Jerusalem (Hebrew: ירושלים Yerushalayim, Arabic: القدس al-Quds) is the largest city of Israel. Israel claim it is their capital and a few countries including the US recognize that claim, but most other countries and the United Nations do not.
The ancient city in the Judean Hills has a fascinating history spanning thousands of years. The city is holy to the three monotheistic religions - Judaism, Christianity and Islam, and serves as a spiritual, religious, and cultural center. Due to the religious significance of the city, and in particular the many sites of the Old City area, Jerusalem is one of the main tourist destinations in Israel. Jerusalem has many historic, archeological and cultural sites, along with vibrant and crowded shopping centers, cafes, and restaurants.
Jerusalem of Gold, as it has come to be known in Hebrew, is a fascinatingly unique place where the first century rubs shoulders with the twenty-first century, each jostling for legitimacy and space, and where picturesque "old" neighborhoods nestle against glistening office towers and high-rise apartments. It is one of those places that have to be seen to be believed.
|Old City |
Surrounded by walls, this history-packed square kilometer is home to holy sites for Jews, Christians, and Muslims, and is truly breathtaking. It was recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. The Old City is by far the most important destination for travelers, although they usually sleep in hotels elsewhere in the city.
|East Jerusalem |
The part of Jerusalem controlled by Jordan from 1948 to 1967. It includes the entire east of the city, but also some suburban neighborhoods in the northwest and southwest. East Jerusalem is home to 250,000 Muslims and Christians, as well as nearly 200,000 Jews who live in neighborhoods constructed since 1967. The areas adjacent to the Old City are full of religious and historical attractions. (The Old City itself is politically part of East Jerusalem, but is described in a separate article.)
|West Jerusalem |
The Jewish-Israeli part of Jerusalem, also known as New Jerusalem, which has been part of Israel since 1948. It is the modern commercial heart of the city, having been the focus for development in the capital between 1948 and 1967.
|Haredi neighborhoods |
This area is overwhelmingly inhabited by Haredi ("ultra-Orthodox") Jews, who give this area a distinctive feel compared to the rest of Jerusalem. Most of these neighborhoods are in West Jerusalem, but since 1967 some new neighborhoods have been built across the Green Line, in the northwest corner of East Jerusalem.
|Ein Kerem |
An ancient village which has been absorbed by Jerusalem's growth. Contains art galleries and churches.
|“||It is the land of the Resurrection and the Gathering. Go and pray there, for one prayer there is like one thousand prayers elsewhere.||”|
—Sunan Ibn Majah, Hadith no. 1407
Located in the Judean Mountains between the Mediterranean Sea and the Dead Sea, Jerusalem is considered holy to the three major Abrahamic religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. It is the holiest city in Judaism and Christianity, having been the spiritual center of the Jewish people since the 10th century BCE, and the third-holiest in Islam. It has a history of nearly 4000 years, and has been fought over and conquered countless times in that period. While the city began to have a Jewish plurality in the late 19th century, today a wide range of national, religious, and socioeconomic groups are represented here. During the Jordanian occupation 1949-1967 all Jews in East Jerusalem were expelled and entry was barred for Israeli citizens of any faith and even today there tend to be more Muslims in east Jerusalem and more Jews in West Jerusalem.
The walled area of Jerusalem, which until the 1860s formed the entire city, is now called the Old City, and became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1982. It consists of four ethnic and religious sections—the Armenian, Christian, Jewish, and Muslim Quarters. Barely one square kilometer, the Old City is home to Jerusalem's most important and contested religious sites - the Western Wall and Temple Mount for Jews, the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa Mosque for Muslims, and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre for Christians.
Surrounding the Old City are more modern areas of Jerusalem. The civic and cultural center of modern Israel is in western Jerusalem, while Arab neighborhoods can be found in the east. Jerusalem became Israel's capital upon its independence. The city was reunited after the 1967 War when Israel captured East Jerusalem. Nowadays there is no visible sign of the pre-1967 border, but Jewish and Arab neighborhoods are still generally separate.
|“||If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning.||”|
Archaeological findings show development within present-day Jerusalem as far back as the 4th millennium BCE, but the earliest written records of the city come in the Execration Texts (c. 19th century BCE) and the Amarna letters (c. 14th century BCE). According to Biblical accounts, the Jebusites (a Canaanite tribe) inhabited Jerusalem until c. 1000 BCE, at which point the Israelites (led by King David) conquered the city, establishing it as the capital of the Kingdom of Israel. Throughout this period, Jerusalem was located in what is now known as the "City of David", just outside the current Old City walls to the southeast, where a large natural spring is located.
According to the Bible, after David died, his son Solomon built the first of two Holy Temples. The temples were north of the City of David, on a site underneath or very close to the current Dome of the Rock. Upon Solomon's death the kingdom split in two (though many historians contend that the two Israelite kingdoms were never united to begin with). The ten northern tribes became known as the Kingdom of Israel, while Jerusalem remained the capital of the southern Kingdom of Judah, ruled by David and Solomon's descendants. After the Assyrian conquest of the Kingdom of Israel in 722 BCE, Jerusalem was the center of the only remaining Israelite/Jewish kingdom. In 586 BCE, the Babylonians conquered the Kingdom of Judah including Jerusalem, destroying the temple and exiling many of the inhabitants.
In 538 BCE, the Persian King Cyrus the Great allowed the Jews to return to Judah and Jerusalem. The rebuilt (Second) Temple was completed in 516 BCE. Jerusalem regained its status as capital of Judah and center of Jewish worship for nearly six centuries. In the second century BCE, the Hasmonean family led a successful rebellion against the Syrian Greeks who then ruled Judea, establishing an independent Jewish state which lasted over 100 years. In about 19 BCE, Herod the Great (a Jewish client king under Roman rule) vastly expanded the temple area by building retaining walls to support a flat rectangular platform around the temple site. One of these retaining walls survives to this day as the Western Wall, and the platform survives as the Temple Mount.
