The city was once a major centre of Islamic scholarship and education. The tomb of the Jewish prophet Ezekiel is reputed to be in a nearby village, Al Kifl.
It became a major administrative centre during the rule of the Ottoman and British Empires. In the 19th century, the Hilla branch of the Euphrates started to silt up and much agricultural land was lost to drought, but this process was reversed by the construction of the Hindiya Barrage in 1911–1913, which diverted water from the deeper Hindiya branch of the Euphrates into the Hilla canal. In 1920 during an uprising against the British, there was heavy fighting when 300 men of the Manchester Regiment were apparently defeated in the city.
Hillah has a station on the railway between Baghdad and Basra. Iraqi Republic Railways runs two overnight trains which both calls here. The railway station is known as 1 Babylon railway station and is located north of the city centre.
There are several companies offering long-distance bus services from most cities in Southern Iraq, however information on routes and departure times has to be gathered on ground or by a travel agency. 2 Hillah bus station, often referred as the consolidated garage (الكراج الموحد) is located along highway 8, about 4 km southwest of the city centre.
Driving distance from Baghdad is about 110 km. Hillah is along national highway 8. There have been instances of robberies and kidnappings along the route.
- See also: Babylon
- 1 Great Mosque of Hillah. Constructed in 1713 AD during the Ottoman era.
- 2 Radd Al Shams Mosque.
- 3 Al-Nukhailah Mosque (in the village of Al-Kifl, 25 km southwest of Hillah, along the road to Najaf). A mosque and temple complex containing the tomb of Dhul-Kifl, by some considered being the same person as Ezekiel, central protagonist of the Book of Ezekiel in the Hebrew Bible.
- 4 Borsippa (10 km southeast of Hillah). An archaeological site with one of the most recognizable surviving ziggurats, built by the Sumero-Akkadian culture to honour local god Nabu.
- 5 Ruins of Kish (Village of Tel Alahamr, 13 km from city of Hillah and 6 km east of the ancient city of Babylon). The ruins including the ziggurat "Inner Cdermh", a ziggurat structure of "Baba deer", god of war.
- Alberes (25 km south of Hillah). It has a tower found between Hillah and Al-Khifil. Its current name is a distortion of the name Old Babylonian "بورسيا" (which is now a newspaper) and its Sumerian meaning is "sword of the sea", because it was located on the Ghadeer edge along the banks of the Sea of Najaf.
- 1 Asad Babil Hotel (Lion of Babylon) (فندق أسد بابل), ☏ . This seems to be one of the only hotels in operation in Hillah.