Acre, Israel

Photo: The Efendi Hotel

You had a full itinerary for Acre. You planned to visit the fortress and the citadel, the mosque and the synagogue. You wanted to explore the tunnels, the market, and the port. Plus you expected to get lost within the complex maze of alleys. But it feels like all you’ve done is eat in this historic city.

That’s all, or at least mostly, the Efendi Hotel’s fault. Yes, you’re blaming a hotel—actually its owner—for your lack of motivation. It starts with breakfast, which certainly feels like the most important meal of the day when it’s served around a 20-foot, centuries-old knights’ table. Creamy labneh with fresh mint. Eggs scrambled with heavy cream. Israeli salad with finely chopped cucumbers, peppers, and tomatoes. Smoked herring. You’re too full to move by the time you finish.

So the rest of the morning isn’t spent wandering over Acre’s stone walls or through its UNESCO-designated Old City. Nope. First, you bring the rest of your coffee outside onto the covered terrace to feel the sea breeze and watch boats making their way toward the harbor. Then you head to the spa for a Turkish bath treatment in a 400-year-old Turkish tub. You’re peeled, scrubbed, massaged, and soaked until it’s impossible for any toxins to be left in your body. Finally, you return to your room, one of only 12, to get ready for the afternoon. Between the elegant furniture, the luxurious bathroom, and the view of the Mediterranean, you’re tempted to stay put. Almost.

Photo: The Efendi Hotel

You pull yourself away, though. You head outside, where 60 degrees feels like the beginning of spring instead of the middle of winter. You somehow find Market Street, which is lined with outdoor stalls. Though you begin looking at locally made jewelry, you’re quickly distracted by fresh fish, spices, and Turkish desserts. Cheesy knafeh. Honey-drenched baklava. Instead of reminding you of your filling breakfast, the sweets reinvigorate your appetite. So you walk toward the Acre Light.

The lighthouse isn’t your real reason for venturing to the southwest corner of the city. Though active, it’s closed to the public. But you heard, from a very reliable source, that there’s an amazing seafood restaurant in a 400-year-old Ottoman house near its ancient walls. Uri Buri is considered one of the best restaurants in not just Acre, but all of Israel. Anchovies. Crabs. Mussels. Oysters. Octopus. Shrimp. Barramundi. Seawolf. Trout. Tuna. The menu feels endless. The wine list is even longer. While the chef is none other than the owner of the Efendi Hotel. You settle in for a long lunch.

The day is starting to come to a close by the time you stand up to stretch your legs. Luckily, it’s just a short walk back to the hotel. The Efendi Hotel also occupies old Ottoman homes. Palaces, to be exact. It took eight years for the chef to preserve, connect, and restore the two grand buildings. The care that went into them is evident as soon as you look up at the vaulted ceiling in the lobby. Now isn’t the time to linger, though. A wine tasting, as if you need more to drink, is about to begin on the rooftop terrace. A glass of rosé and the setting sun sound like the perfect way to end this glutinous day. You promise to walk it off tomorrow.


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