The Great Jewish Revolt against Roman rule broke out in 66 CE. Its failure resulted in the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE. A second failed revolt (132-136 CE, led by Bar Kokhba) led to Jews being banned from entering Jerusalem, a policy which continued for most of the time until the Muslim conquest.
For the following five centuries, the city remained under Roman/Byzantine rule. Under Emperor Constantine I in the 4th century, Jerusalem became a center for Christianity, with the construction of sites such as the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Muslim forces conquered Jerusalem in the year 638. According to tradition, their leader Caliph Umar visited Jerusalem and established the Temple site as a place of prayer. By the end of the 7th century, a subsequent caliph, Abd al-Malik, had commissioned the construction of the Dome of the Rock on this spot, as well as al-Aqsa Mosque on the southern edge of the Temple Mount. Muslim traditions vary about whether Muhammad's flight to heaven was from the Dome of the Rock or from al-Aqsa.
In the four hundred years that followed, Jerusalem's prominence diminished as Muslim powers in the region jockeyed for control. In 1099 the First Crusaders captured Jerusalem. The Muslim ruler Saladin reconquered Jerusalem in 1187, but between 1228 and 1244, it was given by Saladin's descendant al-Kamil to the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II. Jerusalem fell again in 1244 to the Khawarizmi Turks, who in 1260 were replaced by the Egyptian Mamelukes. In 1517, Jerusalem fell to the Ottoman Turks, who then controlled the Holy Land until the First World War. The current Old City walls were built by the Ottomans shortly after 1517. In the 1860s, new neighborhoods were built outside the walls for the first time.
In 1917, the British Army captured the city. The League of Nations, through its 1922 ratification of the Balfour Declaration, entrusted the United Kingdom to administer the Mandate of Palestine as a Jewish national home. The period of the Mandate saw the construction of new garden suburbs in the western and northern parts of the city, and the establishment of institutions of higher learning such as the Hebrew University.
As the British Mandate of Palestine was expiring, the 1947 UN Partition Plan recommended "the creation of a special international regime in the City of Jerusalem, constituting it as a corpus separatum under the administration of the United Nations." However, this plan was rejected by the Arabs. At the end of the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, Jerusalem found itself divided between Israel and Jordan (then known as Transjordan). The ceasefire line established through the 1949 Armistice Agreements between Israel and Jordan cut through the center of the city. In 1949, west Jerusalem became Israel's capital. After the 1967 war, all of Jerusalem was claimed by Israel as its capital. Israel has since annexed the entirety of East Jerusalem and treats it as part of its territory and distinct from the West Bank (though few other countries accept this annexation). Arab residents of East Jerusalem can apply for Israeli citizenship, but for various reasons few have actually made use of that option.
Jerusalem's population of around 800,000 is about 62% Jewish, 35% Muslim, 2% Christian, and 1% other. Neighborhoods tend to be overwhelmingly Jewish or Muslim; there are few really mixed neighborhoods, though many neighborhoods have a small minority of people from other religions. However, it is common for people of all religions to meet in the workplace. The Jewish population is a mix of cultures, with many immigrants from the former USSR, North Africa, Iraq, Eastern Europe, the US, and other places. Compared especially to Tel Aviv, Jerusalem is noted for its large number of religious Jews, ranging from Conservative Jews to the Haredi ('ultra-Orthodox'). Haredi also tend to self-segregate for various reasons and you'll find most of them in a few overwhelmingly Haredi neighborhoods.
The demographic history of Jerusalem over the last two hundred years is interesting and somewhat contentious. Jerusalem became a plurality Jewish city in the 19th century, and was a majority Jewish city throughout the British Mandate. However, then as now many Jerusalem Jews were Haredi and rejected Zionism. The 1948 war led to the forced displacement of all Jews (Zionist or not, immigrant or rooted in the area for centuries) from East Jerusalem and the Old City, including the historic Jewish quarter. From 1948-1967 the Jordanian government prohibited Jews from living in East Jerusalem and tried to erase traces of the Jewish past. Some Jews who have settled in east Jerusalem since 1967 see their actions thus as nothing but a "return" after the forced absence under Jordanian control.
|Climate chart (explanation)|
Located near the eastern edge of the Mediterranean Sea, Jerusalem has a Mediterranean climate with hot, dry summers and cool, wet winters. Due to its relatively high elevation (600 m-800 m above sea level) Jerusalem's air is less humid and more pleasant than in most other parts of Israel.
Winters are often wet, with nearly all of Jerusalem's annual 590 mm (23 in) of precipitation occurring between October and April. However, in between the rainy days there are numerous clear and sunny days. The coldest month is January, with an average high of 12 °C (53 °F) and an average low of 4 °C (39 °F). Sub-freezing temperatures are rare, but do happen, and the city will get occasional snowfall during the winter, though it usually only lasts a matter of hours rather than days. Once every few years, the city will experience significant accumulating snow.
Summers are hot and dry as a bone with virtually no rainfall between the months of May and September. Temperatures will generally approach around 30 °C (88 °F) during the day and cool to around 15 °C (59 °F) at night. Being near the desert, there is often a big difference between the day and night temperatures, and even the hottest days can turn into chilly nights. Spring and fall are mild, with minimal rainfall and pleasant temperatures, though heat-waves are not unheard of. Most evenings and nights are quite windy and long pants and a shirt are recommended.
The main languages spoken in Jerusalem are Hebrew in West Jerusalem and Arabic in East Jerusalem. Most people throughout the city speak sufficient English for communication. In particular, English is widely spoken in areas most visited by tourists, especially the Old City. Typically, even if you do not find an English speaker on first attempt, one will be nearby. Inhabitants of Jerusalem of (almost) any background are always ready to help out tourists with the language as with other needs.
