Experience the Best of the Holy City with these Top Things to do in Jerusalem

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Jerusalem is one of the most fascinating cities I have ever been to. The mix of history and religion combined with a cool nightlife scene and some great foodie spots made it fun to explore. I’ve been to Jerusalem many times so for those looking for some inspiration here is my quick guide which includes some helpful tips and, of course, the best things to do in Jerusalem. 

I Love Jerusalem Sign

How to Get to Jerusalem

Getting to Jerusalem is easy. From the Airport there are several options for getting to Jerusalem.

My preferred method of transportation is the train. It’s a 26-minute journey from the Airport to Jerusalem city. That being said, you still then need to find your way to your accommodation. 

The easiest option is to take a taxi, which will drop you off right at your doorstep. However it is also the most expensive.

Another option that will take you directly to your accommodation is the shared shuttle service called a sherut. Upon exiting the airport, you will see yellow shuttle vans. Tell the driver where you are going and he will direct you to the van headed in that direction. While this is an easy option and cheaper than a taxi but you may end up waiting a while because they only leave when they are full. 

You can also take public transit. Bus number 485 will take you from the airport to the central bus station in Jerusalem. From here you can hop on the tram to the stop closest to your accommodation option. This is by far the cheapest option

Finally, you can also rent a car from the airport.

Getting Around Jerusalem

The Wailing Wall, Jerusalem

As mentioned above, Jerusalem is a very large city and while you will be able to walk to some places, it’s not realistic to think that you can walk everywhere.

Jerusalem does have a handy tram system that is easy enough to use. Tickets need to be bought from the machines at whatever station you start at, and then need to be tapped when you enter the bus. Your best bet is to purchase a RavKav which is the local transportation card. It can be used on the bus and train and you can load it up easily via the app.

It is important to know that all public transit in Jerusalem shuts down during Shabbat. This means from sundown (or a couple hours before) on Friday to sundown on Saturday, you will have to walk, use a taxi, or take a sherut. 

Where to Stay in Jerusalem

Abraham Hostel Jerusalem

Jerusalem is a massive city, so when you are figuring out where to stay in Jerusalem you will definitely want to keep location in mind. I suggest finding somewhere within walking distance from Old Jerusalem as this is where many of the attractions and sites are.

The next thing to consider is your budget. Israel, as I found out, is not exactly a cheap destination. That being said, there are a number of accommodation options varying in cost so you can find somewhere that fits your budget.

If you are on a tighter budget, I recommend Abraham Hostel Jerusalem. They have private room and share dorm options. They also have a big common room, breakfast spread, and nightly activities which makes Abraham Hostel Jerusalem is a great option for solo travellers as well. Book your stay here.

If you aren’t quite a hostel person and willing to spend a little more on accommodation in Jerusalem, then consider the following mid-range hotels.

Or, if you are willing to pay a bit more there are plenty of gorgeous higher-end hotels in Jerusalem as well. Take a look at these options:

The Best Things to do in Jerusalem

Whether you are interested in history, religion, architecture, food, or culture there is plenty to keep you busy in Jerusalem. Here are my recommendations for the best things to do in Jerusalem.

Jerusalem Old Town

Walls of Old Town Jerusalem

Jerusalem Old Town was, for me, the highlight of Jerusalem. Home to many of the important sites and attractions, I really enjoyed wandering through the busy winding streets of this historic part of the city.

It’s easy to explore Jerusalem’s Old Town on your own, however, I also recommend that you take a tour as well so you can learn more about what you are seeing as well as about the local culture and different religions. There are plenty of different tour options that will explore the highlights (many of which I share below). There is this free walking tour for a quick introduction. If you want something more in-depth, check out the Holy Tourist

Temple Mount & Al Aqsa Mosque 

Dome of the Rock

Temple Mount is a holy site for Christians, Jews, and Muslims alike but it’s also an area of disagreement. As such, there are restrictive views about visiting Temple Mount. It’s only open from Monday to Thursday for a couple hours in the morning, and then again for 1 hour in the early afternoon. These hours change based on the season so be sure to check ahead of time and be sure to dress appropriately. This means covered knees and shoulders for both men and women and, ladies, no cleavage.

There is a lot of history behind Temple Mount so, again, I recommend that you visit with a tour. 

The highlight of Temple Mount is Al Aqsa Mosque which is the iconic gold-domed structure that is seen in so many photographs of Jerusalem. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The architecture and mosaic patterns are modelled after Byzantine churches and Palaces and the bright colours really make it stand out and shine, especially in the sun. It’s absolutely beautiful and a visit here is one of the top things to do in Jerusalem.

The Western Wall

Putting a note in the Western Wall

The Western Wall, sometimes also referred to as the Wailing Wall, is the most religious site in the world for the Jewish people. The Wall is located in the Old City and is the western support wall of Temple Mount, where Al-Aqsa mosque is built.

The wall is divided into 2 sections; one for men, one for women as they need to pray separately (though there is also a smaller section of the wall in the Muslim quarter where both men and women can go). Visitors can either pray out loud or write their prayers on a small piece of paper to leave in the cracks of the wall. It is free to visit, but make sure you dress appropriately.

