Caesarea National Park

​​​

"He chose for himself a lost city on the sea shore, named "Straton's Tower", because it had beautiful scenery and was worthy of respect." 

Thus Yosef Ben Matityahu (Josephus Flavius) describes Caesarea, the magnificent city built by King Herod, in his book "The Wars of the Jews".

Major Centers of Interest

The Theater site

            • The Roman theater
            • The reef palace
            • Display - "Caesarea Experience"
            • Archaeological park

 

The Hippodrome site

            • Hippodrome, reconstructed frescoes and an ancient lavatory
            • Bath house
            • Sea-Shore promenade

 

The Old City and Port

        • The Crusader gate
        • Display - "Time Travel"
        • The port and the old city
        • The Nymphaeum 

 

The Sculptures Park east of the site


Activities for the General Public

      • Candelight night tours
      • Guided tours by the "Gan-Kehila" ("Park-Community") volunteers
         

        Details of the Major Centers of Interest

    • The Roman Theater - the theater structure, an impressive and powerful building, stands at the southern edge of the national park.  People from the highest and lowest walks of life came here to enjoy dramas and comedies.  The shape of the theater was influenced by the classic model of Roman theaters:  a semi-circle, in which were built blocks of cavea (seats) separated by vomitoria (entrances and exits), the arena - an area at the foot of the seats which was often used for the performances, and the orchestra (stage area) which in Caesarea had a high and impressive scaenae frons (stage backdrop) and also underground rooms - dressing compartments for the actors.

      The well-known term "bread and amusement" originates from the tradition established by Augustus Caesar, after whom the city of Caesarea is named.  Being a port city, which hosted sailors and seamen, it was important for the leaders of Caesarea to keep the visitors occupied, to provide them with places of entertainment and to amuse them in order to encourage them to return to the city and enrich its coffers.  The theater was one of those means, and it serves in this capacity to this day - its stage is used for performances by the greatest artists in the country.

      The theater was built by Emperor Vespasian, using Roman arch-based technology. At a later stage, King Herod added a few more blocks of seats and enlarged it.  Today it is possible to see here some of the original seats as well as marble decorations from the 2nd century CE.  The theater was destroyed in the 3rd century.  Nothing is left of the scaenae frons.  Near the archaeological park there is a map displaying the places from where the raw materials used in building the theater were imported.

       
    • The Reef Palace - when leaving the theater in the direction of the promenade, you pass through a large courtyard in the western part of which there are pillars facing the sea.  This was the inner courtyard of the guest wing of Herod's magnificent palace.  The palace consisted of two stories for guests and residents.  Another part of the palace was built at the western end of the courtyard, on the marine reef - a sort of peninsula protruding out to sea.  Standing at the edge of the courtyard, looking westward, one can see some of the remains of the palace, parts of which are submerged in the sea, and one can image the glory and elegance of the place.  Although Herod was never in Caesarea, some researchers attribute the palace to him, and they assume that it was one more of his splendid buildings.  Others argue that the palace may even not have been built in Herod's day, since it is too close to the large public buildings in the city (the theater and the hippodrome), and Herod, who was naturally suspicious,  would not have built a private palace in such proximity to public buildings.  It is possible that governors who came to the city after the time of Herod's reign lived in the palace because they preferred the dynamic life in Caesarea over the monotony (in their opinion) of Jerusalem.

      The palace fell into ruin over the years and very little is left of it.  On the reef there are the remains of a swimming pool that had been excavated in the Kurkar rock in the sea, and a layer of hydraulic plaster tells us that the pool contained fresh water.  The pool was apparently in use in periods when aqueducts were bringing water to the city.  The pool is one more proof of the insatiable hedonism of the aristocrats.  A mosaic floor was also found alongside the pool, as well as a ritual bath (Mikveh) from the late Roman period.

       
    • The "Caesarea Experience" display - a cinematic "time travel" through the history of Caesarea, through which visitors are introduced to various periods in the annals of the city and the cultures that ruled it.  