Additionally, some Charedi (ultra Orthodox) Jews speak Yiddish in daily lives in part because they see using Hebrew for mundane things as blasphemous, and there is a significant number of French-speaking Jews. Smaller groups of Jews speak Dutch and Spanish. There is a large number of Russian immigrants of Jewish background, so it is not uncommon to see signs in Russian or hear Russian language radio.
Note: Remember that Hebrew and Arabic are written from right to left.
Ben Gurion Airport
Israel's main entry point for the international traveler, 1 Ben Gurion International Airport (TLV IATA), is next to the highway linking Tel Aviv and Jerusalem (Highway 1). Travel from the airport to the center of Jerusalem takes 40–50 minutes, or more if there is traffic.
- By train - A train line from the airport to Jerusalem opened in 2018. See "By train" below.
- By bus - Route 485 (Afikim) runs between the airport terminal and Jerusalem. As of November 2022, it only runs on late Thursday nights/Friday mornings (previously it ran 24/6 excluding Shabbat), and one can expect that the 485 will be eliminated entirely once the current train construction project finishes. The 485 runs nonstop from the airport to the Jerusalem central bus station, then makes a few more stops in the Knesset/museums area. It departs hourly, on the hour, in both directions, and costs ₪16 (you pay the driver when boarding). After getting off in Jerusalem, you can take the local bus, light rail, or taxi to your final destination. The bus stop towards the airport is on 1 220 Yafo St., just outside the central bus station, 100–150 m east of the main bus station exit.
- The old bus option, which is not recommended for first-time visitors due to its complexity, but may save you a little time if you just missed the train or if it's close to Shabbat and there are no trains: Take bus #5, #13, or #239 to "Tzomet El Al" (El Al road junction), then bus #947[dead link] to Jerusalem's central bus station. To get to the airport, reverse this. In either case, tell the first bus driver your final destination, to get a cheaper combined ticket. You may ask the driver to announce where to change buses. One ticket for the whole way costs around ₪22, as of March 2016. Check the schedules of buses #5/13/239 and #947 before attempting this.
- By taxi - The official Jerusalem-airport taxi price is around ₪250 during the day, ₪300 late at night. You might be able to find a driver for somewhat cheaper, but chances are they will drive recklessly. If you order in advance, companies like Daka 99[dead link] may offer rates as low as ₪160. Your taxi driver may either take Highway 1 or road 443 (which goes through the West Bank).
- By shuttle - The 'Nesher' shared taxi service (+972 2 623 1231 - Hebrew and English) is a 10-seat minibus that runs approximately hourly services to/from the airport, 24/7. Fare is around ₪70 one way per person. From the airport, the shuttle waits on the curb outside the Terminal 3 arrival hall - follow signage to the Jerusalem shuttle. The shuttle departs when full, and will take you to the address of your choice in Jerusalem. Going to the airport, you must reserve your seat in advance by phone. Be on time for the pickup — they don't wait. Nesher is known for rude customer service, and for a long nauseating ride as the other 9 passengers are dropped off at their addresses before you (you always seem to be last!). Keep in mind that it is quicker, more comfortable, and usually cheaper to take the 485 bus, and a local taxi between the bus station and your hotel.
- Some Arab neighborhoods in East Jerusalem are seen as "no go zones" by Israeli Jews, and some taxi drivers, including shared taxis, may hesitate or even refuse to take you to these destinations. You should understand that it is only because they genuinely fear for their own safety. If you have a hard time finding a taxi to East Jerusalem, take a taxi from the airport to the Jerusalem central bus station, and there switch to a local taxi.
- Taxi drivers, including shared taxis, have been known to overcharge or shortchange, so check the price before boarding, and check your change when it is handed back to you.
- Buses and trains do not run on Shabbat (Friday evening to Saturday night). Taxis and the Nesher shuttle operate, but might charge you extra due to Shabbat time. Hitch-hiking via "Tzomet El Al" (El Al road junction) and north around the airport can be an option on Shabbat.
Atarot Airport, in northern Jerusalem close to Ramallah, has been closed since 2001, yet some maps and signs still point to it.
In general, see rail.co.il for fares and timetables.
From Ben Gurion Airport and Tel Aviv
- 2 (next to the Central Bus Station). ~06:30–22:00 on weekdays every 30 min, limited service on Friday-Saturday. In December 2019 the fast connection between Jerusalem (Jerusalem-Yitzhak Navon station) and Tel Aviv (HaHagana station) was launched, taking 32 min and stopping at Ben-Gurion airport (22 min from Jerusalem). The ticket price is ₪22.
- 3 Central Bus Station (CBS). Most intercity buses arrive at the CBS at the western edge of Jaffa Street, the city's main road. Intercity buses arrive and depart inside the station building, and city buses outside of it (both in front of the building, and on Shazar Blvd. one block to the south). There is a light rail stop just outside the CBS, and many city buses stop there too. Taxis are always waiting there as well. There is a luggage storage service on the ground floor inside the station (near the street entrance) - ₪20 per six hours for a small locker, ₪40 for a large one.
Bus services to Jerusalem from Ben Gurion International Airport and most Israeli cities are frequent, cheap, and efficient. Egged is almost the only operator of intercity buses to and from Jerusalem, as well as the entire urban network. To check on these services look at its website or dial *2800 from any phone. The 485 bus from the airport is operated by Afikim.
Two Egged bus routes connect Tel Aviv to the Jerusalem CBS. Route 405 leaves the Tel Aviv CBS about every 20 min from 05:50–00:00. Route 480 leaves the Arlozorov station (the central train station) about every 10 minutes from 05:50–12:10. Each route takes about an hour and costs ₪16.
