Travel to Jerusalem

Jerusalem Old Town walls

Travel to Jerusalem is difficult to summarise in one post! There is so much history to learn about and the modern culture is diverse and interesting. There are three main religions in Jerusalem – Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. And there are distinct areas and places of worship for each of these in the Old Town. The city is walkable and there are things to see throughout the Old Town and walking up the Mount of Olives. The food was delicious and fresh, and the smell of bread is in the air throughout the old town. Although I experienced being there during Passover when unleavened grains are restricted in many places, the unleavened bread was still plentiful.

As a visitor, I felt safe walking around during the day and did not walk a lot by myself at night. However, I was sometimes bothered by men asking me a lot of questions including where I was staying. In addition, I had some difficulties with accessing Temple Mount due to restrictions, but eventually I found the time and place I could enter. When we were on the Western Wall underground tour, our Jewish tour guide said it was not safe for Jewish people to walk in the Muslim area at night. In fact, since our tour was ending at sundown, instead of exiting outside, we retraced our steps to exit where we had entered near the Western Wall.

The city itself was incredible and I could have spent more time there exploring, but I only had four days. During that time, I also took 1.5 days for trips out of Jerusalem. It is closer to reach Masada, the Dead Sea and Bethlehem from Jerusalem than from Tel Aviv.

This post is a short guide to travel to Jerusalem, in addition to the guide already shared on visiting Israel.

Mount of Olives, Jerusalem
Mount of Olives, Jerusalem
Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where Jesus was laid after the crucifixion
Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where Jesus was laid after the crucifixion
Temple Mount, Jerusalem
Temple Mount, Jerusalem

Highlights

  • Wander through the Old City. I first entered via Damascus gate and then wound my way through the beautiful, narrow streets
  • West Wall including the underground tunnel tour, so fascinating and you can feel the history
  • Temple Mount to see the beautiful mosque- be aware that this is only open to the public at certain times
  •  Church of the holy Sepulcher where it is said that Jesus was taken after the crucifixion
  • The Garden tomb where it is believed Jesus was buried and resurrected
  • Skull mountain where Jesus may have been crucified 
  • Walk up the Mount of Olives for the view of the city
  • Church of Virgin Mary’s tomb 
  • Gethsemane church
  • Mahane Yehuda market for local food and drink
  • Yad Vashem holocaust museum – sad and fascinating at the same time
  • Hurva synagogue

Before you go

  • There are border checks between Israel and Palestine so have your passport ready
  • Jerusalem is a good starting point for day trips to Bethlehem, Masada and the Dead Sea
  • Some of the synagogues have separate sections for men and women
  • The Temple Mount area in the Muslim quarter is only open to visitors on certain days so check in advance. Also visitors need to enter over the bridge near the West wall, not through other gates which are reserved for Muslims only
  • Be respectful and aware of religions as many of the interesting places to see are religious places
  • During holidays, the religious observances are followed so places may be closed and/or not serving certain foods. For example, there would be no leavened grain products (e.g. bread) served during Passover

View from the roof of the Agripas Boutique Hotel, Jerusalem
View from the roof of the Agripas Boutique Hotel, Jerusalem
Orthodox Jewish going to the West Wall for the last day of Passover
Orthodox Jewish going to the West Wall for the last day of Passover
West Wall, Jerusalem
West Wall, Jerusalem

Transport

  • I arrived in Jerusalem on the way back from Jordan, so the tour dropped me off there
  • Bein Harim tours did a great job for the day tours from Jerusalem to Masada and the Dead Sea, and also to Bethlehem
  • I took the light rail to mount Herzl and the shuttle to Yad Vashem holocaust museum
  •  The 480 bus left from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv and only took 45 minutes at a cost of 16 shekels. It was comfortable and quick. The only tricky part was that the departure area was inside a building so took me some time to find

Accommodation

  • I stayed at the Agripas Boutique hotel in Jerusalem. It was a great location within walking distance of the Old City and interesting markets. Also the breakfast was on the roof with a great view. However, I could not find a recent link and wonder if this hotel is still open…
In the tunnels of the West Wall, Jerusalem
In the tunnels of the West Wall, Jerusalem
Gethsemane church
Gethsemane church
Jerusalem Old Town
Jerusalem Old Town
Shakshuka and bread with hummus at Jachnun Bar
Shakshuka and bread with hummus at Jachnun Bar
Dinner in the Old Town, Jerusalem
Dinner in the Old Town, Jerusalem
Bread bakery in Jerusalem old town
Bread bakery in Jerusalem old town
Mahane Yehuda Market, Jerusalem
Mahane Yehuda Market, Jerusalem

Food

The Mahane Yehuda Market, Jerusalem was lively, colourful and full of fresh ingredients and places to eat. I bought a lot of snacks here like dried fruits and nuts. And I also had some delicious freshly pressed pomegranate juice. It’s fun just to walk through the market to look around.

At Jachnun bar I had a delicious dinner of shakshuka and garlic bread with hummus. It was interesting because the eggs were fried rather than poached in this version.

In my Israel post, I talked about the bread and I will mention it again because the fresh bread is so delicious! There are also many varieties to try. I especially like the Jerusalem bagels. They are lighter than an American bagel and an oval rather than circular ring.

We had a simple, tasty meal in the Old town at Basti restaurant and cafe. It was a mix of grilled meat, bread and salads. They even had a happy hour for the food! Google reviews does not rate it highly but at the time not a lot of places were open due to Passover. And we enjoyed the meal!

FAQs

Q: Do I need a tour guide?

A: No, not for walking around the Old City and to the sights around the Mount of Olives. A tour guide is required for the tour through the tunnels under the West Wall. Also for exploring places just outside of Jerusalem, I found it useful to have organised transport.

Q: Do people speak English?

A: Yes for the most part, except for smaller shops.

Q: Is it a walkable city?

A: Yes, it is walkable especially around the old city, which is compact and has many narrow, winding streets.

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