Akko, a city with a dual spirit. A rare blend of East and West and a unique meeting place of art and religion. Is a place with the remains of many cultures. It is one of the most important cities of the ancient world and presently a valuable example of Ottoman architecture. The townscape of the walled port-town is distinctive of the Muslim perception of urban design. Inseparable with such typical edifices like a citadel, mosques, khans and baths. No wonder it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The walls of the city, its fortress and citadel. Its churches and mosques, its markets and baths tell the story of a city ruled and fought by many better than any written guide. Its multi-layered, rich history spans from the presence of the Greeks to the British. Through the Crusaders and the Ottomans.
Sights are plentiful here, but I wouldn’t miss the Al Jazzar Mosque, also known as ‘A Great Mosque of Lights’. In the buildings of the Hospitaller Order of Saint John you can wander through enormous stone rooms. With vaulted ceilings and perfect acoustics. The spectacular dining hall and dormitories are still in good shape. There is some renovation work taking place this year but one can see the whole citadel.
Another place worth seeing in Akko is the best preserved khan in Israel, the Khan al-Umdan. Another layer of Acre history is represented by the Turkish Bath House. Which looks like it was built yesterday with its shiny and colourful tiles. There are many, many others like the Tunnel of the Templars. The Pisan Port. The Tunisian synagogue Or Torah which is literally all covered in mosaics. And the synagogue of the prominent Kabbalah master Ramchal.
The Old City Market of Akko, known around all Israel, never became as touristy as the many others around the country. There are no vendors selling tacky cashmere scarves or cheap souvenirs. There are only local products, some amazing Arab pastries and fresh seafood.
Even though the old city of Akko is truly enchanting. Little alleys accompanied by underground passages and historic monuments making a walking tour a fascinating experience. Thus the reason for my trip here awaits me down in the Acre marina. And it is not a boat tour to get a terrific view of the city walls which I recommend to everyone.
The place I have in mind is set in the old Turkish house facing the open sea. With intimate rooms decorated with Arabic touches…ring a bell already? I bet it does for some real food lovers. This is the famous Uri Buri Restaurant. Where the Chef, Uri Yirmias, prepares fish and seafood to perfection with his exceptional talent. Its definitely worth a trip from Tel Aviv. And that is why I visit Akko so often.
I have read somewhere that one shouldn’t make Acre the first place to visit in Israel. Because after strolling the streets of this town. Which will seduces you with magnitude of sights and heritage. You will be always disappointed with the other places in Israel.
Maybe this is partly true, but at the same time I haven’t heard of anyone starting his or her trip so up to the south. Maybe my new Tel Aviv Guide with a superb section of daily trips will change that soon. For that and much more please check my super guide! You won’t regret.