Note: I visited Acre many times, but each time I visited only several attractions. In this post, I am combining the most popular attractions. And visiting them together will make a lovely half to a full day trip. At the end of this post, you can find route suggestions according to available time.
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).
Acre Or Akko?
Acre, Akko, Ace, Ptolemais, Antioch, Germanicia in Ptolemais, Colonia Ptolemais – all these names refer to the same city. But today Akko and Acre are the ones that commonly used.
Locals use the name Akko. Moreover, most road signs (except touristic ones) will say Akko. I guess this name is used since it was used in the Bible. Judges 1:31:
Nor did Asher drive out those living in Akko or Sidon or Ahlab or Akzib or Helbah or Aphek or Rehob.
After the Crusaders’ conquest in 1104, the city was renamed to St. John of Acre (or shortly Acre), after the Knights Hospitaller who had their headquarters there.
During this post, I will refer to the city both as Acre and Akko.
What Does Akko Mean?
The short answer is that we do not know. And here is the elaborated answer:
The source of its name is unknown, however presumably, it is not Semitic. The Egyptians were using it as long ago as the second millennium BCE. But since hieroglyphics only have two consonants, the name was written as CK, and there is no way of knowing how it was pronounced (the last syllable in particular).
In the letters of El-Amrana, which were written in Acadian, the letter H is used to signify the guttural Hebrew letters alef-hey-chet-ayin; accordingly, the name of the city could be written either as Haca or Aca. Had the name not been preserved, we would not have been able to associate it with the name appearing in the hieroglyphics clearly.
The AKK spelling was preserved in the Assyrian language.
Ancient Hebrew legend has it that the Mediterranean Sea flooded the world, and when it reached the shore of Akko, it stopped short. As written in the Book of Job (38:11), “Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further.” In the legend, the Hebrew words “Ad Po” [hitherto] become “Ad ko” – hence, Akko [Akko].
Note: unless stated otherwise, all quotes were taken from the official site.
Acre And Napoleon
In many places around the city, you will see references to Napoleon Bonaparte. And for example, at the movie in Turkish Bath – Hamam al-Basha, one of the characters mentions how they defeated Napoleon. And indeed, Acre is one of the fewer cities that withstood Napoleon’s siege.
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.
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. It has typical urban components such as the citadel, mosques, khans, and baths well preserved, partly built on top of the underlying Crusader structures.
Before starting with the visit, I just wanted to mention that Acre is a touristic city. And many firms offer tours either only to the city or combined with other nearby attractions, like Haifa and Rosh HaNikra Grottoes. Therefore, if you love joining tours, consider this option.
Old Acre Development Company
Most touristic sites in the city belong to Old Acre Development Company (official site). That allows them to sell combined tickets to various attractions in the city and outside.
Sites that are managed by Old Acre Development Company are open seven days a week, and their normal opening hours are from 9 am to 5 pm. The actual hours change a little depending on the site, day of the week and the season. For the exact list check out the official site.
The basic combined ticket includes Hospitaller Fortress, The Okashi Museum, The Templar Tunnel, and Treasures in the Walls Museum. It costs 47 NIS for an adult and 40 NIS for a child. On top of the basic combination, you can add additional sites like the Turkish Bath, Rosh Hanikra, Haypark zoo, and others. So there is a variety of combo tickets.
Note: opening hours and ticket prices were updated in August 2019. In any case, recheck the official site before your visit. You can find the full entrance fee list here.
I revisited Akko in August 2019, and for that visit, I used this coupon. It allows purchasing the basic combined ticket with and without the Turkish bath at 15% and 18% discount, respectively. I purchased it through their site and received both an SMS and an email with an order number. Then I told this number to the cashier at Hospitaller Fortress and received the tickets. Moreover, since coupon processing was fast, you can probably purchase through it while on-site (but keep in mind there is a delay risk).
Old Acre is the old part of the modern city of Acre. Furthermore, most of the tourist attractions are located within Old Acre. And most of this post will be dedicated to this small part of the city, where most attractions can be reached within a 5-minute walk.
Map of the area:
- The first map shows the whole city (you can see the Old City in the bottom left corner). And the second map shows a closeup of the Old City of Acre.
- As you can see from the first map’s scale, the Old City is about 700 on 600 meters in size.
- You can click on the maps to enlarge them.
- You can also find a useful map here.
Most attractions are located within the Old City. Thus the directions mentioned below are suited for those reaching the Old City of Akko.
Reaching Akko can be done in several ways. You can take the train to Akko station and walk from there. You can sail from Haifa (see Sails section below) or take a bus. Here is a link to Moovit with directions from Tel Aviv to Acre. You can change the starting point and get the updated directions.
You can also reach the city by car. I always park outside of Old Acre, i.e., in the new part of Acre. And I do not recommend entering the old city by car. The closer you get to the main attractions, the fewer 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 a 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. And if you continue in that direction for twenty meters, then you will see Acre Port and walls.
Things To Do In Old City
We will start by going through the attractions in the old city. And then check what is located further away.
