On a recent (and my first of many, I hope) trip to Israel one of the places we had to experience was the great city of Jerusalem. Only a 45-minute bus ride away from Tel Aviv, but somehow the distance seems greater, as the two cities are very different. While Tel Aviv is the more modern, liberal city (the city of Tel Aviv is only a little more than a 100 years old), Jerusalem is the historically and religiously saturated city. Despite the difference, together the two cities illustrates quite perfectly the modern Israel and both are equally interesting destinations to explore.
Jerusalem was one of the highlights of our trip, but we were only there for one day, so I would love to go back and explore the city in depth. You can, as we did and if you want to, manage to see the city in just one day, although my personal recommendation would be to spend two days exploring both the old and new Jerusalem. If you choose to spend just one day, focus mainly on the old city to see the most important sights. These are some of the highlights.
The old city
The old city surrounded by defensive walls has been roughly divided into four parts: the Muslim Quarter, the Christian Quarter, the Armenian Quarter, and the Jewish Quarter. Explore all four quarters by walking through them all and seeing the diversity in people, religions, architecture, and atmosphere, each of them is very unique and you will treasure the Jerusalem experience for a long time.
Via Dolorosa is a street within the Old City claimed to be the path Jesus walked on the way to his crucifixion. There are 14 stations along the way, each with a significance to the story, so be sure to bring a map with an explanation of the significance of each station. Via Dolorosa starts in the Arabic Quarter by the Lion’s Gate and ends in the Christian Quarter in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. You will most likely encounter pilgrims from around the world walking the last path Jesus on Via Dolorosa with smaller crucifixes in their hands, while others will walk with a large and very heavy wooden cross.
The Western Wall
The Western Wall is a must on your trip to Jerusalem, the last remnant of the great temple of Jerusalem. We were fortunate to experience Jerusalem on a rather quiet day with few tourists, but the city is normally packed with tourists. It is the most holy site for Jewish people, so they travel from all ends of the world to Jerusalem to pray at the Western Wall, which is divided into a section for men and a section for women. The Western Wall is one of the most visited spots, so try to come at a time of the day, when it is less crowded.
Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosque
These two magnificent Jerusalem sites are considered to be among the most holy sites in Islam and to be able to experience them, there are two time slots at which you can queue up and be granted access to the area. It is definitely worth the potential wait and you will not want to leave Jerusalem without having experienced this. The gold dome is visible from afar and is even more impressive up close and from here you will have an amazing view of the Mount of Olives.
The Mount of Olives
Right outside the Old City you can take a stroll on the Mount of Olives and experience the different churches and tombs placed up the hill. It was named for the olives groves that once covered the hillside and there are supposedly some of the oldest olive trees in the world in the garden of Gethsemane. From the Mount of Olives you have an amazing view of the Old City, so a good time to make the hike is late afternoon right before the sun sets to get the perfect sunset snap of Jerusalem.
If you are planning a trip to Tel Aviv, be sure to check out a few restaurant suggestions here.