Old City#1 in Best Things To Do in Jerusalem
- 4.5Food Scene
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.
It's easy to lose yourself (both metaphorically and geographically) in the Old City, but make sure you devote some attention to its boundaries. You can access the Old City from seven entryways: the New Gate, Damascus Gate, Herod's Gate, Lions' Gate, Dung Gate, Zion Gate, and Jaffa Gate. Each doorway marks a significant era of Jerusalem's history. For example, Jaffa Gate is where the Tower of David (the city's primary defense point) can be found.
At the heart of Jerusalem, the Old City is open to exploration 24/7. However, you should note that you will have to pass through a rather strict security checkpoint set up at each gate if you are entering the city past a certain point in the night. The Old City itself is free to wander, although some attractions may charge an entry fee. A variety of guided tours are available. According to one TripAdvisor user, "[I] went on a free tour the first day, and it gave me a great orientation to the city to be able to investigate in greater depth on successive days." Learn more about free guided tours here. Visit the Old City website for additional information.
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#2 Western Wall (Wailing Wall)
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.
There's much more to the Western Wall than what is visible in Prayer Plaza. Another 80 feet can be seen in an archeological exposition just south of the main section, while another 1,050 feet extend deep below the city's surface. You can see this underground section by taking a guided tour of the Western Wall Tunnels, which lasts about an hour.
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