The Western Wall and Temple Mount at night
The Old City of Jerusalem is that part of Jerusalem surrounded by the impressive 16th century Ottoman city walls and representing the heart of the city both historically and spiritually. In a city already divided, the Old City is further divided culturally and historically into four Quarters: (clockwise from the south-east) the Jewish Quarter, the Armenian Quarter, the Christian Quarter and the Muslim Quarter.
Map of the Old City
The core of Jerusalem, Old City, has a history that stretches back more than 3,000 years. The present street plan dates largely from Byzantine times, with the walls and ramparts dating back to the 16th century. The crossroad of three continents, Jerusalem has been one of the most fought over cities in human history. Within the walls, the Old City is divided into four vaguely defined quarters: Christian, Armenian, Jewish and Muslim.
You do not need to be Jewish, Christian, or Muslim, or even be overly concerned with religion, to be overwhelmed. Anyone with a sense of history, spirituality or the human species should be absorbed by the tremendous weight of human civilization that cloaks nearly every part of the city. It is an inhabited, living city - not a deserted museum or monument. Humanity's passion play has been constant revival at this location for most of the length of recorded history.
The Old City surrounded by a wall built in the first half of the 16th century by the Ottoman Turk, Suleyman the Magnificent. The 4 km (2.5 mile) circuit is accessed by eight gates, of which seven remain in current use. The gates are, in clockwise order:
- Jaffa Gate - on the western side of the city (access from West Jerusalem), next to the Citadel. The busiest of the seven Old City gates, Jaffa Gate has a large taxi rank for easy access in and out of the Old City. The Jaffa Gate has access staircases for the Ramparts Walk (see below).
- New Gate - on the northwestern edge of the Old City, the closest gate to West Jerusalem and convenient for entry to the Christian Quarter. It was the last gate cut into the city wall, in 1889. The New Gate has access to a hospital and some parking just outside the walls.
- Damascus Gate - on the northern side of the city (access from East Jerusalem), it is the most monumental of all the gates. The Damascus Gate has access staircases for the Ramparts Walk (see below) via the Roman Square Excavations. A taxi rank and some parking are available just outside the walls. A bus station is located 2 blocks north east of the gate.
- Herod's Gate - on the northern side of the city, faces Arab East Jerusalem. Its name originates from the the 1500's when Christian pilgrims wrongly thought that the house inside the gate was the palace of Herod the Great's son.
- St Stephen's Gate (also in Hebrew, Lions' Gate) - on the eastern side of the city, it faces the Mount of Olives and is the start of the Via Dolorosa. Its name was adopted in the Middle Ages by Christians who believed that the first Christian martyr, St Stephen, was executed here. Prior to that, however, it had been generally accepted that St Stephen had been stoned to death outside Damascus Gate.
- Golden Gate - on the east wall of the Temple Mount, was long ago sealed shut by the Muslims in the 7th century. According to tradition the Messiah will arrive in the Temple via this gate.
- Dung Gate - on the southern side of the city, it provides direct access to the Jewish quarter and the Western Wall. This is the terminal of buses 1 and 2. Parking is available outside of the city walls near the City of David.
- Zion Gate - on the southern side of the city, it provides direct access to the Armenian quarter from Mount Zion. The outside of the gate is pockmarked by bullet-holes due to fierce fighting here in 1948 between the Israelis and the Jordanians. The Arabic name of the gate is Bab el-Nabi Daud (Gate of the Prophet David), because of its proximity to the traditional location of King David's Tomb. Parking is available just outside the gate.
- 38: Jewish Quarter Parking lot - Yafo Street - Davidka Square - Yafo Street - Jewish Quarter Parking lot.
- 1: CBS - Sarei Yisrael - Malchei Yisrael (Geulah) - Meah Shearim - Shaar Shechem (Damascus Gate) - Kotel HaMa'aravi (Western Wall)
- 2: Har Nof - Givat Shaul North - Hamag - Kiryat Mattersdorf - Sorotzkin - Kiryat Tzanz - Ezrat Torah - Golda Meir - Shmuel HaNavi - Shaar Shechem (Damascus Gate) - Kotel HaMa'aravi (Western Wall)
- 3: CBS (Center One) - Kiryat Mattersdorf - Sorotzkin - Kiryat Tzanz - Ezrat Torah - Golda Meir - Shmuel HaNavi - Yecheskel Street (Geula) - Shaar Shechem (Damascus Gate) - Kotel HaMa'aravi (Western Wall)
The Old City is fairly diminutive in size compared to modern-day Jerusalem. Despite its small size, or perhaps because of it, the Old City is amazing. Much of the Old City is only accessible by walking because of very narrow streets and steps in the road. This is not a great inconvenience because the Old City is only about 1 kilometer across. The Old City is a maze of twisty alleyways and it's difficult to keep your bearings even with a map. Then again, getting lost is half the fun—you can't get too lost due to its size.
Entrance to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre
The Christian Quarter, the result of rapid expansion under Byzantine rule, is located in the northwest corner of the city and is home to a bewildering array of churches, patriarchates and hospices of the city's many Christian denominations. The quarter is served by the Jaffa Gate and the New Gate.
