Jerusalem Travel Guide: More than a Destination, a Journey through the ages
In this Jerusalem Travel Guide, I provide some of the top things to do, places to stay, restaurants not to miss, and of course, several road trip ideas. I have peppered this article with lots of links to help you in your planning efforts. If you have any questions about visiting Jerusalem, leave a comment below.
Jerusalem is a city that exists at the crossroads of many different cultures and religions. As the Holy City for Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, the Old City’s narrow streets and alleyways resonate with the sounds of spirituality. The whispers of Hebrew prayers at the Western Wall and the hauntingly beautiful Muslim call-to-prayer from Temple Mount blend with the melodic bells from the Christian Church of the Holy Sepulchre. For visitors, the constant presence of the Almighty suddenly becomes very real, and even non-believers find it hard to deny the ethereal quality of Jerusalem. However, beyond the historic walls, the city is a buzzing metropolis where traditional lifestyles meet cosmopolitan developments. From trendy restaurants and bars in West Jerusalem to market vendors’ cries in East Jerusalem, the city’s diverse offerings have transformed it from a pilgrimage spot, to a well-rounded vacation destination that’s sure to leave a lasting impression on visitors.
Religious Diversity in Jerusalem
One of the most notable aspects of Jerusalem is its religious diversity. The city is home to sacred religious sites, such as the Western Wall, The Church of the Holy Sepulchre the the Dome of the Rock.
Jerusalem Travel Guide to the Top Things to Do in the Holy City
There are many interesting and fascinating things to see and do in Jerusalem. It’s a city worth getting lost in and seeing what you might discover.
- Visiting the Western Wall – one of the holiest sites in Judaism, and an important pilgrimage destination for Jews from around the world.
- Explore the Old City – which is home to many historical and religious sites, including the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the Temple Mount, and the Tower of David.
- Watch the Tower of David Night Spectacular, a stunning sound and light show that tells the story of Jerusalem’s history.
- Visit the Israel Museum, which houses a vast collection of art and artifacts, including the famous Dead Sea Scrolls.
- Walk along the Ramparts Walk, a scenic route that offers breathtaking views of the city.
- Explore the bustling markets of the Old City, where you can find everything from souvenirs to fresh produce.
- Take a tour of Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust museum and memorial, which is dedicated to the six million Jews who were killed during the Holocaust.
- Visit the Mount of Olives, an important religious site for Jews, Christians, and Muslims, and enjoy the stunning views of the city from the top of the mountain.
- Machane Yehuda is the largest market or “shuk,” in the city. You’ll find locally grown produce available year-round with Vendors’ stalls throughout the alleyways bursting with colorful fruits and vegetables. The market also offers a vast selection of fresh or dried spices, cheese, honey, meat, halva, and baked goods. With more than 250 vendors, you’re sure to leave satisfied and with a souvenir or two. At night, the shuk becomes a hotbed of nightlife, featuring many bars and restaurants. After-hours, take in the urban artwork showcased on the metal shutter doors, a city-sponsored project that invited local artists to display their work.
Jerusalem Road Trips
There are several road trips you can take from Jerusalem to explore the surrounding areas. Isreal is a small country and is pretty easy to rent a car and explore on your own. Car rentals can be very affordable too, I rented from Sixt for about $12/day. Of course prices will fluctuate based on season and demand.
- The Dead Sea: Located about an hour’s drive from Jerusalem, the Dead Sea is a must-see destination for anyone visiting Israel. Known for its high salt content, the Dead Sea is a popular spot for swimming and mud baths.
- Masada: Located about an hour’s drive from Jerusalem, Masada is an ancient fortress that offers stunning views of the surrounding desert landscape.
- Bethlehem: Located just a few miles from Jerusalem, Bethlehem is a significant religious site for Christians, as it is the birthplace of Jesus Christ.
- Ein Gedi: Located about an hour’s drive from Jerusalem, Ein Gedi is a nature reserve that offers stunning desert landscapes, waterfalls, and hiking trails.
Jerusalem Travel Guide to the Best Restaurants
Jerusalem is home to many excellent restaurants, serving a variety of cuisines, including Middle Eastern, Israeli, and international. Here are a few highly rated restaurants to try:
- Machneyuda: Known for its innovative cuisine and lively atmosphere, Machneyuda is a must-visit for foodies visiting Jerusalem.
- 02 Restaurant: Located in the Inbal Hotel this is a must-visit for foodies looking to experience the best of Jerusalem cuisine. The restaurant specializes in defining and reinventing traditional dishes, making for a unique and exciting dining experience. With a focus on meat dishes, the 02 Restaurant invites meat lovers to enjoy a perfect dinner, prepared by expert chefs using only the finest ingredients. The restaurant’s elegant ambiance and attentive service make it an ideal choice for a special night out in Jerusalem.
