I never thought I’d be spending enough time in Jerusalem to merit knowing 30 of the best things to do but after one of my best friends moved to Israel, I found myself spending more and more time there. To say that Jerusalem is a unique city is an understatement. It’s one of those cities that you could spend a month in and still not have scratched the surface of what life is like.
It’s a modern city that still manages to completely shut down every. single. Saturday for Shabbat. It’s a city so rooted in history while Tel Aviv, just an hour away, is thriving in a contemporary world.
- A Brief History of Jerusalem
- Top 10 Tourist Attractions
- Top 5 Museums
- 10 Things to do Off the Beaten Path
- Bonus: Top 5 Places to Eat
A Very Brief History of Jerusalem
We’re going to keep this brief. Jerusalem is a very old city and we just don’t have the manpower (or the desire) to take you through its entirety. For learning about the history of Jerusalem and Israel, I recommend checking out these resources.
The reason we can’t cover the full history of this ancient city in this post stems from the fact that history begins for Jerusalem in 3500 BCE. (Which was about 5,700 years ago, and ain’t nobody got time for that-on this blog anyway)
Jerusalem is often referred to as ‘the Holy City’. This is because it’s considered to be one of the holiest cities in the world. It’s a fascinating city because it’s been the site of major events for the 3 largest monotheistic religions in the world. These being Judaism, Islam and Christianity. Because of this, Jerusalem has been home to many bloody wars throughout history.
Today, Jerusalem still holds so much of that history and even more significance to believers of those 3 monotheistic faiths.
Over time Jerusalem was conquered by King David, the Babylonians, Alexander the Great, the Romans, the Persians, the Arabs, Fatimids, Seljuk Turks, Crusaders, Egyptians, Mamluks and Islamists. You can see why one city, can have so much history,
With all that History, you know this city is going to have a lot to offer. This can make it even harder to plan your trip. That’s where this guide is meant to help. I’ll give you reasonable things to do within a day, let you know how long to spend at various places, and altogether give you a better idea of where to start planning. I’d like to start by sharing the top ten tourist attractions in Jerusalem.
A lot of what I am going to start with is actually within the Old City of Jerusalem. This makes it easy to tick a lot of these things off within one day, albeit one very long day, wondering the hot streets.
Top 15 Tourist Attractions in Jerusalem
The Old City.
The Old City of Jerusalem is walk-able from the city. You can also take the tram to get there. Know ahead of time that it’s going to be busy. It’s a popular place for large religious tours and school groups. This makes the crowds hectic. (I once had a groups tour guide poke me in the eye when I was trying to work my way through his group and he actually managed to take my contact out. It was disgusting.) That being said, I recommend that you visit the Old City early in the morning and with a tour guide so that you can begin to understand the history that you are walking through. (6-8 hours)
Via Dolorosa Street.
This is the main promenade in the Old City. It’s believed that Jesus walked down this street on the way to his crucifixion. Today the street is lined with vendors offering everything from trinkets to fresh juice and quick bites. You can spend hours just meandering along the street, stopping to see what the sellers have to offer. (1 hour)
Jaffa Gate is the entrance to the Old City. It’s one of seven gates into the Old City. You’ll hear a lot about it because it’s where a lot of walking tours of the Old City start. (30 min)
This is another one of the main gates to the old city. It’s located on the city’s Northwest side and it was built in 1537. Today it’s also an important space for Palestinian demonstrations. It’s a beautiful structure with two tall towers. (30 min)
Located within the Old City, the Western Wall in an ancient limestone wall that is the support wall to the Temple Mount. It also happens to be the most religious site in the world for Jewish people. Built by King Herod, the Western wall is open all day, all year round. (30min)
Dome of the Rock.