- Church of the Holy Sepulchre, (accessible from Christian Quarter Road or a small opening from Souk el-Dabbagha). 5 AM–9 PM daily in the summer, and 4 AM–7 PM in the winter. The Holy Sepulchre is a large building spanning several areas in which Christ is believed to have been crucified and died, buried, and then rose from the dead on the third day. Eastern Orthodox Christians, Roman Catholics, and Oriental Orthodox Christians are each alotted separate areas in the church dating largely to the time of Saladin. The Roman Catholics received their parts due almost purely to the Crusaders and, as all Roman Catholic shrines in the Holy Land, it is under the custodianship of the Terra Sancta (i.e. Franciscans). Parts of the Holy Sepulchre are controlled by several different branches of the Christian Church, who have historically been somewhat at odds with each other. It is important to note that the "church" is not one church in the sense of a building with an altar and podium near the front, but rather a "warehouse" of chuches even for each denomenation present, each has several altars and chapels. The Orthodox Church makes up the largest of the churches there and is situated in the center directly to the east and infront of the Sepulcher as well as at Golgatha. The Armenians have several smaller altars and chapels throughout the ediface as well as a fairly large church called "Saint Helen's" but often refered to as "Saint Gregory (the Illuminator of Armenia)." The Roman Catholics who have two chapels, the Ethiopians one in addition to a monastery on the roof, the Coptics have a small altar behind the Sepulchre itself, and there is a small, yet beautiful Syriac chapel up some stairs near the Coptic one though it is usually closed. There are even what are known as "ecumenical altars" set up on the sides in various areas which are apparantly almost purely decoration and are rarely if ever used. There are many pathways and exploring here makes for a few hours of fun for those who love religious art and architecture. The best time to come is early in the morning and make your way out by 11AM. Even after sundown it is incredibly crowded. Be warned though, if you are wearing shorts, you might be barred access to the building itself but if not, then certainly to individual churches and without a doubt to the sepulchre. Women should have their shoulder's covered, no cleavage, and dresses should go below the knee. Do not wear anything which might be considered even the slightest risque. If you do not oblige, they will turn you back. *Lutheran Church of the Redeemer, Muristan Rd. 9 AM–1 PM and 1:30 PM–5 PM M–Sa. This church was built by Kaiser Wilhelm II and completed in 1898. The church is most admired by tourists for its bell tower. At the top of its 177 steps, visitors are rewarded with some great views over the Old City. NIS 3 for adults and NIS 2 for students (for bell tower only). NIS 3 for adults and NIS 2 for students (for bell tower only).
- Christian Quarter Road. Along with David Street, is the quarter's main shopping thoroughfare. As with most shopping areas in the Christian Quarter, it specializes in religious items as well as handicrafts.
- Muristan. Just south of the Church of the Holy Sepulcre, this area was once a hospice for pilgrims from Latin-speaking countries. Today it serves as a quiet area of outdoor cafes and small shops centered around an atmospheric central fountain.
- Church of St John the Baptist. Closed to the public. Adorned by a silvery dome, this church is visible from the Muristan even though the entrance is fairly difficult to locate. Founded in the 5th century, the church is significant as one of the most ancient churches in Jerusalem. The church was used as a hospice during the Siege of Jerusalem in 1099.
- A Walk on the Roofs. It is possible to walk above the central souk along the rooftops of the city. Visitors can climb up to the rooftops via a small staircase at the corner of St Mark's Road and Khabad Street. A second set of stairs leads up from Muristan Road and visitors can exit into the courtyard of Khan el-Sultan, which allows exit onto Chain Street. The view from the rooftops offers delightful views of the bustling streets below, as well as unusual views of the Church of the Holy Sepulcre and the Dome of the Rock.
The Muslim Quarter is the largest and most densely populated quarter of the Old City. The quarter has changed hands many times from the 12th through 15th centuries, resulting in decay since the 16th century. It is one of the most fascinating and least explored parts of Jerusalem.
- Noble Sanctuary. 8 AM–2 PM (Ramadan: 7:30 AM–10 AM) Saturday–Thursday, but closed for prayers around noon. The key attraction of the Muslim Quarter, the Noble Sanctuary, also known in Hebrew as Har Ha-Bayit (הר הבית) and in Arabic as Haram al-Sharif (حارم الشريف), is a vast rectangular esplanade in the south-eastern part of the city. Traditionally the site of Solomon's Temple, it later housed the Second Temple which was enlarged by Herod the Great and was destroyed by the Romans in AD 70. Hence, this plot is also commonly known to Jews and Christians as the Temple Mount. The site is extremely controversial and access is strictly regulated. Non-Muslims are not allowed to enter the Sanctuary on Fridays and during prayer hours and may well be shut off entirely depending on the political situation of the day; even so, it is well worth making an effort to get in. The only non-Muslim entrance to the Sanctuary is through a wooden bridge leading up to the Moor's Gate on the far south-eastern corner of the Western Wall Plaza. Entry to the Sanctuary itself is free. Presently, entry to the Dome of the Rock and the al-Aqsa Mosque are prohibited.
- Dome of the Rock. Known in Hebrew as Kipat Ha-Sela (כיפת הסלע) and in Arabic as Qubbat as-Sakhrah (قبة الصخرة), the Dome of the Rock is one of the first and most familiar achievements of Islamic architecture, the Dome of the Rock marks the spot from where most Muslims believe the Prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven on the back of his fabulous horse, before returning to earth to record his vision. This association has made the building (together with the neighbouring al-Aqsa Mosque) the third-holiest site in Islam after Mecca and Medina. Built 687-691 by the ninth Omayyad caliph, Abd al-Malik, the Dome is probably the most spectacular building in the Old City, topped with a dazzling golden dome visible from afar, the interior layered with glittering ceramics, mosaics and Arabic calligraphy. Despite common conceptions, the Dome is not a mosque, but a shrine which protects beneath its high ceiling, a large piece of Rock sacred to Muslims, Jews and Christians. The Rock is variously believed to be where Abraham was asked to sacrifice his son, Isaac, where Mohammad left the Earth on his Night Journey (a small indentation was reportedly left by his foot), as well as the site of the Holy of Holies of Herod's Temple.
