Jerusalem Travel Guide.

February 27, 2020

Jerusalem

Jerusalem, Middle East, Travel Guides, Where to Stay

The city of Jerusalem is such a culturally, historically, and religiously significant city to so many people. It’s one of the oldest cities in the world and truly a city full of so many amazing sites. Jerusalem is one of my favorite cities in the world! I spent four months living here in college on a study abroad and absolutely fell in love with this city and part of the world. It’s also where I fell in love with photography and learning about different cultures. To say this city changed my life is honestly an understatement.
 
From visiting the Western Wall to feeling like you’re walking back in time as you wander the cobblestone streets of the Old City and eating life-changing falafel and hummus, there is so much to see and do and eat in this incredible city, so here’s our complete guide to the city of Jerusalem:

A Complete Guide to Jerusalem:

The Old City of Jerusalem is divided into four separate sections—Jewish Quarter, Muslim Quarter, Armenian Quarter, and Christian Quarter. As you walk through the streets of the Old City, you can start to get a feel for which quarter you’re in based on the types of shops and what they’re selling. For example, the Muslim Quarter feels like you’re walking through an Arab Souk and shop owners are selling everything from clothes and shoes to candy and spices, and in the Christian Quarter, there are a lot of Christian churches and the shop owners are selling crosses and other Christian souvenirs. However, all of the quarters are connected, so it’s easy to turn a corner and be in a different section without even realizing it.

How to get to jerusalem:

The easiest way to get to Jerusalem is to fly into the Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv and then take a taxi or the shuttle bus to the Old City. If you’re crossing the border from Jordan, here’s our complete guide to crossing the border from Jordan to Israel.

WHAT TO DO:

Wander the Old City:

One of the absolute best things to do in the Old City in my opinion is to just wander. The Old City streets are pretty narrow and there are shops and vendors on either side. The Old City is actually pretty small, but you could easily get lost (in the best way!) in the streets for days. There is so much to see and do, and it’s such a unique experience just wandering through the maze of the Old City and walking from one quarter to the next. It really feels like you’re walking back in time. Walk in and out of the shops, get to know the shop owners, and buy homemade sandals, candy, or jewelry. (But never accept the first price!)

Walk the Ramparts Walk:

The Ramparts Walk is one of our absolute favorite things to do in the city! You get to walk on the Old City walls and see the whole city from above. It’s also a great way to get a better understanding for each of the quarters of the Old City. There are two separate walks, the north side and the south side, and the entrance is at the Jaffa Gate. We did the south side walk, which ends at the Western Wall. For more information on the Ramparts Walk, read this article here.

Visit the Church of the Holy Sepulchre:

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is in the Christian Quarter and it’s the site where many Christians believe Jesus was crucified and buried. The church is absolutely gorgeous and you can spend hours inside looking at the murals and paintings, touching what is believed to be the rock of Golgatha, and going inside the Tomb.

Visit the Garden Tomb:

The Garden Tomb is outside the walls of the Old City and another one of places where Christians believe Jesus may have been buried. This is a less popular site and as a result is generally a lot less crowded, which gives it a bit more of a peaceful experience to it. The gardens are beautiful and there are generally tour groups singing hymns and religious songs. This is a great place to go if you’re looking for a quiet moment to sit and reflect on your experience here in Jerusalem.

The Western Wall Excavations:

The Western Wall archeological site is truly fascinating and really brings you back to the ancient times of Jerusalem when the First and Second Temples were built here. You can see the ritual baths and the original steps that led up to the Temple. The steps leading up to the Temple Mount are a really special spot for Christians, as it’s one of the spots in the city where you can actually walk where Jesus walked.

Visit The Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem:

The Church of the Nativity is built on the spot where Jesus is said to have been born. It’s a beautiful church and historically significant for Christians. It is located in Palestine, meaning you will need your passport, which will be checked as you cross the border, and even though it’s pretty close to Jerusalem, it could take some time to get there and back. We suggest going early in the morning to avoid crowds.

Take in the View from the Top of the Austrian Hospice:

One of my very favorite things to do in Jerusalem is to go to the top of the Austrian Hospice. You don’t have to stay there to visit the roof (but you can), but you will have to pay a small entrance fee once you get to the roof. Once you’re on the roof, it’s the perfect place to take in panoramic views of the city. Pack a picnic and eat lunch up here. It’s truly a beautiful spot to sit, relax, and reflect on your time in the city.

Reflect at the Dome of the Rock:

The Dome of the Rock is a very sacred site for Muslims. Non-Muslims are allowed in the area, but they are not allowed inside. It is truly one of the most beautiful buildings in the world and an incredible place to go and reflect. It’s free and open to visitors every Monday through Thursday from 7:30 am – 10:30 am and 12:30 pm – 1:30 pm during the winter and 8:30 am – 11:30 am and 1:30 pm – 2:30 pm during the summer. Be sure to dress modestly and that your shoulders, knees, and chest are covered or else you won’t be allowed to enter. The entrance to the Temple Mount is on the outside of the Western Wall and requires that you go through security. Tensions are a lot higher here than they have been in previous years, so the security is a bit stricter. Be quiet and respectful to those who are worshipping inside. You are allowed to take pictures, but there are guards and security everywhere that are very strict. Do not put your arms around each other in photos or try to “model” for photos. It is strictly forbidden and guards will quickly come up to you and tell you that you will be kicked out if you do. This is also considered the Temple Mount, where the First Temple was built by King Soloman, so this site holds a lot of significance for Jews and Christians as well. For more information about visiting the Temple Mount, read this article here.

