In few places does the ancient blend with the modern as it does in Jerusalem. This historic city is holy to three of the world's religions: Islam, Judaism, and Christianity, yet its incredible religious importance is only part of its status as a vibrant capital and cultural center.
Jerusalem's old city may earn most of the attention from guidebooks, but the many different neighborhoods of the city each contribute their own particular charm to the whole. Art, cuisine, nightlife, and more bring people from all over the world to this thriving urban center.
Whether you're interested in the city's ancient history, which stretches back well over 3,000 years, or in its lively markets, you'll be surprised by what you find in Jerusalem.
Jerusalem's ancient and modern history both provide countless stories and lessons for the interested visitor. Frequently mentioned in the Old Testament, Jerusalem actually appears in written records dating back to the 19th Century BC. From archaeology to architecture, the remains of this history are ready to be explored today.
Jerusalem has been home to diverse cultures for thousands of years, and each has imported its own unique traditions. Today, art galleries throughout the city display the unique creative blend that has arisen from this hotspot.
The Western Wall is one of the world's most famous religious sites. A remainder of the Temple Mount destroyed by the Romans, this wall is one of the holiest places in the world for Jewish people.
The third most important site in Islam, the Temple Mount hosts important mosques said to contain the point from which Muhammad ascended to heaven. The interiors of the mosques are not accessible to non-Muslims, but the area is worth a visit for people of all faiths.
Some of the most well-known passages from the New Testament take place within Jerusalem, which houses sites such as the Mount of Olives, the Tomb of Lazarus, and the Cenacle or Room of the Last Supper.
The world's greatest concentration of religious sites is found in the heart of Jerusalem. Temple Mount marks the Muslim Quarter, with the Dome of the Rock shrine and Al-Aqsa Mosque at its peak. Down below, the sacred "Wailing Wall" is the start of the Jewish quarter and an ancient site for prayer, also offering fascinating tours of tunnels beneath. The Christian quarter cannot be missed either - Via Dolorosa is the route Jesus walked to his crucifixion at the 4th-century Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
Praised worldwide for its stark, honest and respectful commemoration of Holocaust victims, Yad Vashem is sure to offer a deeply emotional and reflective experience to all visitors. The Holocaust History Museum brings context to the tragedy, while the Museum of Holocaust Art takes an interpretive approach to the trauma. Meanwhile, the Hall of Names and the Children's Memorial, among others, reveal the scope of the genocide while enshrining the memory of those individuals who were forever lost.
Hundreds of stands comprise this historic marketplace, the most lively spot in Jerusalem. Vendors specialize in garments, textiles, souvenirs, and gorgeous delicacies from fruit, to meat, to spices, to liquors. Bargain your heart out for whatever item you've set your sights on, and you are sure to walk away with both an experience and a treasure. During closing hours, the walls of the market have become a de facto gallery, boasting murals by beloved street artist Solomon Souza.
Once covered in olives, this marvelous mountain overlooks the Old City. On the way to the top visitors are awestruck by the Dome of the Ascension where Jesus left his last footprint on earth, as well as by the Garden of Gethsemane where he prayed before the crucifixion. The holy hill thus became the burial ground for important biblical figures, whose tombs now lead up to unforgettable views amidst the remaining ancient olive trees. Be inspired as you look out at Temple Mount and the city below.
The world famous Dead Sea is just a short drive from Jerusalem, offering a relaxing change of pace from the historic sightseeing in the city. Known for its salty waters, this unique geological formation cannot sustain any life - but it can keep tourists afloat all day long! These natural features make a swim here otherworldly and unforgettable, and photo opportunities as you lounge on the surface never get old.
Jerusalem has a Mediterranean climate, with hot summers (average highs around 90 degrees) and cold winters (average lows of about 40 degrees). Winters are also very wet, and snow does fall occasionally. Thus, spring and fall are the most pleasant times of the year to visit.
Ben Gurion International Airport (TLV) sits near the city of Lod on highway 1. The airport is known as one of the most secure in the world, so expect to spend lots of time going through security checks. Once through security, you can reach Jerusalem by taking the Nesher shared taxi service for ₪64.
Jerusalem Malha Railway Station (in the Malha neighborhood) can be reached by domestic trains, which connect to Tel Aviv and other northern cities. Trains leave once an hour until 8:00 pm on weekdays, and a bit less frequently on weekends. Trains are known for their scenery, but not for their speed.
Foreigners can drive in Israel as long as they have a driver's license in their home country. Jerusalem is connected to major highways including the 60, the 50, and the 1.
Buses are a popular and fast way to get into and out of Jerusalem. Buses run by the Egged Cooperative connect to all over Israel. Travelers can get to Tel Aviv within an hour. Most buses come in to the Central Bus Station, which is located on Jaffa Road.
Jerusalem has numerous hotels, with countless choices ranging from budget accommodation to luxury resorts. The Old City generally has the cheapest hotels, while West Jerusalem is home to newly constructed establishments. In the Old City, the Jerusalem Garden Guesthouse is well situated. St. Andrew's Scottish Guest House is a mid-range option, while the King David Hotel is perhaps the city's most famous establishment.
Old City - the ancient city, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, hosts numerous incredibly powerful religious sites. People from all over the world come to the old city for its unique arts, its museums, and its cuisines. The old city is divided into four quarters: Armenian, Christian, Jewish, and Muslim. Each are worth visiting.
Ein Kerem - this tranquil area has done much to ensure that it does not feel like a large city. The streets run to the foot of hills covered with olive and cypress trees. Adding to the charm are a number of galleries showcasing the work of numerous contemporary artists and sculptors.
East Jerusalem - this contested area of the city is home to proud Christian, Muslim, and Jewish populations as well as numerous holy sites, museums, and architectural wonders. It is worth making the trip in its own right.
Public transportation in the form of buses is abundant, and abundantly complicated. Routes change quickly and have no maps. To ride, get on a bus and pay the driver ₪5.90. It will help to have a Hebrew speaker with you. Light rail is also a popular option running from the northeast to the southwest. The price is ₪6.90 for a ride with no transfers.
Taxis are easy to spot in the city, as many serve locals and tourists alike. It can be difficult to get a fair price when haggling, so be sure to tell drivers to turn the meter on. The pick-up price is ₪12, and the tariff per mile is ₪8.05.
Driving in Jerusalem is a safe, comfortable way to see the city. Car rentals start at about ₪98 shekels a day for a small economy car, and companies include Sixt and Zvi Cars.
Shopping options abound in Jerusalem, but by far the most entertaining place to shop is the Old City. Here, travelers can expect to find just about anything from t-shirts to artwork. Haggling is expected. There are also pedestrian malls such as the one on Ben Yehuda Street and the Mamilla Mall. Clothing is not cheap in Jerusalem, with a pair of jeans running about ₪366, and a pair of sport shoes coming in at ₪267.
There are many grocery stores throughout Jerusalem, and the food is generally of high quality. Popular supermarkets include Rami Levy Hashikma Marketing and Shufersal Sheli Agron. Expect to buy apples at just over ₪4 a pound, while a loaf of bread should fetch about ₪7. Good wine can be had for ₪14 a bottle.
Jerusalem is a cosmopolitan city, so it should be no surprise to visitors that its cuisine is international in flavor. Falafel salads may be the most popular local food, but you'll be able to find dishes from around the world. Dinner for two usually runs around ₪130, and popular eateries include the Eucalyptus, which puts a new spin on so-called biblical cuisine, and Melech Hafalafel Shawarma.