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Jerusalem/Old City

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Jerusalem : Old City
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The Old City [19] of Jerusalem is that part of Jerusalem that is the heart of the city and Jewish history as well as the center of Judaism and a holy city to Islam and Christianity. The city is surrounded by the impressive 16th century Ottoman city walls, and inside the city you'll find ancient architecture built by Jews and Romans as well as Ottomans. The Old City is culturally and historically divided into four Quarters: (clockwise from the north-east) the Muslim Quarter, the Jewish Quarter, the Armenian Quarter, and the Christian Quarter. Though under these quarters lays ancient architecture from thousands of years ago. Which you can mostly see in the Western Wall tunnels.


The Western Wall (Al-Buraq Wall) at night

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 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.


As a legacy of Rome's occupation of Jerusalem, a Cardo (market street) still today runs north-to-south down the center of the city; this road has been excavated and re-opened with modern shops among the ancient columns today, about two stories underground in an open-air strip of the city. The Old City is also bisected by an east-to-west road (known as a Roman "decumano"), thus forming four "quarters". And so today it still has four distinct districts (some larger than others), representing the major religions who have occupied the Old City.

  • The Christian Quarter is the northwest quarter. It contains the Holy Sepulchre, and shares the Damascus Gate (north side of City) with the Muslim Quarter and the Yafo Gate (west side of city) with the Armenian Quarter. Just outside its walls are the Mamilla Pool and a Herodian Cistern; in this region of the world, water is and always was vital for the city. Presently, Mamilla has some of Israel's most expensive shopping and housing, and many nearby churches also are just outside of the Christian Quarter.
  • The Armenian Quarter is also Christian, but distinctly Eastern Christianity; it is in the southwest corner of the Old City. An Armenian alliance with Jews dates back to Israel's Hellenistic Era, but Jerusalem isn't attested to have an area called an Armenian "quarter" until near The Crusades. It is the smallest quarter, but contains the Zion Gate, and south of this gate is the historic Mount Zion (outside the walls, but quite well protected by steep slopes on all other sides). The Armenian Quarter contains the Tower of David, a late First Temple era fortification, and an Armenian Orthodox cathedral, monastery, and museum, as well as smaller holy sites for all three major religions. The City Walls contained what is now the Armenian Quarter by 586 BCE, and Herodian Jews began to build the Sultan's Pool (Ottoman Turks later expanded it) west of the Armenian Quarter by damming the Himmon Valley which runs north-to-south, forming a natural moat just west of The Armenian Quarter, then the Hinnom Valley turns east and runs along the southern City Wall. Aqueducts from as far as the cities of Bethlehem and Beytan fed this southwestern pool.
  • The Jewish Quarter in the southeast of the Old City includes some relics dating from the First Temple era; their foundations are up to 75' (25m) below the current ground-elevation. Tanner's Gate and Dung Gate lead south from the Jewish Quarter to the City of David which pre-dates the Old City and was called the "Lower City" since the late-Israelite era. To the southeast is the city's earliest known water source, Gihon Spring, which brought water uphill (under natural pressure) into the fortified walls of The Lower City, then later into the Old City, via a well-hidden and formerly guarded tunnel (which is typical of many Israelite and other Canaanite cities). To the east of the Jewish Quarter is the Mount of Olives, notable for its 3000 year-old Jewish burial ground and several Christian churches, where the New Testament says Jesus often made sermons.
  • The Muslim Quarter is in the northeast of the Old City and is where most of the city's mosques are; Muslims also meet atop the Mount, and weekly at the wall east of the Temple Mount. Despite its name, there are several Christian landmarks such as Ecce Homo and half of the Via Dolorosa in The Muslim Quater, and it is Old City's largest quarter. It has been within Jerusalem's City Walls only since circa 20 CE, the Romanized-Jewish (Herodian) era, and the area next to Damascus Gate contains a giant 100,000sq-ft (10,000m2) cave that was used to quarry stones since at least the Second Temple era (after 530 BCE). Also within the Muslim Quarter are The Bethesda Pools, built between 800 and 200 BCE. Lion's Gate and Damascus Gate are the largest entries for those entering from the new State of Palestine and from the historic Mount of Olives which is a ridge that runs north-to-south along the Old City's eastern wall, but the Kidron Valley is between the Mount of Olives and the eastern City Wall.

