You do not need to be Jewish, Christian, or Muslim, or even be overly concerned with religion, to be overwhelmed. With archaeology dating back to the time of the Bible, anyone with a sense of history, spirituality or the human species should be absorbed by the tremendous weight of human civilization that cloaks nearly every part of the city. It is an inhabited, living city - not a deserted museum or monument. Humanity's passion play has been constant revival at this location for most of the length of recorded history.
The Old City is surrounded by a wall built in the first half of the 16th century by the Ottoman Turk, Suleyman the Magnificent. The 4-km (2.5-mile) circuit is accessed by eight gates, of which seven remain in current use. The gates are, in clockwise order starting in the west:
Jaffa GateOn the western side of the city (access from West Jerusalem), next to the Citadel. The busiest of the seven Old City gates, Jaffa Gate has a large taxi rank for easy access in and out of the Old City. Inside Jaffa Gate is a small square with a tourist information office, access staircases for the Ramparts Walk (see below), and entrances to the Christian and Armenian Quarters. The L shape of the medieval gateway was a classical defensive measure meant to slow down oncoming attackers, with its outer gate oriented in the direction of Jaffa Road, from which travellers including pilgrims arrived at the end of their journey from the port of Jaffa. A breach in the wall allows cars access to the Old City and was created in 1898 by the Ottomans in order to allow German emperor Wilhelm II to enter the city triumphally.
New GateOn the northwestern edge of the Old City, the closest gate to West Jerusalem and convenient for entry to the Christian Quarter. It was the last gate cut into the city wall, in 1889. The New Gate has access to the City Hall and a light rail station just outside the walls.
Damascus GateOn the northern side of the city (access from East Jerusalem), it is the most monumental of all the gates. The Damascus Gate has access staircases for the Ramparts Walk (see below) via the Roman Square Excavations. A taxi rank and some parking are available just outside the walls. A bus station and a light rail station ate 2 blocks northeast of the gate.
Herod's GateOn the northern side of the city, it faces Arab East Jerusalem and opens into the Muslim Quarter. Its name originates from the 1500s when Christian pilgrims wrongly thought that the house inside the gate was the palace of Herod the Great's son. In Hebrew it is known as the Flower Gate due to carvings of flowers on the outside.
Lions' GateOn the eastern side of the city, it faces the Mount of Olives and is the start of the Via Dolorosa. The name St. Stephen's Gate was adopted in the Middle Ages by Christians who believed that the first Christian martyr, St. Stephen, was executed here (prior to that, however, it had been generally accepted that St Stephen had been stoned to death outside Damascus Gate). There are small carvings of lions on the outside of the gate, hence the name Lion's Gate.
Golden GateOn the east wall of the Temple Mount/Haram esh-Sharif, it was long ago sealed shut by the Muslims in the 7th century. According to tradition the Messiah will arrive in the Temple via this gate, and according to Christian tradition Jesus entered through this gate on Palm Sunday.
Dung GateOn the southern side of the city, it provides direct access to the Jewish quarter and the Western Wall. This is the terminal of buses 1 and 3. The City of David is just outside this gate.
Zion GateOn the southern side of the city, it provides direct access to the Armenian and Jewish Quarters from Mount Zion. The outside of the gate is pockmarked by bullet-holes due to fierce fighting here in 1948 between the Israelis and the Jordanians. The Arabic name of the gate is Bab el-Nabi Daud (Gate of the Prophet David), because of its proximity to the traditional location of King David's Tomb. Parking is available just outside the gate.
By light rail
The Jerusalem Municipality usually recommends light rail as the best way to get to the Old City, particularly on holidays when there are many visitors. Each station is about a two-minute walk from the Old City walls.
- (העיריה) is the closest station to Jaffa Gate and the New Gate. It should be used for the Christian, Armenian and Jewish Quarters.
- (שער שכם) station is the closest to the Damascus Gate. It should be used for the Muslim and Christian quarters.
- 1: Central Bus Station - Sarei Yisrael - Malchei Yisrael (Geulah) - Meah Shearim - Damascus Gate - Western Wall
- 3: Central Bus Station - Kiryat Mattersdorf - Sorotzkin - Kiryat Tzanz - Ezrat Torah - Shmuel HaNavi - Damascus Gate - Western Wall
- 8: Jewish Quarter Parking lot - First Station - Mamilla - Jewish Quarter Parking lot.
- 38: Jewish Quarter Parking lot - First Station - King George St - Davidka Square - Mamilla - Jewish Quarter Parking lot.
- 218: Ramallah/Al-Bireh - Qalandia - Beit Hanina - (almost) Herod's Gate
- 231: Bethlehem/Beit Jala - Talpiot - Jaffa Gate - Damascus Gate
- Other East Jerusalem - buses with blue stripes all terminate near the Damascus Gate; buses with green stripes all terminate 2 minutes walk from Herod's Gate.
By carIf you arrive by car, be aware of the limited parking space. The streets outside the Old City walls are usually reserved for buses and taxicabs; parking of private cars is prohibited.