Pray at the Western Wall:

The Western Wall is one of the most important religious sites for Jews. At the Western Wall, men and women enter and pray on different sides. Men must cover their heads (there are kippahs available there for you to borrow) and both men and women must be dressed modestly in order to enter (make sure your knees and shoulders are covered). It is such an incredible experience to witness so many people praying to worshipping in their own way. Be quiet and respectful to those around you while you’re at the wall, and bring a pen and paper, so you can leave your own prayer in the wall. When leaving the Western Wall, it is traditional to walk backwards so that you don’t show your back to the wall.

Machne Yehuda Market:

Machne Yehuda Market is in what’s sometimes considered “West Jerusalem” as it’s outside the Old City walls and in a more modern section of the city. It’s the oldest market in Jerusalem and offers fresh fruit, homemade desserts, the most delicious breads, and countless other shops and restaurants. It’s the perfect place to spend an afternoon wandering and snacking. Ask the shop owners for a sample and get to know them. Everyone is super friendly and willing to let you try their specialties!

Take a Day Trip to Tel Aviv:

Tel Aviv is about an hour away from Jerusalem by taxi. Tel Aviv is definitely a more modern city, so it’s a fun way to get to experience the old and the new. It’s also on the water, so it’s a great place to go if you’re looking for a little sun or to cool off from the heat. Wander through Jaffa, take electric scooters along the boardwalk, relax at the beach, and each brunch at Benedict.

WHERE TO EAT:

 Eddie’s Falafel:

You cannot go to Jerusalem without eating falafel pita. It doesn’t matter how many times you’ve had it in other parts of the world, nothing compares to the falafel in Jerusalem. It’s truly the best in the world. My absolute favorite pita falafel is from Eddie’s. Enter the Old City at Damascus Gate and right where the road splits, there’s a little falafel stand right in the center—that’s Eddie’s. The owner’s name is Eddie, and he truly makes the best pita falafel on the planet! Ask for extra french fries, you won’t regret it.

 

 Lina’s Hummus:

Another food that Jerusalem does better than anywhere else in the world is hummus. I fell in love with hummus in this city and it doesn’t matter how many times I try to replicate it, I just can’t. There’s something about how they make it in the Middle East that is just SO. MUCH. BETTER! My favorite place to go for hummus in the Old City is Lina’s. My favorites are the pine nut and chickpea hummuses! Be sure to ask for fresh, warm pita. It’s the perfect afternoon snack! (Or meal, depending on how much pita you eat, haha.)

 Get Candy, Baklava, and Fresh Juice from the Local Shop Owners:

One of the best parts of Jerusalem is just wandering around and trying things from all the different shops throughout the entire Old City. You can’t walk through the Old City without trying some of the candy, homemade baklava, and freshly squeezed pomegranate and orange juice.

 Golda Mamila:

Golda Mamila is just outside of Jaffa Gate, and it’s seriously some of the best ice cream we’ve ever had in our lives. We went three nights in a row, so to say it’s amazing is probably an understatement, haha. The Kinder Bueno flavor is incredible. There’s also a location in Tel Aviv.

 Marzipan Bakery:

Marzipan Bakery is outside the Old City (there used to be one in the Jewish Quarter, but we couldn’t find it there anymore), but it’s worth the journey. Be sure to get the chocolate rugelach. It’s basically a much better version of a chocolate croissant, and it’s honestly the best baked good I’ve ever eaten.

Coming from Jordan?

WHERE TO STAY:

Waldorf Astoria Jerusalem:

We stayed at the Waldorf Astoria Jerusalem and absolutely loved our experience. Not only is the Waldorf Astoria absolutely stunning, but it’s also the kind of place that makes you feel right at home. The staff was always so kind and helpful and honestly whenever we walked in, they greeted us and asked us how our day was and really made us feel welcome. It’s located right in the heart of Jerusalem, so it’s super easy to walk into the Old City or take the train into West Jerusalem, making it the perfect place to stay. The breakfast buffet is absolutely amazing and has every type of food and fresh squeezed juice you could ever imagine or want. They also offer some traditional Israeli treats and baked goods, like Halvah. The rooms are so spacious and comfortable and the balconies offer beautiful city views. We absolutely loved our stay at the Waldorf Astoria Jerusalem and can’t recommend it enough! 

HOW TO GET AROUND:

The best way to get around Jerusalem is to walk! You’ll see and experience so much more if you’re walking everywhere. Also, cabs are very expensive, so we suggest walking or taking public transportation. There is also a public light train that makes it pretty easy to get around the city. Keep in mind that almost everything is closed on Saturdays, which is Shabbat, the Jewish holy day, including public transportation. So if you want to get around from sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturdays, you’ll want to arrange transportation ahead of time.

KNOW BEFORE YOU GO:

Shabbat and Holy Days:

The Jewish Holy Day, Shabbat, is from Sundown of Friday to Sundown on Saturday. As a result, almost everything in the country is closed, including public transportation. There are still some shops that are open, but you’ll probably have a hard time finding places to eat and things that are open. The Muslim Holy Day is Friday, which means Friday mornings, a lot of things are closed. Alway check ahead of time to see what’s open on which days so your plans aren’t ruined. Also, access to some of the sites changes due to holidays and political situations, so make sure to look into that ahead of time as well.

Best Time of Year to Visit:

Jerusalem gets very hot in the summer and pretty cold in the winter, so the best time of year to go is in the spring. If you are Christian, Easter is an exciting time to be in the city. The Jewish Holy Days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur fall in September and October and most everything in the country is shut down for those holidays.
 

Is it Safe?:

There is a lot of political unrest in the area, but we felt very safe while we were there. Especially in the Old City, everyone is very kind, welcoming, and generous. As always, it’s important to pay attention, be aware of your surroundings, and be respectful and courteous, but overall we feel like it’s a safe place to visit.

Be sure to add some time to float in the Dead Sea during your trip!

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