The Jerusalem is the heart of the Holy Land; where the Jews raised the First Temple to keep the Ark of the Covenant safe, where Jesus was crucified and rose again, and where the Prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven to receive God’s word. The most contested city on earth is also one of the most beautiful. The scope of its history is staggering, and its vital place in the traditions of all three monotheistic faiths has led to it being fought over continually through the centuries. For believers, a visit to Jerusalem is a pilgrimage to one of the most sacred sites in the world. The number of sights here can be baffling for first-time visitors, but luckily most of the top tourist attractions are secreted within the lanes of the compact Old City district. With so much to see, the best way to tackle a trip here is to decide on a few key attractions that are must-dos and break your sightseeing down into sections of the city. Don’t try to do too much and wear yourself out. It would take a lifetime to see everything that Jerusalem offers.

Haram Al-Sharif (Temple Mount) in Jerusalem

Haram Al-Sharif - Temple Mount in Jerusalem

Follow in the footsteps of centuries of pilgrims, and enter one of the holiest sanctuaries on earth. Lauded by Jews, Christians, and Muslims, this is the site where Abraham (father of all three monotheistic faiths) is said to have offered his son up as a sacrifice to God, where Solomon built the First Temple for the Ark of the Covenant, and where the Prophet Muhammad is said to have ascended to heaven during his early years of preaching Islam. It’s a place of deep significance (and contention over ownership) for those of faith. The wide plaza, above the Old City, is centered around the glittering Dome of the Rock, which is Jerusalem’s most iconic landmark. Beneath the golden dome is the sacred stone both Jews and Muslims believe to be where Abraham offered his son to God and where Muslims also believe the Prophet Muhammad began his journey to heaven. The southern side of the mount is home to the Al-Aqsa Mosque, said to be one of the oldest mosques in the world.

Yad Vashem in Jerusalem

Yad Vashem in Jerusalem

After the Western Wall, Yad Vashem is the second-most-visited Israeli vacationer site. Its curators cost no payment for admission and welcome roughly a million guests a year. Established and build in 1953 B.C., Yad Vashem situated on the western slope of Mount Herzl on the Mount of Remembrance in Jerusalem. The memorial consists of a 180-dunam ( ha; 44.5-acre) advanced containing the Holocaust Historical past Museum, memorial websites such because the Kids’s Memorial and the Corridor of Remembrance, The Museum of Holocaust Artwork, sculptures, outside commemorative websites such because the Valley of the Communities, a synagogue, a analysis institute with archives, a library, a publishing home, and an academic heart, The Worldwide Faculty/Institute for Holocaust Research.

A core objective of Yad Vashem’s founders was to acknowledge gentiles who, at private danger and and not using a monetary or evangelistic motive, selected to avoid wasting their Jewish brethren from the continued genocide through the Holocaust. These acknowledged by Israel as Righteous Among the many Nations are honored in a piece of Yad Vashem often known as the Backyard of the Righteous Among the many Nations.

Wailing Wall and Jewish Quarter in Jerusalem

Wailing Wall and Jewish Quarter in Jerusalem

The Wailing Wall (or Western Wall) is the surviving retaining wall of Jerusalem’s First Temple. Commonly called the Wailing Wall due to the people’s laments for the loss of the temple in AD 70, it is now the holiest site in Judaism and has been a place of pilgrimage for the Jewish people since the Ottoman era. The Jewish Quarter of the Old City runs roughly from the Zion Gate east to the Western Wall Plaza. This part of the Old City was destroyed during the Israeli-Arab fighting in 1948 and has been extensively rebuilt since 1967. A major highlight here for history fans is the Jerusalem Archaeological Park, at the southern end of the Western Wall Plaza, where archaeologists have unearthed fascinating remnants of old Jerusalem. The Western Wall Tunnels, which take you under the city, back to the level of the original city, are also not to be missed. Jewish Quarter Street (RehovHaYehudim) is the main lane of the district, and veering off this road onto the surrounding side streets, there are a cluster of interesting synagogues that can be visited.

Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem


For Christian pilgrims, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is Jerusalem’s holiest site and is said to have been built on the site where Jesus was crucified. The site for the church was picked by Empress Helena – mother to Constantine the Great during her tour of the Holy Land. She was the one to announce to the Byzantine world that this spot was the Calvary (or Golgotha) of the gospels. The original church (built in 335 AD) was destroyed by 1009, and the grand church you see now dates from the 11th century. Although often heaving with pilgrims from across the world, the church interior is an opulently beautiful piece of religious architecture. This is the ending point for the Via Dolorosa pilgrimage and the last five Stations of the Cross are within the Church of the Holy Sepulchre itself. The interior contains various holy relics, and the different quarters inside the church are owned by different Christian denominations.

Armenian Quarter in Jerusalem


Running south from the Citadel, Armenian Patriarchate Road is the main street of the Old City’s tiny Armenian Quarter. Within the narrow lanes here are the St. James Cathedral and St. Mark’s Chapel, which receive much fewer visitors than others in the Old City. Armenians have been part of Jerusalem’s community for centuries, first arriving in the city during the 5th century. Many more arrived during the Ottoman era and after the Armenian massacres in Turkey during the early 20th century. This is the Old City’s most tranquil corner to explore and a good place to wander if the press of pilgrims gets too much.

Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem

Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem

For many Christian visitors, the Via Dolorosa (Way of Sorrow) is the highlight of a visit to Jerusalem. This walk follows the route of Jesus Christ after his condemnation as he bears his cross towards execution at Calvary. The walk is easily followed independently but if you’re here on a Friday, you can join the procession along this route led by the Italian Franciscan monks. The course of the Via Dolorosa is marked by the fourteen Stations of the Cross, some of which are based on the Gospels’ accounts and some on tradition. The walk begins in the Muslim Quarter of the Old City on Via Dolorosa Street (1st station, near the intersection with HaPrakhim Street) from where you follow the street west through eight stations until you reach the 9th station at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre where the last five stations are. Of particular interest along the way is the Chapel of the Flagellation (2nd station), built on the site where Jesus is believed to have been flogged.

Citadel (Tower of David) and surrounds in Jerusalem


The Citadel, popularly known as the Tower of David, actually has no connection with David, having been erected by King Herod to protect the palace he built in approximately 24 BC. His original citadel had three towers named after his brother Phasael, his wife Mariamne, and his friend Hippicus. After Titus’ conquest of the city in AD 70, the Romans stationed a garrison here, but later the citadel fell into disrepair. It was successively rebuilt by the Crusaders, Egypt’s Mamelukes and Turks, during their years of reign over Jerusalem. The building you now see was built in the 14th century on the foundations of the original Phasael Tower. Inside is the Tower of David Museum, which relays the story of Jerusalem. While here, make sure you climb up to the rooftop for one of Old City’s best views. There is also a Sound and Light show here in the evenings.

Christian Quarter in Jerusalem

Christian Quarter in Jerusalem

The Christian Quarter of the Old City runs north from the Jaffa Gate and is centered around the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Within this tangle of alleyways are some of the Old City’s most popular tourist souvenir souks and a whole caboodle of churches that are well worth exploring. Protestant Christ Church (Omar ibn al-Khattab Square) has a quirky museum with interesting document exhibits and a decent cafe to rest your weary Old City-plodding feet. The Ethiopian Monastery, squeezed into the corner of The Church of the Holy Sepulchre’s courtyard, contains interesting frescoes portraying the Queen of Sheba’s Jerusalem visit. The Lutheran Church of the Redeemer (Muristan Road) is where you come to climb the bell tower for incredible Old City views. And the Church of St. John the Baptist (off Christian Quarter Street) is worthy of a visit as it’s Jerusalem’s oldest church.

Muslim Quarter in Jerusalem


The most bustling and alive district is the Muslim Quarter, which is home to the best souk shopping in the Old City. This district roughly runs from Damascus Gate through the northeast chunk of the Old City. There are plenty of fine surviving remnants of Mameluke architecture lining the streets here including the 14th century Khan al-Sultan (Bab Silsila Street) where you can climb up to the roof for excellent views across the higgledy-piggledy lanes. If you wander down Antonia Street you’ll come to the beautiful Crusader-built St. Anne’s Church (believed to be built on top of the site of the house of the Virgin Mary’s parents) and the Pool of Bethesda next door.

