The Top 10 Sites You Must Visit in Jerusalem

On January 4, 2014 by Oren and Cassie

There’s so much to see in Jerusalem! If it’s your first time visiting this city, you may be a bit overwhelmed. The city is full of history and religious significance for Christians, Jews and Muslims. So, we’ve compiled a list to help you with your planning. Most places are located within walking distance of the Old City. Only a few will require a bus or car. Our list includes a balance of religious, cultural and culinary experiences.

1. Western Wall: This is the most religious site in the world for the Jewish people. Located in the Old City, the western foundation wall of the Temple Mount is a place for prayer. Pilgrims – women and men – recite their prayers on adjacent sections of the wall. Prayers are often written down and placed in the wall as notes. Free entry. But, women and men must be modestly dressed.

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A group of men pray at the Western Wall, each man in his own way.

2. Church of the Holy Sepulchre: This site is identified as the place where Jesus of Nazareth was crucified and buried. Christian pilgrims have been flocking to this site since the 4th century. It is located within the Christian quarter of the Old City in Jerusalem. Admission is free.

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The main dome of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

3. Dome of the Rock: This is a Muslim shrine located on the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem. It is extremely significant to people of the Jewish and Christian faiths because it is the home of the Foundation Stone – the site from which the Lord created the world. Muslims believe it is the site of the miracles of Isra and Miraj. Non-Muslims are allowed to enter the Dome of the Rock on a limited basis. Entry is free, but lines are extremely long. Hours are 7:30am-11:30am and 1:30pm-2:30pm during the summer and 7:30am-10:30am and 1:30pm-2:30pm during the winter. Visitors must enter next to the Western Wall. Israeli passport holders will be denied entry.

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The Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount.

4. Mount of Olives: Set aside at least half a day to explore this amazing place filled with religious history. Walk through the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus of Nazareth was betrayed by one of his disciples, Judas. Visit Pater Noster, a church which has the Lord’s Prayer displayed in 171 languages. Those are just two of the many churches and mosques located here. This mountain sits right outside the Old City. It’s slopes have also been used as a Jewish cemetery for more than 3,000 years.

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Pilgrims pray at the rock where Jesus was betrayed in the Church of Gethsemane.

5. Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial: Don’t expect to feel energetic and happy after visiting this museum, but it is a place everyone should visit. This educational and moving site stands as a memorial to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust. It originally started as a way to recognize non-Jews who helped to save Jewish people during the Holocaust. The memorial has now become the second most visited site in Israel. Admission is free. You’ll need transportation to get to the site.

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Part of the memorial at Yad Vashem.

6. Western Wall Tunnels: The Western Wall that is seen today from the outside is only a fraction of the wall that existed during the Second Temple Period. Now, visitors have the ability to go underground to see what archaeologists have uncovered after years of excavation. Nothing has been restored. It’s all original and dates back to the 1st century, C.E. This tour is extremely popular and tickets sell out quickly during tourist season. It’s best to book tickets online in advance of your visit to Jerusalem. Tickets cost 30 NIS ($10) for adults.

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Inside the Western Wall Tunnels.

7. Old City Shuks: It’s very difficult to miss the shuks in the Old City of Jerusalem. Some people get intimidated by the over-eager merchants trying to sell their goods. But, the #1 rule is: YOU MUST HAGGLE. It’s part of the process. Decide what you want to pay for something and then go back and forth until you reach an agreement. I am horrible at this. Oren loves it. He also loves to haggle and then simply walk away. (They almost always will come after you with a lower price.)

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Oren walking around the Shuq, looking for a worthy haggling opponent.

8. Mahane Yehuda Market: Located outside of the Old City, this market has continually evolved throughout the years. It is now a bustling place where locals and visitors can find the freshest fruits and vegetables, spices and sweets. In the evening, restaurants and pubs within the market create a “nightlife” that offers great food and drinks. Our favorite place: Pasta Basta.

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Walking around Mahane Yehuda, looking for fresh fruits.

