Akko’s Old Walled City, a true architectural gem (and a UNESCO World Heritage Site), is in the process of becoming one of Israel’s new overnight destinations. That may be because it’s a natural base for touring the northwest quadrant of the country. But we’re guessing that many find it difficult to leave Akko itself. With romantic minarets, authentic bazaars, adorable boutique hotels, unusual shops and eateries, an impressive ramparts, Akko (23km or 14 miles north of Haifa) has undeniable charm.
It also is loaded with history. Akko has been a port city for over 4,000 years. It flourished for centuries under the Phoenicians, Romans, and Byzantines and became the capital and last stronghold of the Crusader Kingdom before it finally fell in a.d. 1291. The Crusader city and fortifications lay in ruins until Akko was rebuilt in the late 1700s by the notorious Ottoman governor, El Jezzer (The Butcher) Pasha, who constructed a walled city filled with mosques, labyrinthine markets, travelers’ inn, bathhouses, and mansions, all on top of the monumental structures of the forgotten Crusader city. Akko is divided into the New City, mainly built after 1948 and home to a mixed Israeli Arab and Jewish population, and the walled Old City, which is the main attraction inhabited mostly by Christian and Muslim Israelis.