Take the holiest city in the world, mix in thousands of years of history, sprinkle it with fascinating architecture, add a splash of culture, stir in a dollop of culinary delights and then frost with modernity and you’ve got the secret recipe to the world’s pinnacle tourist destination.
Jerusalem has a little – or, actually, a lot – of everything for everyone.
The major sights are definitely a draw but a walk through a charming neighborhood or taking in magnificent views can be just as enjoyable. There are still tons of free activities to choose from. ISRAEL21c starts you off with 18 suggestions. Feel free to add your own ideas to our comments section.
1. Old City
You need at least one day – if not three — to visit Jerusalem’s most famous holy sites located inside the Old City walls. There’s the Western Wall, Temple Mount, Dome of the Rock (Al-Aqsa Mosque), Church of the Holy Sepulcher, Hurva Synagogue and Via Dolorosa, among others.
Take your time walking from site to site by getting lost in the alleyways of the shuk, taking in all the shops selling souvenirs, pottery, olive-wood mementos, clothing and food.
Each quarter of the Old City – Armenian, Jewish, Christian, Muslim – has its own ambiance and vibe. As there’s a story behind practically every stone of the Old City, this is the place to get familiar with history, theology and archaeology.
Or take yourself off the beaten path to the Austrian Hospice and enjoy the best rooftop view in the city.
2. Ein Karem neighborhood
Take a stroll around Jerusalem’s artsy and charming Ein Karem neighborhood. A favorite weekend spot for locals, tourists have the benefit of enjoying this area during the week when it’s much quieter as well.
Ein Karem is a pilgrimage site for many Christian visitors because, according to tradition, this is where Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist, miraculously became pregnant. Tradition teaches that this is also where he was born. Mary’s Well is located here, too.