With a private guideThere's no doubt that Jerusalem is overwhelming not to mention scattered. If you only have a day or two to see the city and you'd like to visit many places in a short time, hiring a local private guide that has his own van might be the right thing for you instead of dealing with a rented car & parking for those days. (Note that there is virtually no vehicular access to the Old City, which is most conveniently accessed on foot and is within walking distance of many hotels in the New City.) However, when choosing a guide, try to ask the right questions and advise him/her with a plan that will fit your interest. You'll know the person is a good private tour guide if he will tailor a tour according to your needs.
Note: The Old City contains many small alleys and tiny streets that often do not appear in guidebooks and street maps. Major roads are almost always signed, so do not simply rely on the map and take the next left/right as it may not be the road you are looking for.
The Western WallPart of the western retaining wall of the Temple Mount, it was built by Herod the Great during his expansion of the Temple in 20 BCE. The wall became the Jews' chief place of pilgrimage during the Ottoman Period. In this period it become known as the "Wailing Wall", where Jews lamented the destruction of the Temple by the Romans in 70 CE. This is still the closest site to the Temple where Jews can pray (many rabbis say Jews are forbidden by Jewish law from ascending the Temple Mount, and in any case secular and Muslim authorities do not allow Jews to pray on the Temple Mount). The plaza in front of the Wall is divided by a fence, with a large area for men on the left and a smaller area for women on the right. Anyone is allowed to approach the wall - complimentary kippahs are provide for men who come bare-headed, while shawls are provided for women who do not come appropriately dressed (shoulders, chest, midriff, and thighs covered). The wall acts as an outdoor synagogue with written prayers inserted into the crevices between the large stones. Photography is not allowed on the Sabbath (Friday night and Saturday until sundown). Monday and Thursday mornings many bar mitzvahs are held, drawing large crowds of families and guests. Friday night at sundown there is the welcoming of the Sabbath (Kabbalat Shabbat) which includes prayers, singing and dancing.
Western Wall Tunnel TourThis is a tour of the underground parts of the Western Wall, including the evolution of the Temple Mount from the First Temple period to today. A wonderful tour for those interested in the archeology and history of the Temple Mount. You will see enormous stones underlying the Western Wall, an underground synagogue (the nearest spot to the Temple site, where Jews are allowed to pray), a pool and a water tunnel from Herod's time. The tour must be booked in advance but is well worth the advanced preparation. During the low season, you can also try your luck and join an excursion without the reservation.
Saint Mary's HospiceThe ruins of a 12th-century German Crusader Hospice within view of the Temple Mount. Worth a short visit. A Jewish art gallery/shop is to the left of the door to the hospice's church (it's pretty obvious which of the buildings is the church).
The CardoOnce running nearly the entire length of the Old City from north to south, the Cardo is an excavated and partially reconstructed section of the Jerusalem's main thoroughfare in the Byzantine era. Visitors can get a good idea of how the whole once looked by descending to the 200 m (650 ft) section alongside the Jewish Quarter. The central roadway was 12.5 m (41 ft) wide and lined with shops. The pillars from that time still stand. Today in part, the Cardo contains an exclusive, covered shopping arcade.
Hurva SquareIn a maze of narrow and winding streets, Hurva Square is the heart and social center of the Jewish Quarter. Its open areas offer cafes, souvenir shops, and snack bars with outdoor seating. On the west side of the square is the site of the Hurva Synagogue (Hurva means "ruins"). Burnt down by its creditors in the 18th century, the synagogue was rebuilt in 1864 only to be destroyed during the 1948 fighting. After 1967, a lone arch was reconstructed from the remaining shell, making it a popular photographic attraction. In 2006, however, the arch was removed and reconstruction of the synagogue commenced. The synagogue was re-dedicated in 2010, and is now available for tours (must be pre-booked).
The Broad WallFollowing the 1967 Israeli victory, a vast reconstruction program in the Jewish Quarter resulted in many important archaeological finds. One of the most significant was the unearthing of the foundations of a massive wall. These fortifications, measuring 7 m (22 ft) thick and 65 m (215 ft) long, are possibly part of the fortifications built by King Hezekiah in the 8th century BC. This wall can be freely viewed outdoors.
Burnt HouseThis house was inhabited by a wealthy priestly family at the end of the Second Temple period, and burned down by the Romans in 70 CE.
Davidson CenterThis area on the southern side of the Temple Mount had been rebuilt many times over the centuries. Remains from the Herodian (34–4 BCE), Byzantine (395–661 CE) and Omayyad (661–750 CE) periods can be found on the grounds. Guided tours are available for an additional ₪16.
Karaite Synagoguephone: +972 2-628-6688, +972 2-627-4728, +972 50-212-1045address: HaKaraim StThe Karaite Jews, numbering 30-50,000 worldwide, are a unique sect of Judaism that has been at odds with mainstream rabbinic Judaism for centuries. The Karaites reject the Talmud (Oral Law) and only rely on the Torah, Prophets, and Writings. You must call ahead for a tour of the synagogue. Tours are only in Hebrew, but it might be possible to pre-arrange English or Russian.