- al-Aqsa Mosque. Construction of the mosque began less than 20 years after the completion of the Dome of the Rock. Al-Aqsa has undergone many changes since its original construction. When the Crusaders captured Jerusalem in the 11th century, al-Aqsa became the headquarters of the Templars. The mosque's design pales in comparison to the Dome of the Rock and is off-limits to non-Muslim visitors.
- Museum of Islamic Art. Housed in the Crusader-era refectory of the Knights Templar, this sparsely-filled museum contains a few poorly labeled Islamic architectural remnants. An admission is required, but it is recommended that guests interested in Islamic art visit the LA Mayer Museum in the new city.
- St. Anne's Church. 8 AM–noon and 2–6 PM (winter: 4 PM) Monday–Saturday. This Crusader-era church was built between 1131 and 1138 to replace a Byzantine church. It is traditionally believed to be the spot where Anne and Joachim, the parents of the Virgin Mary, lived. In 1192, Saladin turned the church into a Muslim theological school. Later the church fell into ruins until it was donated to France by the Ottomans in 1856. Outside the church are the extensive remains of curative baths as well as the ruins of a Roman temple dedicated to the god of medicine. It is widely believed that this site is the Pool of Bethesda where, according to the Gospel of John (5:1-15), Christ cured a paralysed man. 7 NIS for adults and 5 NIS for students and children.
- Monastery of the Flagellation. 8 AM–6 PM (October through March: 5 PM) daily. Owned by the Franciscans, this site is traditionally held to be where Christ was flogged by Roman soldiers prior to his crucifixion (Matthew 27:27-30; Mark 15:16-19). Opposite the courtyard is the Chapel of the Condemnation, built on the site popularly identified with the trial of Christ before Pontius Pilate. Admission is free.
- Ecce Homo Arch. 8:30 AM–12:30 PM and 2–5 PM Monday through Saturday. This arch, which spans the Via Dolorosa, was built by the Romans in AD 70 to support a ramp for the attack on the Antonia Fortress. The arch was reconstructed as a monument to victory when the Romans rebuilt Jerusalem in AD 135. Incorporated into the structure of the neighboring Convent of the Sisters of Zion, Christian tradition states that this is the place where Pilate presented Christ to the crowd and spoke the words, "Ecce homo" (Latin for "Behold the man").
The Jewish Quarter feels distinctly different from the rest of the Old City. Razed by the Jordanians after the partition of the former British Mandate of Palestine in 1948, most buildings in it have been rebuilt from scratch since Israel assumed control of the Old City in 1967. Despite strict laws mandating the use of Jerusalem sandstone in all facades in order to maintain uniformity, the buildings look and feel new. In a somewhat tit-for-tat move, the current wide plaza in front of the Western Wall was created by bulldozing a neighborhood called the Moroccan Quarter.
- The Western Wall, . open 24/7 and 365 days a year. Known in Hebrew as Ha-Kotel Ha-Ma'aravi (הכותל המערבי), the Western Wall, which dates back over 2,000 years and marks the western edge of the Temple Mount, is the only surviving remnant of the Temple Mount. As part of the retaining wall of the Temple Mount, it was built by Herod the Great during his expansion of the Temple in 20 BC. The wall became the Jews' chief place of pilgrimage during the Ottoman Period where they lamented the destruction of the temple by the hands of the Romans in AD 70. For this reason it has also become known as the "Wailing Wall". As the Jews are forbidden access to the Temple Mount, this is the only part of the structure they are allowed to approach. The plaza in front of the Wall is divided by a fence, with a large area for men on the left and a smaller area for women on the right. Anyone is allowed to approach the wall as long as their heads are covered, (for men complimentary kippahs are provided upon entry), behave with decorum, and dress appropriately (no shorts and shoulders and midriffs must be covered, shawls are available to borrow on the women's side). The wall acts as an outdoor synagogue with written prayers inserted into the crevices between the large stones. Photography is not allowed on the Sabbath. Monday and Thursday mornings many bar mitzvahs are held, drawing large crowds of families and guests. Friday night at sundown there is the welcoming of the Sabbath (kabbalat Shabbat) which includes prayers, singing and dancing.
- Saint Mary's Hospice. The ruins of a 12th century German Crusader Hospice within view of the Temple Mount. Worth a short visit. A Jewish art gallary/shop is to the left of the door to the hospice's church (it's pretty obvious which of the buildings is the church). *The Cardo. Once running nearly the entire length of the Old City from north to south, the Cardo is an excavated and partially reconstructed section of the Jerusalem's main thoroughfare in the Byzantine era. Visitors can get a good idea of how the whole once looked by descending to the 200 m (650 ft) section alongside the Jewish Quarter. The central roadway was 12.5 m (41 ft) wide and lined with shops. The pillars from that time still stand. Today in part, the Cardo contains an exclusive, covered shopping arcade.
- Hurva Square. In a maze of narrow and winding streets, Hurva Square is the heart and social center of the Jewish Quarter. Its open areas offer cafes, souvenir shops, and snack bars with outdoor seating. On the west side of the square is the site of the Huvra Synogogue (Hurva means "ruins"). Burnt down by its creditors in the 18th century, the synagogue was rebuilt in 1864 only to be destroyed during the fighting that took place in 1948 between the Arab and Jewish armies. After the Israeli assumption of control in 1967, a lone arch was reconstructed from the remaining shell, making it a popular photographic attraction. As of 2006, however, the arch has been removed and construction has begun on rebuilding the synagogue which is scheduled for completion in mid 2008.
