Jerusalem is on the life list for many travelers, and has been on the international events radar for thousands of years. If youíre finally planning a trip, there are a number of things to do in Jerusalem that you definitely donít want to miss. Here are Trek Houndís top picks for activities and attractions in the city.
Visit the Israel Museum.
As art venues go, the Israel Museum is exceptional. The site is massive, and contains a childrenís section, an outdoor sculpture garden, the Shrine of the Book and of course the main museum itself. If time allows, I recommend planning a full two-three days to experience this museum properly. Historical religious artifacts, works from artists such as Warhol and Rodin and the incredible Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit are just a few of the highlights you can expect to see at the Israel Museum.
Stay in the Old City of Jerusalem.
If youíre going to be in Israel for a while, at least part of your stay should be in the Old City of Jerusalem. Stepping outside the door in the morning onto the streets of antiquity is nothing short of amazing, and most of the heritage sites many people come to Jerusalem to see are either within the walls of the Old City, or very nearby. The Hebron Youth Hostel is extremely affordable with a number of rooms and dorm beds. They had the best bathroom setup for a hostel weíve ever run across, although there was no kitchen. However, there was an affordable restaurant downstairs and numerous street food options in the general vicinity. For the best panoramic view of the city however, youíll need to spend at least one night at the Citadel Hostel. Their seating area on the roof, while an adventure to climb onto, is the best view youíre going to find.
Be sure to have dinner at Amigo Emil.
In our opinion, Amigo Emil was the nicest place to eat in the old city. The atmosphere was phenomenal, the food was exceptional, and the owner quite friendly. The price was about what youíd expect to pay for a mid-range restaurant in the States, but David and I both agreed it was a higher-end experience. Itís also not a stuffy or uptight place, so you can expect to feel comfortable while you enjoy dinner.
Souvenir shopping is likely on your list, particularly if you have family back home.
Of course, there are countless religious trinkets such as chalices, prayer beads and statuettes. But for my money, I got the most mileage out of the nicer, pewter key chains. Now, before you start thinking tacky, hear me out. The ornaments themselves were quite nice, and represented symbols of the Holy Land I wanted mementos of. Since David and I collect spiritual items from all faiths as art, it was important to me that we bring home a Star of David, a Jerusalem cross and at least one small hamsa.
When I saw the quality of the key chain ornaments however, I decided to purchase several of each and remove the key rings on all of them. I swapped them out for thin pieces of ribbon so they could be used as holiday tree ornaments and gift package tie-ons. The results were quite striking considering the price, and weíve received numerous compliments every year for the ones we hang on the tree. We also enjoyed jewelry shopping at the Coral Beach shop in the old city. The owners had a nice selection, and also sold antique reproduction travel posters from the area.
Be sure to visit the Dome of the Rock.
While it may be a bone of contention between certain faiths, itís an impressive and beautiful structure to be sure. Yes, there are numerous photo ops to be had from around the city, but spending time on the grounds and getting to see the tile and structure up close is worth your while. Of course, if you happen to be a practicing member of the Muslim religion, then this building will be of even greater importance on your travel itinerary. Either way, itís gorgeous and you should make time to see it and get the best photo ops you possibly can.
Spend some time at the Western Wall.
For Jewish tourists in Jerusalem, this might very well be the main highlight of your trip. For others, itís still significant and not to be missed. If thereís a time when it isnít obtrusive to others praying there, Iíve been told itís quite an experience to touch the wall and leave a prayer note tucked there. When we visited however, it was a major Jewish holiday and neither David nor I felt right about taking time away from the throngs of people waiting to approach it. Weíll visit again someday and have our moment then. We did however, walk the grounds and take a few unobtrusive photographs. Itís a part of our Jerusalem itinerary that we are glad we made time for and recommend it to others.
Visit the Garden of Gethsemane.
We made our visit to the Garden of Gethsemane on the eve of Good Friday and attended a spiritual service there. However, you can visit on other days and certainly at other times of the year. Itís outside of the walls of the Old City, and a nice uphill walk for a bit of exercise. The church is beautiful, and there are other things to see along the way.
Walk the Via Dolorosa.
Even if you donít happen to be Christian, this is an interesting walking tour to take. It features traditional sites of significance to the Christian faith and passes by still-standing buildings from the time period. If you stay in the Old City of Jerusalem for any amount of time, youíll notice groups making the walk daily. Some will stroll with guitars, some will sing and others will simply pray. Itís intriguing to see, regardless of your faith and one of the more famous Jerusalem attractions.
If the sleeping in the Old City doesnít appeal to you, there are other hotels in Jerusalem and even an affordable B & B for those who prefer a more boutique-oriented travel experience. While there are countless other things to do in Jerusalem such as Hezekiahís tunnel with the kids, or visiting the Mount of Olives, this list represents the highlights if you only have a few days to spend. It gives you a chance to see important locations from the three Abrahamic religions, see some exceptional exhibits at the national museum and have a meal at one of the most charming restaurants in the city. Those who have a chance to stay longer, or visit Jerusalem more frequently may of course want to branch out.