Wohl Archaeological MuseumLying 3 to 7 m (10 to 22 ft) below street level. This Museum offers a vivid excavation of daily life during the Herodian era, 2,000 years ago before the Romans rampaged and burned the wealthy Upper City in AD 70. Photography inside the museum is not allowed.
Temple InstituteA fairly interesting place which has reconstructed most of the more obvious ritual tools to be used in the Temple services in the hopes of one day restoring the Temple itself. The front of the store is a bookstore/souvenir shop, while the back is a four room museum with one room set aside as a theater to show a 15 minute movie. Dress appropriately when going here - long pants and sleeves for men, and modest wear for women. The shop is a great place to find unique Jewish souvenirs and Judaica - worth browsing even if you don't plan on buying anything.
phone: +972 2-6276319address: 6 Or Ha-Haim StThe history of the Jewish community in the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem from the beginning of the 15th century until the fall of the Quarter in the War of Independence.
phone: +972 2-6273916A small museum which documents the day in 1948 on which the Jewish Quarter fell to Jordanian forces. Located on the Cardo.
Chain of Generations centerNext to the Western Wall, a combination of art, sound-and-light presentation, and archaeological remains tells the story of 3000 years of Jerusalem's history. Must reserve in advance.
phone: +972 2-6230025address: 56 Chabad StA gallery of the paintings of artist Moshe Tzvi Berger, particularly a set of 150 paintings, each one representing one chapter from the book of Psalms.
The Armenian Quarter is the smallest and quietest of the four. The quarter runs itself as a city within a city (within a city...), shutting the gates of its courtyards when night falls.
phone: +972 2-6265333address: Jaffa GateNow occupied by the Tower of David Museum of the History of Jerusalem, the Citadel is an imposing fortress inside the city wall beside the Jaffa Gate. Utilized and expanded throughout the centuries as a means of protection, excavations have revealed remains dating back to the 2nd century BC and indicate that there was a fortress here in Herodian times. The museum provides visitors with 3 routes highlighting different aspects of the Citadel, namely: Exhibit, Panorama and Excavation. The routes are advisory only and provided for visitors' convenience. An 1873 model of Jerusalem is on display in an underground cistern near the exit. At night there is a sound-and-light show of Jerusalem's history, which is visually impressive but somewhat light in terms of content. Buy tickets for the show online ahead of time, it sells out.
St. James CathedralThis Armenian cathedral is one of the most beautiful of all the sacred buildings in Jerusalem. It was constructed in the 11th and 12th centuries over the traditional tomb of St James the Apostle. Attending an Armenian Orthodox vespers service is a treat, even for non-believers. Vespers is held each evening (except Sunday) at 15:00 and lasts until 15:30. It is chanted by the seminarians of the Armenian Orthodox seminary across the street from the Cathedral. The chanting is very moving and has a bitter-sweet tone to it which is unforgettably beautiful. Each afternoon the service is signaled by a priest striking wooden bars hanging from the vaulted porch. The interior is dimly lit by hundreds of oil lamps hung from the ceiling. (Make sure to find out if there is an Armenian holy day where all of the lamps will be lit up during your visit.) Rather than seats, the floors are thickly laid with Oriental rugs. The cathedral contains a chapel that supposedly holds the head of St James.
Saint Mark's Syriac Church and MonasteryThe monastery is open all day, simply ring at the gate. According to tradition, this church was built on the site of the house of Mary, mother of St Mark. Every weekday the three resident monks hold the 25-minute vespers service at 16:00 for the small community of Syriac believers as well as visitors. Female visitors are not required to cover their hair during services.
Armenian MuseumLocated slightly down the street from Saint James Cathedral, it is housed in what was once either the monastery or the guest house for the Armenian Monastery of Saint James. The museum holds an impressive and very well documented collection demonstrating the history of Armenia both religious and secular. Even for those who are not usually museum goers, it is an easily accessible, yet informative glimpse into Armenians long history. In addition, the grounds are very beautiful with a double story colonnade built around a central court yard.
The Christian Quarter, the result of rapid expansion under Byzantine rule, is in the northwest corner of the city and is home to a bewildering array of churches, patriarchates and hospices of the city's many Christian denominations. The quarter is served by the Jaffa Gate and the New Gate.