- The Broad Wall. Following the 1967 Israeli victory, a vast reconstruction program in the Jewish Quarter resulted in many important archaeological finds. One of the most significant was the unearthing of the foundations of a massive wall. These fortifications, measuring 7 m (22 ft) thick and 65 m (215 ft) long, are possibly part of the fortifications built by King Hezekiah in the 8th century BC.
- Wohl Archaeological Museum. 9 AM–4:30 PM Sunday through Thursday. Lying 3 to 7 m (10 to 22 ft) below street level. This Museum offers a vivid excavation of daily life during the Herodian era, 2,000 years ago before the Romans rampaged and burned the wealthy Upper City in AD 70. Photography inside the museum is not allowed. Admission is 25 shekels for students and 35 for non-student adults and also covers the entrance fee to the '''Burnt House''', another building from the same era.
- Ophel Archaeological Park, . 8 AM–7 PM Sunday through Thursday and 8 AM–2 PM on Friday. This area on the southern side of the Haram esh-Sharif (Temple Mount) was been rebuilt many times over the centuries. Remains of Herodian (34–4 BC), Byzantine (AD 395–661) and Omayyad (AD 661–750) can be found on the grounds. Entrance fee is 25 shekels for adults and 15 for students. Audio guides are available but for 6 shekels but the map given at the front desk does not follow the audio guide's number arrangement towards the end of the tour. Audio guide is recommended though. There is an admission fee.
- Temple Institue, . 9AM-5PM Sunday-Thursday; 9AM-2PM Friday; Closed Saturday.. A fairly interesting place which has reconstructed most of the more obvious ritual tools to be used in the Temple services in the hopes of one day restoring the Temple itself. The front of the store is a book store while the back is a four room museum with one room set aside as a theater to show a 15 minute movie. Dress appropriately when going here. Long pants and sleeves for men, and modest wear for women. 20 shekels.
The Armenian Quarter is the smallest and quietest of the four. The quarter runs itself as a city within a city (within a city...), shutting all gates when night falls.
- Citadel, . 8 AM–4 PM Sunday through Thursday and 8 AM–2 PM on Fridays, Saturdays and holidays. Now occupied by the Tower of David Museum of the History of Jerusalem, the Citadel is an imposing fortress inside the city wall beside the Jaffa Gate. Utilized and expanded throughout the centuries as a means of protection, excavations have revealed remains dating back to the 2nd century BC and indicate that there was a fortress here in Herodian times. The museum provides visitors with 3 routes highlighting different aspects of the Citadel, namely: Exhibit, Panorama and Excavation. The routes are advisory only and provided for visitors' convenience. An 1873 model of Jerusalem is on display in an underground cistern near the exit. 30 NIS for adults, 20 NIS for students and seniors, and 15 NIS for children.
- St. James Cathedral. 6–7:30 AM and 3–3:30 PM daily. This Armenian cathedral is one of the most beautiful of all the sacred buildings in Jerusalem. It was constructed in the 11th and 12th centuries over the traditional tomb of St James the Apostle. Attending an Armenian Orthodox vespers service is a treat, even for non-believers. Vespers is held each evening (except Sunday) at 3:00 and lasts until 3:30. It is chanted by the seminarians of the Armenian Orthodox seminary across the street from the Cathedral. The chanting is very moving and has a bitter-sweet tone to it which is unforgettably beautiful. Each afternoon the service is signaled by a priest striking wooden bars hanging from the vaulted porch. The interior is dimly lit by hundreds of oil lamps hung from the ceiling. (Make sure to find out if their is an Armenian holy day where all of the lamps will be lit up during your visit.) Rather than seats, the floors are thickly laid with Oriental rugs. The cathedral contains a chapel that supposedly holds the head of St James.
- Saint Mark's Syriac Church and Monastery. The monastery is open all day, simply ring at the gate. According to tradition, this church was built on the site of the house of Mary, mother of St Mark. Every weekday the three resident monks hold the 25 minute vespers service at 4PM for the small community of Syriac believers as well as visitors. Female visitors are not required to cover their hair during services.
- OUTSIDE THE WALLS.
- Church of the Dormition. 9 AM–noon and 12:30 PM–6 PM Monday through Thursday; 9 AM–noon and 2–6 PM on Friday; 10:30 AM–6 PM on Sunday. Adorned by a conical dome and a tall bell tower, this Mount Zion church is the traditional site of the Virgin Mary's death. Several churches have been built on the site. The present-day structure was built in the early 20th century for the visit of Kaiser Wilhelm II. The main part of the church contains a mosaic floor featuring the signs of the zodiac and the names of various saints and prophets. A statue of the Virgin Mary rests in the crypt surrounded by images of various women listed in the Old Testament.
- King David's Tomb. Summer hours are 8 AM–8PM Saturday through Thursday and 8AM–2PM on Fridays. Winter hours are 8 AM–sunset Sunday through Thursday and 8 AM–1 PM on Friday. Adjoining the Church of the Dormition and located on the lower floor of the Crusader building is a small chamber venerated as King David's Tomb. The chamber—divided for separate viewing by men and women—contains a sarcophagus covered by a drape. Between the periods of 1948 and 1967, when the Old City was under Jordanian control and there was no access to the Western Wall, Jews would come here to pray. Today the entrance hall is still used as a synagogue. Admission is free.
- Chamber of the Holocaust, ☎ 02-6716841 (fax: 02-6717116). 8 AM–5 PM, Sunday–Thursday, and 8 AM–1 PM on Fridays.  Located directly opposite the Tomb of David on Mount Zion, this small museum is maintained by the Diaspora Yeshiva. The collection includes Holocaust artifacts, artwork inspired by the Holocaust, an exhibit of anti-Semitic publications throughout history, and memorials to individuals and communities that perished. NIS 12.
