Jerusalem (Hebrew: ירושלים Yerushalayim, Arabic: القدس al-Quds) is the capital and largest city of Israel, though most other countries and the United Nations do not recognize it as Israel's capital. It is a holy city to Christianity, Islam, and Judaism, and one of the oldest cities in the world. 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.
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.
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.)
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.
This area is overwhelmingly inhabited by Haredi ("ultra-Orthodox") Jews. Their distinctive culture is reflected in a distinctive feel which these neighborhoods have 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.
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 the spiritual center of the Jewish people since the 10th century BCE, the third-holiest in Islam, and one of the holiest for Christianity. It has a history of nearly 4000 years, and has been fought over and conquered countless times in that period. While the city has had a large Jewish majority since 1967, a wide range of national, religious, and socioeconomic groups are represented here.
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.
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 that 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 know as the "City of David", just outside the current Old City walls to the southeast, where a large natural spring is located.
After David died, his son Solomon built the first of two Holy Temples. The Temples were located 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. 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 the year 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 now 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.
Currently, 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').
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, 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.
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 (600m-800m 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.
Israel's main entry point for the international traveller, Ben Gurion International Airport (IATA: TLV), 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.
Note, on Shabbat you will have a hard time reaching/leaving the airport, especially taking the bus. Taxis go however, but might charge you extra due to Shabbat time. Best not to have a flight between Friday 15:00 and Saturday 20:00 into/from Israel.
- 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 (note: they have been known to refuse to enter some East Jerusalem neighborhoods, so check with your hotel, or be prepared to take a local taxi to/from a hotel where they do pick up). Going to the airport, you must reserve your seat in advance by phone. Be on time for the pickup — they don't wait. You will be dropped at Terminal 3 in the airport. Drivers have been known to shortchange you, so check the price before boarding, and check your change when it is handed back to you. If you can't afford a private taxi, Nesher is probably the best way to get between the airport and Jerusalem, though you will hate them for their rude customer service, and for taking you from address to address in Jerusalem until your address is reached. Occasionally competitors to Nesher open and fail. A real alternative to Nesher will probably have to wait for the new Jerusalem train line to open.
- By taxi - A private taxi to/from Jerusalem will cost around ₪150-200 (tourist map in Jerusalem quotes official flat price ₪197; however this is hard to reach, we were asked for about ₪300 to get to the airport, and finally paid ₪250). The driver may choose to take road 443, which goes through the West Bank on the way to Jerusalem, in which case you go through an army check-point along the way. If you are a group of three people, the taxi is price-competitive with Nesher. If you are two people, it is more expensive than Nesher, but worth it for the convenience.
- By bus - There is no direct bus between Jerusalem and the airport terminal. Take bus #5, #13, or #239 to "Tzomet El Al" (El Al road junction), then bus #947 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 train - The train does not run from Jerusalem to the airport yet. There is a train line under construction, due to open in 2018. Currently, you can take the train to Tel Aviv and transfer there to a slow Jerusalem train (schedule).
Atarot Airport, in northern Jerusalem close to Ramallah, was upgraded to take international flights, but given the security situation, it became impractical to operate. The airport has been closed since 2001 and is slated to be demolished with a new neighborhood built in its place. Some maps and signs still point to the closed airport.
Jerusalem is connected to the Israel Railway network, but the service, which follows the route of the 1892 Jaffa-Jerusalem line, is noted for its scenery rather than speed. Use the train if you have plenty of time and want to see nice mountain scenery, but not if you are in a hurry.
From Tel Aviv, take the Jerusalem route, with stops at Lod (where you can make connections to Beer Sheva, Ashkelon and Rishon LeZion), Ramla, Bet Shemesh, and arrive at Jerusalem's Malkha train station, which is inconveniently located in the south of the city. The old train station in the city center is currently out of service. A few trains also stop at the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo station, but it is within walking distance from Malkha station.
Journey time from Tel Aviv Merkaz/Savidor station to Malkha station is about 1.5 hr. There's one train per hour 05.54-19.54 on weekdays, 05.25-14.25 (15.25 in summer) on Friday, 20.10 (22.10 in summer) on Saturday. Trains from Malkha depart on weekdays 05.44-21.41 (the last one only as far as Lod), on Friday 06.00-13.56 (14.56 in summer), on Saturday at 19.47 (21.47 in summer).
From the train station there are several buses to destinations in and around Jerusalem. To downtown take bus #77 or #18, and ask for "MerKaz Ha-ir". To the central bus station, #5 is the fastest, though the #6 and #32 are alternatives. Taxis are also available.
A faster rail link (connecting Jerusalem to Tel Aviv in half an hour and Ben Gurion Airport in 20 minutes) is under construction and is scheduled to open in 2018. Its terminus will be an underground station next to the central bus station.
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.
Most intercity buses arrive at the so-called Central Bus Station (CBS) at the western edge of Jaffa Street, the city's main road. There is a light rail stop just outside the CBS, and many city buses stop there too. 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.
Two Egged bus routes connect Tel Aviv to the Jerusalem CBS. Route 405 leaves the Tel Aviv CBS about every 20 minutes from 5:50AM-midnight. Route 480 leaves the Arlozorov station (the central train station) about every 10 minutes from 5:50AM-0:10AM. Each route takes about an hour and costs about ₪18.
