Known to Hebrew speakers as Akko and Arabic speakers as Akka, the historic coastal city of Acre has been recognized with UNESCO World Heritage status for its atmospheric charms. Inhabited for well over 3,000 years, the Old City delivers medieval Crusader buildings, Ottoman-era walls, Baha’i Gardens, and a tangle of ancient streets with bags of personality.
There’s no charge to visit Acre’s Old City, although many historic buildings are ticketed. Some travelers choose to spend the night in the city, the more to enjoy its dining scene and myriad sights; others visit on a day trip from Haifa, or, less commonly, Tel Aviv; still others visit as a stop on a tour of northern Israel, perhaps with Haifa and the Rosh Hanikra sea caves.
While you don’t need a guide to stroll the compact, walled Old City, many appreciate the historic insights provided on an Acre tour. Tours typically include Crusader highlights, such as the Crusader Fortress and the Templars Tunnel; Ottoman-era sites such as the Hammam Al-Pasha and the Al-Jazzar Mosque; and the Baha’i Gardens, where the founder of the Baha’i faith once lived.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Acre is a must for history buffs and photographers.
- Dress modestly, covering shoulders and knees, if visiting religious sites such as the Al-Jazzar Mosque and the Baha’i Gardens.
- Ask before shooting portraits in the Old City, and be prepared to hear “no.”
- Most historic sites in Acre are fully wheelchair-accessible, although few restaurants offer accessible bathrooms.
How to Get There
Acre is about 71 miles (115 kilometers) north of Tel Aviv, on northwest Israel’s Mediterranean coast. If you’re not driving, the nicest way to get here is by rail: Train 21 runs from Tel Aviv Savidor Central and takes about 1.5 hours. There are also regular bus connections to major cities.
When to Get There
Most historic sites in Acre stay open even on the Sabbath (Saturday), although all close for Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement, and on the first day of the Jewish New Year. December, January, and February can be distinctly cool and rainy. If an alfresco seafood feast is on your agenda, arrive in spring, summer, or fall.
Acre and the Crusaders
Acre has been inhabited for around 3,500 years, but some of its signature structures date from the Crusader period. The First Crusade, at the end of the 11th century, saw European Christian soldiers head to the Holy Land, defeat some Muslim rulers, and set up a kingdom in Jerusalem. Acre was the Crusader kingdom’s major port until it fell in 1291.