDOM. Overall, Hospitaller Fortress changed significantly from my last visit. Thus, if you have not visited it for several years, then I would recommend paying a visit. It was greatly improved.

 

Within several minutes walk from the Hospitaller Fortress you can find the Jezzar Pasha Mosque, AKA the White Mosque.Old AcreBut, it was closed for a prayer (you can see the sign that they put on the entrance). So, we will come back later.

Meanwhile through the alleys of Old Acre, we headed to The Templars Tunnel.
Old Acre

Here we are passing next to El-Zeituna Mosque.
Old Acre

Old Acre alleys:
Old Acre

The Templars Tunnel

The tunnel is 350 meters long, and it extends from the Templars fortress in the west to the city’s port in the east. It crosses Pisan quarter and in the past, served as a strategic underground passageway that connected the palace to the port. The lower part of the tunnel is carved in the natural stone, and its upper part made of hewn rocks covered with a semi-barreled dome. The shaft was discovered in 1994. The Acre Development Company, in collaboration with the Antiquities Authority, cleared away the dirt and made the tunnel available to visitors. The tunnel’s western section was opened to the public at large in August 1999.

Source: Official site

Inside the tunnel:
The Templars' Tunnel in Old Acre

You can enter The Templars Tunnel either next to the sea or in the old city. We walked through the old town entrance and exited next to the sea (not far from the lighthouse).

Also, I should mention that while you inside, you can watch a short movie (around 10 minutes) telling about the tunnel and the history of the city.

Back To Ground Level

We exited the tunnel next to the sea and headed along the wall towards the lighthouse. Not far from the tower there is usually this picturesque juice stand.
Old Acre

Old Acre lighthouse:
Old Acre

Saint John’s Church

We headed back to the Jezzar Pasha Mosque. We walked not through the city but along the sea. On our way we passed next to Saint John Church:
Old Acre

Saint John’s Church, which currently stands next to Acre’s lighthouse, belongs to the Latin community (the Franciscans).
It is unclear as to when the church was built, although several years ago, the year 1737 was found engraved in the northern wall of the building. The church was renovated in 1947 and now serves as the only church of Acre’s Latin-Catholic community.

Source: official website

On the warmer days, teenagers jump from the Old Acre walls into the sea:
Old Acre

Their favorite spot is next to Saint John Church since there are stairs on the outer side of the barrier there:
Old Acre

Getting ready for the next jump:
Old Acre

Prayer time finished, and we are inside the

Jezzar Pasha Mosque, AKA The White Mosque

Al-Jazzar Mosque, which is known in Arabic as Jama El-Basha (the Pasha’s Mosque), was also formerly known as Jama El-Anwar (the Mosque of Lights), according to the Vakfiye of Ahmed Al-Jazzar Pasha. This is Israel’s largest mosque outside of Jerusalem and the largest one among the mosques built in Israel during the Turkish period. The building dominates Acre’s skyline to this very day.

Source: Official site
Old Acre

Entrance to Jezzar Pasha Mosque costs 10 NIS, and you buy the ticket at the gate. It is not part of Old Acre Development Company. Thus it is not included in the combined ticket we purchased at the beginning of the day.

The map of Jezzar Pasha Mosque compound:
Old Acre

Another exterior photo:
Old Acre

And the interior of Jezzar Pasha Mosque:
Old Acre

Entrance door:
Old Acre

Old Acre

The compound around Jezzar Pasha Mosque has these lovely passageways:
Old Acre

We headed back toward the land gate (the gate we entered Old Acre through).Old Acre

Not far from the gate, you will see this inclined road which allows you to climb to the top of Old Acre wall:
Old Acre

We walked up the wall since we wanted to visit last attraction from the combo ticket:

Treasures in the Walls Museum

When you walk on top of Old Acre wall you will see the museum’s sign:
Old Acre

The museum is located on the north-eastern walls of old Acre. The walls were initially built by the Ottoman ruler of the area Ahmed Al-Jazzar Pasha after Napoleon´s attempt to conquer the city in-1779. The commander´s tower “Burge-el-commander” is divided into arched halls which were used to hold the Ottomans garrison and now hold a beautiful and rare collection which gives an insight into the fabric of life in the Galilee during the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries.

Source: Official site

Old Acre

Treasures in the Walls Museum holds several rooms with antique furniture like this:
Old Acre

There are also many antique items:
Old Acre

Decorated kitchenware:
Old Acre

More furniture:
Old Acre

That is quite an impressive clock. I have seen watches with Hebrew letters instead of numbers, but this one also has the signs of the twelve tribes of Israel:
Old Acre

Not sure I can even call this as furniture, it is art:
Old Acre

You can also find different craftsmen corners. In these corners, you can see the tools and other items these craftsmen used. That is the hat maker corner:
Old Acre
Photo at locksmith corner:
Old Acre

Sandals maker:
Old Acre
The pre-washing machine era:
Old Acre
Old AcreTreasures in the Walls Museum is lovely. It is not large, and you can cover it within 60-90 minutes.

