Caesarea (40km or 25 miles north of Tel Aviv) was the culminating vision of Herod the Great (37 b.c.–4 b.c.), who created a new, spectacular classical Roman city by the sea to rival Alexandria as the greatest metropolis of the Eastern Mediterranean. Since it had no natural port, he built a vast artificial harbor. On the empty sands, he constructed theaters facing the sea, temples, hippodromes, palaces, colonnaded avenues, and markets. A thousand years later, the city was reborn as a Crusader fortress, but after the Crusades, the ruins of the city were covered by sand and forgotten.

Today, the romantic ruins by the sea have become Israel’s most photogenic and lively archaeological site, dotted with great eateries smack dab in the middle of the ruins. Nearby beaches, wineries, and the artists’ village of Ein Hod make this a good car trip from Tel Aviv.