The Dome of the Rock is a stunning Islamic Shrine located on the Temple Mount. Keep in mind that non Muslims are not allowed to entire inside the Dome of the Rock, but you can explore the outside. If you’re a non-Muslim, you can enter the grounds Sunday through Thursday from 08:30-10:30 and again from 13:30-14:30. The Israeli Police stand guard to restrict access, so make sure that you come during the appropriate time. It’s a beautiful building and one of the oldest works of Islamic Architecture. (1 Hour)
Exploring the Temple Mount will tick a lot of things off this list. Like above mentioned, the Western Wall is the supporting structure of the Temple Mount. Temple Mount is a religious site for Christians, Jews and Muslims alike. While exploring the Temple Mount, you can stop off to see a lot of the other sites on this list. (5 Hours)
Church of the Holy Sepulcher.
This church is located in the Christian quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City. Construction was started in 326 AD and it has become a place of Pilgrimage for Christians. (1 hour)
Tower of David, also known as the Jerusalem Citadel.
It’s located near the Jaffa Gate, so you can lump these two visits in together. Surprisingly, even though it’s called the Tower of David, it has no relation to King David. It also has a great 360 degree view over Jerusalem. (3 hours)
You’re probably catching on to the fact that there are a lot of ‘Mounts’ in Jerusalem. Mount Zion is Jerusalem’s Western Mount. You can take a walk about the hills and take in even more views of the Western side of the Old City. (1 Hour)
King David’s Tomb.
The tomb is located on Mount Zion and is the tomb of King David, as the name would suggest. (30 min)
Mount Olives is just adjacent to the old city. It stands at 800 metres and is a great place to look out over the Old City. It’s called the Mount of Olives because the hillside used to be covered with Olive Trees It’s also home to a lot of religious events (like the majority of Jerusalem, as you have probably begun to notice). (2 hours)
The Church of All Nations.
It’s also known as the Church of Agony. It’s a beautiful old structure with a brightly colored bit of artwork above the three archways leading into the church. (30 min)
The Garden of Gethsemane is a significantly historical site for Christians. It’s an urban garden as the foot of Mount Olives. You can have a walk through while you are visiting the Mount Olives and the Church of all Nations. (1 hour)
Mahane Yehuda Market.
This market is incredible. You’ll probably find yourself wandering through it several times a day, grabbing fresh fruit for the morning, a vegan donut, souvenirs for your loved ones and a big hummus and beers after the sun goes down. This market is filled with fresh fruits and vegetables, spices, teas, treats of all kinds juices and more. It’s always hectic and a happening place for tourists and locals alike. (4 hours)
Top 5 Museums in Jerusalem
Yad Vashem was my favorite place that I went in Jerusalem. It’s an incredible place that you can’t miss. Yad Vashem is the Holocaust Remembrance Center. It’s free to enter but you should buy the audio guide. It will completely change your experience throughout the museum. I spent about 7 hours in Yad Vashem, and it was a heavy day. I honestly recommend going alone so that you can reflect and take your time. Another reason the audio guide is important is because there are a lot of tour groups there. They tend to stand directly in front of everything… of course. With the audio guide you can hang back and experience everything even with the crowds. (6 hours)
The Israel Museum, Jerusalem.
This museum is huge. You are going to need to spend the entire day there. And if you really love museums, then you might want to give the Israel Museum a couple of days. It’s one of the world’s leading encyclopedia museums. (8 hours)
Friends of Zion.
The Friends of Zion is a unique museum which celebrates the non-Jewish Zionists and the contribution they had for Israel. (3 hours)
The Museum for Islamic Art, Jerusalem.
An incredible museum filled with ancient art and artifacts for the Islamic Faith. You can plan your visit and see what temporary exhibits they have on their website.
Bible Lands Museum.
This museum explores the cultures and people throughout the history of the bible. This includes the ancient Egyptians, Canaanites, Philistines, Arameans, Hittites, Elamites, Phoenicians and Persians and more! It’s an interesting place to learn a deeper history about the people of the bible.
Top Ten Things to do Off the Beaten Path in Jerusalem
Jerusalem is a great city for thrift shopping. I found some of my favorite pieces wandering around the city, There is a plethora of farmers markets and thrift shops to choose from and the best part is, they actually have great pieces for prices that everyone can afford. Make sure to grab ice cream afterwards! You won’t regret it. (4 Hours)
I had the most fun at the hummus making workshop that I did in Jerusalem. It was great to learn about the history of hummus and secrets to how it’s made. They even give you this cute postcard with a recipe on it so you can make the hummus at one. (2 Hours)
The Austrian Hospice.
