Caesarea National Park
Meet 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.”
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
- 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.
Caesarea National ParkUseful Information
Entrance to the park closes one hour before cited closing timeSummer hours: Sunday–Thursday and Saturday: 17:00 - 08:00 Friday and holiday eves: 16:00 - 08:00 Winter hours: Sunday–Thursday and Saturday: 16:00 - 08:00 Friday and holiday eves: 15:00 - 08:00 Holiday eves: 13:00 - 08:00 Yom Kippur eve: 13:00 - 08:00
May–Aug.: Sun.–Thurs. and Sat. 08:00–18:00
Fridays and holiday eves: Site closes at 16:00
Sept.–Oct.: Sun.–Thurs. and Sat. 08:00–17:00
Fridays and holiday eves: Site closes at 16:00
Nov.–April: Sun.–Thurs. and Sat. 08:00–16:00
Fridays and holidays: Site closes at 15:00
On holidays and Saturday we recommend arriving early; entry is on the basis of available space.
- The Roman Theater area with an accessible
- archeological garden
- site model
- promontory palace
- hippodrome and the beach promenade leading to the port
- the ancient city including ancient monuments
- Instruction Center
- Bathing and diving beach
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.
|Adult in group||₪ 33.00|
|Child in group||₪ 20.00|
|Israeli senior citizen||₪ 20.00|
|Subscription – adult||₪ 45.00|
|Subscription – child||₪ 35.00|