Jerusalem Biblical Zoo in Jerusalem


The Tisch Family Zoological Gardens in Jerusalem, popularly often called the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo, is a zoo situated within the Malha neighborhood of Jerusalem, Israel. It’s well-known for its assortment of wildlife featured within the Hebrew Bible, in addition to its success in breeding endangered species. In keeping with Dun and Bradstreet, the Biblical Zoo was the preferred tourist attraction in Israel. The Zoo, renamed the Tisch Household Zoological Gardens in Jerusalem, however nonetheless referred to as the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo by most of the people, opened for a preview interval on 28 February 1993. It formally opened on 9 September 1993

The normal zoo infrastructure of bars and cages has been changed by open areas separated from the general public by trenches, moats, bridges, and glass home windows; out of doors displays even have an indoor shelter in case of unhealthy climate.The one areas wherein the general public has direct contact with the animals are Lemur Land, the “petting pool” on the Moist Aspect Story aquatic exhibit, and the kids’s zoo, the place youngsters can pet and feed pygmy goats, sheep, rabbits and guinea pigs.

Mount of Olives in Jerusalem


Overloaded with churches and home to the oldest continually used cemetery in the world, the Mount of Olives holds particular interest to religious pilgrim travelers to Jerusalem, but even the non-devout can appreciate the spectacular Old City panoramas from the peak. This sacred hill is believed to be the place where God will begin rising the dead on Judgement Day. For Christian believers, this is also where Jesus ascended to heaven after his crucifixion and subsequent resurrection. The Church of the Ascension on the top of the mount dates from 1910 and has the best views across Jerusalem. Walking down the slope, you come to the Church of the Pater Noster built next to the site where, according to tradition, Jesus instructed his disciples. Further down, the Church of Dominus Flevit is claimed to be built over the site where Jesus wept for Jerusalem, and further along is the onion-domed Russian Church of Mary Magdalene. The Gardens of Gethsemane (where Jesus was arrested) and the Church of All Nations are next, while the Tomb of the Virgin Mary is the last big attraction on the Mount of Olives.

Mount Zion in Jerusalem

Mount Zion in Jerusalem

Mount Zion (the small hill immediately south of the Old City’s Zion Gate) is home to Jewish and Muslim shrines as well as a number of churches. Since the Byzantine Age, Mount Zion has been revered as the place where Christ celebrated the Last Supper and where the Virgin Mary spent the last years of her life, according to some Christian traditions (another tradition says her last days were spent in Ephesus in Turkey). For Jews, Mount Zion’s importance stems from this being the place of King David’s Tomb. If you climb up the stairs from the tomb’s courtyard you’ll come to the Last Supper Room, which has served as both church and mosque throughout its long history. The Church of the Dormition nearby is where the Virgin is supposed to have died, while just to the east is the Church of St Peter of Gallicantu where Peter is said to have denied Jesus.

Old City Walls in Jerusalem


The Old City fortifications date from the Ottoman period, and nine magnificent gates at junctions within the wall’s length lead into the Old City. The Damascus Gate is one of the most famous. Lions’ Gate (sometimes called St.Stephen’s Gate) leads onto the Mount of Olives outside the city walls. Zion Gate is the main entry into the Jewish Quarter, while Jaffa Gate is the main passageway for the Christian Quarter. Walking the wall ramparts is a wonderful way to experience the Old City. There are two sections that can be walked on Jaffa Gate heading north to Lion’s Gate, or Jaffa Gate heading south to Dung Gate.

East Jerusalem in Jerusalem

East Jerusalem in Jerusalem

Outside the Old City’s Damascus Gate is Jerusalem’s mostly Arab neighborhood of East Jerusalem. Just to the east of the gate, within the gardens at the foot of the wall, is Solomon’s Quarries, a cave system that extends under the Old City. According to ancient tradition, the stone for Jerusalem’s First Temple was quarried from here. The cave is also known as Zedekiah’s Grotto as in Jewish tradition, Zedekiah, the last king of Judah, hid here from the Babylonian forces in 587 BC. Slightly east from here (along Sultan Suleyman Street) is the Rockefeller Archaeological Museum. Inside are exhibits from the Stone Age right up to the 18th century. If you’re short on time, some of the highlights of the collection are the skeleton unearthed on Mount Carmel known as the Carmel Man in the South Gallery, the 6th century BC Lachish letters in the North Gallery, and the ornately carved beams from the Al-Aqsa Mosque in the South Room.

