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:
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.