- City of David. 9 AM–5 PM, Sunday–Thursday, and 9 AM–1 PM on Fridays. These ruins are the oldest part of Jerusalem with remains of buildings up to the city's capture by the Babylonians in 586 BC. The ruins include 13th century BC walls, as well as fortifications and fragments of a palace attributed to David, the second king of Israel. The site is located south of the Temple Mount. Exit the Old City through Dung Gate (by the Kotel), turn left, and then take the first street on your right. A sign and an Israeli flag mark the entrance to the City of David. A small section of the excavations is open to the public, showing the house of Ahiel and the infamous toilet seat. (NB: Women should not go here alone.) Admission is free.
- Warren’s Shaft. 9 AM–5 PM Sunday through Thursday and 9 AM–1 PM on Fridays. This tunnel is located about 100 m (330 ft) from the City of David excavations. Named after Charles Warren, its 19th-century discoverer, the sloping tunnel leads to a pool fed by the Gihon Spring. The system was built by the Jebusites to ensure a water supply during sieges. In the 10th century BC a tunnel was dug to take water from the Gihon Spring to the fields of the kidron valley. King Hezekiah had a new tunnel built to bring the spring water right into the city. Hezekiah's Tunnel ran 533 m (1,750 ft) from the spring to the Pool of Siloam in the south end of the city. Visitors can wade through the tunnel in thigh-deep water. It takes about half an hour to pass through, and the ceiling is high in most places. It's a good idea to take a flashlight. Before entering the tunnel, you can also visit the various tombs you will see in the valley. (NB: Women should not go here alone.) There is an admission fee.
- St Peter in Gallicantu. 8:30 AM–5 PM Monday through Saturday. Located to the east of Mount Zion and overlooking the Kidron Valley, this church commemorates the traditional site of St Peter's denial of Christ. In the crypt below the church are ancient caves, purported to be the place where Christ spent the night at the hand of Caiphas before being presented to Pontius Pilate. A large wooden model of an 18th century Old City is on display in the courtyard, although it pales in comparison to the more elaborate model on display at the Citadel (see Armenian Quarter). 7 NIS for adults and 5 NIS for students. Children under 13 are free. Parking is available at a charge of 10 NIS.
- Schindler's Tomb, ☎ A phone number has been hastily painted on the upper gate and can be called if desiring entrance. Hours are not set and more often than not, the gate to the cemetery is closed and locked. Down the hill from the Zion Gate is a small Christian cemetery. It is here that the grave of Czech-born German Oskar Schindler is located. Schindler, an industrialist during World War II, went out of his way to hire Jews as laborers in his factory. By doing so, he saved 1,200 people from the Nazi death camps. The story was memorialized in Stephen Spielberg's Academy Award-winning movie, Schindler's List.
- Rockefeller Archaeological Museum, . 10 AM–3 PM Sunday through Thursday and 10 AM–2 PM on Saturday. Located in East Jerusalem just outside the north-eastern corner of the Old City walls, the Rockefeller Museum was made possible by a substantial contribution by American old tycoon John D. Rockefeller. The museum houses an impressive collection of antiquities, including a number of the Dead Sea Scrolls. There is an admission fee.
- Garden Tomb. 8:30 AM–noon and 2–5:30 PM Monday through Saturday. Disputed to be an alternative to the Church of the Holy Sepulcre as the location of the death, burial and resurrection of Christ, the Garden Tomb is located a block north of the Damascus Gate. British general, Charles Gordon, popularized the view that the skull shaped hill just north of the city was the Golgotha referred to in the New Testament. Excavations have revealed an ancient tomb along with ruins of a cistern system and winepress—evidences that the site was once the location of a garden. Regardless of its authenticity, the lovely garden is worth a visit. Admission is free; donations are accepted.
Mount of Olives / Garden of Gethsemane
NB: While there are many interesting things to see in this area, there are certain precautions that you should take very seriously. Women should not explore here, either alone or in pairs, without being accompanied by a man. You should take no more cash than you need, nor should you take your travel documents, as muggings and attacks are not uncommon here. Neither should you leave a rental car unattended in this area. Remember to dress modestly when visiting.
It is recommended that one explore the Mount of Olives from the top down, as the uphill climb can be extremely ambitious. The best ways to travel to the top of the Mount of Olives are by sherut (shared taxi), which will cost 20 shekels, or by bus, both of which are easily accessible from the Damascus Gate.
Steimatzky’s bookstore in West Jerusalem carries a very good pamphlet called "The Mount of Olives" that includes an account of the history of each church, in addition to readings from the Gospels and notes from pilgrims to the area. It also covers Bethphage and the Church of St. Lazarus in Bethany.
The following points of interest are listed from the top of the Mount to the bottom. Once you have finished on the Mount of Olives, it is a short climb to the Old City's Lion's Gate.
- Mosque of the Ascension. The courtyard and chapel are open daily (if closed, ring the bell). Sacred to Muslims and Christians, this medieval chapel—now part of a mosque—is on the supposed site of Christ's ascension. The chapel was built around AD 380 around a venerated imprint, now set in stone, of Christ's right foot. The chapel became a Muslim shrine after Saladin's conquest in 1187. If given a "tour" by the guard, he will expect a gratuity for his services. 5 NIS.
