10 Things To Do In Jerusalem
Perhaps the most famous city in the world, Jerusalem is jam-packed with sights so to keep it to just 10 is a tough ask! Claimed as the Capital of both Palestine and Israel, and home to more religious sights than any other city on the planet, Jerusalem is a must-visit for any serious traveller. However, I know what it’s like to have limited time here and trying to make sure you don’t miss anything out! I spent 2 weeks in Israel on my trip to every country in the world, and this place was my highlight. So let me help you plan your Jerusalem itinerary with the top 10 things to do in Jerusalem when you visit. Along with a few other FAQs and tips for travelling in Israel and Jerusalem.
1) Get Lost In Jerusalem’s Old City
Jerusalem’s old city is the centre of Judaism and a holy city to both Islam and Christianity. 16th-century Ottoman city walls mark the outline of the old city, and once inside it’s like being sent back in time. The city itself is divided up in the 4 quarters Jewish, Muslim, Christian and Armenian, each of whom have their own unique qualities.
The old city is over 3,000 years old, and from the Western Wall tunnels, you can see the original stone work from then. In terms of ‘seeing’ the Old City, your best bet is to get lost in the alleys, the different shops, cuisine, cultures and religious architecture. I advise putting your map away and strolling around through the alleyways taking in the environment. I got lost in the streets and ended up buying a lovely Tallit from a local shop, even having a cup of tea with the friendly lady who ran the shop.
In my Top 10 list of the best things to do in Jerusalem below, many of the main sights are located within Jerusalem’s Old City, so give yourself at least one full day to maximise the experience. It’s a city like no other.
HOW TO VISIT THE OLD CITY: It’s a fully functioning city, so it doesn’t open or close. That being said, the main sights have opening hours, so the best way to explore is to come down and have breakfast in the old city yourself, and wander around. The best entrance is ‘Jaffa Gate’ so ask your taxi driver to take you there to get started.
2) The Wailing Wall (or ‘Western Wall’)
It’s found in the Jewish Quarter, the Western Wall is over 2000 years ago, standing strong as a surviving piece of the Temple Mount, built by King Herod. It’s a hugely significant pilgrimage for Jewish people, so expect LOTS of people from all around the world to be there alongside you. Every year millions of people head to the Wailing Wall to offer prayers, they write wishes on tiny pieces of paper and slide them in to the cracks between each stone, they hope that God will read and grant their wishes.
It’s known as the ‘Wailing Wall’ too due to the destruction of the wall by the Romans in 70CE. You don’t have to be Jewish to approach the wall, so by all means go and check it out, just dress and act respectfully of course (no shorts etc). A highlight of the Wall is going underground to check out the Western Wall Tunnels, the cost with a guide is roughly $10 (USD) and well worth it.
HOW TO VISIT THE WESTERN WALL? There is no fee, nor opening/closing times, so you can approach it freely in the Jewish quarter of the Old City by going through security.
3) The Mount Of Olives/Garden of Gethsemane
You’ll find the Mount Of Olives in the eastern part of Jerusalem’S Old City. If you’re looking for the best spot to take great photos and have the stunning views of the city then this is it. The reason that this place is so important is that it was seen as the old centre of Jerusalem. People make the pilgrimage here every year, from both the Jewish and Christian faith, because it used to be one of the main religious burial sites, there are also many famous Christian churches situated along the mountain ridge. It’s also home to where Judas was said to have betrayed Jesus.
How to visit the Mount of Olives? Take a shared taxi from the Damascus Gate to the top of the Mount of Olives, then make your way down by foot.
4) Temple Mount/Dome of the Rock
The Islamic Architecture is stunning, and Temple Mount is Islam’s 3rd most important sight and THE most important in Judaism. Within the Temple Mount then is the ‘Dome of the Rock’ and the Al Aqsa Mosque (where Mohammad is said to have ascended to heaven). It’s been the centre of conflict for Millenia and to this day it’s almost impossible for Jews to visit, instead spending their time on the Western Wall. It’s forbidden for non-Muslims to enter the dome of the Rock itself, but they can enter Temple Mount area.
How to visit Temple Mount? The main entrance to the mount for non-Muslims is at the southern end of The Western Wall. A guided tour is easiest (you can organise that here), or a Muslim friend can invite you.