       
    • Archaeological Park - when leaving the theater in the direction of the sea, the visitor passes through a very impressive display of archaeological items that were found all over the park and are now displayed to the public with explanations.  The majority are architectural elements, among them pillars and capitals, gravestones, sculptures, etc.  The delicate carvings, the careful chiseling and the excellent artisanship are evidence of the city's luxury.
  • The Crusader gate - the north-eastern entrance into Caesarea is through a reconstructed monumental structure - the Crusader gate.  This gate is part of an even more impressive system of fortifications built by the ruler Louis IX.  The system included a moat and glacis, a high wall and sophisticated indirect access gates (twists and turns) which prevented direct entry into the city and exposed intruders to potential injury from inside the city.  Standing inside the gate and looking upward, one can see a cross-shaped stone at the center of the arch.
     
  • "Time Travel" displays - three displays that endeavor to demonstrate the history of Caesarea to visitors to the national park:
     
  • "Caesarea Experience" - a cinematic display reconstructing the history of Caesarea, showing viewers the various periods in the history of the city and the cultures that dominated it.
  • "Caesarea Stars" - a virtual meeting with a dozen prominent historical figures who left their mark on the city.  Visitors can meet the heroes of the past, from King Herod to Baron Rothschild, through many other good people who were active here, to get to know them and to hear their exciting and fascinating stories.  The display also shows a three-dimensional view of the city, demonstrating the changes undergone by the city throughout its history.
  • "Time Tower" - a computerized animated display in the Crusader tower, presenting the enchanted scenery of the city throughout history.  With the help of the display one can get an impression of Herod's vast construction project in Caesarea, and to learn how the enormous port was built and the other buildings that made the city what it was.

 

  • The Port - Caesarea began with the special port built by Herod.   Until then the coastal ports relied on natural marinas, but Herod built the first quay-based port of its kind in the Middle East.  The quays were submerged in the sea on wooden rafts, and a lighthouse and a breakwater were also built alongside them.  Grain was traded in ships sailing along the east coast of the Mediterranean, which was known for its convenient currents.  Vessels departing from Egypt to Rome needed a place for anchorage and rest, for re-stocking and repairs, as well as a safe haven in stormy weather.  The Romans in Caesarea provided these ships with port services and taxed them, which increased their income.  The investment in constructing the port was worthwhile and the activity therein expanded.  The port city became a kind of window on distant cultures, since goods from the entire Mediterranean basin entered and departed through it.   The port operated a number of years but, due to a lack of engineering knowledge, the quays did not last and, despite rehabilitation efforts, they collapsed towards the end of the Byzantine period and the port ceased to function.  Today, the region of the port around which the Crusader city was built is a lively entertainment area.  Cafes and restaurants were established in the ancient buildings, as well as galleries displaying Israeli art.   Activities for the whole family take place here on weekends, festivals and holidays, as well as special events and festivals.
  • The Nymphaeum - a reconstruction of the fountain from the early Roman period. 
  • The Sculptures Park east of the site: Close to the exit from the Crusader gate there is a park of special and interesting sculptures.  In fact, this is a street in which the inhabitants set up sculptures for decoration.  The majority of the sculptures are statues of people, and it is assumed that the largest of them is that of the Emperor Hadrian.

    Activities for the General Public

  • "Horses in the Hippodrome" - an equestrian performance that takes place during the Pesach holiday
  • "Festival of Ancient Times" - activity for the public during the Succot holiday, a humoristic theatrical festival, presenting displays and stories from ancient times
  • "Olympic Games" - activity for the public on Saturdays (check the dates here on the website).
  • "Candlelight Night Tours" - in summer, night-time candlelight tours are conducted in the Caesarea National Park.  During these tours the participants enjoy a tour of the city during non-routine hours and they are able to get a glimpse of its secrets.  Participation in the tours requires pre-registration.
  • Guided tours by volunteers of the Park-Community project - tours of the Roman theater and Caesarea port.  The tours take place on Shabbat.