- Church of the Paternoster. 9–11:30 AM and 3–5 PM Monday through Saturday. Built over Constantine-era ruins, this church sits atop a grotto where Christ is believed to have taught the Paternoster (meaning "Our Father"), or Lord's Prayer. The church is famous for its tiled panels inscribed with the Lord's Prayer in more than 60 languages. The Seven Arches Hotel is a short walk from the church.
- Tombs of the Prophets. Hours are 9 AM–3:30 PM Monday through Friday. At the top of the Jewish Cemetery, which spans the southwestern slope of the Mount of Olives, lies a large catacomb complex containing oven-shaped graves. Christian and Jewish tradition holds that the tombs belonged to the 5th century BC prophets Haggai, Malachi and Zechariah. Rather the catacombs date from a much later period, the 1st century AD. There is an admission charge.
- Dominus Flevit Chapel. 8–11:45 AM and 2:30–5 PM daily. Its name meaning "The Lord Wept", this chapel was identified by medieval pilgrims as the place where Jesus wept over the fate of Jerusalem. The chapel's west window frames a breathtaking view of the Old City. A small collection of stone artifacts from nearby excavations are on display.
- Church of St. Mary Magdalene, ☎ (02) 628 4371. 10 AM–noon, Tuesday and Thursday (call to double check the times). This Russian Orthodox Church, with its gilded onion domes, was built by Tsar Alexander III in 1885 in memory of his mother, Maria Alexandrovna, whose patron saint was Mary Magdalene. Tsar Alexander III's sister-in-law, Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna, was buried here after her murder during the Russian Revolution in 1920.
- Church of All Nations / Garden of Gethsemane. 8 AM–noon and 2:30–5 PM (summer: 6 PM) daily. Also known as the Church of Agony because it is built over the rock where Jesus agonized about his death, this 4th-century church has been rebuilt many times, the most recent structure being the result of financial contributions from 12 nations. To commemorate the benefactors, the church was designed with 12 domes adorned with each country's coat of arms. The rock in the center of the nave is the remnant of the ruined Byzantine church. The plan of the Byzantine church is outlined on the floor in black marble. Next to the church is the surviving part of the Garden of Gethsemane with its centuries-old olive trees.
- Tomb of the Virgin / Cave of Gethsemane. Hours for the Tomb of the Virgin are 8 AM–noon and 2:30–5 PM daily. Hours for the Cave of Gethsemane are 8:30 AM–noon and 2:30–5 PM daily. Directly across from the Church of All Nations, the Tomb of the Virgin is believed to be where the Disciples entombed Mary, the mother of Jesus. Forty-seven steps lead past side niches and down to crypt, which contains the burial place of Queen Melisande of Jerusalem, St. Anne and St. Joachim (Mary's parents) and the Virgin Mary. Outside, to the right of the entrance, is the Cave of Gethsemane, also known as the Cave of Betrayal, the traditional place of Judas's betrayal of Jesus.
Route of the 14 Stations of the Cross
- Walk the Via Dolorosa - the "way of sorrows" traditionally traces the last steps of Christ from where he was tried to Calvary, where he was crucified, and the tomb in the Church of the Holy Sepulcre where he is said to have been buried. There is no historical basis for the 0.25 km (0.16 miles) route, which has changed over the centuries. Nevertheless, pilgrims traditionally walk the route, identifying with Jesus' suffering. Along the route are 14 Stations of the Cross, each connected with a particular story or event. "Guides" hanging around the beginning of the Via will give you a tour for a small fee, accompanied by informed commentary, but this is not necessarily the best plan. Paying a token amount to get yourself started is not a bad plan, but if you have a guide book you can likely handle it better on your own from there, due to the crowded and winding nature of the Via through the Old City's narrow streets. Not all the guides are as respectful of the religious sites along the Via Dolorosa as they could be, sometimes walking headlong into occupied churches mid-service.
- First Station - Jesus is condemned to death. The traditional site of the Roman fortress where this took place lies inside a Muslim college.
- Second Station - Jesus takes up his cross after his flagellation and coronation of thorns. This takes place in front of the Monastery of Flagellation.
- Third Station - Jesus falls beneath the weight of his cross. This is commemorated by a small chapel with a marbel relief above the door.
- Fourth Station - Jesus meets his mother Mary. A sculpture above the door of the Armenian Church of Our Lady of the Spasm represents this.
- Fifth Station - Simon of Cyrene is ordered to help carry the cross of Christ. This point at the start of the ascent to Calvary is marked by a Franciscan oratory.
- Sixth Station - Veronica wipes away Jesus' blood and sweat and her handkerchief reveals an impression of his face. This story, not recorded in the Bible, is commemorated by The Chapel of St Veronica.
- Seventh Station - Jesus falls for the second time, as indicated by a large Roman column in a Franciscan chapel.
- Eighth Station - Jesus consoles the women of Jerusalem (Luke 23:28), and is marked by a Latin cross on the wall of a Greek Orthodox Monastery.
- Ninth Station - Jesus falls for the third time. This place is marked on a Roman column at the entrance to the Ethiopian Monastery.
- Tenth to Thirteenth Stations - These four stations (Jesus is stripped of his clothes, nailed to the cross, dies, and is taken down from the cross) are all in the place identified as Golgotha (Calvary) within the Church of the Holy Sepulcre.
- Fourteenth Station - the Holy Sepulcre itself, the purported tomb belonging to Joseph of Arimathea who asked Pilate for Jesus' body.
- Ramparts Walk - visitors can walk along two sections of the Old City wall, from Jaffa Gate clockwise to St Stephen's Gate, and counter-clockwise from Jaffa Gate to the Dung Gate. Access to the ramparts is only possible at Jaffa and Damascus gates, although walkers can descend at any gate. Hours are 9am–4pm (2pm on Fridays) daily. Admission is 16 shekels for adults and 8 shekels for students and children.