From the CBS it is a long but enjoyable walk (or short light rail ride) along Jaffa Road to the center of West Jerusalem and further on to the Old City. When exiting the CBS, turn left to walk towards the city, or turn right to find the city buses. (Finding your way when you leave the CBS for the first time can be a confusing experience, since there are almost no city maps around. There should be maps of the area within each bus shelter outside the station.) Note that buses do not run on Shabbat—from half an hour before sunset on Friday till after sunset on Saturday. Hours vary by the time of year. In December (winter solstice) Shabbat starts as early as 15:55 and ends at 17:15 the next day, while in June (summer solstice) Shabbat starts as late as 19:10 and ends at 20:30.
From the West Bank
The main bus station connecting Jerusalem to the Palestinian cities in the West Bank is just north of the Damascus Gate of the Old City, in East Jerusalem. There are three different bus terminals there: HaNeviim station, Nablus Road station and Sultan Suleiman station.
Regular regional buses from/to Ramallah (bus 218, ₪8, 45 min) and Bethlehem (bus 231 or 124, ₪6.80, 30 min) go via HaNeviim station, as well as buses from/to Hebron. For Jericho, Bus 36 or 63 (₪6.80, 20 min) to/from HaNeviim station go through 2 (Al) Ezariya (Junction) east of Jerusalem, a town also identified with Bethany (from the New Testament). Here you interchange from/to a sherut van from/to Jericho (₪10-12, 30 min). Alternatively, bus 263 (₪6.80) to/from the Sultan Sulliman Terminal will stop at this interchange junction too. For more information on the Arab bus stations, see the East Jerusalem article. These buses are colored mostly in blue strips.
On the Sabbath, and very late at night, your only option other than a private taxi is a sherut (shared taxi). These depart from Tel Aviv's Central Bus Station and Ben Gurion Airport, and charge a small surcharge on top of the normal bus fare. As of mid-2012 a sherut costs ₪23 (₪28 at night, ₪33 at Shabbat) and drops you off downtown, not far from Zion Square. There are no Israeli sherut lines within Jerusalem (unlike most Israeli cities). But there are sherut lines to Tel Aviv and Beit Shemesh as well as the airport.
Shared taxis are also the best option if travelling between Jerusalem and Palestinian cities in the West Bank, especially Ramallah and Bethlehem. These leave from near the East Jerusalem bus terminals outside the Damascus Gate. There is a shared taxi direct to/from the Allenby bridge (The border crossing with Jordan), for (Feb 2019) ₪42 plus ₪5 per luggage or 10 JD for 1 seat plus 1 luggage (picking up from Al-Souq Al-Tijaree "The commercial souq" not far away from the main bus station). All Palestinian shared taxis are very cheap, ₪5.00 for the surrounding villages, ₪5.50 for Abu-Dis and ₪6.50 for Ramallah.
Getting around Jerusalem used to be tricky time consuming and frustrating as the terrain and age of the city left clogged roads unable to handle modern population numbers. The building of the light rail line has mitigated this but where the light rail doesn't go the going may still be slow.
Cabs are plentiful in the city of gold. You can probably flag one down quickly by walking to the nearest busy street. Just in case this doesn't work, it is good to have the number of a cab company ready, or to install the Gett smartphone app.
Be warned as the drivers may try to rip you off by "taking the scenic route" or charging a fixed price instead of on the meter. Insist that the driver turns on the meter (moneh) and you should have no problems. If the driver will not activate the meter, get out and take a different one. If you have the meter on, cabs are relatively cheap.
Note that a private taxi is called "moneet" in Hebrew, and "taxi" by Arabs. Both differ from the shared taxi ("sherut" or "servees"), which runs fixed routes for many people like a bus. However, unlike buses sherut do not take rav-kav.
Driving a car in Jerusalem is not recommended. In the central areas (roughly between the Central Bus Station and the Old City), the main streets are mostly reserved for public transportation, and the streets cars can go on are narrow and very confusing to navigate. Then, when you reach your destination, there will be no place to park your car. Elsewhere in the city, it is easy to drive, but still hard to find parking. If you can't use public transportation, taxis are probably a better option than cars.
If you insist on visiting the Old City by car, park in the Karta garage in Mamilla, close to Jaffa Gate. Only Old City residents are allowed to drive into the Old City.
By light rail
The Jerusalem Light Rail line opened in 2011. It links the north-eastern neighborhoods to the south-western neighborhoods, runs along the western side of the Old City, and passes through the city center. There are plans to construct additional lines. Its opening after long delays and controversy (not least because it crosses the 1949 armistice line) was a godsend for transportation in the city and where it does go, it is easily the best option.
The light rail runs past many areas of interest to tourists. Listed from east to west:
- the Old City (Damascus Gate and City Hall stations)
- the West Jerusalem city center - King George and Ben Yehuda streets (Jaffa Center station)
- the Mahaneh Yehuda market (Mahane Yehuda station)
- the Central Bus Station (Central Station)
- Mount Herzl and Yad Vashem (Mount Herzl station)
The ticket price is the same as bus fare (₪5.9) with free transfers between them. When you get on, tap your Rav-kav card against the reader and make sure a green light is displayed.
The light rail runs from about 05:30 to midnight. Its frequency is every 6 minutes during the day and less often at night. Like buses, it does not run on the Sabbath.
Buses are the main form of public transportation in areas not served by the light rail. Jewish and Arab bus companies run separate bus networks in Jerusalem, serving Jewish and Arab neighborhoods respectively, although there is some overlap.
The Arab bus network, in East Jerusalem, is run by Al-Safariat Al-Mowahadda ("The united traveling service"). It mainly consists of lines running radially to Arab neighborhoods from two bus stations near Damascus Gate.
The Jewish bus network is run by three bus companies, which are:
- "Egged", which serves the southern parts Jerusalem along with some lines in the northern parts of Jerusalem,
- "Superbus", which operates the trunk lines, and
- "Extra", which serves the northern parts of Jerusalem.
