Jerusalem is the holiest city in the world with fascinating architecture, wonderful culture, great culinary delights and thousands of years of history. The meeting point of the three most important monotheistic religions, Jerusalem is the heart of the Holy Land where the First Temple was created by the Jews to protect the Ark of the Covenant, where Jesus was crucified and resurrected, and where the Prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven to receive God’s word. Believers consider a visit to Jerusalem as a pilgrimage to one of the most sacred places in the world. So here we go:
• Wailing Wall and Jewish Quarter – The Wailing Wall, also known as the Western Wall, built around 2000 years ago is the retaining wall of Jerusalem’s First Temple that still survives. It is called the Wailing Wall because Jews would come here to lament and mourn the destruction of the Temple in AD 70. It has become a place of pilgrimage for the Jewish people since the Ottoman era. A major attraction here is the Jerusalem Archaeological Park, at the southern end of the Western Wall Plaza, where you can see the fascinating remnants of old Jerusalem. The Western Wall Tunnels leads you under the city, where you get to experience a feel of the original city. Jewish Quarter Street (RehovHaYehudim) is the main street of the district, and there are a bunch of fascinating synagogues on the surrounding side streets worth a visit.
• Church of the Holy Sepulchre – The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which is considered to have been built on the site where Jesus was crucified is Jerusalem’s holiest site for Christian pilgrims. It was Empress Helena, mother to Constantine the Great, who selected the site for the church during her tour of the Holy Land. She announced to the Byzantine world that this spot was the biblical Calvary or Golgotha of the gospels. The church incorporates the last five Stations of the Cross and is also the ending point for the Via Dolorosa pilgrimage. There are various holy relics inside the church and different Christian denominations own the different quarters inside the church.
• Armenian Quarter – Located in the Southwest corner of Jerusalem‘s Old City, is the Armenian Quarter, the smallest of the four quarters in terms of population and area. The other three are the Jewish Quarter, Muslim Quarter, and Christian Quarter. The St. James Cathedral and St. Mark’s Chapel are two other attractions in the area. Armenians first arrived in the city during the 5th century have been part of Jerusalem’s community for centuries. The Armenian Quarter is one of the most peaceful places in the Old City to wander and explore.
• Via Dolorosa – Via Dolorosa or the Way of Sorrow is a street in the old city of Jerusalem, which is the path took by Jesus from the place of condemnation to the site of his crucifixion. For most Christian visitors, this route is the highlight of a visit to Jerusalem. If you’re in the city on a Friday, you can join the procession led by the Italian Franciscan monks, along this route. The procession starts at the Muslim Quarter of the Old City (1st station) on Via Dolorosa Street. From here you follow the street west through eight stations until you reach the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which is the 9th station. The last five stations are also located here. The Chapel of the Flagellation (2nd station), built on the site where Jesus is considered to have been flogged is another site of particular interest.
• Citadel (Tower of David) and surrounds – The Citadel is also known as the Tower of David although it has no connection with David. King Herod had erected the tower to protect his palace. In AD 70, Titus conquered the city and the Romans stationed a garrison here. However the citadel gradually fell into disrepair. During the reign of the Crusaders, Egypt’s Mamelukes and Turks, the tower was successively rebuilt. The current building was built on the foundations of the original Phasael Tower in the 14th century. If you climb up to the rooftop you can get one of the best views of the Old City.
• Christian Quarter – Situated in the northwestern corner of the Old City, is the Christian Quarter, which is centered around the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. It is home to numerous Christian institutions including churches, monasteries, schools, printing presses, clinics, and pilgrims hostels belonging to various denominations. You can also find some of the most popular tourist souvenir souks in Old city. Protestant Christ Church (Omar ibn al-Khattab Square), the Ethiopian Monastery, the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer and the Church of St. John the Baptist are some of the other sites worthy of a visit.
• Muslim Quarter – Home to the best souk shopping in the Old City, the Muslim Quarter is the most active district. The quarter extends roughly from Damascus Gate through the northeast part of the Old City. A number of surviving remnants of fine Mameluke architecture can be found here, including the 14th century Khan al-Sultan (Bab Silsila Street), the beautiful Crusader-built St. Anne’s Church and the Pool of Bethesda.
• Mount of Olives – Full of churches and home to the oldest and still used cemetery in the world, the Mount of Olives is a particular place of interest for religious pilgrim travelers to Jerusalem. This sacred hill is considered to be the place where God rises the dead on Judgment Day. According to Christian believers, this is also the place where Jesus ascended to heaven after his crucifixion and subsequently resurrected. At the top of the mount, is the Church of the Ascension that dates from 1910, from where you get a spectacular panoramic view of the Old City. The Pater Noster, the Church of Dominus Flevit, the onion-domed Russian Church of Mary Magdalene, the Gardens of Gethsemane, the Church of All Nations and the Tomb of the Virgin Mary are the top attractions on the Mount of Olives.
