Hospitaller Fortress (Knights` Halls) was the Order’s headquarters during the Second Crusader Kingdom. And it is a must-visit in Akko.
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Many names refer to this site. Thus let’s list go over them. Knights` Halls is the old name. The primary motivation for changing the name was probably the new archaeological findings that discovered many new underground rooms. The last official name is Hospitaller Fortress. But many also refer to this place as Crusader Fortress or The Knights` Kingdom.
Most people (and this post as well) will use these names interchangeably.
Old Acre is the old part of the modern city of Acre. And Hospitaller Fortress, as many other tourist attractions, is located within Old Acre.
Map of the area:
- In the map above the Knights` Halls compound is marked under numbers #21 and #48.
- You can click on the map to enlarge it.
The basic combined ticket includes Hospitaller Fortress, The Okashi Museum, The Templar Tunnel, and Treasures In The Walls Museum (Old Acre Development Company manages all these sites). It costs 47 NIS for an adult and 40 NIS for a child. On top of the basic combination, you can add additional places like the Turkish Bath, Rosh Hanikra, Haypark zoo, and others. So there is a variety of combo tickets.
Sunday – Thursday and Saturday: 8:30 – 17:30 (till 19:00 during summer).
Friday and holiday eve: 8:30 – 17:00.
- The summertime started is April – November.
- Opening hours and ticket prices were updated in March 2020. In any case, recheck the official site before your visit.
- There are also coupons available. You can find additional information in the Acre guide.
I visited Hospitaller Fortress (also named the Citadel and Knights` Halls) about half a dozen times over the years. And usually, I purchase the basic combined ticket. I did the same during the August 2019 visit. And I am delighted to say that they are continually improving the site. Not only do they dig and reveal new archeological findings, but they also improve the overall experience. Near the cash register, there is a new hall where you can see a short movie about Acre and Hospitaller Fortress’s history.
The movie is available in ten different languages. And I would suggest starting your visit by watching it (we entered the hall and asked one of the staff members if she could play the movie in our preferred language, and she did).
The Enchanted Garden
The garden at the entrance to the Hospitaller Fortress:
The Enchanted Garden (also known as “the Festival Garden”) serves as the entrance courtyard to the Hospitaller Fortress. To the north, you will find the towers; to the south – the Acre Development Company headquarters and facilities used for the Acre Theater Center.
The open space is impressive in its vegetation and the aura of hospitality it emits. As such, it was converted into an entrance to the Hospitaller Compound and the Citadel. The courtyard houses the Visitors and Reservations Center for Acre, the Western Galilee, and the Upper Galilee.
Note: unless stated otherwise, all quotes were taken from the official site.
Though the exterior has not changed, the interior has undergone renovations and rapid development. This exhibition is now called “THE KNIGHTS` KINGDOM.” And if you have not been there for a couple of years, then it is worth revisiting.
The exterior of the Citadel:
The Kingdom of Jerusalem was founded in 1099 following the First Crusade and the conquest of the Land of Israel. Jerusalem became the capital of the Kingdom, and Acre subsequently developed into the port city and the main gate to the Holy Land. Following the battle of Hattin in 1187 and the defeat of the Crusader army, Salah ad-Din, who headed the Muslim armies, conquered the Kingdom. He ruled in Jerusalem and Acre for about four years. In 1191, following a two-year siege, King Richard the Lionhearted – who headed the Christian armies – re-conquered Acre. During this journey, which became the Third Crusade, the Christians were unable to free Jerusalem and established their new kingdom along the shoreline between Tzur and Ashkelon. Acre, the second most important city in the Crusader Kingdom, became the capital of the second kingdom. The Hospitaller Order, which thrived in Jerusalem during the First Crusader Kingdom (1187-1099), transferred its headquarters to Acre during the Second Crusader Kingdom (1291-1191). The Hospitallers, who had a quarter there during the First Kingdom, returned to Acre, expanded their headquarters, and rebuilt the site. It consisted of two to three floors around a central court and underground sections – water reservoirs and a sewage system. It was not the entire site that was excavated. To date, an area of about 5000 square meters was excavated, which encompasses the central court and the northern, eastern, and southern wings. The western wing has yet to be excavated.
The Knights` Kingdom
You start with an entirely new hall (the organizers opened it as a part of The Knights` Kingdom exhibition.
A 4,000-year-old story unfolds inside the halls of the citadel – the museum displays and films projected on the walls tell the story of the Crusades and offer vast historical information regarding the various eras.
During this tour, each visitor receives a headset, in one of 10 different languages, with which to operate the displays.
During the day, visit the streets, chapel, stores, and an arts and crafts market, featuring artisans from the Crusades era, offering their wares: blacksmiths, glass blowers, potters, weavers, embroiderers, leather craftsmen, basket weavers, perfume, and oil artisans, etc.
The Eastern Street:
You can get an audio guide for free (included in the ticket price). The unusual part is that these are electronic audio guides. How do they know what track you should hear? As you go through the exhibition, you pass next to WiFi spots. As soon as you come close to one, it plays the right track.
Overall, this system works. But in many cases, you should not move too much while listening to a track. A couple of steps in the wrong direction, and the audio guide automatically skip to another track. Also, there were two spots where you could not hear the explanations since the audio guide kept jumping from one track to another. But overall, they did pretty good work.
They also added numbers to points of interest and arrows showing in which direction you should move. Most of them were clear, except this one.
The Beautiful Hall
One of the corridors:
The crypt of Saint John church:
Here is one of the new exposition telling about the sugar industry. I had no idea that there was an advanced sugar industry in Israel, and it was exported to Europe:
One of the most beautiful halls is The Crusader’s dining room:
Another new place is the pillars Hall:
Besides the excavations that you can see in the photo above, the pillars Hall also holds the artists market:
When we visited the artists` market, only about half of the stores were opened. And in some of them, we saw artists at work. For example, a woman was making a sculpture.
A typical visit to Knights` Halls will take two to three hours. And most people are impressed by the remains both under and over the current street level. That is one of the reasons Acre made it to the UNESCO World Heritage List.
As I mentioned above, Hospitaller Fortress changed significantly in the last few years. Thus, if you have never visited it or were there more than several years ago, I recommend paying a visit. It was greatly improved.
Moreover, this is the starting point for most people since you purchase the combo tickets there.
And for additional sites in the city, check out my Acre guide.
Have you ever been to the Hospitaller Fortress? Tell us in the comments below.
That’s all for today, and I’ll see you in future travels!
Additional ResourcesHere are several resources that I created to help travelers:
- Israel Trip Planner is the page that will help you to create your perfect travel route.
- National Parks And Nature Reserves page lists and put all national parks on the map. There is also a top list, information about ticket types and campsites.
- If you are looking for things to do, here are the pages for Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa, Sea Of Galilee, and Makhtesh Ramon.
- Wondering what events are there in Israel? Here is the Events And Festivals By Season guide.