    Observation Points

  • Panoramic observation point from Herod's palace - standing on the Reef Palace and looking around, it is possible to get an impression of the size of the city and the monumental buildings in it, among them the Theater and the Hippodrome.  To the west is the sandy beach and the sea.  The combination of ancient buildings with the blue tones of the sea creates a unique picturesque sight.
  • Observation point from the temples mountain - above the restaurants area rises an artificial hill on which a temple was built in Herod's time in honor of Augustus Caesar.  Although the hill is not very high (about 10 meters), it gives a wonderful view of the whole city - from the Roman ruins, through the Byzantine to the Crusader periods.  East of the hill can be seen the remains of the later, Ottoman settlement, and to the west the city is enveloped by the beach and touches the pools.

Identity card

Status: the Caesarea National Park was declared in 1968.

Reason for the declaration: the Caesarea Antiquities National Park presents a cultural continuity of 2,500 years of history, and therefore it is a site of national and international importance.  The site preserves values of nature, landscape and historic legacy, and cultivates them for the coming generations.

Location in Israel: on the Mediterranean coast, close to the town of Caesarea.

Activities of the Nature and Parks Authority

  • Preserving values of nature, landscape and historic legacy in and around the national park.
  • Conserving and reconstructing archaeological findings, operating and maintaining the site (installing lighting, laying footpaths, installing benches, building public toilets, etc.)
  • Positioning the Caesarea National Park as a "living and lively" ancient city - the archaeological and historic sites have been prepared for modern usage in which activities are held based on values and experiences closely related to the sea.
  • Producing cultural events on weekends, festivals and holidays, including folklore, equestrian displays (Pesach), street plays on ancient Caesarea (Succot), Olympic Games in the spirit of the period (Purim) and more.
  • Repairing damage to archaeological findings caused by sea storms.
  • Developing methods of display, guided tours and setting up explanatory signs.
  • Preparing places for public visits, as well as parking lots.
  • Producing a Young Supervisor booklet for children and youth.
  • Making the site accessible to the disabled.

    History


    Caesarea moved back and forth between periods of affluence and prosperity, and destruction and ruin.  The city's remains give evidence of days of pomp and glory as well as periods of regression and decline.

    The city began life in the Persian period (4th century BCE), when a trading station was established on the Mediterranean sea shore, containing a protective fort.  This town was part of the line of settlements established by people from Tyre and Sidon along the coastline, down to Egypt.  The name of this small town was "Straton" (in Hebrew - Migdal Sharshon), after the name of the person who founded it - the King of Sidon.

    In the Roman period, Herod identified the potential of the place, and in 30 BCE he commenced building a port city there.  He named it Caesarea, in honor of Augustus Caesar who gave the territory to Herod as a gift.   Previous port cities at that time were established in the vicinity of natural bays, but Herod began building an artificial port, one of the largest in the Middle East, and the most sophisticated.  The port contributed greatly to the general stability of the city.

    Caesarea reached the peak of its prosperity in the Roman-Byzantine period, and its remains from that period show a flourishing city, containing a system for the supply of flowing water, planned streets, cultural and municipal public buildings (from temples to theaters), and more.  In the Roman period Caesarea was the capital of the Province of Judea, the place of residence of governors, and it also had a large Jewish community.   In the Byzantine period the city became a large metropolis, and enjoyed an important status due to the Christian community living there.

    In the Roman and Byzantine periods Caesarea was a major port city and an important cross-road.  Trading ships anchored there for replenishment, rest and repairs, the port was full of life, and the city was energized by it.  The port was a major source of income for the city's coffers, and when it ceased operation the city of Caesarea also underwent a significant change.

    In the early Muslim period Halif Omar conquered it (640 CE), and his followers ruled it for about 500 years.  In this period the city lost its greatness.   In 1101 the Crusaders conquered the city.  The Crusader city was very small compared with its dimensions in earlier periods, and the Crusaders built a smaller port on the ruins of the old port, that suited the city they had established.   However, in 1291 Crusader Caesarea was conquered by the Mameluke Sultan Al-Malik Al-Ashraf in a move known as "scorched earth" - the Mamelukes feared the return of the Crusaders, so they methodically destroyed the coastal cities and ports, and Caesarea was lost under the ruins.  In the Ottoman period the place was deserted, and only at the end of the 19th century a small town was established by Muslims from Bosnia, that survived until 1948.

