Things To Do In Jerusalem
Jerusalem is a particularly fascinating city, and is home to three great religions. The Old City is lively, exciting, and multi-cultural; you can wander along the narrow streets and admire the convergence of different civilizations in one place. The city is the site of many biblical events. Within the city walls you can follow the path where Jesus walked, starting from the Via Dolorosa and ending at Golgotha where he is believed to have been crucified. Outside the Temple Mount and the Holy Sepulcher Church you can find the Western Wall -- the wall of the original Jewish temple that was first used during Biblical times. Today, many Jews go on a pilgrimage to pray and leave little notes in the cracks of the walls. Behind the wall is the Dome of the Rock, a sacred place for Muslims.
When To Go:
The ideal months to visit the city of Jerusalem are April through May and October up to November, when the climate is pleasant and the multitudes of tourists is a little smaller. On the other hand, make a point to crosscheck your travel dates against official Jewish festivals, for example, the High Holy Days, Sukkot, and Passover. A heavy influx of tourists for special religious events drives costs for lodging and airfares up during these occasions.
Summer is Jerusalem's peak tourism season, regardless of the sweltering daytime temperatures; travelers roam around the top attractions armed with drinking water and cold towels. Winters bring great bargains at hotels, however the climate is erratic -- one day might be sunny and decently warm, while the following days could be lightly overcast with a bit of a downpour and cold weather.
Here are the things to do and attractions to see when in the city of Jerusalem:
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Old City of Jerusalem
The journey through the Old City of Jerusalem begins at the Jaffa Gate. It is advisable to hire a tour guide or join one of the package tours to have a better understanding of each biblical corner in this ancient city. Guides will provide a detailed excursion of the city with a variety of routes. You can tour certain designated attractions and be sure not to miss any of the important areas of the place. Turn on the audio guide and listen well, it is very convenient and informative. Start the tour as early as 7 am to avoid long lines at the sacred sites. Most of the shrines are well detailed and understandable. The entire tour of the old city takes a full five hours.
The main attraction of Jerusalem, the Old City is divided into four quarters: Jewish, Armenian, Christian and Muslim. The Arab quarter is quite chaotic and very noisy, because of the series of bazaars. The most quiet and peaceful part is the Jewish Quarter, where you can walk through the narrow cobbled streets and enjoy the beauty of the ancient city. You will really get the feeling of being in a unique and historic place. The tour to the Via Dolorosa, Garden of Gethsemane, and the way to the passion of Christ gives a strange calm despite the fact that there are many tourists going along the path taking pictures, stopping to pray and contemplate the solemnity of the place --reverence to the faith is very much observed. The end point of the route is the place of the Holy Sepulcher. Take your time as you walk and look around; it will even be wise to do thorough research of the attractions online first, to have the best appreciation of the most famous sites in Israel.
Western (Wailing) Wall
The Western (Wailing) Wall stands amidst an amalgamation of cultures and religions all gathered round the old square and the location of former King Solomon’s Temple. This is one of the most special and religious places in Jerusalem that you must not fail to visit, even if you are not Jewish or religious. The best time to visit is on a Friday an hour before sunset. The entire place becomes very lively with locals dancing in circles, singing, and welcoming the Sabbath day together with a the crowds drawn to the celebration.
After going through the turnstile that divides men and women, you can head straight in front of this sacred wall where the devotion of the people is the most unique in the world.
Regardless of the faith or culture to which everyone adheres, standing before the wall is a very unique moment. The Wailing Wall is a good place to reflect about life, love, and faith. There need be no differences or religions, everything is beautiful there.
The tunnels are strongly recommended, but you must book early to gain entry, because only a limited number of people are allowed to enter. Ladies must wear clothes that cover their shoulders and knees. Taking pictures is not allowed when inside the premises.
Western Wall Tunnels
The trip to the Western Wall Tunnels is a very informative tour, not only for lovers of theology, but for anyone regardless of background. The guide tells the story of the formation of the city, its construction, and some history of the people. Generally, it is very interesting to see the city from the other side -- the underground. You immediately feel a certain air of mysticism. Be sure to take this tour and walk through the tunnels under the Wailing Wall, you will learn a lot. The guided tour is done in English and conducted in a fast-paced manner.
Interestingly, wandering through the underground maze will leave you at the end of the tour right in the heart of Jerusalem city. A bit of special physical preparation is required, because in some places the passages are either very narrow or very low, and people with claustrophobia may find it uncomfortable.
The tunnels are impressive not only because they were made nearly 2,000 years ago, but because it took a big effort to bring them into appropriate condition for tourists to explore. Here, you can see the huge underground galleries and halls, water storage pools, and viaduct. Most of these tunnels were constructed centuries ago, but then gradually built up and were bombarded. It is amazing to see a huge block of stone from which the Western Wall was built (length - 45 feet, height - 11 feet, width - 15 feet weight - 550 tons). In one of the underground rooms the staff shows a film about how the stone was mined and installed. Very interesting!
Mount of Olives
The Mount of Olives is located to the east of Jerusalem's Old City; it is a mountain ridge that separates the city from the Judean Desert. You can find here the places where many of the events in the gospel occurred: the Church of the Ascension, Gethsemane Grotto, Our Father's Church, St. Mary Magdalene Church and a few others. On the Mount of Olives there is a beautiful viewpoint (parking is free) where you can admire the magnificent panorama of the Old City of Jerusalem.
