The city is first mentioned in Talmudic literature around the 3rd century CE, as a small fishing village and the home of Rabbi Avdimos and other Jewish scholars. Under Byzantine rule, Haifa continued to flourish, although never grew to great importance due to its proximity to Acre.
The Byzantine ruled the settlement until the 7th century, when the city was conquered – first by the Persians, and then by the Arabs. In 1100, it was conquered again by the crusaders, after a fierce battle with its Jewish and Muslim inhabitants. Under crusader rule, the city was a part of the Principality of Galilee until the Muslim Mameluks captured it in 1265.
The Carmelite order was founded at, and named after, Mount Carmel, in the 12th century.
In 1761 Dhaher al-Omar, the Bedouin ruler of Acre and Galilee, rebuilt the town in a new location, surrounding it with a wall. This event is marked as the beginning of the town's modern era. After El-Omar's death in 1775, the town remained under Ottoman rule until 1918, except for two brief periods: in 1799, Napoleon Bonaparte conquered Haifa as part of his unsuccessful campaign, but withdrew in the same year; between 1831 and 1840, the Egyptian viceroy Mehemet Ali governed, after his son Ibrahim Pasha wrested control from the Ottomans.
The arrival of the German Templers in 1868, who settled in what is now known as the German Colony of Haifa, was a turning point in Haifa's development. It was in the late 19th century that the area rose to importance in the Bahá'í Faith as the remains of the Báb were moved in 1909 to Haifa.
At the beginning of the 20th Century, Haifa had emerged as an industrial port city and growing population center.