Church of the Holy SepulchreThe Holy Sepulchre is a large building spanning several areas in which Christ is believed by Christians to have been crucified and died, was buried, and then rose from the dead on the third day. Eastern Orthodox Christians, Roman Catholics, and Oriental Orthodox Christians are each allotted separate areas in the church dating largely to the time of Saladin. The Roman Catholics received their parts due almost purely to the Crusaders and, like all Roman Catholic shrines in the Holy Land, the Roman Catholic part is under the custodianship of the Terra Sancta (i.e. Franciscans). Parts of the Holy Sepulchre are controlled by several different branches of the Christian Church, who have historically been somewhat at odds with each other. It is important to note that the "church" is not one church in the sense of a building with an altar and podium near the front, but rather a "warehouse" of churches even for each denomination present: each has several altars and chapels. The Orthodox Church makes up the largest of the churches there and is situated in the center directly to the east and in front of the Sepulcher as well as at Golgatha. The Armenians have several smaller altars and chapels throughout the edifice as well as a fairly large church called "Saint Helen's" but often referred to as "Saint Gregory (the Illuminator of Armenia)." The Roman Catholics have two chapels, the Ethiopians have one in addition to a monastery on the roof, the Copts have a small altar behind the Sepulchre itself, and there is a small yet beautiful Syriac chapel up some stairs near the Coptic altar, though it is usually closed. There are even what are known as "ecumenical altars" set up on the sides in various areas which are apparently almost purely decoration and are rarely if ever used. There are many pathways and exploring here makes for a few hours of fun for those who love religious art and architecture. The best time to come is early in the morning and make your way out by 11:00. Even after sundown it is incredibly crowded. Be warned though, if you are wearing shorts, you might be barred access to the building itself but if not, then certainly to individual churches and without a doubt to the sepulchre. Women should have their shoulders covered, no cleavage, and dresses should go below the knee. Do not wear anything which might be considered even the slightest bit risqué. If you do not oblige, they will turn you back. Upon entering the church immediately in front of you is a stone slab set in the floor with a pillar at each corner. This is the Stone of Unction on which, it is claimed, Jesus' body was laid and prepared for burial. Turn right and ascend a steep, narrow flight of stairs to what is claimed to be Golgotha. There are altars here marking the location of the crosses on which Jesus and the two thieves were crucified. It is possible to crawl under the left-hand altar and feel a hole in the rock which is said to be the hole in which the cross was placed. Return down the stairs and go underneath Golgotha. A glass panel in the wall shows fractured rock, claimed to have been broken in the earthquake that followed Jesus' death. When you come out of this room turn right and follow around the passage. A long flight of stairs leads down to the underground Chapel of the Invention of the Cross (a slightly unfortunate name!) which is the cistern in which St Helena, mother of Constantine, found the True Cross. Note the thousands of small crosses carved into the walls flanking the staircase by Crusader period pilgrims. Come back up the stairs and continue round the passage past various chapels that mark the Stations of the Cross. This brings you to the Rotunda, beneath which is the Holy Sepulchre itself. There is usually a queue here as people line up to visit the tomb. The first small room is where the angels sat who announced the resurrection to the women who came to the tomb on Sunday morning. The second, which is a squeeze for three and impossible for four, contains a marble shelf supposed to be the spot where Jesus' body was laid. Photography - even flash photography - is allowed, but one should be discreet and respectful, as others in the room will regard this as the most holy of all sites and their visit to it as the emotional highlight of their pilgrimage. Unfortunately the tomb is almost certainly spurious, as 1st century AD tombs had a particular form exemplified by the Tombs of the Prophets on the Mount of Olives. When you come out of the Sepulchre turn left and go round behind it. A low doorway leads into the often dusty and neglected Chapel of St Nicodemus and a further doorway takes you to a small room in the wall of which are genuine 1st century AD kokhim - coffin-shaped tunnels cut into the wall. If the tomb of Christ is anywhere in this building, these are more likely to be it than the official Sepulchre outside.
Lutheran Church of the Redeemeraddress: Muristan RdThis church was built by Kaiser Wilhelm II and completed in 1898. The church is most admired by tourists for its bell tower. At the top of its 177 steps, visitors are rewarded with some great views over the Old City. Below the church there are archaeological excavations and a small museum.
Christian Quarter RoadAlong with David Street, is the quarter's main shopping thoroughfare. As with most shopping areas in the Christian Quarter, it specializes in religious items as well as handicrafts.
MuristanJust south of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, this area was once a hospice for pilgrims from Latin-speaking countries. Today it serves as a quiet area of outdoor cafes and small shops centered around an atmospheric central fountain.
Church of St John the BaptistAdorned by a silvery dome, this church is visible from the Muristan even though the entrance is fairly difficult to locate. Founded in the 5th century, the church is significant as one of the most ancient churches in Jerusalem. The church was used as a hospice during the Siege of Jerusalem in 1099.
A Walk on the RoofsIt is possible to walk above the central souk along the rooftops of the city. Visitors can climb up to the rooftops via a small staircase at the corner of St Mark's Road and Khabad Street. A second set of stairs leads up from Muristan Road and visitors can exit into the courtyard of Khan el-Sultan, which allows exit onto Chain Street. The view from the rooftops offers delightful views of the bustling streets below, as well as unusual views of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Dome of the Rock.
phone: +972 2-626-6724address: St. Francis nº 1
St. Anne's ChurchThis Crusader-era church was built between 1131 and 1138 to replace a Byzantine church. It is traditionally believed to be the spot where Anne and Joachim, the parents of the Virgin Mary, lived. the church fell into ruins until it was donated to France by the Ottomans in 1856. Outside the church are the extensive remains of curative baths as well as the ruins of a Roman temple dedicated to the god of medicine. It is widely believed that this site is the Pool of Bethesda where, according to the Gospel of John (5:1-15), Christ cured a paralysed man.
Monastery of the FlagellationOwned by the Franciscans, this site is traditionally held to be where Christ was flogged by Roman soldiers prior to his crucifixion. Opposite the courtyard is the Chapel of the Condemnation, built on the site popularly identified with the trial of Christ before Pontius Pilate.
