King Herod’s Visitor Center officially opened on May 29. The NIS 80 million, or $22 million, project, funded by the Rothschild Foundation, sits centrally in the Caesarea National Park, the most popular archaeological site in Israel from the first century. The site, also surrounded by a residential city, served as the first official port during the time of King Herod, who named the port after Augustus Caesar.
Well known for its amphitheater and beautifully set along the sea, Caesarea has been a working archaeological site since 1992 with new historical findings almost every day. The National Parks Authority and the Israeli Antiquities Authority received approval to reconstruct what was once a large-scale storage space made of 14 vaults. The visitor center is made up of four of the vaults, and includes air-conditioning and electricity. The new space is a welcome and carefully constructed rendition, which goes by a specific building code created for archaeological reconstruction and architecture.
The aim of the reconstruction was to create a better sense of understanding on how these buildings took form 2,000 years ago. The opening was controversial, as is common when reconstructing ancient history. It can be sensitive in terms of respecting the history while crafting a welcoming and modern experience for visitors.
Today Caesarea is the most visited tourist post in Israel, offering historical insight for about 900,000 people per year, mostly internationals. The new visitor center was remodeled with the tourist industry in mind, as the team hopes to double its tourism to Caesarea by 2025.