Hospitaller Fortress (Knights’ Halls) in Akko – Full Guide


Hospitaller Fortress (Knights' Halls) in Old Acre

Hospitaller Fortress starts with opening hours, map, history, and then we will tour the whole Crusader fort, including Knights’ Halls. Let’s begin!

Note: if you are looking for an Acre city guide that includes all relevant information and things to do, then check out Acre.

Names

This site is referred by many names, thus let’s list go over them. Knights’ Halls is the old name. I guess the primary motivation for changing the name was 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 name interchangeably, and so will I.

Map

Old Acre is the old part of the modern city of Acre. And Hospitaller Fortress, as many other tourist attractions are located within Old Acre.

Map of the area:

Akko - Old City Map
Akko – Old City Map

Notes:

  • In the map above the Knights’ Halls compound is marked under numbers #21 and #48.
  • You can click on the map to enlarge it.

Entrance Fee

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.

Old Akko price list
Old Akko price list

Opening Hours

Sunday – Thursday and Saturday: 8:30 – 17:30 (till 19:00 during summer).
Friday and holiday eve: 8:30 – 17:00.

Notes:

  • The summer time started on 1.4.2020.
  • Opening hours and ticket prices were updated in March 2020. In any case, recheck the official site before your visit. You can find the full entrance fee list here and the opening hours here.
  • There are also coupons available. You can find additional information in the Acre guide.

Movie

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 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 the history of Acre and Hospitaller Fortress.

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 KNIGHTS’ KINGDOM in Old Acre
The Enchanted Garden

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:

Hospitaller Fortress in Old Akko
Hospitaller Fortress
Hospitaller Fortress in Old Acre
Model of the Hospitaller Fortress

Short History

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 as well as underground sections – water reservoirs and a sewage system. It was not the entire site that was excavated. To date, an area of about 5000 m2 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.

Prisoners hall at The Knights’ Kingdom
Prisoners hall at The Knights’ Kingdom
THE KNIGHTS’ KINGDOM in Old Acre
Archaeological items at display

The Eastern Street:

 Hospitaller Fortress in Old Acre

Audioguides

As you buy tickets, you can get an audio guide for free (included in 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 KNIGHTS’ KINGDOM in Old Acre

The Beautiful Hall

The Beautiful Hall in Hospitaller Fortress, Old Acre
The Beautiful Hall in Hospitaller Fortress

One of the corridors:

Hospitaller Fortress, Acre

The crypt of Saint John church:

THE KNIGHTS’ KINGDOM in Old Acre

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:

THE KNIGHTS’ KINGDOM in Old Acre

Dining Room

One of the most beautiful halls is The Crusader’s dining room:

The Crusader's dining room in Hospitaller Fortress, Old Acre
The Crusader’s dining room in Hospitaller Fortress

Another new place is the pillars Hall:

THE KNIGHTS’ KINGDOM in Old Acre

Artists Market

Besides the excavations that you can see in the photo above, the pillars Hall also holds the artists market:

Hospitaller Fortress (Knights' Halls) in Old Akko
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.

Hospitaller Fortress in Old Akko

Summary

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 years. Thus, if you have never visited it or was there more then several years ago, then I would 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!

Stay Tuned!

   

Additional Resources

Here are several resources that I created to help travelers: And if you have any questions then check out Useful Information For Tourists To Israel.  
Did not find what you were looking for? Email me at [email protected], and I will do my best to answer your questions.

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