The White Market
About 200m meters after you pass through the Land Gate, you can see The White Market on the right side:
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.
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 at is the roof, which I showed above.
From the white market, we will head to our first stop, which is the Hospitaller Fortress.
If you are reaching Akko, then you probably want to visit this site. Moreover, Hospitaller Fortress (Knights’ Halls) is one of the reasons Acre made it to the UNESCO World Heritage List. Therefore, I would consider it as a must stop.
Note: Hospitaller Fortress (Knights’ Halls) is marked as #21 and #48 on the old city map.
After a short walk from the Hospitaller Fortress, you can reach the Al-Jazzar Mosque, AKA the White Mosque.
It is the largest mosque in Israel outside of Jerusalem. And it also contains an interesting relic. You can find additional information at Al-Jazzar Mosque.
And since we were at Al-Jazzar Mosque, I want to mention two nearby places, which are Okashi Art Museum and Hamam al-Basha.
Note: Al-Jazzar Mosque is marked as #31 on the Akko old city map.
Okashi Art Museum
The entrance to Okashi Art Museum is located about 20 meters from the entry to the Al-Jazzar Mosque. Okashi Art Museum is a small gallery, and due to its size, it can show works of only several artists. I visited it twice, and on both occasions, it showed modern style paintings.
If the entrance to Okashi Art Museum was not included in the combined ticket, I probably would not visit it, but since the display is changing, it is hard to know what to expect in advance.
Hamam al-Basha – Turkish Bath
Also not far from the Al-Jazzar Mosque you can find the Turkish Bath.
Note: Hamam al-Basha is marked as #20 on the Acre old city map.
“Hamam al-Basha” was built at the end of the 18th century by Governor of Acre, Jazzar Pasha. At first, it was called “Hama al-Jadid” (the new Hamam), but its name was subsequently changed to Hamam al-Basha (the Pasha’s Hamam), in honor of el-Jazzar. The Turkish bath’s construction was part of the transformation of Acre during the Ottoman Period from a small fishing village (primarily at the hands of al-Jazzar Pasha) into a teeming port city and a significant construction and trade center. During his reign, el-Jazzar strove to further the town in many and varied ways. Among his accomplishments is the aqueduct, which led the well water to the city. And the breakwater for safe docking at the port. Plus major buildings such as the Khan el-Umdan – Acre’s largest mosque – his luxurious palace and, of course, the Turkish bath.
The Turkish Bath compound consists of only several halls. There is the summer dressing room, four intermediary rooms, and a hot room. In those chambers, you will learn about the history of this place, the people that lived here, and you will also see a short movie. The whole visit will take about an hour.
Note: I visited it only once several years ago, and for some reason, I can not find the photos. I guess I will have to visit again 😉
And now through the alleys of Old Acre, let’s head to The Templar Tunnel.
Here we are passing next to El-Zeituna Mosque:
One of the exits from the tunnel is next to the lighthouse. The lighthouse is where Templars’ fortress used to stand. Here is the lighthouse during windy weather.
Note: the lighthouse is marked as #41 on the old city map.
Not far from the tower, there is usually this picturesque juice stand.
Saint John’s Church
A short walk along the old city Acre wall will lead us to Saint John Church.
Note: Saint John’s Church is marked as #26 on the Acre’s old city map.
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:
Their favorite spot is next to Saint John Church since there are stairs on the outer side of the barrier there:
Khan al-Umdan – Khan of the Pillars
We almost returned to the point where we entered the Templar Tunnel. And near it, you can find Khan al-Umdan, AKA Khan of the Pillars.
Khan al-Umdan is the largest and best-preserved khan in Israel. And if you take a look at the clock tower, then you can see that the clock was restored. But they did more than repair it. Now each side depicts numbers differently. Beyond the regular clock, you can also see Arabic numerals (on the following photograph), and there are also Hebrew numbers.
Khan al-Umdan is a large merchant’s inn adjacent to the port, which was used for international trade. Merchants who arrived at the port unloaded their goods in the inn’s storerooms on the first floor and slept in the rooms on the second floor, which constituted a unique hotel.
The khan was built in the late 18th century by Ahmed al-Jazzar, and it rests on a row of granite pillars brought from various sites in the area.
The khan’s courtyard is open to visitors all day long.
We wanted to visit Khan of the Pillars, but, unfortunately, it was closed. For years it was abandoned. And there were some lawsuits regarding converting it to a hotel. Maybe now they closed it for restoration or for building a hotel inside it.
Here is a photo of Khan al-Umdan’s interior I took back in 2014.
Note: Khan al-Umdan is marked as #10 on the Acre’s old city map.
And since we already mentioned the port let’s head there.
Note: Acre Port is marked as #45 on the old city map that appears at the beginning of this guide.
At Acre Port guide we will talk about history, sails, and Haifa – Akko ferry. So head on there for additional info.
It is not a big market, and you can pass it within 10 – 15 minutes. Though I love markets, and there is a variety of good markets in Israel, for me, the Acre market lost its authenticity. The main reason is that many stands offer cheap Chinese goods. One of the only original things that remain is food.
