In order to prove his loyalty to his Roman masters, Herod calls his dream city “Caesarea” and incorporates Roman monuments and motifs throughout.
When he reconstructed the Jewish Holy Temple in Jerusalem, Herod did so – ostensibly, at least – in the service of God and as a means of acquiring a religious image. But in Caesarea, a gleaming Mediterranean port city, the omnipotent king designed a private playground, which reflected his keen admiration of Roman culture, adding a pagan temple for good measure.
The port was a model of engineering ingenuity which took 12 years to complete. Built in the same style as the Holy Temple, Caesarea was considered one of the major cities of the ancient world.
Today, vestiges of the port, the temples, the hippodrome, the amphitheater, and more are all part of the well-preserved Caesarea National Park.
King Herod's mines
Family-friendly, interactive sound-and-light shows carry visitors back in time. Even young children enjoy their virtual encounters with heroes of the past, as history is brought to life before their very eyes.
Two thousand yearsEnter though the park’s main gate (after paying) and walk past the remains of the exterior Crusader wall until you reach the observation point overlooking the port. Note the port’s dimensions, and use your imagination to fill in the details – picture Herod striding down the winding path, the banquets, the sports competitions, and the crowds filling the seats in the hippodrome and the amphitheater – before you head towards the “Caesarea Experience”.
Here you will watch a movie which introduces adults and children to the various cultures that ruled the city throughout the ages – from the Herodian period through the Roman, Byzantine, Arab and Crusader eras all the way down to the early Zionists and Baron de Rothschild’s settlement initiative, which continues to fund local restoration and cultural initiatives via the Caesarea Development Corporation.
Two millennia flash by in 10 minutes, and then move on to the interactive exhibit which combines advanced technology with an imposing exhibition hall. Central historical figures - such as King Herod, the procurator Pontius Pilate, Paul the Apostle, Rabbi Akiva, the Empress Helena, Saladin, Hanna Senesh, Baron de Rothschild, and others – are portrayed by actors, and you can “speak” to the characters via the computer.
Guided diving tours
Your next stop is the Time Tower, where a futuristic interactive exhibit displays virtual views of Caesarea. Watch Herod’s builders construct the port and assorted other monuments, and see how the city was built layer upon layer.
An underwater archeological park
Head outside to Caesarea’s ruins, where you can literally dive into history. Caesarea was built as the first deep-water port in the world. Prior to Herod’s time, ports were built along bays or river estuaries. Take a guided 45-minute diving tour down to the port’s underwater relics, including stones and anchors.
Art lovers will enjoy browsing among the area’s shops and galleries. For instance, check out “Beit HaSevivon”, where Eran Gerbler sells traditional and modernistic spinning tops.
When you finish sightseeing, it’s time to enjoy a cold beer and a fish platter, facing the beach with your feet buried deep in the sand. At Beach Bar, which has a private beach, lifeguard, lawns, sunshades, and lots of atmosphere, food and drinks are served practically around the clock. The place boasts great music as well: jazz every Friday at sunset; chill-out music every evening; and an alternating lineup of Hebrew music at the Thursday-evening dance parties.
Caesarea National Park: Open daily in the spring and summer from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm. (On Tuesdays, the park stays open until 8:00 pm, and, on Fridays and holiday eves, until 5:00 pm.) Admission is NIS 23 per adult; NIS 12 per child. Entrance ticket, including admission to the presentations, is NIS 40 per adult; NIS 33 per child. Admission will be included in restaurant bills of NIS 100 or more.