The Arabic Market

Market in Old Town Jerusalem

If you are looking to do some souvenir shopping, then head to the Arabic market. From rugs to scarves, ceramics to jewellery, you can find just about everything here. In my experience, not only was shopping here one of my favourite things to do in Jerusalem but it was the best souvenir shopping in Israel. Make sure you haggle though! Especially when items don’t have a sticker price attached to them. Even if they do, it might be worth asking if they can go lower. Keep in mind, you can really only haggle in this market- not in other shops around Jerusalem.

My favourite shop in the market is called Sinjalawi and its owned by a Palestinian family who are artisans themselves. The shop sells everything from jewelry to carpets and more. For something unique, buy a piece with Roman Glass. 

Church of the Holy Sepulchre

One of the major pilgrimage sites for Christians, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is considered to be the place where Jesus was crucified and his tomb. Today, this church built into the rock is quite extravagantly decorated. It’s free to visit but can be quite crowded, so keep that in mind. 

Via Dolorosa

Via Dolorosa

Via Dolorosa translates to the Way of Sorrows. It is said that this is the path which Jesus walked, carrying the cross, between his condemnation and his crucifixion. There are 14 stations along the way. It is a traditional route more than an archaeological one, but this path is an important site for Christian pilgrims.

Tower of David Museum

Located just inside the Jaffa gate of Old Town Jerusalem, the Tower of David Museum is one of the best things to do in Jerusalem for two reasons. Firstly, it’s an interesting museum about the history of Jerusalem. Secondly, the Tower of David Museum offers some of the best views of the city. 

King David’s Tomb

King David was the king of Israel who ruled from 1010 to 970 CE and his tomb is one of the holiest places to the Jewish people. It can be visited, however, like with the Western Wall, there are separate viewing areas for men and women.

Yad Vashem: The Holocaust Remembrance Centre

Yad Vashem is the Holocaust remembrance centre in Jerusalem. It’s a sombre experience to be sure, however, a visit here is also one of the best things to do in Israel. It’s a large museum so make sure to give yourself a couple of hours to make your way through. Entrance here is free.

Mount of Olives

Mount of Olives

Mount of Olives is located across from the Old Town and is named for the olive trees that used to grow there. These hills are named often in both the Old Testament and the New Testament and today is home to beautiful views and several pilgrimage sites. These include The Church of All Nations, the Church of St. Mary Magdalene, the Church of Dominus Flevi, the Church of Pater Noster, the Dome of the Ascension, the Garden of Gethsemane, and the Tomb of Mary. There is also a Jewish cemetery here that contains as many as 300,000 tombs.

You can visit the Mount of Olives on your own, or, if you are interested in the history of the area you may want to take a guided tour like this one.

The Israel Museum

The Israel Museum is known to be one of the best museums in the world. So, make sure to give yourself plenty of time to explore it. Highlights here include the Dead Sea Scroll and the Shrine of the Book among other treasures.

Mahane Yehuda Market

Mahane Yehuda market in Jerusalem

If you are a foodie, then you will fall in love with Mahane Yehuda Market. About 20 minutes from Old Town, the Mahane Yehuda Market is the best place to grab some fresh food. Baked pita bread from the oven, gooey baklava, fresh vegetables and creamy hummus. Not to mention all the juices, shakes, and spices, and teas. A visit here is one of my absolute favourite things to do in Jerusalem and, if you are anything like me, you’ll go back daily. 

PS: check my picks for the best places to eat in Jerusalem, several are in this market! 

The Best Day Trips from Jerusalem

There are plenty of awesome things to do in Jerusalem, but it also makes a great base from which to explore more of Israel and Palestine. Not only does this make things easier in terms of not having to constantly move around with your luggage, but taking day trips from Jerusalem is also ideal because if you take guided day trips (which I definitely recommend) then you don’t have to worry about sorting out transportation- which can be a bit tricky.

  • The Dead Sea: The lowest spot in the world! Come here for a fun day of floating. Book a tour.
  • Masada & Ein Gedi: Ancient ruins, fantastic views, and a desert oasis. Book a tour.
  • Hebron: A historic divided city. Take this dual narrative tour to experience both the Palestinian and Jewish side.
  • Bethlehem: A Palestinian city known for being the birth place of Jesus Christ. Book a tour. 

Jerusalem is a fascinating city to explore on its own and use as a base to see more of Israel and Palestine. There are plenty of things to do in Jerusalem, so make sure to give yourself enough time to do and see as much as possible! For more tips, be sure to check out my 2 weeks in Israel and Palestine guide.

A Note on Travel Insurance in Israel

Please, do NOT travel without travel insurance! I’ve had to rely on mine twice before (once for damaged luggage, once because I developed a lung infection while traveling). While the cost may seem annoying and better spent elsewhere, trust me when I say you’ll be sorry if you don’t have it. For just a couple bucks a day, you can save yourself a whole lot of stress and money. I like to recommend SafetyWing for travel medical insurance. With prices starting at $37 for 4 weeks, they are one of the most affordable options I’ve found. Learn more about the importance of travel insurance here.

Wondering what to add to your Jerusalem Itinerary? I'm sharing the best things to do in Jerusalem in this guide to the holy city. #Jerusalem #Israel


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