- Attend a church service, if you're that way inclined.... For Christian services and addresses of churches (most denominations are represented in Jerusalem), call the Christian Information Centre, Jaffa Gate, telephone 6272692, open Monday through Saturday, 8:30 p.m.–1:00 p.m.
The Suq El Attaria is the primary shopping area in the Arab quarters of the Old City. You will find shops ranging from souvenirs to greengrocers to traditional clothing.
The lanes and alleys in and near the Christian quarter abound in shops displaying icons and other churchy items. The quality ranges from kitsch to alright - and prices are mostly grossly inflated. Credit card scams are not unknown. Shop proprietors are seasoned masters at gentle but effective commercial manipulation - inviting bypassing tourists into their shops, involving them in innocuous conversation and directing them into 'you must buy this' situations.
The Old City of Jerusalem is also known for its Armenian ceramics. With white and a rich blue as the base colors, and bright paintings on them, they are a distinct souvenir. The street signs throughout the old quarter are made of Armenian ceramics, and a few shops will produce custom nameplates and tile signs with a short turnaround time.
The Cardo is the most prestigious shopping precinct in the Jewish Quarter. Built on the excavated remains of late Roman era Jerusalem (many of which can still be seen), the shops here specialise in arts and crafts, jewelry, Judaica, Dead Sea beauty products, quality souvenirs and T-shirts, amongst other things. Although, be advised that similar products tend to be significantly more pricey than elsewhere in the Old City.
The Old City tempts the taste buds with Arabic, Jewish, Mediterranean and International fare. Visitors on the go can grab food from street vendors, while those desiring a more formal meal can find numerous restaurants scattered throughout each quarter.
Common appetizers and quick treats may include Kibbe, an oval-shaped croquette of cracked wheat filled with meat and onions; Hummos, a chickpea paste with olive oil; Tabuleh, finely-chopped parsley with tomato and cucumber; and Tahini, a sesame seed paste with parsley, oil and garlic.
Main dishes usually consist of lamb or chicken meat with occasional beef, but never pork. Meats can be cooked in a variety of ways, but is most often cooked on a spit. Take-away restaurants offer favorites like falafel (deep-fried balls of mashed chickpeas) and shwarma (lamb grilled on a spit and eaten in flat bread).
Desert options range from exotic or citrus fruits to sticky, sweet Middle Eastern confections. Baklava is a layered pastry filled with powdered pistachio and covered in honey or syrup. Kanafeh, a recipe that differs throughout the Middle East, is served in Jerusalem as pistachios in a crisp coating of pastry threads.
An issue that may be confusing to many travelers is the issue of Jewish dietary laws, or Kashrut. These laws state that certain meat is considered impure (anything that does not chew the cud and have a split hoof, including pork and rabbit), as well as certain types of seafood (anything without scales or fins). Animals that are permitted for consumption have been slaughtered according to Jewish religious practices and cleansed of all traces of blood before cooking, allowing the food to be declared kosher. Other complications revolve around the fact that meat and dairy products can never be eaten together in the same meal. In Jerusalem you will find that all types of restaurants can be kosher, not just Jewish ones.
- Quarter Cafe, Tiferet Yisrael St., ☎ (02) 628 7770. Known more for its scenery rather than for its food, the Quarter Cafe offers a view over the Western Wall and Temple Mount. Under $15.
- Bonkers Bagels, 2 Tiferet Yisrael St., ☎ (02) 627 2590. Open Sunday - Thursday 9:00am - 6:00pm. Friday 9:00am - two hours before Shabbat. Motzei Shabbat from one hour after Shabbat. Closed Shabbat. This restaurant is located between the Hurva Square and the Kotel. The menu consists of a wide selection of bagels and toppings, including vegetables and spreads. Under $5.
- Tzaddik's Deli, Tiferet Yisrael St., ☎ (02)627 2148. At Tzaddik's you can find deli sandwiches, hot dogs, chips, a selection of drinks, and even Thanksgiving dinner during the appropriate season.
- Rami's Pizza, 131 HaYehudim. You can buy pizza, calzones, soft-serve ice cream (American ice cream) and a variety of drinks.
- Menorah Cafe, 71 & 73 HaYehudim. This cafe is actually two restaurants, one dairy and one meat. The dairy menu has fish, pastas, salads, soups, sandwiches, and cakes. The meat cafe serves hamburgers, salads, kabobs, hot deli sandwiches, fries (chips), steak, and chicken. A meal for about $10.
- Versavee, 41 Greek Catholic Patriarchate (second left past the Tourist Information Office inside Jaffa Gate, into historical Versavee Building (part of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate)). Versavee is a cosy place where you can enjoy and chill, listen to cool music and watch TV. You can enjoy coffees and teas, fresh croissants, fresh juices, apple, carrot, orange, grapefruit and pomegranate. Soft drinks, beers & beverages, snacks, munchies, tobacco & free wi-fi!
- Armenian Tavern, 79 Armenian Orthodox Patriarchate Rd. (from Jaffa Gate, turn right at the Citadel/Tower of David and continue straight down the street past the post office; the restaurant is on the right hand side down a small flight of stairs), ☎ (02) 627 3854. 11 AM–10:30 PM Tu-Su; reservation required Fr–Sa evenings. Traditional Armenian food in an atmospheric setting: a Crusader period arched cellar complete with indoor fountain, wooden tables and the ubiquitous hand-painted Armenian tiles. Alcoholic beverages available. NIS 30-60.