From the CBS it is a long but enjoyable walk (or short light rail ride) along Jaffa Road to the centre of West Jerusalem and further on to the Old City. 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). 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 5:15, while in June (summer solstice) Shabbat starts as late as 7:10 and ends at 8:30.
From the West Bank
For Jericho, Bus 36 or 63 (₪6.80, 20 min) to/from HaNeviim station (near Damascus Gate) go through 1 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 (₪12, 30 min). Alternatively, bus 263 (₪6.80) to/from the Sultan Sulliman Terminal, also close to the Damascus gate, will stop at this interchange junction too.
For more information on the Arab bus stations have a look at the relevant section of East Jerusalem.
All Israeli bus lines going through the West Bank (e.g. from the Dead Sea) can also be boarded to go into Jerusalem. Note however, that the buses will not let you off again before Jerusalem.
On the Sabbath, and very late at night, your only option 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.
Shared taxis are also the best option if travelling from Jerusalem to Palestinian cities, especially Ramallah and Bethlehem. The main bus station (On Sultan Suleiman street, next to the Rockfeler Museum) serves the surrounding Palestinian towns and villages, including Abu-Dis (Line 36), and Bethlehem (Line 124), those buses are colored mostly in blue strips. Another bus terminal, on Nablus road (Straight on from the Damascus gate) serves Ramallah, other main Palestinian cities. There is a shared taxi direct to/from the Allenby bridge (The border crossing with Jordan), for ₪38 plus ₪4 (Dec 2011) per 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.
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. Elsewhere in the city, it is easy to drive, but still hard to find parking. If you can't rely on 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 in the future.
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 (around ₪6) with free transfers between them. When you get on, tap your card against the reader. The fare inspectors are very unfriendly if they catch you not having paid correctly, even accidentally!
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 Egged bus company. 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.
The official map of Egged routes is available here. This map is not kept up to date when routes change, but as of 2016, the changes from this map are very minor. Most routes run every 15-20 minutes or better. City buses have a fixed fare of about ₪6, paid upon boarding. Keep your receipt as proof of payment in case of inspection.
It is possible to pay the fare in cash, and the driver gives change. However, it is highly recommended to use the the "Rav Kav" smart card for payment instead. Free transfers to other lines are available only when using the Rav Kav.
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.
In recent years, a number of bike paths have opened in Jerusalem. However, 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. The city does not provide bike sharing.
- 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 most holy Christian spot in the world. 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 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—Jerusalem most renowned 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 neighbourhood of Mea Shearim in decent attires
- Mishkenot Sha'ananim the first modern neighbourhood 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: , e-mail: email@example.com. Sun, Mon, Wed, Thu: 10:00-15:00, Sat: 10:00-14:00, Tue, Fri: 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 Western Wailing Wall/underground is a tour that is well worth your time. The female guide there was 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. A reservation should be made through your hotel. 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.
- Jerusalem is an amazing city for kids and kids events. Each museum runs special kids 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 kids theater and even opera. For a full list of kids 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.
- 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 (For more information or to sign up for a tour, contact Yonatan Neril, Eco Israel Tours director.), ☎ , e-mail: , firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.
- 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 offers a wide range of educational programmes, 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 [dead link] 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.
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 the multicultural city that it is, has food from all countries, cultures, and tastes. Besides the ubiquitous falafel stands, there is European, Ethiopian, Mediterranean, and Middle Eastern foods. There is also a large ranges in 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 you it, 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, check it out!
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 — all the way 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.
Public telephones 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 8AM–12PM and 2PM–6PM, Sunday through Thursday, 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 7PM.
- 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 Jaffo street.
Israel uses the red British "pillar" mail 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.
Palestinian Israeli conflict
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, recently an upsurge of violence, in which individual 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 carry 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 usually are not the target of 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.
Most countries maintaining embassies in Israel keep them in nearby Tel Aviv. However, they often maintain a consulate in Jerusalem as well.
- Greece, 31 Rachel Immenu, Kattamon, ☎ , fax: , e-mail: email@example.com. M-F: 09:00-16:00.
- United States, 14 David Flusser (Near the former Diplomat Hotel, now the Caprice Diamond Center), ☎ , fax: , e-mail: JerusalemACS@state.gov.
- UK, 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.
- 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 planing 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.
- Tel Aviv – A big and the most cosmopolitan city in Israel, well known for its club culture.
- Dead Sea – One of the most famous things to see/do in Israel and Jordan.
- Allenby Bridge Crossing – to neighboring Jordan. It is an Israeli-managed crossing mainly used by Palestinians to travel internationally because Palestinians are required by Israel to use the airport in Amman, Jordan rather than the airport in Tel Aviv. Because this border crossing is located in the Palestinian Territories, it has a different status than the rest of the Israeli-managed crossings. This crossing and this crossing only requires tourists who use it to enter Jordan to have an entry visa before using the crossing. Make sure to have a valid, non-expired entry visa (preferably multi-entry) for Jordan before using this crossing to get into Jordan, or else you will not be allowed across. Entry visas for Jordan can be received in advance at the Jordanian embassy in Ramallah, West Bank or Ramat Gan, Israel.
|Routes through Jerusalem|
|Tel Aviv ← Ben Gurion airport, Abu Gosh ←||W E||→ Ma'ale Adumim → Dead Sea|