• Mount Zion – Mount Zion is a small hill located south of the Old City’s Zion Gate You can find a number of churches as well as Jewish and Muslim shrines here. Mount Zion has been valued since the Byzantine Age as the site where Christ celebrated the Last Supper. According to some Christian traditions, Virgin Mary spent the last years of her life here. Jews consider Mount Zion’s as an important place as King David’s Tomb is located here. The stairs from the tomb’s courtyard leads to the Last Supper Room. The Church of the Dormition and the Church of St Peter of Gallicantu are the other nearby attractions.
• Old City Walls – These walls that date from the Ottoman period surround the Old city of Jerusalem. They contain 34 watchtowers, seven main gates open for traffic with two minor gates reopened by archaeologists. One of the most famous gates is the Damascus Gate. Zion Gate is the main entry into the Jewish Quarter, Lions’ Gate, also known as St.Stephen’s Gate takes you to the Mount of Olives, and the Jaffa Gate serves as the main passageway for the Christian Quarter. Jaffa Gate heading north to Lion’s Gate, or Jaffa Gate heading south to Dung Gate are the two sections that can be walked on.
• East Jerusalem – Just outside the Damascus Gate is the Arab neighborhood of East Jerusalem. On the eastern side of the gate, you can see a cave system known as Solomon’s Quarries or Zedekiah’s Grotto that extends under the Old City. Ancient tradition has it that the stone for Jerusalem’s First Temple was quarried from here. If you travel east along Sultan Suleyman Street, you will come across the Rockefeller Archaeological Museum that contains exhibits from the Stone Age right up to the 18th century, a skeleton known as the Carmel Man that was unearthed on Mount Carmel, the 6th century BC Lachish letters and the decorated carved beams from the Al-Aqsa Mosque. The Garden Tomb, the French Dominican Monastery of St. Stephen, the Mandelbaum Gate, and the Museum on the Seam are the other major attractions in and around this area.
• Central City Sites – The Jaffa Gate leads to the modern central city district with Jaffa Road running northwest to Bar Kochba Square and Zion Square. The Russian Compound that lies Northeast to Bar Kochba Square is dominated by the green-domed Russian Orthodox Cathedral. The Russian consulate, a hospice for women, the mission house, a hospital, and a large hospice for men, all used to function near the Cathedral. But now the buildings are occupied by various government institutions. Toward the North of the cathedral, you’ll find the Ethiopian Church and the Mea Shearim district. The other must-visit places in the area include the Time Elevator, the Museum of Italian Jewish Art & Synagogue and the Ben Yehuda Street.
• Israel Museum – This splendid museum, which was opened in 1965 is one of the most impressive cultural assets of Israel that displays collections of both archaeological findings and art. There is a dedicated pavilion called the Shrine of the Book that displays the museum’s prize exhibit, the Dead Sea Scrolls, which were unearthed in the Dead Sea area during the 1940s. The Judaica wing, located in the main building of the complex has an amazing display of sacred Jewish art and ethnographic displays from Jewish life in different countries. While the archaeological wing showcases exhibits from the early days of settlement through to the Romans, the Art wing has a good collection of works by many Israeli painters as well as work by Van Gogh, Gauguin and Renoir.
• Kidron Valley – Located between the Mount of Olives and Mount Zion and is the Kidron Valley, one of the oldest places in Jerusalem. According to the Jews and Muslims, the Last Judgement is bound to happen here- the righteous will cross over a rope that extends from the battlements of the Temple Mount, over the valley to the Mount of Olives, with the help of their guardian angels, while the sinners will be hurled into eternal damnation. You can walk down into the tunnels known as Warren’s Shaft and Hezekiah’s Tunnel and continue onto the Pool of Siloam and Shiloach Pool, which is believed be the site where Jesus healed a blind man.
• Haram Al-Sharif (Temple Mount) – The Haram Al-Sharif is one of the holiest places on earth. Glorified by Jews, Christians, and Muslims, this is the site where Solomon built the First Temple for the Ark of the Covenant, where Abraham offered his son up as a sacrifice to God, and where the Prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven to receive the words of God. Located in the southeastern corner of the Old City, the wide plaza, is home to two of Islam’s most sacred buildings – the Dome of the Rock and the Al Aqsa Mosque, one of the oldest mosques in the world.
These are just a few of the top rated tourist attractions in Jerusalem. There are still tons of things to see and activities to do here. In addition to being a holy city, it is also a modern city with many things to attract the young and trendy. A good place to start is Jerusalem’s Old City, where many of the major attractions of Jerusalem are found.