Ecce Homo ArchThis arch, which spans the Via Dolorosa, was built by the Romans in AD 70 to support a ramp for the attack on the Antonia Fortress. The arch was reconstructed as a monument to victory when the Romans rebuilt Jerusalem in AD 135. Incorporated into the structure of the neighboring Convent of the Sisters of Zion, Christian tradition states that this is the place where Pilate presented Christ to the crowd and spoke the words, "Ecce homo" (Latin for "Behold the man").
Gate of Bath
Lady Tunshuq Palace and Tomb
Zedekiah's CaveA large quarry underneath the Old City. Used for several thousand years; the stones of the Western Wall were likely carved from here. Entrance is from just outside the Old City walls, a bit east of Damascus Gate.
Temple Mount/Haram esh-Sharif
The Temple Mount (Hebrew Har HaBayit, הר הבית) or Haram al-Sharif (Arabic: حارم الشريف, literally Noble Sanctuary) is the most important site in Judaism and the third most important site in Islam. It is the site of the First and Second Temples from the Jewish and Christian Bible. The site's massive rectangular platform (of which the Western Wall is one wall) was built by Herod the Great. Now the site is a showcase for Islamic architecture and design from the Umayyad to Ottoman times, and is an important religious and educational center for Muslims to the present. Encompassing over 35 acres of fountains, gardens, buildings and domes, it is crowned by the magnificent Dome of the Rock, which stands on the site of the ancient Jewish Temples.
Entering the Temple Mount (Haram esh-Sharif) for non-Muslims is through an elevated wooden walkway leading to a gate called Mughrabi Gate (Moor's Gate), on the south-eastern corner of the Western Wall Plaza in the Jewish Quarter. The entry to the Temple Mount itself (not the mosques) is allowed to non-Muslims only at certain hours and is free of charge (see the caution note above).
The sights of the Temple Mount (Haram esh-Sharif) which are permitted only to Muslims:
Dome of the Rock(Arabic: Qubbat Al-Sakhra, Hebrew: Kippat HaSela), located in the middle of the sanctuary opposite of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, is probably the most dazzling and well-known landmark of Jerusalem, with its golden dome and octagonal blue walls adorned with calligraphy of Quranic verses. The Dome was built between 687-691 by the ninth Omayyad caliph, Abd al-Malik, atop the ruins of the Jewish Second Temple. The Dome is probably the most spectacular building in the Old City, thanks to a renovation in which dazzling gold donated by the King of Jordan in 1993 was layered over the bronze. Despite common conceptions, the Dome is not a mosque, but a shrine which protects beneath its high ceiling a large piece of rock sacred to Muslims, Jews and Christians. The rock is variously believed to be the "Foundation Stone" from which the world was created, where Abraham was asked to sacrifice his son (Isaac or Ishmael, depending on the tradition), where Mohammad left the Earth on his Night Journey (a small indentation was reportedly left by his foot), and the site of Solomon and Herod's Temples.
al-Aqsa MosqueThe point from where Mohammad is believed to have ascended to heaven. This association has made the building the third-holiest site in Islam after Mecca and Medina. Construction of the mosque began less than 20 years after the completion of the Dome of the Rock. Al-Aqsa has undergone many changes since its original construction. When the Crusaders captured Jerusalem in the 11th century, al-Aqsa became the headquarters of the Templars. The mosque's design pales in comparison to the Dome of the Rock and is permanently off-limits to non-Muslim visitors.
Museum of Islamic ArtHoused in the Crusader-era refectory of the Knights Templar, this filled museum contains wonderful Islamic architectural remnants. An admission is required, but it is recommended that guests interested in Islamic art visit the LA Mayer Museum in the new city.
Golden Gate Interioron the east wall of the Temple Mount/Haram esh-Sharif. According to Jewish tradition the Messiah will arrive in the Temple via this gate, and according to Christian tradition Jesus entered through this gate on Palm Sunday. Closed by the Muslims in 810, reopened in 1102 by the Crusaders, it was walled up by Saladin after regaining Jerusalem in 1187. Ottoman Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent rebuilt it together with the city walls, but walled it up in 1541, and it stayed that way until today.
Ramparts WalkVisitors can walk along two sections of the Old City wall, from Jaffa Gate clockwise to St Stephen's Gate, and counter-clockwise from Jaffa Gate to the Dung Gate. The northern route starts from inside the old city by the Jaffa gate and circles the Christian quarter and the Muslim quarter. The southern route starts from outside the Jaffa gate and circles the Armenian quarter and the Jewish quarter. Access to the ramparts is only possible at Jaffa and Damascus gates, although walkers can descend at any gate. Hours are 09:00–16:00 (14:00 on Fridays) daily. Wear shoes suitable for hiking, as the ramparts are quite bumpy.
A look into the pastA 3D virtual reality tour of the Second Temple, of which the Western Wall is a remnant. Must be reserved in advance.
