Israel is a gorgeous destination to explore so we share the best historical sites in Israel, perfect for first-time visitors.
Israel is a country steeped in history and it boasts a rich tapestry of ancient sites that span thousands of years and several civilizations. The treasure trove of archaeological wonders in Israel offers a unique opportunity to step back in time and discover the history of the Holy Land through its ancient sites.
Historical sites in Israel
Jerusalem is the jewel in the crown when it comes to Israel’s ancient sites. No visit would be complete without stopping in Jerusalem, a city that has stood for over 3,000 years. Jerusalem is sacred to Jews, Christians, and Muslims. It is one of the most spiritually significant places on Earth and 1-day tours in Jerusalem cover sacred sites such as the Western Wall, the Holy Sepulchre Church, the Dome of the Rock, and the Al Aqsa Mosque.
Some of the most important ancient sites in Jerusalem include the City of David, where the original city of Jerusalem has been excavated; including ancient water systems, homes, and palaces. Walk the Old City ramparts that have played a crucial part in protecting the city. They were built by the Ottoman Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent in the 16th century.
At the Tower of David, learn about the structure’s history from being constructed by King Herod during the 1st century BC until its use as a Turkish military garrison. Other ancient sites in Jerusalem include the Herodian Quarter, Wohl Archaeological Museum, Ophel Archaeological Garden, and Mount Zion where you’ll find the Room of the Last Supper and King David’s Tomb.
Beit She’an is often overlooked by travelers unless they are on an organized tour, and it is really one of the best ancient sites in Israel. Beit She’an lies in the northern reaches of the Jordan Valley, an ancient city that once belonged to the Decapolis, a league of ten Greco-Roman cities. The site dates back to biblical times and has been continuously inhabited for thousands of years.
Tourists can walk down an incredible colonnaded street, and explore the well-preserved Roman theater, ancient bathhouses, and see Byzantine-era mosaics. In the evening there is a sound and light show that brings this ancient site to life.
Perched high on top of a rugged plateau overlooking the Dead Sea, are the remains of a fortress-palace built by Herod the Great around 30 BC. The mountaintop fortress is well-preserved thanks to the dry desert climate and its remote location where it remained undisturbed by man for centuries.
The remains of Herod’s fortress include storage rooms, guard barracks, bathhouses with incredible mosaics, palaces, and cavernous cisterns created by brilliant ancient engineers. For Jews, Masada holds special significance. Years after Herod’s fortress had been abandoned, Masada became a refuge for Jewish rebels during the First Roman-Jewish War.
The Romans held them under siege, surrounding Masada for more than a year while the Jews remained safe and unreachable on the summit of Masada. Eventually, the Romans managed to scale the steep sides of Masada, but when they reached the flat mountaintop they found that the Jews had chosen suicide rather than being captured. Masada became a symbol of Jewish bravery.
Megiddo in the Jezreel Valley is where history and mythology converge. According to biblical tradition, this is where the final battle of Armageddon will take place. Its history can be traced back to the Bronze Age, around 3000 BC when it was a Canaanite city.
The Egyptians conquered Megiddo in the early 15th century BC, and it was the site of the Battle of Megiddo in the 15th century when the Canaanite states defeated the Egyptians. And it came under King Solomon in the 10th century BC. Meggido was the site of many battles due to its strategic location along the ancient trade and military routes. The city has been home to Assyrians, Babylonians, and Persians.
Archaeologically, the Roman remains at Megiddo are particularly impressive and provide a fascinating look into ancient urban planning and military fortifications. There is an ancient water system, stables, granaries, and a fortified city gate.
Acco ( Acre or Akko)
Without a doubt, one of the most magical cities in Israel is Acre, an ancient walled port city built overlooking the sea and with a rich history spanning millennia. Many civilizations have come and gone, each leaving their mark on Acre.
Today, the UNESCO-listed city has been beautifully restored and is a living city with a bustling market on the ancient streets. You can visit Ottoman-era hammam, khans, and mosques. See the Acre Citadel built during the Ottoman Period over the ruins of a 12th-century Crusader fortress. Under the Ottomans (and later the British) the citadel was used as a prison.
But the true treasures of Acre lie hidden beneath the ground. Go through the enchanted forest to reach the entrance to the Crusader city that is almost completely intact providing an exceptional picture of the layout and structure of the medieval Crusader city. Walk through the Knight’s Hall with its massive pillars, follow the Templar’s Tunnel, and stop at the Treasures of the Walls Museum.
Situated along the Mediterranean coastline, Caesarea offers visitors a fascinating glimpse into the past. The city’s harbor was the heart of a Phoenician trading town called Straton’s Tower in the 4th century BC and was conquered by the Hasmonean Kingdom in 90 BC.
Just 60 years later the Roman Emperor Augustus Caesar gave the city and the entire coastline as a gift to King Herod the Great. He turned the site into a thriving port town in the 1st century BC and dedicated it to the emperor.
Caesarea became a cultural and economic capital and a significant port. Today tourists can explore the well-preserved ruins that include a massive Roman amphitheater that is still in use. Walk along the ancient streets and see the remains of Roman temples, aqueducts, palaces, homes, and the Hippodrome. There are also remains of structures built by civilizations that followed the Romans including the massive city walls and moat built by the Crusaders.
- We LOVE this camera for our travel photography.
- For a cheap, easy, and compact camera, we use this to vlog and take photographs.
- We use this microphone for all our Youtube voiceovers.
- We use this travel drone (but make sure to check drone laws in your chosen destination first).
- This is our favorite travel insurance because it covers so many activities and travel situations that could arise on longer trips but also offer year coverage.
What to pack
- No matter where we travel, I always take these trusty hand sanitizers and a mini first aid kit.
- We love these toiletry bags (especially great for smaller bathrooms) and choose a laptop bag like this as our hand luggage.
- We keep our devices charged on long travel days with these lightweight battery packs and bring these worldwide travel adaptors on all our trips.
- I still struggle not to overpack so stick to using an expandable suitcase like these and always take my trusty luggage scales to avoid being charged at the airport.