The spirit of Jerusalem - Discover the history that stretches back thousands of years
Like any city, the charm and essence of Jerusalem is best absorbed by walking its streets. However, depending on your interests, you don’t want to miss out on exploring at least some of these major attractions.
When visiting religious sites, it’s advised to dress modestly and wear clothing that covers your knees and elbows.
A good place to start is Jerusalem’s Old City, which has a very special and distinct atmosphere and is where many of the major attractions of Jerusalem are found.
JERUSALEM WESTERN WALL
The Western Wall, also known as the Wailing Wall and Kotel, is the western retaining wall of the Second Temple. Considered Judaisms’s holiest site, the wall is divided into a men’s and women’s section where worshipers congregate throughout the day for morning, afternoon and evening services. Diverse crowds come to pray against the stones, to tuck small pieces of paper with prayers into the cracks and to simply marvel at the site.
Address: Jewish Quarter, Old City
Crossing the Muslim Quarter from east to west is this street that traces the last steps of Jesus Christ as he was led to his crucifixion. Popular with both pilgrims and general tourists, the route marks 14 events on Christ’s last walk and is also lined with shops and stalls. It is worth visiting on a Friday afternoon (3:00opm in winter; 4:00pm in summer) when the Franciscans lead a procession along the route.
Address: Via Dolorosa, Muslim Quarter, Old City.
JERUSALEM CHURCH OF THE HOLY SEPULCHER
One of the holiest sites for Christians, this impressive building draws millions of pilgrims from around the world every year. The compound is believed to be the site of Golgotha (the Hill of Calvary), where, according to the New Testament, Jesus was crucified, buried and resurrected.
Address: Between Suq Khan e-Zeit and Christian Quarter Rd, Christian Quarter, Old City
Hours: Sun – Sat: 5:00am – 8:00pm/9:00pm
David’s Citadel (also known as the Tower of David) was originally built in the second century BC to strategically strengthen a weak point in the city’s defences, and was subsequently destroyed and rebuilt many times over the ensuing centuries. Since 1989, the grounds are home to a fascinating museum, which sheds light on the history of Jerusalem. Don’t forget to take in the splendid view of Jerusalem from its ramparts.
Address: Jaffa Gate, Christian Quarter, Old City
Hours: Sun-Thu: 10:00am -4:00pm, Fri: Closed, Sat: 10:00am – 2:00pm (September-June), Sun-Thu: 10:00am – 5:00pm, Fri: 10:00am – 2:00pm, Sat: 10:00am – 5:00pm (July-August)
CITY OF DAVID
Situated deep below ground in the Arab village of Silwan is the remains of the once-grand citadel where a dynasty of Judean kings once ruled. A massive visitors’ center offers a tour that begins with an observation point overlooking the remains of ancient Jerusalem, then continues underground with a look at recent archaeological finds and ends at the Gihon Spring, where according to tradition Solomon was anointed king. Visitors can also wade through the waters of the 2,700-year-old Hezekiah’s Tunnel.
Address: Silwan, East Jerusalem
Hours: Sun-Thu: 8:00am – 5:00pm (winter), 8:00am – 7:00pm (summer), Fri: 8:00am – 1:00pm (winter), 8:00am – 3:00pm (summer)
MOUNT OF OLIVES
The hill that rises to the east of the Old City, the Mount of Olives, is a great place to take in views of the Old City and the Dome of the Rock. Its slopes are filled with holy and burial sites and are home to several grand churches including the Church of all Nations. To take in all the sights, it’s best to start at the top, near to the Mosque of Ascension, and walk downhill to the Tomb of the Virgin. The Old City views are best in the morning.
Address: Mount of Olives, East Jerusalem
This charming neighbourhood facing the Old City walls was originally built to escape overcrowding in the 19th Century. It is known for its windmill and communal housing block, known as Mishkenot Shaananim, which is now a venue for art and culture. The area is home to artists, writers and academics and is renowned for its Oriental-style houses, green parks, a music center, the YMCA, King David Hotel, Herod’s Family Tomb.
MAMILLA ALROV AVENUE
Situated between the city center and the Old City, Mamilla Alrov Avenue is a pedestrian mall that offers a selection of luxury shops, as well as upscale restaurants and cafes. Mamilla is known for its chic and tasteful European feel, and offers spectacular views of the Old City walls.
Address: 6 Yitzhak Kariv St, Jerusalem
Hours: Sun-Thu: 10:00am – 9:30pm (winter), 10:00am – 10:30pm (summer), Fri: 9:00am – 2:00pm (winter), 9:30am – 3:30pm (summer), Sat: One hour after Shabbat – 11:00pm
BEN YEHUDA STREET
One of Jerusalem’s prime hangout spots for locals and tourists alike, Ben Yehuda Street is a pedestrian mall extending between King George Street and Jaffa Road in downtown Jerusalem. The street is filled with gift shops, falafel and ice-cream stores, buskers, beggars, musicians and street performers.
This charming cobblestone neighbourhood just south of Ben Yehuda Street in the city center offers a great selection of shops, restaurants, bars and outdoor cafes. This is a great place to experience in summer and at night with many bustling until late.
Though it is just a few minutes’ walk from modern Ben Yehuda Street, the ultra-orthodox enclave of Mea Shearim is an entirely different reality. You will feel as though you have stepped into 18th Century Europe with Jewish Orthodoxy dressed in full traditional attire such as long black coats, black fur hats and stockings. When touring, it’s recommended to dress extremely modestly, covering up your wrists and ankles, and to take photos with discretion.
Address: Meah Shearim Rd, Jerusalem
Mahane Yehuda Market
Often referred to as “the shuk”, Mahane Yehuda Market offers a huge assortment of fresh produce and food, as well as a variety of other shops like clothing stores, kitchenware shops, jewellery stores, ceramic stores and a variety of gentrified eateries. The shuk includes an open air and closed area, bounded by Jaffa Road on the one side and busy Agripas Street on the other. It’s worth taking public transportation to the shuk as there is not a huge abundance of parking, and a great deal of traffic. If you can handle crowds, go on a Friday to experience last minute Shabbat shopping.
Address: Agripas and Jaffa Street, Jerusalem
OTHER AREAS OF JERUSALEM
Yad Vashem, Israel’s national Holocaust memorial, commemorates the six million men, women and children murdered by the Nazis and their allies. Located at the foot of Mt. Herzl, Yad Vashem comprises several moving memorials, including the Hall of Remembrance and the haunting Children’s Memorial; the Holocaust History Museum; the Museum of Holocaust Art; sculptures and installations; a massive archive and a research institute. Dress appropriately, and make sure to reserve at least a few hours for a visit to the Museum.
Address: Har Hazikaron
You’ll want to devote at least a day to Israel’s largest cultural institution, the Israel Museum, which was re-launched in the summer of 2010 after a major overhaul. The Museum is made up of many different wings and a huge collection of art, archaeological findings and Judaica. One of the major highlights is the distinctly shaped Shrine of the Book, which houses many ancient manuscripts including the Dead Sea Scrolls. Other highlights include the Youth Wing for children, the Billy Rose Art Garden, which showcases the development of western sculpture over the centuries, the Museum’s Fine Arts Wing and its in-depth Archaeology Wing.