    Archaeology


    The story of the city and its magnificent past are evidenced by its impressive remains.  The archaeological findings, many of them outstandingly large, are the basis for the uniqueness of the Caesarea National Park and its importance for understanding the period.

    Throughout the park there are items from a number of periods, testimony to its past history.  The earliest findings are attributed to the Herodian period, i.e. the beginnings of the city during the reign of King Herod.   The theater, the palace and the hippodrome are the largest and most prominent of the buildings on the site from this period, and they are joined by more structures in the Herodian city, among them the ancient lavatory, the bath house and more.   From the Byzantine period a luxurious villa was found in the city, beautiful mosaic floors and the remains of a church.  The Crusader period left the moat around the city, the poterna (escape door), the fortified wall, the gates and the towers above the water line.  Within the area of the Crusader city there are also remains of the Bosnian Moslem village.

    But not only in the area of the park region is it possible to get an impression of Caesarea's remains, since the ancient city was large and spread over an area greater than that of the national park.  On the aqueduct beach, for instance, one can take pleasure in viewing the ancient aqueduct that transported spring water to the Roman city.   Aqueducts were built with the help of advanced engineering and technological know-how that was very impressive for the period.  The "Birds Mosaic", a special mosaic floor from the Byzantine period, clearly showing many species of birds, is located north of the national park (close to the access road to the aqueduct).  The remains of the eastern hippodrome were found outside the park, in the heart of the uncultivated area, and another street with giant statues was found closer to the city.

    The excavations conducted here were extensive, both on land as well as under water, in the area of the submerged port.   Thus the port became a focus of international interest for those interested in port building in the Roman period and in the study of wrecked ships and their cargoes.

    Apart from excavation, intensive professional conservation work was conducted in the National Park that made it possible to open it to the public and to display the findings to visitors from Israel and worldwide.

How to get there: Close to the Coastal Road, near Caesarea, Sedot Yam, and west of Or Akiva.

Can be reached from the Coastal Road via the intersection near the "Orot Rabin" power station and from the old road as above, or via Or Akiva.

 

Length of tour: One to three hours.

 

Recommended season: All year round.

 

Insist on:

  • Viewing the sea from the height of the Roman Theater;
  • Walking along the promenade at sunset
  • Free guided tours by Gan-Kehila volunteers every Shabbat (except in August) .Times:  11:00, 12:00, 13:00.  The tours start from the Theater gate and the Port gate.

    For a paid guided tour, please apply to the Carmel Instruction Center, tel. no. 04-9841752/0


What else is there?

  • Instruction Center
  • Restaurants
  • Galleries
  • Bathing and diving beach


Wedding/Bar Mitzva ceremonies:

For particulars press here.

Opening Hours


The entrance to the Park is closed one hour before the times given below:

 
May - August:

Sundays thru Thursdays and Shabbat:           8:00 - 18:00

Fridays and eves of religious festivals the site is closed at 16:00

September - October:

Sundays thru Thursdays and Shabbat:                8:00 - 17:00

Fridays and eves of religious festivals the site is closed at 16:00

November - April:

Sundays thru Thursdays and Shabbat:                8:00 - 16:00

Fridays and eves of religious festivals the site is closed at 15:00

On the eves of Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur and Pesach:  8:00 - 13:00

Communication


Telephone: 04-6267080

Fax:  04-6262056

Entrance Fee


Adult - NIS 39;  Child - NIS 24

Student - NIS 33

Group (over 30 persons):  Adults- NIS 35;  Children- NIS 22


The Caesarea National Park and the audio-visual displays - all in one ticket!

Entry for Dogs


Forbidden.


    Content under construction, the information apears soon.
    Content under construction, the information apears soon.

    ​ In the Caesarea National Park, adaptations to make the site accessible to people with disabilities are being made. Adaptations currently in place include:

    • The Roman Theater area with an accessible restroom
    •  archeological garden
    •  site model
    • promontory palace
    • hippodrome and the beach promenade leading to the port
    • the ancient city including ancient monuments

    32.686785,35.378821