It was getting late, so we decided to make a short stroll in the alleys of Old Acre on our way back to the car.

Street graffiti:
Old Acre

Khan al-Umdan

We wanted to visit Khan al-Umdan:
Khan al-Umdan in Old AcreKhan al-Umdan is the largest and best-preserved khan in Israel. But, unfortunately, it was closed. For years it stood abandoned. Maybe they closed it for restoration or for building a hotel inside it. If you want to take a look at the interior of Khan al-Umdan, then see my previous Akko post.

The Port

You can see Khan al-Umdan from the port.
Old Acre

At the port, you can take a short sail along Old Acre walls. I was curious, and I made once a sail from the port. It costs 10 NIS, and the sail itself is concise one and lasts about 10 minutes. Recently, they opened a new sailing route. The Haifa – Acre route. There are several sails during the day in each direction, and it is suitable for somebody that stays in Haifa or Acre and want a day trip to the other city. I have not taken such a sail yet.

For more photos of the Acre’s port check this post.

And this is Haifa view from Old Acre port:
Old Acre

Napoleon Hill – Tel Akko

On another occasion, we visited Napoleon Hill AKA Tel Akko. Tel Akko is located on a hill in the eastern part of the city near road #85. The height of the Tel is thirty meters, and it is quite small, 600 meters on 350 meters at the widest part.

At Napoleon Hill in Acre, Israel

During the spring the hill has many flowers at it makes the walk sweeter.Napoleon Hill - Tel Acre

View from the hill towards the city center. On the left, you can see part of a soccer stadium with parking nearby (there are two trucks there). We parked our car there and used the stairs on the right to climb the hill.Napoleon Hill - Tel Acre

In 2009, the touristic project of Tel Akko was introduced. In that project, paved roads for pedestrians and cyclists were created. And watchpoints, like the following one, were installed.Napoleon Hill - Tel Acre

I was particularly interested in Tel Akko from a photography standpoint. Besides regular walk, it was also a scouting mission. And this is what Old Acre looks like from Napoleon Hill:Napoleon Hill - Tel Acre

I took that shot with a 70mm lens on a full frame body. And as it turns out, the Tel is not a good point for photographers.

View to the East:Napoleon Hill - Tel Acre

Napoleon And Acre

This Tel is also called Napoleon Hill with a big statue was installed at the top. It perpetuates Napoleon’s quest in 1799. During that quest, he tried to conquer old Acre. And despite a long siege, the city has not fallen. Napoleon Hill - Tel Acre

Near the statue, you can see an archeological site. That is a Tel. And you might think that the city of Acre was always in the same spot. But, it started at this location. The town was at the same site till the beginning of the Hellenistic period, when it moved to the west, closer to the sea.Napoleon Hill - Tel Acre

There are several routes around and near the Tel. We took the round one along the circumference of the top. This route, with several stops, took us about an hour.

Overall, the routes at the Tel are nice and short, but I would not consider them as top attractions in Acre.

Bahai Gardens In Akko

Bahaullah, the Prophet-Founder of the Bahai faith, resided during the final years at a mansion in Akko. His remains were laid to rest at a shrine, and today there is a big garden surrounding the area.

The Bahai Gardens in Akko are open from 9:00 to 16:00, seven days a week, but they are closed on Bahai holy days and Yom Kippur. There is no charge for entry and no need for a reservation.
For the most complete experience, we suggest you visit on Friday, Saturday, Sunday or Monday between 9:00 and 12:00 noon. During these times, you can enter the inner garden and visit the shrine.

Source: Official Site

Bahai gardens both in Haifa and Akko are stunning. But, from my experience, after visiting both, the ones in Haifa are more impressive (probably because they are located on the slope of Mount Carmel). Thus, if you can visit only one, I would recommend visiting the Bahai Gardens In Haifa.

Summary

Old Acre offers many attractions, and you can easily spend the whole day there. Keep in mind that I did not cover all touristic attractions. There is Okashi Art Museum (which I less liked), Hamam al-Basha and several others. Check out Akko’s official site for additional information.

If you are thinking about making Acre about your base, then you can easily spend several nights there. One day for exploring Acre, one day exploring Haifa (you can use the new sailing route I mentioned before) and one or several days exploring other attractions in this area. Here are two examples: Yehiam Fortress National Park and Rosh HaNikra grottoes.

 

What is your favorite place in Akko? Tell us in the comments below.

That’s all for today, and I’ll see you in future travels!

Stay Tuned!

For additional attractions nearby see Haifa page and Akko tag.

Did not find what you were looking for? Hit me up at hi@israel-in-photos.com, and I will do my best to answer your questions.

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