Thinking why to visit Jerusalem, the capital of Israel-Palestine State and one of the oldest cities in the world? Without any doubt, if you think about Israel you first think of Jerusalem.
On the other hand, there is no smoke without fire and Jerusalem built this strong image in time. Therefore, let’s see together what is behind the scene!
First, your visit should be divided by areas like Jerusalem Old city – where the most known attractions are – , Mount of Olives, Mount Zion, City of David and Downtown with the rest of the city.
In terms of time, I do suggest to allocate at least 4-5 days. Take advantage and merge yourself into this amazing atmosphere.
1. Jerusalem Old City
Visit Jerusalem’s Old City, a fascinating place shared by Christians, Jews and Muslims in a peaceful way. Here, the bells of the Church, the shofar (the Jewish ram’s horn) and the prayer calls can all be heard around the old city’s walls. This place is divided by four quarters, in the order of their size Muslim, Christian, Jewish and Armenian. Take the time to explore them all by walk.
Old City Gates
You can access the old city using one of the four gates, depending on the point of visit you’re heading to.
For instance, the most used one is Jaffa Gate in order to access the Christian or Armenian quarters. Otherwise, Dung Gate provides you access to the Jewish quarter while Damascus Gate to the Muslim one.
Better to grab a free map from one of the tourist information points to guide yourself through the city walls.
Called also the Hanging Wall, this is the holiest place on Earth for the Jewish population around the world.
If you are spiritual, stop by and leave your prayers in the cracks of the walls. The chances for your prayers to be heard are above average. This is because the notes are collected and buried on the Mount of Olives with the next funeral.
Don’t miss the Friday ceremony! I found it an unique experience watching how the Jews are celebrating the holy day by praying, singing and dancing. Notice the two different entrances and access to the wall, for man and women.
Called Temple Mount by Jews or Al Haram Ash Sharif by Muslim, this place is highly disputed. It is the home place for Dome of the Rock and Al Aqsa Mosque, built on the First and Second Temple ground.
- In short, Jewish people consider this place as being the center of the world. Specifically, from here God took the earth to create Adam, while Abraham was about to sacrificed his son, Isaac.
- Otherwise, Muslims are linking this place with the Prophet Muhammad ascension to heaven. Here, his footprint is left on the stone inside the Dome of the Rock.
You can visit the place from outside only, between fixed intervals of time if you are not Muslim. You need to dress appropriately (cover the shoulders and the legs).
Dome of the Rock
Look at this shinny beauty, one of the most photographed structures on Earth! Covered with 5000 plates made by 80 kg of gold, it makes it even more valuable among the spiritual part.
The gold has been donated by the King Hussein of Jordan who sold a property in London to cover the expense. The dome is hosting the rock where Prophet Mohamed started his ascension to heaven, from here the name of the place.
Al Aqsa Mosque
Located on the same plateau with Dome of the Rock, Al Aqsa Mosque is one of the oldest mosques in the world. Can accommodate up to 5000 people at a time.
Church of the Holy Sepulchre
This is the holiest place on Earth for Christians, thus the reason each believer hopes to come and visit it at least once in a lifetime.
The history takes us back in time, 300 years after the crucifixion where Helena, the mother of the emperor Constantine, found here three crosses during the excavations. As a result, this made her declare it the Calvary place.
Are you wondering where is Golgotha? In fact, this city grew on it, we walk on it. The Church stands today on what is believed to be the exact mountain where Jesus was nailed to the cross, died and then went to heaven.
The Church hosts as well the last 5 stations of the Via Dolorosa: Stone of Unction, Chapel of Calvary, Chapel of Adam, Chapel of St. Helena and Crusader Chapel.
The Way of the Cross of Via Dolorosa is the route Jesus is believed to have taken on his way to Golgotha. There are 14 different stations on the way, each of them carrying its own story. Read more about it here.
Located near the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, this monastery hosts a few monks from Ethiopia. You’ll find the entrance from a lateral street.
Comparing to the other gates of the city, the Golden Gate is walled up. It is mentioned in the Bible the second arrival of Jesus will take place here.
St Anne’s Church, Muslim Quarter
Build on what was supposed to be the home of Joachim and Anne, the parents of the Virgin Mary, this Church is a perfect example of the Crusader architecture.
Outside the Church are some ruins and a pool, known in Christianity as Pool of Bethesda. Here, Jesus healed a sick man.
Do you like archaeology? If you do, this center should be on your list. It is called Davidson Center and has so much history to share. Take some time to walk across the city wall. Admire the splendid view over the City of David and Mount of Olives.
King Solomon’s Caves
Called as well Zedekiah’s caves, this place release a big cavity under the Jerusalem Old town. It has been created for excavation purpose, to extract the limestone and build new constructions.
