Jerusalem has three main sections – the Old City, West Jerusalem and East Jerusalem. Surrounded by massive old stone walls, the Old City has the most significant sites of Jerusalem to see. Once you let yourself in through one of the seven gates, you’ll see the greatest destinations of the Jewish tradition. Outside the Old City, West Jerusalem is a modern, buzzing city that’s full of life. East Jerusalem is a predominantly Arab district. While it isn’t as modern as West Jerusalem, it is an interesting area, full of old-world Arab markets. If you plan your trip to Jerusalem, here are a few ideas on what to do and where to go.
1. The Wailing Wall
Also known as the Kotel or the Western Wall, the Wailing Wall in the middle of the old city dates to the 1st century BC. Devout Jewish pilgrims come here with their wishes written down on pieces of paper, place them in little cracks in the wall, and hope for God’s attention. The sight of hundreds of pilgrims at the Wailing Wall can be a moving one.
2. Temple Mount
Temple Mount, in the Old City, is one of the holiest sites both under Judaism and Islam. While Muslims believe that Temple Mount is where the Prophet left the world for heaven, Jews believe that the area where Temple Mount stands contains the dust that God created Adam of.
3. Church of the Holy Sepulchre
In the Christian faith this church is believed to stand right over the final resting place of Jesus Christ. It is one of the holiest places in the faith. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre dates to 326 AD.
4. The City of David
The City of David was established three millennia ago by King David. It is still in use as a residential neighborhood in the Old City. The City of David is one of the best places to visit in Jerusalem.
5. The Tower of David Museum
The Tower of David Museum is a part of the medieval Tower of David. The name is a misnomer – it has nothing to do with King David. The original purpose of the tower was to defend Jerusalem. Today, it’s a great museum that chronicles great Jerusalem’s history.
6. The Garden Tomb
Religious experts aren’t in complete agreement over where exactly Jesus Christ was laid to rest. Many believe that it wasn’t under the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, that it was actually at the Garden Tomb outside the Old City’s Damascus gate. Whatever you believe, the Garden Tomb is a beautiful place to visit. It has lush vegetation and ruins that are believed to contain the sepulcher of Joseph of Arimathea.
7. The Mount of Olives
The Mount of Olives, a 3,000-foot mountain outside the Old City, gets its name from the olive trees that it used to be covered with centuries ago. In the Jewish tradition, the mountain has always been where the faithful like the great biblical figures Absalom and Zechariah have been buried. The Dome of the Ascension on the mountain contains a special artifact – the last footprint of Jesus on earth before he ascended into the heavens.
8. Dead Sea
Dead Sea, on the Israel-Jordan border, is a day trip away from Jerusalem. With the saltiest naturally occurring water anywhere, the Dead Sea is completely devoid of sea life. The extreme concentration of salt gives the water a greater level of buoyancy than regular seawater. Visitors can have a fun time floating effortlessly on the surface of the water.
9. Yad Vashem
A few miles outside the Old City, the Yad Vashem neighborhood of West Jerusalem has one of the greatest Holocaust history museums and memorials in existence. You should only go if you are emotionally prepared for the painful reminders that are inevitable
10. Mahane Yehuda
One of West Jerusalem’s most popular markets, Mahane Yehuda is a hotbed of activity most of the day. With street markets selling clothing, furniture, souvenirs, spices and hundreds of other items, the energy of the market is usually invigorating. If you’re looking for a great introduction to life in modern Jerusalem, this market is where you should start.
Jerusalem is a wonderful city to explore any time of the year. If you think nightlife in Jerusalem is boring, think again. The city boasts some of the best night clubs and bars in the country. Have you ever been to Jerusalem?