It serves everywhere in West Jerusalem, as well as the Old City and Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem. It is more useful for tourists, and also easier to get information about. Unlike Arab buses, its fare is integrated with the light rail (one ticket will get you unlimited rides on bus and light rail for 90 minutes after your first boarding). Also unlike Arab buses, Jewish buses do not operate on the Sabbath.
Most routes run every 15–20 minutes or better. City buses have a fixed fare of ₪5.9, paid upon boarding. Keep your receipt as proof of payment in case of inspection.
You must use "Rav Kav" for payment. Note, you can't pay the driver.
While Jerusalem is built in a mountainous area, the central areas of the city are rather flat and very walkable. Due to the altitude, the humidity level of Jerusalem is much lower than most cities in Israel, making walking quite pleasant. The Old City has to be toured by foot, not only because it is more impressive this way, but also because its narrow lanes and alleyways are mostly inaccessible to cars.
Jerusalem has bike paths, but the rights of cyclists are not always respected: you will frequently find bike paths blocked, and drivers will expect cyclists to give right of way, though they will not intentionally harm you if you force the right of way.
Bike rentals are available at the Abraham Hostel (67 Hanevi'im, Davidka square), as well as at Bilu Bikes (7 Bilu), among other places.
A bike sharing program called Jerufun, including both regular and e-bikes, exists in the city. There are various subscription options as well as one-time rental. The program has fairly good coverage in Western Jerusalem.
- Bike Jerusalem. This 3-5 hour guided tour covers most of Jerusalem's historical neighborhoods, including many places that most visitors never get to see. The tour includes The Knesset, The Valley of the Cross, Rehavia and Talbia, The German Colony, Mishkanit Shananim, Jaffa Gate the Russian Compound and Nachlaot. The ride goes through side streets, short cuts and alleys. Despite the hills around Jerusalem, the ride in the city is not as hard as people tend to think, and the ride can be modified to suit families and inexperienced riders. The Jerusalem Night ride includes a ride through the empty streets of the Old City.
Jerusalem has an amazing array of attractions for the traveler to see. The following are some of the must-sees. For more attractions see individual district articles.
The Old City is the atmospheric historical core of Jerusalem, surrounded by Ottoman period walls, filled with sites of massive religious significance and a bustling approach to life. (Please note that some sites, particularly Islamic ones, may bar members of other religions from entry or praying on the grounds.)
The most iconic site in Jerusalem is the Temple Mount/Noble Sanctuary, which is holiest site in Judaism and the third holiest in Islam. It is crowned by the magnificent gold-and-blue Dome of the Rock, which stands on the site of the ancient Jewish Temples. It also includes the Al-Aqsa Mosque (The Far Mosque), from where the Muslim prophet Muhammad is believed to have ascended to heaven.
- The Western Wall (Jewish) is a retaining wall of the Temple Mount, built 2000 years ago. It is the closest place Jews can go to the site of the Temple, so for hundreds of years it has been a destination for prayer, and for placing notes with prayers in the cracks between the wall's stones.
- Church of the Holy Sepulchre (Christian). At the end of the Via Dolorosa (Way of the sorrows) in the Christian quarter of the Old City. It is the holiest site in the world for Christians. The first church on the site was built by Queen Helena, mother of the emperor Constantine, the Holy Sepulchre is Jerusalem's number 1 site for Christian pilgrims and is consequently horribly crowded. Expect to queue for an hour or more to enter the tiny tomb chamber.
- The Jewish Quarter was completely re-built in 1969 after it came under Israeli control in the 1967 Arab-Israeli War. It still holds many ancient masterpieces such as the Hezekiah's wall (700 BCE), Burnt House (70 CE), Cardo (550 CE), and Western Wall. At the Western Wall plaza you will find The Western Wall Tunnel and the Chain of Generations center. The nearby archaeological park Davidson Centre (the Ophel) is also interesting. Inside the quarter are The Hurba Synagogue, the largest synagogue in the old city, and The Herodian Quarter museum.
- Via Dolorosa - passing through Bethesda (crusader church and Roman excavations), Franciscan Archaeological Museum and Les Seurs de Sion Monastery with its underground Roman Street
- Damascus Gate is the most elaborate gate. The vegetable market borders it. It is also near Jaafar, a renowned Jerusalem sweets store. Just outside Damascus Gate you can visit the Rockefeller Archaeological Museum as well as The Garden Tomb and The Tomb of the Kings
- Murestan Square with the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer
- The Armenian Cathedral and Museum
- Maronite Church
Jerusalem's exact boundaries have varied over the ages. Some of the most historic important sites are located just outside the current city walls in East Jerusalem, including all sites from the time of King David and earlier.
- City of David – On the south-east corner of the old city, is an archeological site from the time of King David. The water Hezekiah's Tunnel was built by the Biblical King Hezekiah which you can now walk through, is accessed from here.
- The Garden Tomb on Nablus Road, East Jerusalem marks what many believe is the location of Calvary and the tomb of Jesus. The tomb is located in a lush big garden which is a good break away from the hustle and bustle of East Jerusalem. Must do, but only open in the afternoons.
- Mount of Olives with numerous monuments including: Kidron Valley Monuments, Maria's Tomb, The Ascension Chapel, Domini Flevit Church, Church of All Nations, Tombs of the Prophets, Jewish Cemetery, Pater Noster Church, The Muscoviya. The Mount of Olives also has probably the best view of the Old City from the outside.
- Mount Zion with several monuments including: Hagia Maria Sion Abbey (Dormition Church), Schindler's Tomb, Chamber of the Holocaust (Martef HaShoah), David's Tomb and Room of the Last Supper
- Mount Herzl, the burial place of Theodor Herzl and four of Israel's prime ministers, with a museum about Herzl's life; national ceremonies are held here.
- Mahane Yehuda is a great market with locals and tourist blending together to enjoy the local specialties, fruits and atmosphere. Great for shopping and eating around randomly.
