See our list of the top 20 best things to do in Jerusalem
Jerusalem is the capital of Israel and the holy city of the three major Abrahamic religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. It’s one of the oldest cities in the world with a very rich history, making it very ideal as a tourist destination. Unfortunately, the status of Jerusalem remains one of the core issues in the Israeli–Palestinian conflict, as both sides claim it as their own capital. This doesn’t mean, however, that it is not worth visiting. It’s still an important and beautiful city and we advise you to see it at least once, even if you are not religious. To make things easier, we have made a list of the top 20 best things to do in Jerusalem.
- Old City
The Old City district of Jerusalem is probably the most important part of the city, as it is the oldest area of it, like its name implies. Many of the most famous attractions of the city are located here, so it’s a great starting point for your sightseeing. The beautiful historical streets, buildings and walls that surround you here will surely amaze you. Coming here is one of the best things to do in Jerusalem.
2. Western Wall
The Western Wall is located in the Old City, and it is the most important of them. The wall was originally erected as part of the expansion of the Second Jewish Temple by Herod the Great, encasing the Temple Mount. It is considered a holy place due to its connection to the Temple Mount, and visitors and pilgrims come here to write their wishes on small pieces of paper before placing them between the cracks in the stone for God to answer. Even if you are not religious, you can still see how important it is to them.
3. Temple Mount
Temple Mount is one of the holiest sites in Jerusalem for both Jews and Muslims. Jews believe that this part of the Old City is the resting place of the Divine Presence on Earth and the source of the dust that was used by God to create Adam. On the other hand, Muslims believe that it was here where Muhammad’s ascent to heaven took place. Either way, the significance of this place is very clear, not to mention that it is quite magnificent and beautiful.
4. Dome of the Rock
The Dome of the Rock is an Islamic shrine located on the Temple Mount. The site’s significance comes from religious traditions regarding the rock, known as the Foundation Stone, at its center. It’s important to Jews and Muslims, as it was supposedly the site of Abraham’s attempted sacrifice of his son, the Binding of Isaac. Under the stone is the Well of Souls, a partly natural, partly man-made cave where, according to religion, the spirits of the dead can be heard awaiting Judgment Day.
5. Church of the Holy Sepulchre
The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is another holy site in the Old City of Jerusalem, which is known for being the site of two important events according to religion. It was here where Jesus of Nazareth was crucified, at a place known as “Calvary” or “Golgotha”, and Jesus’s empty tomb, where he is said to have been buried and resurrected, is also located here. Pilgrims stand in long lines to come here and pray. Coming here is one of the best things to do in Jerusalem even if you are not religious.
6. Tower of David
The Tower of David is an ancient citadel near the Jaffa Gate, an entrance to the western edge of the Old City. It was one of the main city’s primary defense points, and it contains important archaeological finds dating back over 2,000 years. It is also frequently used as a venue for events, craft shows, concerts, and sound-and-light performances, among others. It’s a beautiful structure, albeit quite old.
7. Israel Museum
The Israel Museum is a leading cultural and historical institution which houses around 500 thousand objects, from contemporary sculpture and art to ancient artifacts. An urn-shaped building on the grounds of the museum, called the Shrine of the Book, houses the famous Dead Sea Scroll, a ancient collection of 972 text. If you want to learn more about the city, then this place is a must-visit.
8. Mount of Olives
The Mount of Olives is a highly place for tourists and citizens alike as it offers excellent views of the city and the surrounding region. The name comes from the olive groves there once covered the entire mountain. The area is great for taking a break from the crowded attractions of the city and for taking a stroll or just relaxing somewhere. The mountain and some of its areas is also famous for several events that took place related to Jesus, and for being a burial place in the Jewish tradition.
9. Garden of Gethsemane
The beautiful Garden of Gethsemane is most known for being the place where Jesus prayed and his disciples slept the night before his crucifixion. It’s located at the foot of the Mount of Olives. Even if you are not religious, you will most likely appreciate the spectacular beauty of this olive garden. Pilgrims come here as well, but it still offers a tranquil experience.
10. Kidron Valley
The Kidron Valley is found between the Mount of Olives and the Temple Mountain. It’s a beautiful valley full of rock-hewn tombs as it was one of the main burial grounds of Jerusalem in old times. The four most important and famous of these are the Tomb of the Virgin Mary, the Tomb of Absalom, the Tomb of Benei Hezir, and the Tomb of Zechariah. All of these are quite spectacular and worth a visit, but just simply walking along the valley makes for a great experience.
11. Tomb of the Virgin Mary
The Tomb of the Virgin Mary is located in the Kidron Valley and just like its name suggests, it is supposedly the burial place of Mary, the mother of Jesus. According to tradition, her soul was received by Christ upon death and her body was resurrected and taken up, both soul and body, into Heaven, making the tomb empty now. The tomb can be visited by anyone, although it is behind glass now.
12. Mahane Yehuda
If you become tired of walking around or if you are hungry then make a stop at the Mahane Yehuda, a modern marketplace of the city. The lively atmosphere is thick with the scent of fresh falafel and other local foods, and souvenir and other shops are all around the market. It’s a good way to get a feel of the more modern life of the city.
13. Yad Vashem
Yad Vashem is Israel’s official memorial to the victims of the Holocaust, which aims to preserve the memory of the dead, research the phenomenon and honour those who fought against the oppressors. It has numerous monuments and memorials in different sections, including the Eternal Flame, the Valley of the Destroyed Communities, the Wagon Monument and others. The most well-known is probably the Hall of Names, where photographs of victims are put up in two big cones.
14. City of David
The City of David is an Israeli settlement and the archaeological site which contains the 3000 years old remains of the ancient city. It’s located near the Temple Mount and visitors can take guided tours both above ground and below it, exploring the tunnels and buildings of old.
15. Siloam tunnel
The Siloam tunnel, also known as Hezekiah’s Tunnel, was a water tunnel that was carved underneath the City of David. According to the Bible, the tunnel was ancient Jerusalem’s primary source of water. Visitors can traverse this ancient waterway, which is considered to be an amazing feat of ancient engineering. Due to its size, it can be a bit scary for some, so be prepared.
16. Garden Tomb
The Garden Tomb is believed by some to be the actual burial place of Jesus, and the site of his resurrection, contrary to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. In either case, it’s a beautiful little garden with astonishing ruins, offering a serene experience.
17. Via Dolorosa
The Via Dolorosa, meaning “Way of Sorrow”, is believed to be the path that Jesus walked on the way to his crucifixion. It was once a quiet path lined with olive trees, but today stone buildings surround it with pilgrims and regular citizens walking on it.
18. Museum On The Seam
The Museum On The Seam is a socio-political contemporary art museum which aims to spread messages of unification and healing, against the ongoing conflict related to the city. During the six-day war of 1967, the building was damaged by bomb and bullet strikes, taking out a large chunk of a balcony. It has been left damaged as a reminder of the conflicts.
19. Jerusalem Biblical Zoo
The Jerusalem Biblical Zoo is famous for its collection of wildlife featured in the Hebrew Bible, as well as its success in breeding endangered species. It’s an excellent place to take a break, especially if you come with children.
20. Dead Sea
While not actually in Jerusalem, the Dead Sea is a must-visit if you come to the country. It is the Earth’s lowest natural elevation on land, more than 400 metres below sea level. It is famous for its high level of salt which makes it unhabitable for life, hence its name. The amount of salt also allows people to float effortlessly on the surface, making it very popular for swimming.