Jerusalem, newly appointed as the capital of Israel, is one of those cities that refuses to be defined There is so much for travellers to see and do in this ancient and enigmatic city that it is almost impossible to narrow it down, but this three day itinerary will help you make the most of your time in Jerusalem and really delve into the heart of the Holy Land.
Being the focal point for three of the worlds major and most predominant religions and the focal point of over three thousand years of recorded history, it is easy to get swept away with the sheer weight of past glories and historical and religious sites in Jerusalem, but this ancient city is far more than that and it is worth spending a little bit of time getting under the skin to discover what modern Jerusalem has to offer.
So forget any hyperbole about how unsafe Israel is to travel to (it’s not true), get yourself settled in when you arrive and then use this three day itinerary to start exploring one of the most fascinating cities in Israel.
Explore the old city.
You can’t come to Jerusalem without delving into it’s past, and the best way to start doing that is to take a walk around the ancient walls of the old city. Surrounded by some of the greatest religious sites in the world including the Dome Of The Rock, the Temple Mount and the Mount of Olives, a walk around the 16th Century ramparts built by Suleiman the magnificent is a great way to get a good overview of everything as you imagine this small patch of land being fought over by Crusader Knights, Romans and many more and Jesus Christ and his disciples walking the narrow streets.
See the City of David.
The City of David is one of the most significant historical sites in all of Jerusalem and is one of the city’s biggest historical tourist draws. This working archaeological site and vast tourist attraction is where David himself (yes, the one of Goliath fame) first founded the capital of ancient Israel in 1850 BCE and started the Davidic dynasty. There are daily tours that can take you through the tunnels beneath the city too.
Put a prayer in the Western Wall.
A short distance from the City of David, the Western Wall is another iconic must see on any trip to Jerusalem. This wall is all that is left of the Temple Mount built by King Herod, and is considered one of the holiest sites in the Jewish faith. It doesn’t really mater if you are or aren’t religious, but the chance to do what is for millions of faithful all around the world a deep religious experience is an amazing thing and well worth doing.
Check out Mahane Yahuda market.
You may be all templed out and swamped with the sheer historical and religious significance from everything you saw and did on your first day, so the second day should be a time to step back from that, relax and see what modern Jerusalem has to offer.
Take an hour or two in the morning to explore Mahane Yahuda market right in the centre of the city. This working market is the lifeblood of Jerusalem during the day, selling everything from spices and fresh fruit to everyday groceries and bread, and is a great way to grab a taster of some truly local produce.
Do a bit of shopping.
Jerusalem’s city centre will surprise you for the sheer number of contemporary and avent garde spaces that are filled with top end and boutique shops to splash your cash in. These places aren’t cheap however, but even if you decide not to buy anything exploring the modern side of the city for an hour or two is a great way to spend the afternoon.
Grab an early dinner and be entertained at the first station.
The First Station is a refurbished train station – hence the name – that has become a focus of entertainment and culture as well as a foodie heaven. The newly gentrified area is right in the heart of Jerusalem itself and has a good selection of shops, lively entertainment and amazing restaurants and is a great relaxed way to spend an evening and grab some dinner.
Return to Mehane Yahuda market.
During the day this market may be the lifeblood of Jerusalem, but during the night it becomes its soul. Once the sun goes down and the produce markets are packed away, this place becomes a hipster dream with pop up bars selling craft beers and chic boutique restaurants and eateries that give Tel Aviv’s foodie reputation a run for its money.
A sombre reminder of the atrocities mankind can inflict on each other, this memorial to the lives lost in the holocaust is an important place to spend the morning just to give yourself a little perspective on history, and life, if nothing else.
Visit the Israel Museum.
The Israel Museum is an absolute must see site in Jerusalem, not just for its wealth of historical exhibits from the holy land and its connections to ancient Egypt and other great civilisations, but for its prized possession. The infamous Dead Sea Scrolls.
Unknown to a large majority of people, these vastly underrated historical treasures are on par with the Rosetta Stone in the British Museum or the treasures of Tutankhamun in Cairo, but without the fanfare or wide public knowledge.
The scrolls are housed in the dedicated Shrine of the Book, a unique and awe inspiring building, and chances are that whenever you go, you can actually see the exhibit without many crowds.
Church of the holy Sepulcher.
The evening is your opportunity to visit the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, one of the worlds holiest sites to the Christian religion. This church is said to be built on the tomb of Jesus Christ himself and contain the slab of rock where his body was laid to rest. Whether you are religious or not that’s a pretty hard to top claim to fame and makes this an unmissable grand finale to your three day itinerary.
This itinerary only scratches the surface of Jerusalem, but gives you a good taste of the vast wealth of historical, religious and cultural treasures that await you in this amazing and eclectic city.
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