You can find fresh fish and traditional sweets. And if you are hungry, you can check out Hummus Said. It is a small, hummus place that looks like a simple dining room and offers simple yet tasty dishes. It is located in the marketplace, and the opening hours are Sunday to Friday from 6 am till they run out of hummus, which is typically 2:30 pm.
And now, from the market, let’s headed back toward the land gate (the gate we entered Old Acre through).
Not far from the gate, you will see this inclined road which allows you to climb to the top of Old Acre wall:
We climbed to the top of the wall since we wanted to visit the 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:
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.
Treasures in the Walls Museum holds several rooms with antique furniture like this:
There are also many antique items and decorated kitchenware.
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:
Not sure I can even call this as furniture, it is art:
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:
Photo at locksmith corner:
The pre-washing machine era:
Treasures in the Walls Museum is a lovely small place, and you can cover it within 60-90 minutes.
It was getting late, so we decided to take a short stroll in the alleys of Old Acre on our way back to the car.
Things To Do in Akko
So far we covered the Old City. And now let’s look at additional site outside of 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.
During the spring the hill has many flowers at it makes the walk enjoyable.
Here is a 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.
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.
I was particularly interested in Tel Akko from a photography standpoint. Besides the regular walk, it was also a scouting mission. And this is how Old Acre looks like from Napoleon Hill.
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 At 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.
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.
There are several routes around and near this Tel. We took the round one along the circumference of the top. The circular walk, with its 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.
You can find my full guide at Bahai Gardens in Acre (Akko).
In the southern part of Akko, you can find a short a lovely beach strip. You can easily spend half a day at these sandy beaches, which provides a nice view of old Acre. For additional information check out Akko Beach (Argaman Beach).
Where To Stay
The place of your stay depends on your route and where you decide to make your base. You can either stay at Acre (check prices and availability of both apartments and hotels on booking.com). Or you can stay at Haifa (Haifa district on booking.com) and reach the city by public transport. Another alternative would be staying somewhere in the area and reach Akko by car for a day visit (North district on booking.com).
What sites should you visit depends on several factors that include your interests and how much time do you have. I will answer this question using common interests, i.e., what most people do.
Things to do according to available time:
- 2 – 3 hours: I would suggest visiting the Hospitaller Fortress. It will take most (if not all) of your time. And if in the end you will have some time then walk in the old city. Visit the alleys, Acre Port, and the market.
- 3 – 4 hours: in addition to the mentioned POI above, visit Al-Jazzar Mosque or The Templar Tunnel. You probably will not have enough time to visit both.
- 5 – 7 hours: this is probably the optimal duration. And it will allow you to visit the Hospitaller Fortress, Al-Jazzar Mosque, The Templar Tunnel, walk in the old city, and even grab something to eat.
- full day: to the places mentioned above you can add the Turkish Bath and the lovely Treasures In The Walls Museum.
Akko is an ancient port city in northern Israel. It is one of the oldest cities in the world, continuously inhabited since the Middle Bronze Age. And today, it is a popular travel destination.
Akko is mentioned in Egyptian writings from the 15th century BCE. But archeological findings at Tel Akko show there was a small settlement at the Early Bronze Age (around 3000 BCE).
After the Crusaders’ conquest, the city was renamed to St. John of Acre (or shortly Acre), after the Knights Hospitaller who had their headquarters there.
The Old City of Acre is on the UNESCO World Heritage List. It got there for its medieval Crusader buildings both under and above the ground. Moreover, Acre is an important example of an Ottoman walled town. It has typical urban elements such as the citadel, mosques, khans, and baths.
Akko is one of the oldest cities in the world, with a rich history. Most of the historical structures belong either to medieval Crusaders or 18 – 19 century Muslims. Thus if you love history and archeology from those periods, Akko is worth visiting. And you can find a full list of POI in this guide.
Old Acre offers many attractions, and you can easily spend the whole day there. Moreover, keep in mind that I did not cover all touristic attractions. But, we did go over all the main ones, and it is more than most people visit. Hence, after reading this post, you might ask which of the mentioned attractions above should you visit. Check out the suggested walking routes above. Moreover, you can visit POI near the city.
Attractions Near Acre
If you are thinking about making Acre about your base, then you can easily spend several nights there. One day for exploring Acre, and another day exploring Haifa. Moreover, you can use the new sailing route I mentioned above, and one or several days exploring other attractions in this area. Here are several examples: Yehiam Fortress National Park and Rosh HaNikra grottoes. You can use the map at the beginning of this post to find additional POI.
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!
For additional attractions nearby see Things To Do In Haifa.
Additional ResourcesHere are several resources that I created to help travelers:
- Israel Trip Planner is the page that will help you to create your perfect travel route.
- National Parks And Nature Reserves page lists and put all national parks on the map. There is also a top list, information about ticket types and campsites.
- If you are looking for things to do, here are the pages for Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa, Sea Of Galilee, and Makhtesh Ramon.
- Wondering what events are there in Israel? Here is the Events And Festivals By Season guide.