Best Things To Do in Jerusalem
Jerusalem can be divided into three sections: the Old City, West Jerusalem, and East Jerusalem. Ancient stone walls encase the Old City. You can access the grounds via seven different gateways. Within these walls, you'll find the city's most prominent attractions, including the Western Wall, the Dome of the Rock, and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Outside of the Old City, you'll discover Jerusalem's thriving yet laid-back metropolis. West Jerusalem buzzes with life, with much of the action centered on Jaffa Road and Ben-Yehuda Street. Here, you'll find a variety of shops, restaurants, and bars. East Jerusalem is the hub of the city's Arab community. Not as modern as West Jerusalem, the East—especially the areas right outside the Old City's Damascus and Herod's Gates—brims with lively markets.
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Chances are that you'll spend much of your time here. The Old City is home to many of Jerusalem's most sought-after attractions, including the Western Wall, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and Temple Mount. Originally built by King David in 1004 B.C., the walled Old City comprises four distinct areas: the Jewish Quarter (or the Cardo), the Muslim Quarter, the Christian Quarter, and the Armenian Quarter. Each quarter exudes its own unique atmosphere, with religious sites, shops, and food offerings reflecting its respective heritage. Yet the Old City's winding alleyways and ancient stone plazas allow mixing and mingling among these cultures, making a very eclectic environment.
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The Western Wall, also known as the Wailing Wall or the Kotel, is the most significant historic site for the Jewish faith. This wall, located in the heart of the Old City, is a remnant of King Herod's renovation of the Second Temple and dates back to the first century B.C. Millions of pilgrims (Jewish and non-Jewish) make their way to the Western Wall each year to pray, writing their wishes on small pieces of paper before placing them between the cracks in the stone for God to answer. According to one TripAdvisor user, "Even if you have no faith at all, you can surely appreciate how important this spot is." The most prominent part of the wall measures 187 feet long and can be accessed via the Prayer Plaza. This famous portion is divided into two areas, one for women and one for men.
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Founded in 1965, the Israel Museum is the country's largest cultural institution and one of the world's leading art and archeology museums. Sprawling across 20 acres, the Israel Museum houses roughly 500,000 artifacts, from contemporary sculpture to ancient artifacts. Most visitors come for the legendary Dead Sea Scrolls, a collection of 972 texts, which are believed to have been written between 150 and 70 B.C. The scrolls are displayed—along with other historic texts—in the Shrine of the Book, which sits underground and is covered by a white, domelike structure.
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Temple Mount is one of the holiest sites in Jerusalem for both Jews and Muslims. Historians have associated it with Mount Moriah (where the binding of Isaac took place) and Mount Zion (where the original Jebusite fortress once stood); however, neither theory has been proven. Jews believe that this section of the Old City is the resting place of the Divine Presence on earth and the source of the dust that God used to create Adam. Meanwhile, Muslims believe that Muhammad's ascent to heaven took place at Temple Mount. Even if you're not a believer, travelers say that Temple Mount is worth visiting for its resounding historical significance. According to one TripAdvisor user, "It was so interesting to see thousands of years converge in one place. This is a do not miss experience in my opinion."
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Named after the olive groves that once covered its slopes, this 2,900-foot mountain stands opposite the Old City across the Kidron Valley. For more than 3,000 years, the Mount of Olives has served as Jerusalem's primary burial ground and the final resting place of notable biblical figures, such as Zechariah and Absalom.
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Sandwiched between Agripas and Yafo streets in West Jerusalem, Mahane Yehuda offers a glimpse (and a taste) of authentic life in modern Israel. This vibrant marketplace houses vendors selling everything from aromatic spices to souvenirs. The lively atmosphere is thick with the scent of fresh falafel and the sound of more than 250 haggling merchants. Although you're sure to find the market crowded no matter when you visit, be prepared for extremely heavy crowds on Fridays, when Jerusalem residents are stocking up for the Sabbath (which is observed from Friday at sundown through Saturday night).
- #7View all PhotosfreeYad Vashem#7 in JerusalemMuseums, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDMuseums, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND...Read More »
Located about four miles from the Old City in West Jerusalem's Mount Herzl neighborhood, Yad Vashem contains the world's largest collection of information on the Holocaust. Stretching out over 45 acres, this facility is comprised of both museums and memorials. The Holocaust History Museum and the Museum of Holocaust Art display artifacts and artworks that detail the tragic events. Meanwhile, Yad Vashem's unique memorials, such as the Hall of Names and the Children's Memorial commemorate the Holocaust's victims.
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Believed to stand directly above Jesus Christ's tomb, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is considered one of the world's holiest Christian sites. Emperor Constantine originally built the church in 326 A.D. as a Byzantine place of worship. Since its formation, the Church has been destroyed twice, first by the Persians in 614 A.D. and then by the Egyptians in 1009. Today's church is a product of 12th-century Crusaders.
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The City of David, founded more than 3,000 years ago by King David, serves as a major archeology site and a functioning residential neighborhood within the Old City. Visitors explore what remains of this ancient city (which includes what's left of the First and Second Temples), both above ground and below. Before you start your exploration, stop in at the visitor's center (located just outside the Jewish Quarter's Dung Gate), where you'll find information on City of David sites and guided tours.
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The Church of the Holy Sepulchre may have a shrine, but it is widely believed that Jesus Christ was actually buried and then resurrected in the Garden Tomb. Located just a short walk from the Old City's Damascus Gate, this lush garden contains ruins said to be the sepulcher of Joseph of Arimathea. Today, recent visitors describe the garden as serene. According to one TripAdvisor user, "This wonderful place is a must see if you are looking for a spiritual experience. Very peaceful, beautiful and meaningful."
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The Tower of David Museum inhabits the medieval Tower of David. Despite its name, the Tower of David did not actually have anything to do with Kind David. While the tower's original purpose was to defend Jerusalem, it now contains an extremely comprehensive museum the details Jerusalem's history. While walking through the citadel, you'll find informative panels and miniature models depicting Jerusalem at different points of its existence.
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Flanking the northwest corner of Temple Mount lies Via Dolorosa, which translates to "way of sorrows." This passageway led Jesus from Pontius Pilate's sentencing to Golgotha, where the crucifixion is believed to have taken place. While Christian hymns depict this road as quiet and lined with olive trees, today's Via Dolorosa can oftentimes feel crowded and noisy as it brims with ancient stone buildings and souvenir shops. The street leads to many notable sites (all of which are marked) that Jesus passed, including the Praetorium, where he was sentenced, and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where he is believed to have been laid to rest.
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If you're planning on spending several days to a week in Jerusalem, consider taking a day trip to the Dead Sea. Located southeast of Jerusalem, along the Israel-Jordan border, the Dead Sea is the lowest point on the surface of the earth. Recent travelers describe a swim in these waters, which are so salty that no living organism can survive in them, as otherworldly; the salt causes you to float effortlessly on the surface. Many also believe that the Dead Sea (and its mud) has healing powers. Although that hasn't been proven, both the mud and the salty water have soothing effects on skin.
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