Caesarea, Israel: The Jewel of Roman Judea

Caesarea is without a doubt one of the more picturesque locations in Israel. The city’s roots go back to the 1st century BCE and till today most of the archaeological remains are a standard part of the everyday lives of residents. When you need a break from the stunning beaches head into town for some of the best rated hummus in Israel or perhaps a tour of the Ralli Museum.

stone bridge on the beach of Caesarea

The History of Caesarea

Caesarea has a very old illustrious history. The city was commissioned by King Herod the Great to be a distinct port city and capital for the Romans. Judea was at the time a Roman province and Herod was the king who would take the architecture of Judea to the next level. He built the Second Temple in Jerusalem and at the time it was the most impressive architectural feat of the ancient world. Many of Israel’s most famous structures were constructed under the term of Herod. Herod was not only a wonderful developer of the urban scene he was also a very savvy politician. He understood that the Romans would have felt politically and culturally inferior to the substantial structure of the temple, and so he constructed for the conquerors their own equally impressive port city. This he named in honor of Caesar, hence the name Caesarea. 

ancient Caesarea colosseum with arches

Walking around the city one would think they were in ancient Rome as it contained all the major architectural points of a Roman city. These include a coliseum, an impressive aqueduct system, and even a race track where chariot games would be conducted annually. There was an additional full scale Roman bath and imported goods from across the empire. Today concerts are still held in the Caesarea colosseum, a testament to the impressive legacy of King Herod. Today, Caesarea is known for having some of the most gorgeous and least populated stretches of beach along the blue Mediterranean. In the city harbor you can find some delicious restaurants like Pelogi, a family owned business that combines Israeli and Italian cuisine. Neighborhoods of villas have sprung up along the coast, impressive real estate in an even more impressive pastoral location.    

The Top Sites to Visit in Caesarea

Speaking of impressive locations, one of the best sites that captures the ancient grace and luxury of Caesarea is the Maritime Museum. This museum houses the largest collection of artifacts from the city’s long history including Byzantine and Crusader artifacts. While many of these artifacts were uncovered in archaeological excavations some were unearthed by accident. Farmers tilling their soil would happen upon columns, coins, pediments etc. all acquired and exhibited by the museum both indoors and outdoors. Many of the artifacts have been placed back in their original location among the ancient sites in Caesarea. Museum visitors can book walking tours of the grounds and the surrounding city. 

Speaking of archaeological remains in their original context, be sure to pay a visit to the Underwater Archaeological Park. The Caesarea diving society has all sorts of tours available for divers with little or tons of diving experience. Some of the things you will see resting at the bottom of the Mediterranean include ancient anchors and portions of the old port. The beauty and history of Caesarea has since captured the attention of the world. Its charm made it the chosen location for one of Israel’s most respected and internationally renowned museums, the Ralli Museum. The complex houses a very large collection of contemporary Latin American art. There are five Ralli Museums around the world and two of them are located in Israel. The second museum pays homage to the history and art of Spanish Jews. 

The city of Caesarea is without a doubt one of the crown jewels in ancient and modern Israeli history. Herod’s original construction plans still amazes seasoned modern architects. This is a testament to the king’s commitment to create a city that would never be forgotten throughout the ages of the world. Today Caesarea is adding to its regal worldly nature with new and luxurious housing, innovative restaurants, and a highly developed arts scene.