- Walk the Via Dolorosa - the "way of sorrows" traditionally traces the last steps of Christ from where he was tried to Calvary, where he was crucified, and the tomb in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre where he is said to have been buried. There is no historical basis for the 0.25 km (0.16 miles) route, which has changed over the centuries. Nevertheless, pilgrims traditionally walk the route, identifying with Jesus' suffering. Along the route are 14 Stations of the Cross, each connected with a particular story or event. "Guides" hanging around the beginning of the Via will give you a tour for a small fee, accompanied by informed commentary, but this is not necessarily the best plan. Paying a token amount to get yourself started is not a bad plan, but if you have a guide book you can likely handle it better on your own from there, due to the crowded and winding nature of the Via through the Old City's narrow streets. Not all the guides are as respectful of the religious sites along the Via Dolorosa as they could be, sometimes walking headlong into occupied churches mid-service.
- First Station - Jesus is condemned to death. The traditional site of the Roman fortress where this took place lies inside a Muslim college.
- Second Station - Jesus takes up his cross after his flagellation and coronation of thorns. This takes place in front of the Monastery of Flagellation.
- Third Station - Jesus falls beneath the weight of his cross. This is commemorated by a small chapel with a marbel relief above the door.
- Fourth Station - Jesus meets his mother Mary. A sculpture above the door of the Armenian Church of Our Lady of the Spasm represents this.
- Fifth Station - Simon of Cyrene is ordered to help carry the cross of Christ. This point at the start of the ascent to Calvary is marked by a Franciscan oratory.
- Sixth Station - Veronica wipes away Jesus' blood and sweat and her handkerchief reveals an impression of his face. This story, not recorded in the Bible, is commemorated by The Chapel of St Veronica.
- Seventh Station - Jesus falls for the second time, as indicated by a large Roman column in a Franciscan chapel.
- Eighth Station - Jesus consoles the women of Jerusalem (Luke 23:28), and is marked by a Latin cross on the wall of a Greek Orthodox Monastery.
- Ninth Station - Jesus falls for the third time. This place is marked on a Roman column at the entrance to the Ethiopian Monastery.
- Tenth to Thirteenth Stations - These four stations (Jesus is stripped of his clothes, nailed to the cross, dies, and is taken down from the cross) are all in the place identified as Golgotha (Calvary) within the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
Fourteenth Station - the Holy Sepulchre itself, the purported tomb belonging to Joseph of Arimathea who asked Pilate for Jesus' body.
David streetThe most interesting market for tourists, full of Middle Eastern goods as well as souvenirs appealing to members of various religions.
CardoThe most prestigious shopping precinct in the Jewish Quarter. Built on the excavated remains of late Roman era Jerusalem (many of which can still be seen), the shops here specialise in arts and crafts, jewelry, Judaica, Dead Sea beauty products, quality souvenirs and T-shirts, among other things. But souvenirs here tend to be significantly more pricey than elsewhere in the Old City.
- Souk Khan al-Zeit and El-Wad streets are the main arteries of the Muslim Quarter. Souk Khan al-Zeit begins just east of the Muristan while El-Wad begins at the outlet of the tunnel to the Western Wall Plaza, with both leading north towards the Damascus gate. While these streets contain numerous souvenir shops and cafes catering to tourists, the majority of shops serve the local population. Butchers, Western clothing stores, hardware shops, and groceries can be found throughout the area.
- The Suq El Attaria is the primary shopping area in the Arab quarters of the Old City. You will find shops ranging from souvenirs to greengrocers to traditional clothing.
- The lanes and alleys in and near the Christian quarter abound in shops displaying icons and other churchy items. The quality ranges from kitsch to alright - and prices are mostly grossly inflated. Credit card scams are not unknown. Shop proprietors are seasoned masters at gentle but effective commercial manipulation - inviting bypassing tourists into their shops, involving them in innocuous conversation and directing them into 'you must buy this' situations.
- The Old City of Jerusalem is known for its Armenian ceramics. With white and a rich blue as the base colors, and bright paintings on them, they are a distinct souvenir. The street signs throughout the old quarter are made of Armenian ceramics, and a few shops will produce custom nameplates and tile signs with a short turnaround time. Ceramics from Hebron are also popular with tourists.
Prices for snacks, water, and other drinks are inflated in the Jewish Quarter and near the Jaffa gate and the Muristan. As you move closer to Damascus Gate you can find 1.5-liter bottles of water for ₪5, while a 0.5-liter bottle may cost you as much as ₪9 in the more touristy areas.
Common appetizers and quick treats may include Kibbe, an oval-shaped croquette of cracked wheat filled with meat and onions; Hummos, a chickpea paste with olive oil; Tabuleh, finely-chopped parsley with tomato and cucumber; and Tahini, a sesame seed paste with parsley, oil and garlic.
Main dishes usually consist of lamb or chicken meat with occasional beef, but never pork. Meats can be cooked in a variety of ways, but is most often cooked on a spit. Take-away restaurants offer favorites like falafel (deep-fried balls of mashed chickpeas) and shwarma (lamb grilled on a spit and eaten in flat bread).