In the foreground you can see the golden Dome of the Rock. The path to the viewpoint area can be easily reached by bus No. 75 (bus stop next to Damascus gate). A small chapel stands on the exact spot where Jesus Christ ascended into heaven. Be sure to visit and see the abundance of olive trees, which are more than 2,000 years old. You can go to the Monastery of Mary Magdalene. This is a Russian Orthodox monastery (the church with golden domes can be seen from afar).
Garden of Gethsemane
It is located between the Old City and the Mount of Olives. In the Garden of Gethsemane stands the Church of All Nations or the Basilica of the Agony, built since the 1920’s. On the premises of the church you can find a stone on which Christ prayed before getting arrested by the servants and henchmen of the Sanhedrin.
Only a part of the garden from the biblical times has survived, but still it grows the eight olive trees planted back in the first century BC; these olive trees have seen Jesus with his disciples. Christ and the apostles came here after the Last Supper. This place is so serene that you will immediately feel a sense of peace and have a quiet place for reflection. Seeing the millennium-old olive trees is like a shock to the heart because you can feel the connection with the world and their involvement in the story of Jesus.
Via Dolorosa Tour (Way of the Cross)
This tour is the path of Jesus Christ under the cross. The Via Dolorosa tour begins almost immediately upon entering the Christian quarter of the old city of Jerusalem. The Way of the Cross has 14 stops. It starts from the Tower of Antonia and then goes through the Chapel of the Flagellation and the Condemnation; it then proceeds to the site where Jesus was condemned. At the bas-relief called Tadeusz Zelinsky is where for the 1st time Jesus falls under the cross.
At the 4th stop, he meets his mother. At the 5th stop begins the ascent to Calvary, at the 7th stop Jesus falls the 2nd time. At the 11th stop is where they have him nailed to the cross, and at the 14th stop Jesus was laid in a coffin. Walk a little further and you will see the Basilica of the Resurrection, near the Holy Sepulcher. This way you experience for yourself and feel the depth of the pain and suffering that befell the Son of God.
Christ’s Tomb/ The Church of the Holy Sepulcher
You must arm yourself with patience to be able to see Christ’s Tomb or The Church of the Holy Sepulcher, because the flow of the people is enormous, but you will be in awe at the overwhelming show of devotion and you will understand that it is all worth the effort. Inside the Basilica, you can see the “Chapel of the Angel, "where in the center, above a column there is a guarded original piece of round stone that was used to close the door of the Holy Sepulcher.
A small door leads to the Holy Sepulcher itself, through the marble slab where you can see the white bed of rock where Jesus' body was laid. To touch these relics and see this holy place is a must for every Christian. Reaching this sacred place is a humbling experience.
Dome of the Rock (al-Haram al-Sharif)
The Dome of the Rock is one of the most beautiful architectural treasures in the world and one of the three most important places of Islam, after Mecca and Medina. The structure has been preserved in its essence for more than thirteen centuries. The point of greatest interest is undoubtedly the "Noble Rock" located under the high dome of gold, surrounded by arches arranged in a circle on an octagonal base. The mosque is not fully open to the public -- only a small area is usable by non-Muslims and a cordon of soldiers will tell you which direction to follow.
The brief glimpses that you will be able to get at the Dome of the Rock (so called because this Rock is the place from which Mohammed ascended to Heaven on his night journey) and the El-Aqsa Mosque is worth the wait. Tradition says that this is also the place from which God drew the clay to shape the man; where Abraham prepared to sacrifice Isaac; and where once stood the original Temple of Solomon that is sacred to the Jews. The dome with its gold leaf and intricate tile work is a unique masterpiece, something transcendental, a true inspiration of humanity.
Within the district of the Jewish Quarter is where you can find the Western Wall, better known as the Wailing Wall, and other important archaeological sites such as the" House burned "(which is the remains of a house of the period of the destruction of Jerusalem that took place more than two thousand years ago.) The "Thistle" is the typical Roman street built in the sixth century and consists of two rows of old columns. Remains of columns, arches and foundation stones can be seen within the neighborhood (Cardo Maximus). It sits apart from the chaotic center of the old city with its mixture of the sounds, smells, and noises of different cultures.
There are white buildings, clean streets, and shops that are far from the typical souks that are located a few yards away. The silence and tranquility make it a pleasant place. It is imperative to stop and see the historic synagogue in Hurva Square. In the evening it is lovely to walk through the streets and alleys, with the city lights that enhance every detail. Do not forget to stop at one of the many cafes / bakeries to drink tea and eat some kosher candy or have a falafel Shawarma.
Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial
The Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial is a place steeped in sadness and palpable sense of oppression. The story of the WW II holocaust can be viewed in this extensive museum that is housed almost entirely inside a hill, in memory of the people who perished during the terrible holocaust. In any case, it is a stunning place to visit with respect and motivation.
Worthy of note is the path between the road and lush hills above. There is a very poignant space dedicated to the children killed. The entire memorial tells the story of every victim, martyr and hero of the holocaust and serves as a living testament that this horrible tragedy must not happen ever again anywhere around the world.