Jerusalem is holy to three faiths and houses the holy sites and history of thousands of years. It serves as the capital of Israel, the seat of government, and is a modern, vibrant city. But if you find yourself wondering what to do in Jerusalem with so many options, it might be best to break it down into themes.
What to do in Jerusalem: Themes
The center for your exploration of Jerusalem’s holy sites will be the Old City. There are many Old City tours you can join: Jewish, Christian, Muslim, with a focus on history and archeology, exploring the three faiths. InSite Israel offers personalized, private tours designed to your groups specific needs and interests, but take your pick. If there’s one day during your trip to Israel you’re going to want to hire a guide, this is it. The many layers of history and faith encased in the Jerusalem stone is hard to make sense of without a knowledgeable guide.
Within the Old City you can see the Temple Mount, also known as Al Aqsa, which is holy for Jews and Muslims. You can walk the Via Dolorosa and visit the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in the Christian Quarter, the center of Christian pilgrimage in the city. In the Jewish Quarter you can tour archaeological sites with Biblical significance, the Western Wall, and the City of David where it all began.
Outside the Old City there are a few more holy sites, including a series of Churches (and Gethsemane) on the Mount of Olives, and the burial site of the Jewish matriarch Rachel at the outskirts of the city.
Israel has more museums per-capita than any other country in the world, and Jerusalem houses more than its fair share. These include:
-Yad Vashem: The national Holocaust museum and memorial gardens. Entrance is free.
-The Israel Museum: Israel’s national museum, which houses and displays most of the most important finds from all over the country, including the Dead Sea Scrolls at the Shrine of the Book. There are also extensive art collections, Judaica collections and more.
-Hertzl Museum: Located on the grounds of Mt. Hertzl, Israel’s national military cemetary (where Theodore Hertzl is buried), is this museum dedicated to the father of modern Zionism. The visitor is led through several rooms, each with a video, music, and one with a simulated speech by an animatronic Hertzl, explaining the visionary’s life and accomplishments.
And there are many more! Knowledge hounds won’t run out places to visit.
What to do in Jerusalem Just for Fun
Aside from being a center for religious and Zionist history, Jerusalem is also a fun, vibrant city. A few places to visit for some fun are:
-Ben Yehuda Street: This is the main pedestrian mall in Jerusalem. It’s a great place to go for a bite to eat, to buy Judaica and other gifts, and to hang out enjoying the atmosphere, which often includes musicians and other street performers.
-Mahane Yehuda: Known as the ‘Jewish Shuk,’ Mahane Yehuda is a site to behold. Hundreds of stalls crowd around a few small walkways in the heart of Jerusalem. The market is lively with hawkers calling out prices, restaurants and pubs, and a fun, rowdy, Middle Eastern atmosphere. If you want to see Mahane Yehuda at its most crowded and frenetic, go midday on Friday, when the pre-Shabbat (Sabbath) shopping frenzy peaks.
-First Station: This is the original train station of Jerusalem built in the late 1800s. Today it’s been transformed into a major center for food and fun in the city. The train yard has been transformed into a lovely open boardwalk with activities for kids, free yoga and pilates classes in the mornings, a farmers market every Friday morning and all sorts of fun and surprises throughout the year. The old train station buildings house a number of excellent cafes, restaurants and shops.
-Festivals: Jerusalem hosts a number of festivals and major public events throughout the year. Some of these include ‘Hutzot Hayotzer,’ where artisans and creative folks from all over Israel get together to offer their wares in the old ‘Sultan’s Pools’ under the shadow of the Old City walls; Jerusalem Beer Festival, held every year at the end of summer, showcasing local brews; Piyut Festival, where the greats of Jewish sacred music get together to offer the public a series of concerts. And many others throughout the year!
Don’t Stop Here!
No single article can cover everything but hopefully this serves as a good introduction. For more information, please click around our blog, or feel free to contact us for more information and suggestions tailored to your specific needs. Don’t waste a second of your precious time in Israel. Contact InSite Israel now!