Six Must-See Old Cities in Israel
Israel is a land of mixed cultures and a long history. It boasts many sites and events that reflect a rich past, from Biblical to medieval times. Below are our top six old towns that testify to the Holy Land’s diverse heritage.
Jerusalem: A City of Multiple faiths and Traditions
Aside from being the capital of Israel, Jerusalem is revered by Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Its Old City boasts a variety of historical landmarks, archaeological sites, and especially holy sites. From the Western Wall and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre to the Dome of the Rock and the Temple Mount. Jerusalem attracts pilgrims of various faiths, as well as many tourists. Aside from its holy landmarks, don’t miss its vibrant markets, museum, and diverse street life.
Caesarea: A City of Ancient Grandeur
Founded by King Herod in the first century BC, Caesarea boasts many archaeological finds from Roman and Byzantine Rule. Situated on the Mediterranean coast, the city was famous for its grand man-made port. Today, its center, exposed by intense archaeological excavations, showcases a wealth of finds. The well-preserved Roman theater, the Herodian harbor, and the ancient aqueduct reflect well the grandeur of this once-thriving ancient city. The city also preserves the medieval fortifications during the ongoing wars between the Crusaders and the Muslims. Don’t miss its new visitor center and a stroll along its promenade, once part of the metropolis’ hippodrome.
Megiddo: Echoes of Biblical-era Battles
Today, Megiddo is an archaeological site known for its biblical significance and is often associated with Armageddon. The strategic importance of Megiddo made it a central city along the ancient trade routes since Canaanites’ times. The Bible reflects Megiddo’s position as one of King Solomon’s prime cities and later as a city of several battles. The Tel Megiddo National Park unveils layers of history, from ancient Canaanite structures to well-preserved stables attributed by some to King Solomon’s era. Don’t miss the walk through Megiddo’s water tunnel, an impressive tunneling project from biblical times.
Akko – Where History Unfolds Within Walls
Akko, a coastal city with a history dating back to the Phoenicians, offers a captivating blend of archaeology and vibrant Middle Eastern markets. Its most remarkable sites date to the 13th century, when the city was the capital of the Crusaders. Most remarkable are the Hospitallers Headquarters (The Knight Halls) and the Underground Templers Tunnel. Akko also boasts one of the biggest mosques in Israel, the al-Jazzar mosque, vibrant markets, and a port where short sails can be set. Don’t miss Uri Buri Fish restaurant, possibly the best seafood restaurant in Israel.
Jaffa: Where Ancient Meets Contemporary
Adgacent to Tel Aviv and along the Mediterranean coast, Jaffa (Yafo) is one of the world’s oldest city ports. In use since Canaanites’ times, Its central garden boasts a restored triumphal gate from Ramses II’s times. Wander through its cobblestone streets, and you’ll encounter a charming blend of artists’ workshops among its historical landmarks. Reach the Iconic Jaffa port and stroll along eateries and cafes. Nearby, visit the House of Simon the Tanner, associated with Peter’s vision, a pivotal moment in Christian history. Don’t miss the shopping experience at the flea market and Jaffa’s clock tower landmark.
Safed: The Mystical City in the Galilee
Nestled in the Galilee mountains of northern Israel, Safed (Tzfat) is renowned for its mysticism and spirituality. Its inception relates to the Crusaders who erected a massive at its top. In the 16th century Jews expelled from Spain and Portugal settled around the abandoned fort and developed a mystical Jewish philosophy – Kabbalah. Today, Safed’s Jewish quarter boasts art galleries along its narrow streets, intertwined with ancient synagogues. Stroll along its Yoseph Karo, explore Safed’s rich Jewish heritage, and soak in the city’s unique spiritual ambiance.
These cities encapsulate the diverse and storied history of Israel. Whether you are a history enthusiast, a cultural explorer, or a spiritual seeker, Israel’s top ancient cities offer an enriching and unforgettable experience.