In commemoration of Holy Week, I present you with the top things to do in Jerusalem. I have been one of the lucky ones to be privileged enough to visit this magical, historical city on several occasions. Thus, I can tell you one thing: Each visit is unique. The first time, I spent Eid el Adha in Israel and Palestine. Surprisingly though, my second visit was the most spiritual of all, as I was battling with depression whilst traveling with a broken heart solo on a 3-week hitchhiking/Couchsurfing journey through Israel. The energy you sense while visiting Jerusalem is powerful and, if channeled correctly, can do wonders for you. Look deep within you as you visit each site and, whoever you believe in, will touch your soul — but only if there’s faith
Wailing Western Wall
An iconic Jerusalem sight, it is best to visit at the wee-hours of Friday night/Saturday morning, when troves of Jews gather to pray and mark the start of Sabbath. Jew or not, pay respects and wear sensible clothing. If religious, enter and pray–you will experience a deep spiritual connection that you will never forget. I know I did…
Church of the Holy Sepulchre
This is the place where many believers attest that Jesus body laid for 3 days before his Resurrection. Even if you are not religious, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is one of those places that will send shivers down your spine due to the amount of concentrated spiritual energy. The incense, the artifacts, the echos, the architecture, the pilgrims–take everything in and attempt to grasp the deeper connection of it all.
Temple Mount and Dome of the Rock
One of the most controversial sights in Jerusalem, Temple Mount is where the First Temple of King Solomon (10th century BCE) and Second Temple of Persian exiles (6th century BCE) were built. Fast-forward to the year 638 CE, when Caliph Omar is said to have discovered the Foundation Stone (holy site where it is believed that Prophet Muhammad rose to heaven). Indeed, a concoction of beliefs and holy importance! Today, the Dome of the Rock lies here. Unfortunately, only Muslims are permitted to enter the actual Dome of the Rock mosque and nearby Al Aqsa Mosque. However, you may visit the surroundings of the sites on specific dates and times (vary greatly; please research thoroughly at the time for your visit). No matter the season, go early to beat the queues.
Jaffa and Damascus Gates
I have stayed by the Jaffa Gate in the Old City of Jerusalem on every occasion I have visited the Holy Land. There is something about the history, the energy of this part of town that makes it irresistible, thus taking a spot on this list of things to do in Jerusalem. Get a map and wander from Jaffa Gate all the way to Damascus Gate on the other side of the fortified Old City, taking in the street markets and different quarters. A photographer’s paradise, by the way!
For a great view of both the Old and new city of Jerusalem, I highly recommend the Ramparts walk. It traverses the four quarters of the Old City of Jerusalem, in addition to giving you spectacular views of Temple Mount, Mount of Olives, and modern Jerusalem in the background. Recommended path is from Jaffa Gate to Zion Gate, which I personally took during my first visit. Please note, quite steep steps (both ascending and descending) are found throughout the walk, so this attraction is not recommended to all travelers.
Church of Mary Magdalene, Mount of Olives
The Russian Orthodox Church of Mary Magdalene, located on Mount of Olives, is one of the most iconic sights of Jerusalem. It was built in 1886 and its golden domes are a characteristic design of 16th and 17th century Russia (Wikipedia). I had the pleasure to visit this site during my second visit to the Holy Land and it is a favorite on my list of things to do in Jerusalem. Its beauty will captivate you, inside and out.
Adventure travel in Jerusalem; Who knew!? Hezekiah’s Tunnels are definitely not for the claustrophobic and/or faint of heart! A fascinating tour takes you traveling through time, back to the 8th century BCE. As the well-reserved ancient water tunnels that they are, you must wear water-resistant footwear (rain boots work best) and bring a flashlight in order to fully enjoy the experience.