Dessert options range from exotic or citrus fruits to sticky, sweet Middle Eastern confections. Baklava is a layered pastry filled with powdered pistachio and covered in honey or syrup. Kanafeh, a recipe that differs throughout the Middle East, is served in Jerusalem as pistachios in a crisp coating of pastry threads.
An issue that may be confusing to many travelers is the issue of Jewish dietary laws, or Kashrut. These laws state that certain meat is considered impure (anything that does not chew the cud and have a split hoof, including pork and rabbit), as well as certain types of seafood (anything without scales or fins). Animals that are permitted for consumption have been slaughtered according to Jewish religious practices and cleansed of all traces of blood before cooking, allowing the food to be declared kosher. Other complications revolve around the fact that meat and dairy products can never be eaten together in the same meal. In Jerusalem you will find that all types of restaurants can be kosher, not just Jewish ones.
Jewish QuarterAsk if there is a discount or ask for the 'harova' discount. This is for people who are living or staying inside the Old City, but merchants don't know where you are staying or how long you have been here. If you are feeling cautious, say you are staying at the Heritage House. You can ask for the discount in English as there are many Anglophone guests and residents.
Be careful where you sit. There are dairy and meat only eating areas.
Quarter Cafephone: +972 2 628 7770address: Tiferet Yisrael StKnown more for its scenery rather than for its food, the Quarter Cafe offers a view over the Western Wall and Temple Mount.
Bonkers Bagelsphone: +972 2 627 2590address: 2 Tiferet Yisrael StThis restaurant is located between the Hurva Square and the Kotel. The menu consists of a wide selection of bagels and toppings, including vegetables and spreads.
Tzaddik's Deliphone: +972 2 627 2148address: Tiferet Yisrael StAt Tzaddik's you can find deli sandwiches, hot dogs, chips, a selection of drinks, and even Thanksgiving dinner during the appropriate season.
Rami's Pizzaaddress: 131 HaYehudimYou can buy pizza, calzones, soft-serve ice cream (American ice cream) and a variety of drinks.
Menorah Cafeaddress: 71 & 73 HaYehudimThis cafe is actually two restaurants, one dairy and one meat. The dairy menu has fish, pastas, salads, soups, sandwiches, and cakes. The meat cafe serves hamburgers, salads, kabobs, hot deli sandwiches, fries (chips), steak, and chicken.
CoffeeBageladdress: 18 Tiferet IsraelThis cafe is in the Jewish Quarter, and is dairy-Kosher. Any combination of delicious things on a bagel is served with a smile.
Burgers Baraddress: Tiferet IsraelKosher.
Joseph Kohenaddress: Tiferet IsraelChicken Shnitzel, Falafel, Shawarma
MehadrinGood pizza, delicious omelettes, slushies.
Ne'eman Pastriesaddress: Cardo StThey sell two "personal pizzas" for ₪20. The cheese is thin and the bread is puffy, but good. There is little or no sauce. The bakery has a good selection of pastries.
Papàsaddress: Tiferet IsraelPizza, Falafel, Ice Cream
Pizza Cardo Caféaddress: Cardo StStandard triangle pizza that Americans will be used to. It is fairly comparable in quality, however the taste is a little off. Kosher.
Amigo Emilphone: +972 2-6288090address: Al Khanqa StThis friendly place, set on a quiet bazaar street at the edge of the Christian Quarter, is a good choice for a Western-style meal and a break from the bustle of the Old City. You can order chicken wings in barbecue sauce; omelets; old-fashioned chicken soup; meat lasagna; boneless, breaded chicken breast stuffed with Israeli feta cheese; a mezze of Arabic appetizers; or grilled meats. There are special touches, such as delicious carabage halab (a wonderful Arabic pastry made by the owner's family); fresh tangerine juice in season; and there's even espresso. As this is a Christian-owned establishment, there's a wine and beer list.
Grand Shisha Bar & Cafephone: +972 2-6271507Traditional Middle Eastern Oriental setting and colorful divan seats. Enjoy world and local beers (Taybeh), wine, soft/hot beverages and shishas and listen to music. Internet/WiFi. Jerusalemite family business since 1954.
phone: +972 2-627-7230
phone: +972 2-6276160address: 41 Greek Catholic PatriarchateA lovely bistro/cafe/bar where you can enjoy and chill, listen to cool music, and watch TV. Soft drinks, beers & beverages, fresh fruit juices, snacks, munchies, full cocktail bar, tobacco & free wifi. Try the local Palestinian beer called Taybeh—only ₪18. One of the nicest and cleanest cafes in the Old City. This small indoor/outdoor cafe/restaurant/bar is a nice spot for lunch, dinner or late night snack. The atmosphere is lively, the food very good, prices reasonable, service prompt and friendly and English speaking. It is also one of the few eateries open at night in the Old City.
Armenian Tavernphone: +972 2 627 3854address: 79 Armenian Orthodox Patriarchate RdTraditional Armenian food in an atmospheric setting: a Crusader period arched cellar complete with indoor fountain, wooden tables and the ubiquitous hand-painted Armenian tiles. Alcoholic beverages available.
