There are four quarters inside Jerusalem’s old city which all have different things to see. It is larger than you think so make sure you have a map!
•The Christian quarter
• The Muslim quarter
• The Jewish quarter
• The Armenian quarter
The light rail here is easy but make sure you have a Rav-Cav card and update it with funds to travel. You can also buy single trip tickets. This makes for a cheap and easy way to get around. Don’t forget, since staff are always on the light rail checking. The light rail stops at key places like Damascus gate (near the Muslim quarter) City Hall (near Jaffa Gate) and a stop right out the front of the Mahane Yahuda Market.
See a link to the route here:
Otherwise, there’s plenty of buses but you can also use taxi, Uber (to book taxi) and also the Gett app, which can also arrange larger vehicles and it works on Shabbat.
Getting to the Old City
The best way to arrive at the Old City is to take the light rail to “City Hall Stop”. Walk down hill towards Mamilla shopping complex and continue until you arrive at the Jaffa gate (approx 10 minutes). This brings you to the Jewish Quarter and the best entrance to get up to the City of David.
City of David
The City of David is an archaeological site which you can visit and see remains from settlement during the Canaanite period.
At the site you can go underground to Hezekiah’s Tunnel (maybe not if you’re claustrophobic), Warren’s Shaft, the Pool of Siloam). We’d recommend a guided tour so you know what you’re looking at. There’s lots of walking, stairs and hills so you need to be physically fit.
Enter via the Dung Gate and head to the visitor centre. There are bathrooms, kiosk and a shop.
This was next to the Gihon Spring, the main water source in Bronze and Iron Age Jerusalem. An ancient water source that enabled people to get water from the Gihon Spring. Today, you can walk from the Gihon Spring through the 530-metre Hezekiah’s Tunnel which was dug this in the 7th century BC to bring water to the Pool of Siloam in times of siege. You can see plenty of artefacts, climb down the underground tunnels and see where the spring was accessed. There’s also a fabulous recreation of what the city may have looked like.
Jerusalem Archaeological Park (Davidson Centre)
The Jerusalem Archaeological Park is located close to the Western Wall in the Old City. You will find remains of temple walls and streets from the First and Second Temple periods. The occupation even goes back 5000 years. The monumental structures are super impressive. Whilst you’re here, pay a visit to the Western Wall.
This can be found in the Old City of Jerusalem and is considered the most religious site in the world for the Jewish people. The western supporting wall of the Temple Mount has survived since the time of King Herod. It is famous, for thousands of people journey each year to pray. When you arrive you can freely walk up to the wall to pray or place letters in the walls cracks. Just keep in mind the wall is segregated for males and females.
Western Wall tunnels
A series of tunnels from the western wall plaza to the Via Dolorosa. You can do underground tours and see remains there.
It is a sacred site for Christians as it is believed to be the site of the crucifixion, burial and resurrection of Jesus. The church was built during the 4th century by the Emperor Constantine at the site. Today it is shared by different religions. The architecture here is simply beautiful with its marble, high ceilings and beautiful artwork. At the entrance is the Stone of Unction, marking the spot where Christ’s body was prepared for burial. The tomb is enclosed by a shrine called the Aedicule. You can line up and enter for prayer.
Be sure to get there super early if you want to go in the tomb, for lines get very long. Admission is free.
Two sacred buildings sit here, the Dome of the Rock and Al Asqa Mosque. The Jews have it as a holy site for they believe it was here that God gathered the earth to form Adam and King Solomon erected the First Temple on the site.
The Dome of the Rock and Mosque is a 7th century Islamic shrine on a massive stone that those of an Islamic faith believe the Prophet Mohammed ascended to heaven from. A shimmering gold dome on tiled turquoise octagonal base, this is simply stunning!
Careful to check the hours, for non-Muslim hours are limited. Currently 7:30-10am Sun-Thurs, as well as 12:30-1:30pm. You also need to enter via the Bab Al Maghariba / Sha’ar HaMugrabum Gate.
Citadel (Tower of David)
It is the citadel that protected the city. Now it has a museum to learn the history of the city with exhibitions and displays.
One of the most amazing museums around. It is modern, well set out and has the most incredible artefacts form the Near East, extending back prehistoric times. It is set our chronologically and is well signposted. The site has a cafe, museum shop and plenty to see. Dead Sea scrolls are even here!
An alternative site for the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus.
Church of John the Baptist
It is believed that this is the path Jesus took whilst bearing the cross. People flock here to walk via the route.
Mount of Olives
The worlds oldest Jewish cemetery. The site has 2000 year old olive trees of the Garden of Gethsename. The garden is below the amount of Olives, as is the Church of all nations.
An upscale and luxurious mall with an array of shops selling food, shoes, beauty products and more, including international designers, as well as eateries. The mall between the stores is open air, so can be cold in winter. Just outside the Jaffa Gate to the old city and a short walk from City Hall light rail station.
King David Hotel
This is the King David Hotel, established in 1931 and is a stunning heritage building with beautiful decor. It has been a place where head of state, foreign dignitaries and other famous people have visited like Winston Churchill, Margaret Thatcher and Elizabeth Taylor. Their photos adorn the walls, and their signature in the floors. It’s pricy to stay, but you can pop in for a drink like we did for the experience.
This bustling market, or Shuk is huge! One main street and smaller intersecting streets lined with stalls selling breads, fresh produce, coffee, sweets and trinkets, it’s really a one stop shop. There’s little food places to get a cheap meal as well as plenty of bars, where we hear it’s pumping on a Thursday night. If you plan to go on Friday, keep in mind it’s very busy, for people are preparing for Shabbat dinner. It is closed on Saturday, but Sun-Thurs it is open early into the am. Certainly an experience, to be fascinated by colour, scent and taste. Take small notes or coins and remember to bargain.
Yad Vashem is a museum which is a memorial to the victims of the Holocaust. It has been created to preserve the memory of those who passed. The memorial has an educational section and displays using a photographs, films, documents, letters, art, and artefacts found in the camps and ghettos and given by survivors. It teaches about the atrocities which occurred by teaching about German policy, the war, response by international powers. There are artefacts from all over Europe and from survivors as well. Numerous memorials have been set up there with an aim remember each individual one by one. The architecture and layout of this museum is incredible and it has done an excellent job in memorialising the victims. Keep in mind this is not a place for everyone as it can be quite emotional. Entry is free, but it closes at 2pm Friday and is closed Saturdays.
We’ve provided a list below, though it’s not really needed, for you can get amazing falafel pita basically at every second shop. Also, the markets are perfect for produce, breads, olives and more. But if you do want a cafe or restaurant, here’s a list. Be sure to check hours before trying to go on Shabbat.
Aroma (probably best coffee you’ll find and a casual cheap menu. Order a half sandwich!)
Black Bar ‘n’ Burger
Hummus Ben Sira
Rooftop (at Mamilla Hotel)
We hope you find this blog helpful if you plan a trip to Israel!