The Austrian Hospice is an ancient, beautifully stoned building built in the 1850s. It was originally built as a Hospice for Austrian Pilgrims but now sits in the heart of the Old City as a humble guesthouse. Even if you aren’t staying there, it’s an adorable building to check out during your explorations. (30min-1hour)
Get lost in the Nachlaot Neighborhood.
If you were looking for some adorable streets to get lost down, then this is the place for you. Nachlaot is the cutest neighborhood in Jerusalem. There are so many things that you can stop and see, from people’s beautiful front doors to all the potted, colorful plants. (2 Hours)
Sherover - Haas Promenade at sunset.
I suggest that you make up a small picnic and hike up with your friends to watch the sunset. It’s the perfect place to spend the evenings, especially in the summer. (2 Hours)
The Jerusalem Botanical Gardens. I also look for the Botanical Gardens in cities around the world and Nayot is no exception. Make sure you go on a day that’s not raining so that you can walk through the gardens for a couple hours, enjoying the peaceful tranquility of them. (2-3 Hours)
Ein Karem is nestled in the foothills of Jerusalem. It was once regarded as Jerusalem’s most beautiful neighborhood. It’s a 15 minute drive from the city center and well worth the drive. It’s a neighborhood with a very diverse culinary experience, so make sure you eat out during your visit. (3 Hours)
The Montefiore Windmill.
This is one of 2 windmills in Israel. It’s also a museum for a British Jewish banker. Take some time to walk around in the surrounding neighborhood and marvel at the growth this city has seen throughout time.
Wohl Rose Garden.
As you can tell, Jerusalem is a flower-filled city. Wohl Rose Garden is home to over 15,000 rose bushes with 400 different types of roses. Take some time to get lost in the colors and smells. (2 hours)
The Garden Tomb.
This is believed to be the site of Jesus’s resurrection. It’s used to today as a center for peaceful reflection. (1 hour)
Bonus - Top 5 Places to Eat in Jerusalem
Sushi-Ya has a restaurant front where you can sit and eat as well as a take away just a few doors up the road. I didn’t have a sit down meal but I got their take away sushi bowl and it was amazing. I wanted to go back to try their variety of rolls, they had many options for vegans. The ingredients were fresh and everything was made directly in front of you. If you go, make sure to have an extra roll for me.
Natural Choice Cafe.
The Natural Choice Cafe has bowls, juices, coffee and sandwiches. They also have a storefront where you can buy breads, cakes and other items for take away. It had plenty of options for vegans and I really loved their juice. It’s also really nice to sit and have a meal or take it away for a picnic.
This is my go to for greasy bar food like nachos, ‘chicken’ wings and pizza. I loved the amount of vegan options they had, especially for foods that I don’t always get to eat all the time.
Cookie Cream Ice Cream.
Vegan Ice Cream Sandwiches. I repeat Vegan Ice Cream Sandwiches. Please, for the good of humanity. Go here and eat all the vegan options just for me. Cookie Cream Ice Cream is the best place I ate at. They have vegan cookie options as well as creamy and delicious ice cream flavors to choose from.
Tala Hummus and Falafel.
The best place to have Falafel in Jerusalem. It’s also extremely reasonably priced which is hard to come by sometimes, considering what an expensive place Israel is. Their hummus was also creamy and so fresh.
Let me remind you, this is just brushing the surface of incredible things there are to do in Jerusalem. You can spend a month here and not even do each of these activities. With that in mind, planning your trip can be pretty overwhelming. Make sure that you check out the Abraham Hostels, since they have incredible packages put together to help you see and do the most during your stay. They also have tours of the Old City and day trips all around the country.
I was invited to visit Israel by Abraham Hostels and they were such gracious hosts. This being said, my opinions are always my own.
I hope these 30 things have inspired you to add Jerusalem to your bucket list.
Make sure to save this post for later and if you have any questions about traveling in Jerusalem or Israel, let me know in the comments.