- The Biblical Zoo
- Visit the Belzer Rebbe's tish on Friday night in Charedi Jerusalem (men only!) or just wander around Ultra Orthodox neighborhood of Mea Shearim in decent attires
- Mishkenot Sha'ananim the first modern neighborhood outside the Old City, a beautiful cluster of small cobbled streets
Jerusalem is full of museums; here are a few of the most important ones.
- The Israel Museum is the largest and most famous museum in Israel, particularly noted for its historic treasures including the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Aleppo Codex.
- Yad Vashem is Israel's Holocaust museum.
- The Tower of David (Citadel) is the famous tower at Jaffa Gate, now a museum of Jerusalem history. The museum uses the chambers and room of the Jerusalem citadel as exhibition rooms, each exhibition is dedicated to a specific period in the history of Jerusalem. The exhibitions are chronologically ordered. At nights, the museum present a spectacular night-show of lights and sounds, screened on the citadel, telling the story of the history of Jerusalem (this must be pre-ordered).
- The Museum For Islamic Art - The museum includes several exhibitions including ancient clocks exhibition.
- Bible Lands Museum - Next to the Israel Museum, this museum provides a detailed look at the ancient societies of the Middle East.
- Rockefeller Museum, 27 Sultan Suleiman St (just outside the Old City Wall, near Herod's Gate—a short ride from the Jerusalem Municipality. Buses: 1 and 2), ☏ , fax: , [email protected]. Su M W Th 10:00-15:00, Sa 10:00-14:00, Tu F closed. Today a branch of the Israel museum, Rockefeller museum was opened in 1938. The museum is dedicated to archaeological finds in the Holy Land.
- The Friends o Zion Museum- Located in the city center the museum tells the stories of the friends of Zion - non-Jewish people that have helped the Jews establish a state. http://www.fozmuseum.com/
- Ramparts Walk - view the city from atop of the Old City walls. There are two different routes: the northern route starts from inside the old city by the Jaffa gate and circles the Christian quarter and the Muslim quarter. The southern route starts from outside the Jaffa gate and circles the Armenian quarter and the Jewish quarter.
- Western Wall Tunnels is a tour that is well worth your time. The guides there are well versed in the history of the wall and the explanation of the first two temples and the subsequent construction of the Dome of the Rock will create a great picture of the conflict between relevant cultures. Reservations are recommended, but individual walk-ins can sometimes be squeezed in.
- The City of David water tunnels tour is interesting. It is located down the road from the Dung Gate (near the Western Wall), follow the signs. The tour lasts around 2 hours and starts with a description of the City of David. It culminates in a 25 minute walk through the water channel cut to bring fresh water into Jerusalem from a nearby spring. Sandals and a torch are required! The water is ankle deep for most of the tour.
- Mahane Yehuda is the main outdoor market of West Jerusalem. Large, loud, and labyrinthine, the market boasts a huge number of stalls, generally open Sunday to Thursday 08:00-20:00, and F 08:00-15:00, closed Shabbat. Fresh produce, pastries, spices, salads abound. Definitely the place for a bargain and a unique insight into traditional Israeli culture. When the shops close in the evening, the night life opens up - in the last few years the Shuk has become a destination for bars, restaurants, and music at night.
- Jerusalem is an amazing city for children and children's events. Each museum runs special child programs during the summer including Recycle workshops at the Israel Museum, Costumed tours of the Bible Lands Museum and the Museum of the Underground Prisoner. The Jerusalem Theater has a full schedule of children's theater and even opera. For a full list of children's events and attractions see www.funinjerusalem.com For teens there is mini golf, segway tours, bowling, go karting, extreme sports, carpentry workshop and Kad V'Chomer (paint your own ceramics). Fun In Jerusalem also has a full list of swimming pools open to the public which come in handy during the hot summer months.
- The Jerusalem Trail
- Free Walking Tours run by Sandeman's New Europe Tours start at the Jaffa gate and run twice every day. They visit all four quarters of the old city, and are an excellent way to get a first impression of the old city. The guides can be easily recognized by their red shirts and expect a tip at the end of the tour.
- Jerusalem Segway Tours. Ride a Segway around Jerusalem's historic sites while receiving a guided tour of the city's history. No Segway experience necessary.
- Eco Israel Tours, ☏ , , [email protected]. For people interested in the environment this tour offers visitors to Israel the opportunity to head off the beaten-path and to experience a side of Israel rarely seen by visitors and students. They expose groups first-hand to Israel’s natural beauty, as well as its living, breathing culture of innovation. Despite its challenges, Israel is a global leader in green solutions to environmental problems. Eco Israel Tours provides an interactive, dynamic experience of this exciting world within Israel by exploring contemporary challenges and solution such as water and energy. For more information or to sign up for a tour, contact Yonatan Neril, Eco Israel Tours director.
- Jerusalem Studies Tour. Tours are provided every week by the Al-Quds University Center for Jerusalem Studies. Including tours of the Old City settlements, Ramparts and the tunnels. Tour guides are academics and historians who focus on the Palestinian perspective.
- Lights in Jerusalem Festival. While the Old City walls always look dramatic, they look even more spectacular for one week each June, when artists from around the world come and illuminate the Old City with their creations. Every year this festival is more popular, and involves more of the Old City, than the year before.
- Hutzot HaYotzer - International Arts and Crafts Festival. A large fair featuring hundreds of artists and artisans displaying and selling their works, as well as performances, concerts, and other events. Held for two weeks each August, in the Sultan's Pool just west of the Old City.
- Jerusalem March. Takes place during Sukkot each year, when thousands of marchers from around the world come to express their love for Jerusalem.
- Jerusalem International Oud Festival. A series of concerts on the oud (a classic Middle Eastern instrument), held every year around October–November.
- Palm Sunday. A reenactment of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Participants gather at the Church of Bethpage and descend the Mount of Olives, singing hymns and bearing palm fronds.