Some of the best and cheapest falafel and shwarma joints can found on Saladin Street, just outside Damascus Gate. In addition to the restaurant listed below, there are numerous of pushcarts and stands right outside the gate serving fresh off the grill (and into a pita) food for around NIS 6 a serving (usually not kosher).
- Abu Shukri, 63 El Wad Road (corner of Via Dolorosa), ☎ (02) 627 1538. 8 AM–5 PM daily. A small, simple restaurant that is known for its quality hummus and serves a variety of Middle Eastern favorites. Under $15.
- Jerusalem Star, 32 El Wad Road. 10 AM–10 PM daily. Not kosher
Coffee and Tea are the two most common drinks among Jews and Arabs, although each has a preferred way of making it. In Jewish areas, coffee and tea are drunk in European or American-style cafés. Espresso is offered, but is weak compared to katzar, a stronger coffee. In Arab areas, coffee (qahweh) is served thick and strong and is meant to be consumed in small sips. If Western-style coffee is preferred, ask for Nescafé or filtered coffee. Tea (shay) is stronger than Western-style tea and is drunk with lots of sugar. If Western-style tea is preferred, ask for shay Libton (Lipton tea).
Bottled water is inexpensive and readily available throughout the Old City. Carrying an extra bottle of water is recommended due to the dry, dusty climate.
Some restaurants serve alcohol. The main Israeli beers are Maccabee and Goldstar. Spirits are less widely available but are commonly sold in hotel bars.
Accommodation within the Old City itself is distinctly downmarket.
For those on a tight budget, youth hostels are ideal (although occasionally somewhat dodgy), and often the cheapest places to stay in Jerusalem. Religiously-based hospices and guest houses, located mainly near the holy sites, is a popular and inexpensive alternative to hotels. Hospices and guest houses tend to maintain stricter rules than hostels.
- Heritage House, for men: 2 Ohr Hachaim Street, for women: 7 HaMalach Street, ☎ Office: (02) 627-1916 (firstname.lastname@example.org, fax: (02) 628-8302), . The Heritage House Jewish Youth Hostel is located just inside the Jewish Quarter from the Jaffa Gate. Learning opportunities and Shabbat hospitality are also available to non-guests. Free.
- Al-Arab Youth Hostel, Souq Khan el-Zeit, upstairs from Internet Cafe, ☎ (02) 628-3537, . Dorm: 20 or 25 NIS.
- Hebron Hostel (formerly known as 'Tabasco Hostel'), 8 Aqabat Etkia, ☎ (02) 628 1101, . Directions (in the name of 'Tabasco Hostel'): Directions Dorm: 25-30 NIS; Private Room: 80 or 100 NIS.
- New Swedish Hostel, 29 David Street, ☎ (02) 626-4124 or (02) 627-7855, . Dorm: $6.50; Private Room: $11 OR $12.
- Petra Hotel and Hostel, 1 David Street, just inside Jaffa Gate with magnificent views across the Old City to the Dome of the Rock, ☎ (02) 628 6618, . Roof: 20-30 NIS; Dorm: ?? NIS; Double Room: 120 NIS; Private Room: 180 NIS.
- Lutheran Hostel, St Mark's Road (Christian Quarter), ☎ (02) 628 2120. Dorm (single sex): 25 NIS; Single: 137 NIS; Double: 231 NIS.
- Austrian Hospice, 37 Via Dolorosa (Muslim Quarter), ☎ (02) 627 4636, . Dorm: 58 NIS; Single: 206 NIS; Double: 323 NIS.
- Our Lady of Zion, 41 Via Dolorosa (Ecce Homo Convent, Muslim Quarter), ☎ (02) 627 7293 (fax: 628 2224). This hospice has clean and simple rooms and a great view of the Old City from the roof. 224 NIS-448 NIS.
- Casa Nova, 10 Casa Nova St. (Christian Quarter), ☎ (02) 627 1441 (fax: 626 4370). High quality and comfort and a good location for the money, this hospice is popular with Catholic groups, so it is a good idea to book well in advance. Under 224 NIS.
- Mount of Olives, 53 Mount of Olives Rd. (near the Mosque of the Ascension), ☎ (02) 628 4877 (fax: 626 4427). This family run hotel is clean and quiet. Several rooms and one suite have panoramic views. 224 NIS-448 NIS.
- Christ Church Guest House, Omar ibn el-Khattab Square (Jaffa Gate, Armenian Quarter), ☎ (02) 627 7727 (fax: 628 2999). One of the oldest Christian hospices in the Old City, this location has plain, comfortable rooms and good range of services. Its location makes it very popular, so book well in advance. 448 NIS-784 NIS.
- Jerusalem Panorama, Ras el-Amud St (Hill of Gethsemane), ☎ (02) 627 2277 (fax: 627 3699). This hotel offers good service and facilities for the price. Most rooms are air conditioned and children's facilities are available. Rooms offer fine views but those overlooking the street can be noisy. This area is not serviced well by public transportation. 448 NIS-784 NIS.
- Seven Arches, Main Rd (Mount of Olives near the Church of the Paternoster), ☎ (02) 626 7777 (fax: 627 1319). This large, modern hotel is located on the summit of the Mount of Olives and offers spectacular views. 448 NIS-784 NIS.
The facilities in the Old City are recommended for those on a tight or mid-range travel budget. For those looking to splurge on accommodations, there are quite a few recommended locations in Modern Jerusalem.
A plethora of internet cafes has opened throughout the Old City, especially in the Christian and Muslim Quarters - you will have no difficulty locating one as you wander through the narrow streets and souqs. Prices vary, so shop about. Around Israel, the most common price for internetcafes is NIS 15 per hour.