Muslim QuarterSome of the best and cheapest falafel and shwarma joints can found on Saladin Street, just outside Damascus Gate. In addition to the restaurant listed below, there are numerous of pushcarts and stands right outside the gate serving fresh off the grill (and into a pita) food for around ₪6 a serving (usually not kosher).
There are plenty of small Arab restaurants in the Old City but in January many closed at nightfall. (They are of course Halal.)
- The restaurant in the Austrian Hospice is reputed to be poor and pricey. (It has a nice garden though.)
- The Arabic restaurant at the Jerusalem Hotel, and the little upstairs restaurant just round the corner from there, on Nablus Road just outside Damascus Gate, are recommended.
Abu Shukriphone: +972 2 627 1538address: 63 El Wad RdA small, simple restaurant that is known for its quality hummus and serves a variety of Middle Eastern favorites. Not kosher.
BASTI Restaurantphone: +972 26284067address: 70 El Wad Road , opposite to the (AUSTRIAN HOSPICE) & 3rd station of Via DolorosaA family-owned restaurant that has been open since 1927. If you don't like the pizza it's free. Also offers shawrma, chicken shishkabab and lamb shishkabab (all are served with saldes and humus and chips) as well as natural lemon with mint juice.
Jerusalem Staraddress: 32 El Wad RdNot kosher.
Nasr RestaurantAn excellent hole-in-the-wall shawarma place inside the Old City with delicious French fries and all the fixings you can put in your pita. Not kosher.
Fresh pomegranate (and grapefruit) juice is available all over the Old City. Prices start from around ₪10 (October 2018) for a 0.3 liter cup, any price beyond ₪15 (October 2018) for 0.3 liters (not 0.2) is a rip-off. The price in Hebron, by contrast, is ₪2.
Bottled water is inexpensive (usually, be careful where you buy) and readily available throughout the Old City. Carrying an extra bottle of water is recommended due to the dry, dusty climate.
Some restaurants serve alcohol. The main beers are Israeli Maccabee/Goldstar and Arab Taybeh beer. Spirits are less widely available but are commonly sold in hotel bars.
BudgetFor those on a tight budget, youth hostels are ideal (although occasionally somewhat dodgy), and often the cheapest places to stay in Jerusalem. Religiously-based hospices and guest houses, located mainly near the holy sites, is a popular and inexpensive alternative to hotels. Hospices and guest houses tend to maintain stricter rules than hostels.
phone: +972 54-436-8053Gives a good impression of the religious tension here, because you always have to pass by the police and justify yourself. Usually, passage is only allowed for Muslims wanting to enter through the Chain Gate. The hostel itself is not very spacious and the staff is quite grumpy, but it is a good choice. The "10 beds dorm" for booking is actually a 13 beds one, but there are worse options out there.
phone: +97226286618, +97226281455address: 1 David StJust inside Jaffa Gate with views across the Old City to the Dome of the Rock. Breakfast included.
Citadel HostelNice and cosy place. They have 12-bed and 8-bed dorms but the 12-bed has very good ventilation. Also the view from the roof is amazing. Though, they don't have free tea and coffee, and stay away from the 8-bed dorm downstairs, it is quite noisy.
address: Khan al-Zeit StBreakfast included in the price and has free WiFi. Very near Damascus Gate and about a 8 minute walk to Jaffa Gate. Rooms are clean but tiny as you would expect for the price.
New Swedish Hostelphone: +972 2-6277855address: 29 David StCentral location in the old town with free coffee and tea. Wireless internet is ₪6 extra for the password, lockers are ₪3 extra per night and the laundry and drying is a ₪2 charge for each. There is no smoking or drinking in the hostel and there is a curfew of 2AM.
phone: +972 2-627-2224The Heritage House provides safe and comfortable lodging for young Jewish travelers and students so that they can best experience and develop their connection with Israel, Judaism, and the Jewish people. They provide guests with a warm bed, fresh bedding, laundry facilities, food options, WiFi, long-distance calling, an extensive library, and information on numerous tours and educational/service opportunities throughout Israel. Only provides beds for travelers and students ages 18-30 and Jewish.
phone: +972 2 628 1101address: 8 Aqabat Etkia
phone: +972 2 628-3537address: Souq Khan el-Zeit, upstairs from Internet Cafe
phone: +972-2-628 7502address: 6 Hanivim StIt is a cheap place.
address: 37 Via Dolorosa
Casa Nova Hospiceaddress: 10 Casa Nova StHigh quality and comfort and a good location for the money, this hospice is popular with Catholic groups, so it is a good idea to book well in advance.
phone: +972 2 627 7727address: Omar ibn el-Khattab SquareOne of the oldest Christian hospices in the Old City, this location has plain, comfortable rooms and good range of services. Its location makes it very popular, so book well in advance.
phone: +972 2 628 4410address: Souq Khan El-Zeit # 73, Old CityAir-conditioned rooms, all of which have a cable television, private toilet and bath, telephone, and internet connection. Recently renovated and great 5th floor/roof view of city.
phone: +972 2 628 2120, +972 2 626 6888address: St Mark's Rd
Our Lady of Zionphone: +972 2 627 7293address: 41 Via DolorosaThis hospice has clean and simple rooms and a great view of the Old City from the roof.