Jerusalem offers a wide range of educational programs, which include:
- The Rothberg International School – part of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
- Yad Vashem runs a number of educational courses treating the subject of the Holocaust and Genocide Studies.
- Al Quds University offers many different programs to foreign students, as well as special summer courses to improve your Arabic skills.
- All Nations Cafe organizes summer caravans where internationals can learn about the social, political and cultural aspects of life in and around Jerusalem.
- AISH Hatorah Offers walk-in interactive discussions and lectures that cover topics such as: Being Jewish in today's world, defining the major tenents in Jewish thought from a rational perspective, and exploring major themes and practices in Jewish spirituality.
- Yeshiva Machon Meir Address: 2 Hameiri Ave., Kiryat Moshe: Shiurim in weekly Torah portion (parasha), religious rules (halacha), Jewish ethics (mussar). Jewish outreach. Instruction languages are Hebrew, English and Russian.
- Brigham Young University Jerusalem Center for Near Eastern Studies is a campus of Brigham Young University (owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) for study abroad programs. The center provides a curriculum that focuses on Old and New Testament, ancient and modern Near Eastern studies, and language (Hebrew and Arabic). The campus offers tours of the main building, and hosts weekly concerts.
If shopping in the Old City's markets, where almost anything can be found, be prepared to haggle. You will find beautiful and unique gifts here including jewelry, bed covers, statues, and spices, as well as more touristy goods like T-shirts with memorably funny designs.
For Judaica, the Old City's Jewish Quarter, Mea Shearim (dress modestly), Ben Yehudah St, and Emek Refaim are good places to look.
The new city center, around the Ben Yehuda pedestrian mall, is a great place to buy things and just hang out.
The Mamilla pedestrian mall just outside Jaffa Gate is a picturesque place to walk, and has a good selection of upscale international clothing stores.
Jerusalem, being a multicultural city, has food from all countries, cultures and tastes. Besides the ubiquitous falafel stands, there is European, Ethiopian, Mediterranean, and Middle Eastern food. There is also a large range of prices, from the ritzy Mamilla and Emek Refaim, to falafel stands surrounding Machaneh Yehuda and the Central Bus Station. A good rule of thumb is to look for restaurants filled with Hebrew or Arabic speaking locals. For falafel, the busiest place is probably the best, because falafel balls become less tasty the longer they are waiting out of the deep fryer.
If you keep kosher, Jerusalem is a wonderful place to visit. In the Jewish sections of the city almost everything is kosher. However you should still check for the kashrut certificate on the wall. If you don't see it and the staff cannot show it to you, it's a good sign to move along. The certificate is stamped בשרי ("basari", meat) or חלבי ("halavi", dairy). The current Jerusalem certificates are cream colored for normal certification, light purple for stricter certification ("mehuderet"), and marbled brown colored for strictest supervision ("mehadrin"). Certificates are valid for 6 or 12 months at a time (typically until Pesach or Rosh Hashana) with the expiration date prominently marked. Note it is not unusual for it to take a few days to get the new certificate up. In Haredi areas, the municipal kashrut certificate may be missing, but a certificate from a local Haredi organization will be provided. Also note that only some branches of McDonalds in Jerusalem are kosher. Kosher branches have yellow arches on a blue background, rather than the usual red background.
Despite its name, the "Jerusalem artichoke" has no connection to Jerusalem, and you won't find it used more widely here than elsewhere.
However, there is an authentic Jerusalem food - the Jerusalem mixed grill (me'orav yerushalmi), which was invented in the 1960s at one of the steakhouses near the Mahaneh Yehuda market and has since spread widely across Israel. It consists of a mixture of spicy grilled meat chunks including chicken breasts, hearts, and livers, and pieces of lamb. Nowadays you can get it as fast food wrapped in pita or laffa bread, or as a main course in sit-down restaurants. One famous place is Steakiyat Hatzot, Agrippas street; check out the photos on the wall.
Most of the nightclubs and bars are in West Jerusalem, mostly in the city center or Talpiyot district. Consult the district article for specifics.
If you are looking for alcohol stores, there is one right by the Jaffa gate and several on Jaffa Rd. One of the stores by the Generali building (located on the right side on Jaffa when you're facing the building) stocks a wide variety of different beers and also has great prices, lower than that of other stores.
The Old City has a diverse mix of small hotels, religious hospices and cheap hostels. The cheapest accommodation is found here.
West Jerusalem has a blend of B&Bs, guesthouses, small hotels and large hotels up to 5-star accommodation, including the famous King David Hotel, which is worth visiting for its architecture even if you don't stay there.
East Jerusalem contains a similar mix.
The area code prefix for Jerusalem is: 02.
With the rise of cell phones, public telephones hardly exist but they take prepaid phone cards which can be purchased at post offices, shops and lottery kiosks. They are available in the following denominations: 20 units (₪13), 50 units (₪29), or 120 units (₪60). Calls made on Saturdays and Friday evenings are 25% cheaper than the standard rate.
Coin-phones (usually ₪1) are also available. Those are private "public phones", owned and operated by shop owners.
Israeli Post offices are available for service from 08:00–12:00 and 14:00–18:00 (Su-Th) though hours may vary per branch.
- The central post office for West Jerusalem is located near the head of Jaffa Road, close to the municipality offices. Open until 19:00.
- In the Old City, post offices can be found in the Armenian Quarter near the Jaffa Gate, diagonally opposite the Tower of David Museum, as well as the Jewish Quarter on Plugat Ha-Kotel near the Broad Wall.
- A post office is in a small shopping mall on King George Street, immediately south of Jaffa street.
Israel uses the red British "pillar" post boxes in some areas of Jerusalem, a reminder of the previous British Mandate.
You will find free WiFi in buses and cafes.
Alternatively, most inexpensive cell phone plans include a few GB per month of internet data.
In the case of injury or other emergency incidents, Police services can be reached by dialing 100, Ambulance services can be reached by dialing 101, and the Fire Department can be reached by dialing 102. All emergency services employ English-speaking operators.