- Azura: This family-owned restaurant has been serving delicious Middle Eastern cuisine for over 60 years and is a favorite among locals and tourists alike.
- The Eucalyptus: Located in the heart of the Old City, The Eucalyptus serves modern Israeli cuisine with a twist.
- Morduch: This popular restaurant serves traditional Israeli dishes with a modern twist, using fresh, locally sourced ingredients.
- Landwer Cafe – is a fantastic Israeli chain that serves a variety of dishes, including breakfast, sandwiches, salads, and pastries. Do not miss trying the Israeli Breakfast.
Jerusalem Travel Guide to the Best Hotels in the City
For those looking for a luxury stay in Jerusalem, there are several excellent options, including:
- Mamilla Hotel: Located just a short walk from the Old City, the Mamilla Hotel offers luxury accommodations, spa services, and fine dining options. The hotel features a rooftop terrace with stunning views of the Old City and a stylish bar and lounge area.
- Inbal Hotel: Located in the heart of Jerusalem, the Inbal Hotel offers spacious rooms, luxurious amenities, and stunning views of the city. The hotel features a heated outdoor pool, a fitness center, and multiple dining options.
For budget-conscious travelers, there are several affordable accommodations, including:
- Abraham Hostel: Located in the city center, Abraham Hostel offers dormitory-style rooms and private rooms at affordable prices. The hostel features a communal kitchen, a rooftop terrace, and a bar. Whatever you think of hostels, Abraham have broken the mold, this is a really cool place to stay while in Jerusalem.
- Jerusalem Tower Hotel: Located in the heart of Jerusalem, the Jerusalem Tower Hotel offers budget-friendly accommodations with comfortable rooms and basic amenities. The hotel is within walking distance of many of the city’s top attractions.
- Zion Hotel: Located in the Old City, the Zion Hotel offers budget-friendly accommodations in a historic building. The hotel features a rooftop terrace with stunning views of the city and a communal kitchen for guests to use.
Jerusalem Travel Guide for the Best Time to Visit
When planning a trip to Jerusalem, the ideal time to visit is during the months of April to May and October to November, as the weather is pleasant and the number of tourists is relatively low. However, it’s essential to cross-check your travel dates with major Jewish celebrations such as the High Holy Days, Sukkot, and Passover, as these events can result in an influx of visitors, leading to higher hotel prices. While summer is the peak tourism season in Jerusalem, it’s not recommended due to the high temperatures. Winter can be a good time to visit, as hotel prices are lower, but the weather can be unpredictable, with some days being warm and sunny while others are rainy and cold.
Getting Around the Holy City
To explore Jerusalem, the best options are walking or taking a taxi, especially since many of the top attractions are located within or just outside the Old City walls. Taxis are convenient but can be expensive. The public transportation company, Egged, offers bus services within the city and to other locations around the country, including Ben Gurion International Airport (TLV) located about 38 miles northwest of Jerusalem on the outskirts of Tel Aviv. However, for foreign visitors, the bus system can be confusing. Instead, it’s recommended to use the new light rail system, which opened in 2011 and is more user-friendly.
Before visiting Israel, There are Several Things to Consider
- Security: While Israel is a relatively safe country, it is important to stay up-to-date on current events and any security threats.
- Visa Requirements: Depending on your nationality, you may need a visa to enter Israel. It is important to research visa requirements and apply for any necessary documents well in advance of your trip.
- Cultural Sensitivity: Israel is a deeply religious and culturally diverse country, and it is important to be respectful of local customs and traditions.
- Weather: Israel has a Mediterranean climate, with hot summers and mild winters. It is important to pack appropriately for the season and bring sunscreen and water for hot summer days.
- Language: Hebrew and Arabic are the official languages of Israel, but English is widely spoken, especially in tourist areas. However, learning a few basic phrases in Hebrew or Arabic can go a long way in connecting with locals and showing respect for the culture.
- Transportation: Israel has a modern transportation system, including buses, trains, and taxis. It is important to research transportation options and plan your travel routes in advance.
- Currency: The official currency of Israel is the Israeli Shekel. It is important to exchange currency before your trip or withdraw local currency from ATMs upon arrival.
By considering these factors before your trip, you can ensure a safe, enjoyable, and culturally sensitive visit to Israel.
A visit to Jerusalem is a unique and unforgettable experience. With its rich history, cultural significance, and religious diversity, the city offers visitors a glimpse into the past while embracing the present. From exploring the Old City to taking road trips to nearby destinations, there are plenty of things to see and do in Jerusalem. Whether you’re looking for luxury accommodations or budget-friendly options, Jerusalem has something for everyone.
If you have any questions about this Jerusalem travel guide, leave a comment below. So, until next time, we’ll see ya on the road…