If you walk down Nablus Road, you’ll come to the Garden Tomb, which dates from the Roman or Byzantine period. Found and identified as Christ’s tomb by General Gordon in 1882, some Protestant Christians still believe that this is the true site that Christ was buried and rose again. Heading north along Nablus Road is the French Dominican Monastery of St. Stephen where its namesake, the first Christian martyr, is believed to have been stoned to death. Veer off onto St. George Street from here, and you’ll come to the site of the Mandelbaum Gate. Between 1948 and 1967 it was the only crossing point between the Israeli and Jordanian sectors of Jerusalem. The site is marked with a plaque. Also on St. George Street, is the Museum on the Seam; a one-of-a-kind (in Israel) contemporary art museum that exhibits works dealing with social commentary on human rights and conflict.

Central City Sites in Jerusalem

Central City Sites in Jerusalem

From the Old City’s Jaffa Gate, you enter Jerusalem’s modern central city district with Jaffa Road running northwest to Bar Kochba Square and Zion Square. Northeast from Bar Kochba Square, you reach the Russian Compound dominated by the green-domed Russian Orthodox Cathedral. This area grew up in the late 19th century as a large walled complex for Russian pilgrims. On the northeast side of the complex, were the Russian consulate and a hospice for women; to the southwest were a hospital, the mission house, and a large hospice for men that lies beyond the Cathedral. The buildings are now occupied by various government institutions. North from here is Ethiopia Street where you’ll find the Ethiopian Church. The reliefs of lions above the doorway recall the style of Lion of Judah borne by the Abyssinian dynasty, which traced its origins back to the Queen of Sheba.

Further north from Ethiopia Street is the Mea Shearim district, home to a community of ultra-orthodox Jews. If you’d like to explore this area, be aware that modest dress (covering arms and legs) is mandatory, and taking photographs of inhabitants is not allowed. The people of Mea Shearim still wear their old East European dress and speak mostly Yiddish. Some extreme groups refuse to recognise the state of Israel because it was not established by the Messiah and regard themselves as a ghetto of true orthodoxy within the Jewish state.

South from Jaffa Road is the Time Elevator (Hillel Street), a child-friendly introduction to Jerusalem’s history, and the Museum of Italian Jewish Art & Synagogue with an extensive collection of Judaica. Running west from Zion Square on Jaffa Road is the pedestrianized Ben Yehuda Street; Jerusalem’s main vortex for dining and shopping.

Israel Museum in Jerusalem


Opened in 1965, this complex of museums is the only place in the country that collects and displays both archaeological finds and art. The Shrine of the Book building displays Israel’s portion of the Dead Sea Scrolls (the rest of the scrolls are displayed in Amman’s Citadel Hill museum, Jordan), which were unearthed in the Dead Sea area during the 1940s. In the main building of the complex, the Judaica wing has an impressive display of sacred Jewish art and ethnographic displays from Jewish life in various countries. The archaeological wing contains fascinating exhibits from the early days of settlement here through to the Romans. The Art wing has a good collection of works by Israeli painters as well as pieces by Gauguin, Renoir, and Van Gogh.

Kidron Valley in Jerusalem


The Kidron Valley lies between the Mount of Olives and Mount Zion and is one of the oldest areas of Jerusalem. Both Jews and Muslims believe that the Last Judgement will take place here; a rope will extend from the battlements of the Temple Mount, over the valley to the Mount of Olives, and the righteous will cross over, supported by their guardian angels, while the sinners will be cast down into damnation. Archaeological excavations here have uncovered a settlement that dates back more than 4,000 years. The archaeological site is known as the City of David, and archaeologists are still working here. Area G is the oldest part of the site, dating from the 10th century BC. From here, you can walk down into the tunnels known as Warren’s Shaft and Hezekiah’s Tunnel and proceed onto the Pool of Siloam and Shiloach Pool, which some people think may be the site where Jesus performed the miracle of healing a blind man.