Here is the funny part of the story, it was discovered by accident by a dog and its owner!
2. Mount of Olives
Virgin Marry Tomb & Church
This is the Virgin Mary resting place. Expect being surprised by the enormous number of oil lamps hanging from the ceilings.
Gethsemane Cave & Gardens
Even if you are not able to go really inside the garden, you can have a walk around and admire it pretty well. It is a small garden and the olive trees are supposed to be the ones from Jesus times, which makes them the oldest in the world.
Church of All Nations
Located near the Gethsemane garden, this beautiful Church is breath-taking inside. I personally loved the shinny stars on the blue ceiling. Above all, it makes you think at the night Jesus prayed there, before being betrayed.
St Mary Magdalene Church, Jerusalem
Well, this is one of the most iconic churches in the town as it can’t be visually missed. Within Russian Orthodox style, the shiny cupolas are reflecting the sun glare all over the mount.
Dominius Flevis Church
The best part I found by visiting this church is the perfect view over the Jerusalem’s Old City. Stop by to take a good picture and have a break in the garden.
Chapel of the Ascension
This is supposed to be the place where Jesus ascended to heaven from. A stone inside the small rounded chapel, marks the footstep of Jesus.
Church of the Ascension Orthodox
In front of the Chapel of the Ascension stands a beautiful Greek church, in white and blue colors like drawn from a book. Bare in mind, you can enter only if you are Orthodox.
If you can make it inside, one of the nun will come and take you to the church. For instance, we were received by a Romanian nun so we had a full experience. We listen to stories about the place and we also received some souvenirs to take back home, chrism and icons.
Jesus taught his disciples the Lord’s Prayer right here. As you walk around, you’ll see tiled panels located around the Church displaying the Lord’s Prayer in more than 100 languages. Look for your own one!
Tombs of Prophets
There are three prophets graves here Haggai, Zachariah and Malachi. Even if the place itself is not impressive to see, still worth in a short visit.
Maybe you should know is managed by a Muslim family as a family source of living, for centuries. So if you make a small stop you help them too. In our case, an old kind man welcomed us, offering candles to do the tour by ourselves through the darkness.
Holy Monastery of Saint Stephan
It is located opposite Virgin’s Mary Tomb & Church, on the Old City side, 50 meters before the Mount of the Olives. You cannot find it on google maps, but it’s on your way.
This is the site of the martyrdom of Saint Stephan. Make a stop to visit the church and the cave.
You cannot be impressed by its visible size. This is the oldest Jewish cemetery and the most desired.
It may sound weird, but to purchase a place here may cost even $50,000. And the reason to pay this money is to be between the first ones resurrected at the second arrival of Jesus.
3. Mount Zion
Church & Monastery of the Dormition
Believed to be the place where Virgin Mary died, the church and crypt are really worth in a visit. Don’t miss the zodiac symbols on the church’s floor, pretty unusual for a Church, isn’t it?
Room of the Last Supper
Located above King’s David tomb, this place is supposed to be the hall where Jesus had his the last meal with the disciples.
King David’s Tomb, Mount Sion
This is the tomb of King David, quite a small room divided into two, for men and women, to pray in silence.
Grave of Oskar Schindler
This Austrian citizen saved more than 1200 Jews from death. During the holocaust he employed them in his factory. His grave is easy to be recognized as small stones are placed above it. This is a sign of respect into the Jewish tradition. The movie Schindler’s List has been done based on his story and was an Oscar winner.
Church of Saint Peter the Gallicantu
Probably my mum’s favorite Church, the location and the Church itself are breath-taking. Here, Jesus is said to have been denied by his disciple Peter, three times before the cock crow.
4. City of David
This is an archaeological site, dating back to 4000 years ago and located near the Jerusalem Old City.
Even if you’re not into archaeology, I highly recommend seeing this place as it has something special. Discover a 500 meters water tunnel (called Hezekiah’s tunnel) by yourself, with no guide and your own source of light!
For instance, we changed into swimsuits as the water can go up to 1 meter and we used our own Smartphones for illumination. Although, it’s better to have a proper flashlight.
It was an unique and amazing experience! Neverthless, not recommended for claustrophobics!
5. Jerusalem Downtown
Mahaneh Yehuda Market
You have to visit this market on a Friday before the Shabbat, as plenty of people will be around. Besides all, you’ll have the opportunity to feel the vibe of the place at its maximum. Walk around and buy some fruits, local bread or try one of the bars and restaurants nearby.
In conclusion, I do hope this article convinced you to visit Jerusalem. Otherwise, read more insights about Israel and Palestine here.