Caesarea National Park’s Ancient History
This Roman-era port city was once a navy base, and was even once the capital of the Roman province of Judaea more than 2,000 years ago. Over the years, the monuments in Caesarea have been uncovered, revealing incredibly well-preserved ancient sites and artifacts.
Today, Caesarea National Park sits on a stunning stretch of the Israeli coast, and visitors flock to see its impressive ancient structures, nearby beaches, and even to see modern concerts in the well-preserved Roman amphitheater.
In order to understand what makes Caesarea National Park such a spectacular place to visit in Israel, we can take a look at its ancient history. Caesarea National Park was once a port city, and was rebuilt and expanded upon under the Roman Empire’s King Herod in the year 10 BCE. After that, it operated as a navy base, and became the capital of the Roman province of Judea, where it took on a central role in Christianity. Because of this Caesarea is referenced several times in the New Testament.
Over the centuries, Caesarea National Park served as the capital of different empires (including the Byzantine Empire), and was ruled by several different groups, until it was all but destroyed in the year 1265. After that, the ancient city lay mostly in ruins and uninhabited, and was home to a few sparse settlements over the years. In 1940, a fishing Kibbutz called Sedot Yam was founded just south of the location of ancient Caesarea. Starting in the 1950’s, excavations began of the ruins, and since then, archeologists have uncovered the many incredible sites and buildings that you can visit today. These include a Roman temple, amphitheater, and a hippodrome, or ancient stadium used for racing.
What to do in Caesarea National Park
When visiting Caesarea, there are many main points of interest to visit, as well as activities and observation points. Here are some of the main sites in Caesarea National Park you should be sure to see during your visit:
The Roman Theater
This grand and impressive building used to be the place where ancient Romans enjoyed dramas and comedies, and it’s shaped in a semi-circle, in the classic style of Roman theaters. It was built using Roman arch-based construction techniques, and today you can see some of the original seats and decorations from the 2nd century.
The Reef Palace
This was once the inner courtyard for Herod’s palace, and today, you can see pillars which face the sea, along with other remains (some of which are submerged in the sea).
There is a display of artifacts and items that have been found all over the park, including pillars, gravestones, and sculptures.
Here you can see reconstructed frescoes, an ancient lavatory, a bath house, and sea-shore promenade.
Other places that you should add to your to-do list include the aqueduct, Crusader gate, and the Nymphaeum (a monument that once was a grotto).
There are also stunning observation points in Caesarea National Park, where you can take in panoramic views. There is one excellent viewpoint on the Reef Palace, where you can understand the breadth and sheer size of the city and buildings. Also, above the area with the restaurants, there is an artificial hill where you can take in another wonderful view of the city.
Activities in Caesarea National Park
Depending on what time of year you visit, there are many activities and events that you can attend in Caesarea National Park. During the Pesach holiday, there is an equestrian performance called “Horses in the Hippodrome,” and during the Sukkot holiday, there is the “Festival of Ancient Time,” which is a theatrical festival. On many Saturdays there is an “Olympic Games” event, and on summer evenings there are “Candlelight Night Tours,” where you can experience the city in the evening by candlelight.
Hours at Caesarea National Park change depending on the season (there are different hours during the summer and winter months), as well as during holidays. For the most up-to-date information on the hours of the park, you can visit the official website for the park.
How to get to Caesarea National Park
Caesarea National Park is best reached by car or private transportation, and it’s about a 1-hour drive from Tel Aviv. It is possible to reach the park by public transportation, by first taking a train or bus to the city of Caesarea. Visitors then need to take a taxi to the site itself.
Because Caesarea can be difficult to reach by public transit, many visitors choose to do a Caesarea National Park tour. Here at Abraham Tours, we offer a tour which takes you to Caesarea National Park, as well as an Arab fishing village, and a local Kibbutz. On this tour, you’ll visit the ruins of Caesarea, learn about authentic village life in Jisr az-Zarqa, and experience the coastal Kibbutz community of Kibbutz Ma’agan Michael. You can find more information about this tour here.
More From Abraham Tours
Caesarea National Park is an incredible place to visit, and we’re sure you’re going to greatly enjoy it on your next trip to Israel. Don’t forget, we offer tours all over the country and in the region, including tours in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Eilat, and Nazareth. We also have tours that travel to northern Israel, the West Bank, and Jordan & Petra.