5) Church of the Holy Sepulchre
Found in the Christian Quarter of the Old City, the Holy Sepulchre is where Christ is believed to have been crucifed, died, and rose again. So, pretty important really!Found in the Christian Quarter of the Old City, the Holy Sepulchre is where Christ is believed to have been crucifed, died, and rose again. So, pretty important really! The ‘Church’ though is not one church, but a series of churches within one larger building.
HOW TO VISIT THE CHURCH OF THE HOLY SEPULCHRE? Get in and our before 11am, when the crwods arrive. And don’t think about the evenings, it’s packed! Dress respectful, including no shorts for guys, and women should have shoulders and knees covered too.
6) Mahane Yehuda
Mahane Yehuda Market (know as ‘the Shuk’ to locals), is Jerusalems busiest bazaar. Expect 300+ vendors selling everything from local food, to chinese clothing! Just remember to come hungry! Falafel, kibbeh, baklava, halfa is available by the tonne! Remember, it’s closed on Fridays. I took tons of great pictures here because the market is full of colour and people. Keep your eyes open to pick up a bargain especially if you’re looking for one of the famous Cross necklaces.
HOW TO VISIT MAHANE YEHUDA MARKET? Get lost yourself by all means, but a guided food tour of Mahane Yehuda is a REAL HIGHLIGHT of any trip to Jerusalem. Don’t eat before you come!
7) The Israel Museum
This museum is widely considered to be one of the best on the planet. Allow half a day to visit because it is massive! It covers more than 20 acres and holds over half a million artefacts. Even if you’re not into museums, which I’m not, the Israel Museum will definitely win you over. Ask anyone who has been to Jerusalem and they will always have this in their list of things to do. Make sure you tick off the Shrine of the Book (where the Dead Sea Scrolls are said to be kept!), Billy Rose Art Garden and whatever exhibition they have on at the time celebrating Jewish Art.
HOW TO VISIT THE ISRAEL MUSEUM; The ticket to enter is about $14
8) The City Of David
Not to be confused with the Tower Of David (also known as the Jerusalem Citadel), the City of David was created by King David over 3,000 years ago. It is a major archaeological site located in the Old City and still has people living there. You have to hop on a guided tour here to learn and get the most out of your visit. The guide we had was awesome and it made us feel like we were walking in the footsteps of those people thousands of years ago. Make sure that your tour includes Hxsekiah’s Tunnels, that part is awesome and fun for all the family.
HOW TO VISIT THE CITY OF DAVID? Without doubt, by guided tour. Otherwise, you won’t have a clue what’s going on. You can organise your tours here.
9) The Garden Tomb
The Garden Tomb is said to the Tomb of Jesus himself, an ongoing dispute with the Holy Sepulcre as to where He died and was reborn, it’s best to be safe and visit both!t’s a place which feels special and is certainly spiritual.
HOW TO VISIT THE GARDEN TOMB? It’s closed on Sundays, open Monday to Saturday (8.30 – 12 and 2-5.30). Entry is free and there are free guided tours that run throughout the day.
10) Yad Vashem
Yad Vashem is Israel’s official memorial to the victims of the Holocaust. A trip to Yad Vashem is something I think every visitor needs to see, it’s a humbling experience but essential. It was built to remember the millions of Jews who lost their lives during the Holocaust. You get an insight into the suffering that Jews went through in the past and it makes sure that the younger generations will never forget. Around a million people visit the museum each year. It is free to enter.
How Long Should I Spend in Jerusalem?
Lots of people day-trip it to Jerusalem and take a tour of the Old City, and call it a day. If you literally have no extra time, then sure, that’s just about possible. Personally, I’d recommend 2 nights in Jerusalem. It’s great for food, amazing for nightlife, the vibe of the city is something from a Millenium ago, and it’s a privilege to experience that. So go, take a couple of days, and soak it up.
What’s the Best Time to Vist Jerusalem?
The best times to visit Jerusalem are April through May and October through November. Although, all year-round is honestly fine though.
Thoughts on the Top 10 Things to Do in Jerusalem?
You shouldn’t visit Jerusalem and miss any of these top 10 things to do in Jerusalem in all honesty. They’re all absolute must-sees. To do that, you’ll need at least 2 days, so factor that in. If you still have time, energy and money, then be sure to check out day-trips from Jerusalem to the Dead Sea, the lowest place on earth, and to Bethlehem to check out the Church of the Nativity, where Jesus is said to have been born. Half-day tours to Bethlehem are available for around $55.
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