Revered as one of the holiest cities on earth, it is safe to say that a trip to Jerusalem should be on any traveler’s to-do list. Upon entering this bold city, you will be greeted by an exciting combination of food market aromas, glorious buildings and the eclectic sound of bell ringing and prayer calls.
The Old City of Jerusalem is home to some of the world’s most sacred sites including Dome of the Rock and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The Old City is divided into four quarters (Christian Quarter, Muslim Quarter, Jewish Quarter, Armenian Quarter) with each quarter reflecting its own cultural charm.
Along with the phenomenal sites of the Old City, the new section of Jerusalem offers its own flair with an array of trendy bars, museums, and captivating souks.
History of Jerusalem
Prior to 1860, Jerusalem only consisted of the Old City and considering that the Old City is only 1 kilometer squared, it was a very small city. Since 1860 though it underwent a major extension and is now 125 square meters. The city itself is one of the oldest cities in the world with records that trace it back to the 4th Millennium BCE.
The city was famously conquered by King David and named the capital until his death in 970 BCE. King David was buried on Mount Zion in the Old City and his successor, Solomon, built Temple Mount which can still be visited today.
Jerusalem is situated west of the Dead Sea and is the largest city in Israel. Ben Gurion International Airport as the most convenient airport for visitors to Jerusalem. The city is very well connected to other destinations in Israel including Tel Aviv which is less than one hour by bus.
Things to do in Jerusalem
Despite being small in size Jerusalem’s Old City is home to more than 2,000 archaeological sites. With this in mind, it is important to allow at least an entire day to explore this part of Jerusalem. Temple Mount was built by King Solomon and over 150,000 workmen and it is regarded as one of the most sacred sites in the world. This impressive complex boasts two beautiful Islamic buildings: Al-Aqsa Mosque and Dome of the Rock. Although these two buildings are inaccessible to tourists, visitors can admire the external beauty of the architecture from the plaza.
Nestled within the Christian Quarter lies the Church of the Holy Sepulchre which is built in the exact place that Christ is believed to have been crucified. Visitors can enter the church but be aware that it is always very busy. The church is open between 4.30 and 8 pm each day and visitors are not permitted to wear shorts or open-backed tops.
In the Jewish Quarter, the Western Wall (Wailing Wall) is a significant place of worship as it is the last remaining wall of Jerusalem’s First Temple. Named after the upsetting loss of the temple in 70AD, the wall is a holy site for Jewish people around the globe. When visiting the wall please respect this area as a holy place and do not take photographs. Visitors can also enter the Western Wall Tunnels which journeys beneath the city.
The Muslim Quarter is a charismatic part of town with an array of delicious homemade delicacies and snacks. This part of the Old City boasts a large number of palace ruins, tombs, and mosques. For breathtaking city views, climb the stairs of Khan al-Sultan, an Islamic site from the 14th century.
The Armenian Quarter is an idyllic part of the city where narrow cobbled lanes pass St James Cathedral and St Mark’s Chapel. This quarter is far smaller and as a result more quieter, than the other Old City quarters which makes it an ideal place to visit for some tranquillity.
How to visit Jerusalem
With so many things to see, it is best to allow around three to five days in Jerusalem. For fewer crowds and slightly cooler temperatures visit during April and May. You can easily travel from Jordan to Jerusalem, for example by joining a tour, such as this Jerusalem Tour from Amman.
In order to access all the sites in the Old City be sure to keep your passport with you at all times.
It is, of course, also possible to visit vice versa, and join a tour from Jerusalem to Jordan, for example with this Petra Day Tour from Jerusalem or this Petra and Wadi Rum Tour from Jerusalem.
Jerusalem is home to some of the most sacred sites but do not feel overwhelmed by this. The new part of town offers hip places to dine and relax in along with an interesting art scene and some magnificent markets.