9. Israel Museum: This museum was built in 1965, but it went through a major renovation a few years ago. The upgraded 20-acre site is very impressive. The museum provides a great historical and archaeological background to the land now known as Israel. It also houses the famous Dead Sea Scrolls (the oldest biblical writings in the world). Our favorite thing at the museum is a model of the city of Jerusalem during the Second Temple period. The Israel Museum is open every day – with shorter hours on Tuesdays, Fridays and holidays. Tickets are 50 NIS ($12) and transportation is needed to get to site.

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The model of the Second Temple at the Israel Museum.

10. The Jerusalem Archaeological Park: This open museum spreads over the southeastern corner of the Temple Mount. It holds more than 5,000 years of history. Spend a few hours exploring these ruins, which includes a mikveh, a ritual bath. An introductory video helps introduce visitors to the significance of this site. Then, examine the area yourself, which has remains dating back to the Second Temple period.

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The archaeological digs shed new light on the ancient history of Jerusalem.

Finding a central location to stay in Jerusalem is key when exploring the city. We stayed at Abraham Hostels. We stayed here two years ago and loved it so much we came back. Plan to stay at least three days in Jerusalem. For more information about what to see in this city, check out Tourist Israel. We’ve done the research for you. Enjoy your first time in Jerusalem!

Want to tour Jerusalem with us? Click here.

Do you think we left something off or mixed up the order? Comment below or shoot us a note.

-C.K.

9 Responses to “The Top 10 Sites You Must Visit in Jerusalem”

  • So glad we found this article. We are heading that way in April and are very excited to check out a few of the places on the list.

  • 3 additional suggestions:

    I’d add the Ramparts Walk starting at Jaffa Gate where you actually walk on the stone walls built in 1540 by the Ottoman Turkish sultan, Suleiman the Magnificent for a birds eye view of the city. Check out the 8 gates in the city walls, including the remains of the Roman gate below today’s Damascus gate and the closed Golden Gate through which the Messiah is to enter.

    Visit the Church of Santa Anna in the White Father’s compound, the ruins of a Byzantine church and a Crusader chapel resting on a dike between two pools (there’s no water in them today). This is where Jesus performed one of the two miracles he did in Jerusalem, curing the cripple of 38 years (John 5). There is also a complete Crusader church with incredible acoustics.

    Tour the ancient City of David to understand the importance of water in the history of Jerusalem. Bring “water” shoes and a flashlight and walk 45 minutes through Hezekiah’s Tunnel a manmade canyon cut in the limestone with water up to your knees – quite an experience. The tunnel brought the water of the Gihon Spring to the Siloam Pool, inside the walls of the city. This is where Jesus performed the second miracle in Jerusalem, curing the blind man (John 9).

    • Thank you so much for your suggestions! We actually did the Rampart’s Walk and we thought it was a great way to see the city from a different perspective (especially the Temple Mount). There are so many things to see in Jerusalem that it’s nearly impossible to narrow it down to 10. Thank you for the excellent additions, and I hope people read your comment and research other great sites to visit in Jerusalem.

    • Perfect Addition! We will take this advice!

  • Having lived there for a number of years I would suggest at least 3 – 4 weeks to really appreciate the beauty of the country, not only the main tourist sites but other parts of the country as well.

  • I have this printed and plan on using it! AND Thank you!! I was in Israel and spent some time there years ago! Now, I am the only one in a group from America going over and was “elected” to help with the itinerary because of it! OMG (a “term” I never use!!) This was Perfect!! You hit all the places I had already written for us and then you had a great comment from another reader of your blog; which one of which I had on our list already!! I am so happy that I stumbled upon it! Again, Thank you and I know this will save me a TON of time!!! (And Lord knows I don’t have much of that!) THANK YOU!

    Heidi Cataldo-Blais
    [email protected]

  • Dead Sea is a must

  • You’re absolutely right. The Church of All Nations is next to the Garden of Gethsemane. Pater Noster is a separate church that is also on the Mt. of Olives. Both are absolutely worth visiting!

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