Hospitaller Fortress (Knights` Halls) was the Order’s headquarters during the Second Crusader Kingdom. And it is a must-visit in Akko.
Note: if you are looking for a city guide of Acre that includes all relevant information and things to do, check out Acre.
Table of Contents
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 use these names interchangeably.
Old Acre is the old part of the modern city of Acre. And Hospitaller Fortress, like many other tourist attractions, is located within the old city.
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Interactive map of the area:
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- In the map above, the Knights` Halls compound is marked under numbers #21 and #48.
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Old Acre Development Company
Most touristic sites in the city belong to Old Acre Development Company (official site). That allows them to sell combined tickets to various attractions in the city and outside.
The sites under their management are Hospitaller Fortress, Okashi Art Museum, Turkish Bath, Templar Tunnel, Visitors Center (near the Hospitaller Fortress), Treasures In The Walls Museum, and Ramchal Synagogue.
Sites managed by Old Acre Development Company are open seven days a week.
Sunday – Thursday and Saturday: 9:00 – 18:00 (till 17:00 in winter).
Friday and holiday eve: 9:00 – 16:00
- Winter time is November – March.
- Ramchal Synagogue is closed on Saturdays and holidays.
The basic combined ticket includes Hospitaller Fortress, Turkish Bath, The Okashi Museum, Templar Tunnel, the Treasures in the Walls Museum, and Ramchal Synagogue. It costs 49 NIS per person. On top of the basic combination, you can add additional sites like Rosh Hanikra, Haypark zoo, and others. So there is a variety of combo tickets.
Note: opening hours and ticket prices were updated in January 2023. In any case, recheck the official site before visiting.
I revisited Akko in August 2019 and used this coupon for that visit. It allows purchasing the basic combined ticket with and without the Turkish Bath at a 15% and 18% discount, respectively. I bought it through their site and received an SMS and an email with an order number. Then I told this number to the cashier at Hospitaller Fortress and received the tickets. Moreover, since coupon processing is fast, you can probably purchase through it on-site (but keep in mind there is a delay risk).
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.” It is worth revisiting if you have not been there for several years.
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.
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. It plays the right track as soon as you come close to one.
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 which direction to move. Most of them were clear, except this one.
The Beautiful Hall
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:
Only about half of the stores were opened when we visited the artists’ market. 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 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.