Due to high security levels throughout Israel, any unattended packages will be assumed to be explosive in nature and will be destroyed. Standard procedure requires that a bomb squad treat all such packages as live ordnance. A large majority of unattended packages turn out to be souvenirs that have been left by preoccupied or absent-minded tourists.
Despite alarming news headlines, Jerusalem is relatively safe for tourists. Nonetheless, Palestinians have attacked Israeli police officers and Jewish civilians, primarily with knives. Jews have committed similar attacks on Arabs, and in one case even on Gay Pride Parade participants - so check on current conditions before you go.
Non-rigorous security checks can be frequent, especially when entering hotels, cinemas/theaters and shopping areas. It is wise to carry some identification.
Like anywhere in Israel, you may notice large numbers of soldiers carrying weapons. These are generally off-duty soldiers going to and from their bases, so they have nothing to do with the security situation. However, in and around the Old City there will probably be many on-duty armed police. Also, educational tours for soldiers are often conducted in the Old City, and the IDF's "swearing in ceremony" is held near the Western Wall.
Tourists are not usually targeted in terror attacks, and most have occurred well away from tourist sites. Naturally it is important to remain vigilant and alert.
There are a few areas in the city where it is important to be mindful of one's dress, religion, and time period visiting. Here are some guidelines:
- Dress. When visiting any holy site or religious neighborhood one should dress modestly. For men this means long pants, a closed shirt with sleeves, and a head covering. For women, it means a skirt that falls below the knee, a shirt with elbow-length sleeves and no exposed cleavage or stomach. This applies to churches, mosques, and synagogues, as well as the Temple Mount (Noble Sanctuary) and Western Wall (the plaza by the Wall is essentially an open-air synagogue, and there are mosques on the Temple Mount), and Haredi neighborhoods such as Mea Shearim.
- Religion. It is not safe for noticeably Jewish people (e.g. wearing a kippah or speaking Hebrew) to enter Muslim neighborhoods. This includes the Muslim Quarter of the Old City, though the heavy police presence there makes it safer. It is also somewhat unsafe for Arabs to enter Haredi neighborhoods, or to enter the Jewish city center very late at night when Jewish youth have been drinking.
- Time. Non-Muslims are not allowed on the Temple Mount (Noble Sanctuary) during times of Muslim prayer. During Shabbat and Jewish holidays, one should not publicly use electronic devices or smoke in any synagogue, at the Western Wall, or in any Haredi neighborhood. (Smoking is, otherwise, rather common in Israel, so nonsmokers should also be forewarned.) Driving in Haredi neighborhoods on Shabbat and Jewish holidays is not allowed, and roads may be closed off. During Ramadan, eating, drinking or smoking in the streets of Muslim areas is culturally insensitive, although tourists are rarely interfered with.
Due to the mixture of religions, and the mixture of cultures within religions, tensions can sometimes be high. Avoid any confrontations between locals. Although extremely rare, some locals may carry xenophobic attitudes and ask foreigners to leave the area near their home. You have the right to see all of Jerusalem, but moving along to another area will resolve the situation.
Street crime is nearly nonexistent, although pickpockets may work in the Old City.
On the whole, theft is not a large-scale problem. To minimize risk, however, normal precautions apply. Do not leave valuable objects inside a car or in full view in your hotel room. There are many ATMs throughout the city and credit cards are widely accepted, so there is no need to carry large amounts of cash.
Consulates and embassies
Most countries maintaining embassies in Israel keep them in nearby Tel Aviv, with the notable exception of the United States. However, they often maintain a consulate in Jerusalem as well. The US embassy moved here in 2018, and some US allies have announced an intention to either move an existing embassy to Jerusalem or open a new one there.
- Greece (Consulate), 31 Rachel Immenu, Kattamon, ☏ , fax: , [email protected]. M-F: 09:00-16:00.
- Guatemala (Embassy), 11th Floor Tower Building, Technology Park Malha Jerusalem, ☏ , . M-Th 09:00-15:00, F 09:00-14:00.
- 1 United States (Embassy), 14 David Flusser (Near the former Diplomat Hotel, now the Caprice Diamond Center), ☏ . Provides services to U.S. citizens in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza.
- UK (Consulate), 19 Nashashibi St, Sheikh Jarrah Quarter, ☏ .
One of the three Arab bus stations near Damascus gate will serve the Palestinian city you want to go to next. If you are heading towards an Israeli city in the west, start at the CBS in West Jerusalem. See above.
- Abu Gosh
- Bethlehem – The biblical birthplace of Jesus and hometown of David, surrounded by Mar Saba Monastery and Herodium (Herodion) Park.
- Ramallah – Not so exciting, but a good starting point going further north in the West Bank. De facto seat of government of the Palestinian authority.
- Nablus – One of the oldest cities in the world and famous for its Kunafa/Kenafeh. If you are on a tight schedule and planning to go to Ramallah, you might want to skip the latter for this more exciting Palestinian city.
- Jericho – One of the oldest settlements in the world and the Middle East, and a great starting point for Kalya Beach at the Dead Sea. The latter being one of the most famous things to see/do in Israel and Jordan.
- Tel Aviv – A big and the most cosmopolitan city in Israel, well known for its club culture.
There are direct shared taxis to King Hussein "Allenby" Bridge for Jordan, for ₪38 plus ₪4 per luggage – pick up from Al-Souq Al-Tijaree "The commercial souq" not far away from the main bus station. Regarding visa regulation see Palestinian territories#Go next.
|Routes through Jerusalem|
|Tel Aviv ← Ben Gurion airport, Abu Gosh ←||W E||→ Ma'ale Adumim → Dead Sea|
|Lod, Modiin ←||W E||→ Jerusalem|
|Tel Aviv ← Lod, Ramla ←||W E||→ Jerusalem|