Jerusalem honestly is one of the most interesting destinations I’ve ever visited. While the city itself is small, it is the city where you’ll find yourself in the center of the worlds’ religions, history and culture. Jerusalem is one of the most important locations for Muslims, Jews and Christians. And everyone who lives here or comes to visit has their own special connection to the city, the ground or one of the religions and holy locations. And for me? I’ve learned more historical facts than school could ever teach me.
I don’t think, that as a tourist, you’ll ever have enough time to discover and explore Jerusalem to it’s fullest. But if you are lucky enough to visit this vibrant, historical city for yourself: these are the things you definitely cannot miss!
Explore the old town
Inside of the high city walls of Jerusalem you’ll find a fascinating network of old, narrow streets and alley’s. I say it all the time but if you truly want to wander around and discover the old town you’ll need to get rid of your city map and just walk. The thing I liked about the old town of Jerusalem is the fact that every street has her own tale. You’ll either find yourself in the Muslim Quarter, the Christian Quarter, the Armanian Quarter, Jewish Quarter or the Moroccan Quarter. And that means that when walking from one street to another you can experience a completely different vibe and culture, try other food, visit other stores or see different highlights.
Now – the old town is pretty touristic, and most streets in the middle of the old town have changed in a chaotic mixture of souvenir shops. However if you walk away from that part, you’ll find some beautiful hidden streets.
When walking through the old town of Jerusalem you’ll stumble upon the most terrific historic highlights, like for example Temple Mount, the Tower of David, Via Dolorosa, The Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Western Wall.
Oh, I could write a book about all the things you must see when you explore the old town of Jerusalem; but the thing is, once you start to wander around – you’ll find them for yourself.
Visit the market
The market hall in Jerusalem (North of Jaffa street), is exactly what you want a market hall to look like. Vibrant, busy, and filled with thousands of different flavours, colours, sensations and smells. It gives you a taste (haha) of local life in Jerusalem. So if you haven’t yet decided what and where you should eat at night: go to the market hall. It’s absolutely perfect: you can sit down at one of the many small ‘restaurants’ and try the local cuisine (which literally is really good) while watching people pass by.
Somewhere outside of the city center you’ll find Yad Vashem. Yad Vashem is the official monument and museum of Israel for the Second World War. Of course, seeing that Jerusalem has a large jewish community, it is no surprise that the official Holocaust memorial is located here. My sister and I wanted to visit the museum for ourselves. Not only because it is an important piece of history, but also because our great grandfather has ‘earned’ a place in the Garden of the Righteous Among. Which is planted around the museum and memorials.
I can safely say that Yad Vashem is one of the most impressive, sad and overwhelming museums I’ve ever visited in my life. Even though it isn’t exactly a ‘cheerful’ visit, I’d recommend you to go. To pay your respects, to learn and to understand.
See the Western Wall
The Western Wall is one of the places in the old town of Jerusalem that you definitely cannot skip. As the holiest location for the Jewish community to pray, this location deserves a moment of your time. You don’t have to be religious to understand the power and spirituality this wall beholds. Even if you just visit for a quick second.
Discover Temple Mount
Temple Mount is one of the holiest locations for both the Jewish community as the Muslim community. And therefor something you simply don’t want to miss when visiting Israel. You are free to visit Temple Mount as a tourist, however you can’t visit the Dome of The Rock. Be aware of the visiting hours of Temple Mount though; as they are quite strict. Temple Mount is open for public until 1:30 in winter and 2:30 in summer (not on Shabbat). However the lines can get really long so wake up early to assure yourself of a visit to this holy site!
Climb Mount of Olives
Located on the East side of the old town of Jerusalem – you’ll find Mount of Olives. It doesn’t only provide you with a beautiful view over the old town and Temple Mount. Mount of Olives also gives you another historical lesson. For ages the Mount of Olives has been used as a cemetery for the Jewish Community. It still beholds over 150.000 graves – take a second look at the photo above and you’ll see it for yourself. It is also the location described in the bible as the place from which Jesus ascended to heaven. And for those reasons it is one of the historical highlights you don’t want to miss in Jerusalem.