Things to do in Jerusalem: Holy Week photo essay

April 6, 2012

Israel and Palestine

things to do in Jerusalem, Dome of the Rock Temple Mount

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

things to do in Jerusalem, Western Wall

The Western Wall site (Photo: Truus, Bob & Jan of Holland, Flickr)

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

things to do in Jerusalem, Dome of the Rock Temple Mount

Dome of the Rock, Temple Mount (Photo: Jack Kuo, Flickr)

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

things to do in Jerusalem, Damascus Gate

Damascus Gate, Old Jerusalem (Photo: Mark H. Anbinder, Flickr)

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!

Ramparts walk

things to do in Jerusalem, Ramparts walk

Me walking the Ramparts with some fellow students (Photo: David Norton)

things to do in Jerusalem, Ramparts walk view

one of the many views from our Ramparts walk (David Norton)

things to do in Jerusalem, Ramparts Al Aqsa view

Al Aqsa and Mount Olives as viewed from the Ramparts (David Norton)

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

things to do in Jerusalem, Church of Mary Magdalene

Photo: Chris Yunker, Flickr

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.

Hezekiah’s Tunnels

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.

What are your favorite things to do in Jerusalem? Share them below

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20 Responses to “Things to do in Jerusalem: Holy Week photo essay”

  1. Someday I'll Be There - Mina Says:

    it is really bad that Egyptians are not allowed to visit Jerusalem (or Palestine/Israel in general). There is ALOT that I want to see in those lands!

    Reply

    • Maria Laborde Says:

      I thought I read some news about certain passes or Egyptians being allowed to go to Jerusalem this Easter? I think it was talking about the Copts though. You should look into it! Jerusalem is a fascinating city, must-see

      Reply

  2. Caro from Passport and a Toothbrush Says:

    How many days would you suggest for a visit to Jerusalem, on a budget? Love your Israel posts, very helpful!

    Reply

    • Maria Laborde Says:

      Glad to hear my posts have been useful :) Israel in general can be expensive (in comparison to other countries in the area) and will drain your budget no matter what. Plus, there is *so* much to see in Jerusalem, particularly! I recommend you buy some cheap hummus and pita from the supermarket in new Jerusalem and snack on that instead of going to restaurants so often, plus go Couchsurfing whenever possible. These practices will surely save you a lot of money. Still though, I recommend you stay at Citadel Hostel by Jaffa Gate in the Old City for a day or two (or 3!) in order to fully experience the city. Telling you exactly how many days is impossible, as each traveler has a unique pace and way of seeing a city. I have visited twice, for about 4 days each time, and still feel I must come back and checkout some stuff I missed (plus better appreciate other sites I had to “run through” on my other visits). Wish I could have a more direct answer for you, but this is all I got!

      Reply

  3. InsideJourneys Says:

    Stunning photos, Maria. I can see why it’s such a humbling and touching experience.
    Sorry bout the broken heart. Hope Jerusalem helped it heal.

    Reply

    • Maria Laborde Says:

      Jerusalem did help me put everything into perspective. It is an emotionally and spiritually charged place, forces you to meditate a lot. It was needed..

      Reply

  4. Dick Jordan Says:

    Nice shots and good use of video.

    Reply

    • Maria Laborde Says:

      Glad to hear you liked the videos! I was wondering whether I put up too many–apparently not ;) Thanks Dick

      Reply

  5. Raymond @ Man On The Lam Says:

    Oh this takes me back. I spent a week in Jerusalem many moons ago — there was an older gentleman who used to give free tours in the evening. I wonder if he’s still around?

    Reply

    • Maria Laborde Says:

      I actually took one of those free tours! It was in the afternoon, though. The red sign by Jaffa Gate? :D oh man, that brings me back to my second visit! Good times.. :)

      Reply

  6. Denise Says:

    those golden domes are beautiful

    Reply

  7. eileen ludwig Says:

    What unusual architecture – love the pictures of the sights

    Reply

    • Maria Laborde Says:

      Middle Eastern architecture is some of my favorite in the world. Everything is so intricate and unique–love it

      Reply

  8. Andrew Graeme Gould Says:

    A very interesting post, with great images! Hope you’re feeling a lot better now…

    Reply

    • Maria Laborde Says:

      It’s an on going battle. But at least I have identified what brings me down and been able to move forward. Glad you liked the post, and thank you

      Reply

  9. Nancie Says:

    Beautiful shots, and definitely makes me want to visit.

    Reply

  10. Dalena Says:

    I found the Holocast Museum is a must. It is highly disturbing but necessary to see what can happen.

    Reply

    • Maria Laborde Says:

      Too bad I missed it. But there’s many other things I didn’t see in my 2 visits, so I’m sure I’ll be coming back. Thanks for the tip

      Reply

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