The Kidron and Hinnom Valleys meet southeast of the city near Gihon Spring, thus forming a natural defensive line on the west, south, and east sides of Jerusalem, but today the western side is filled in by millennia of debris.

The Jewish Quarter traditionally included the Temple Mount, however only Muslims are allowed inside the Dome of the Rock at the center of the Mount, non-Muslims still may ascend the outdoors areas of the Temple Mount, and the 1990's Oslo Accords preserve this access indefinitely. For political reasons, it is not considered part of the Muslim Quarter nor the Jewish Quarter today. The main entry to the mount for non-Moslems is at the south end of The Western Wall; and there are many entrances from the Muslim Quarter. A cistern and many tunnels are under the Temple Mount: some are ancient, some medieval, and some are still being created to expose areas that were originally exposed but have since been filled in. None of the walls of The Temple Mount are built into, nor integral or shared with, the City Wall; it is about 25m (75') or more from the nearest City Wall, and just as tall. The Temple Mount is more than 275m x 470m, thus a perimeter longer than 7/8 of a mile, and the City Walls are of course even longer.

Get in[edit]

Map of the Old City

The Old City is currently 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) perimeter is accessed by twelve gates, of which eight remain in current use. The gates are, in clockwise order:

  1. Jaffa Gate - on the west side of the city (access from West Jerusalem), next to the Tower of David. The busiest of today's 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 upward to the Ramparts Walk (see below).
    Inside Jaffa Gate
  2. 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 (except for 2 vehicle-sized gates, 1 each in the Armenian and Jewish Quarters). The New Gate has access to a hospital and some parking just outside the walls.
    New Gate
  3. Damascus Gate (also known as Nablus Gate) - on the northern side of the city (access from East Jerusalem), it is the most monumental of all the gates. Visible beneath the gate is an excavated triple-arched gateway of the Roman era (135 CE). The Damascus Gate also has access stairs for the Ramparts Walk (see below). A taxi rank and some parking are available just outside the walls. A bus station is located 2 blocks north east of the gate.
  4. Herod's Gate (also known as Flowers 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.
  5. St Stephen's Gate (also known as Sheep Gate, or 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.
  6. Dung Gate (also known as Gate of Moors) - on the southern side of the city, it provides direct access to the Jewish quarter and the Western Wall. This is the terminal of bus routes 1, 3, 43, 76, and 76A. Parking is available outside of the city walls near the City of David.
  7. Tanner's Gate - a medieval gate which was uncovered during excavations in the 1980's and sealed until recently, when high pedestrian traffic was too vast through the nearby Dung Gate (the smallest of the presently in-service gates). This gate enters onto The Cardo, but goes through the poorly-maintained Tkuna Garden and is not yet well-known. (Acts 10: Peter was staying in the house of Simon the Tanner, so he had to go up on the roof-top for fresh air.)
  8. 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.

Golden Gate (also known as Mercy Gate or Eastern Gate), on the east wall of the Temple Mount, built in the 7th century, was sealed shut by the Muslims in 1541 because according to tradition, the Messiah will arrive at the Temple via this gate. Other Sealed Gates include the Huldah (or "triple") Gates, the Double Gates, and the Single Gate, and the outlines of these can still be seen south of the area carved into the south end of the Temple Mount known as Solomon's Stables. The Single Gate is Ottoman era; the other two are Herodian.

By bus[edit]

  • 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)
  • 21: Bethlehem/Beit Jala - Talpiot - Jaffa Gate - Damascus Gate
  • 18: Ramallah/Al-Bireh - Qalandia - Beit Hanina - (almost) Herod's Gate
  • Other East Jerusalem - busses with blue stripes all terminate near the Damascus Gate; busses with green stripes all terminate 2 minutes walk from Herod's Gate.
  • 20: coming out of Jaffa gate and a little walk through the new market and taking the lift took me to the street, there i took bus no. 20 which took me to Jerusalem CBS.

By car[edit]

If you arrive by car, be aware of the limited parking space. The streets outside the Old City walls are usually reserved for buses and taxicabs, parking of private cars is prohibited. One option is the multi-level parking of Mamilla district near the Jaffa gate (entrance to the parking from Yitshak Kariv street). There are also large street-level parking lots directly outside Damascus Gate.

With a Private Guide[edit]

BEWARE of scammers who pretend to be legitimate guides, affiliated with the Governmental Tourist Info Center. Yaffa Gate has official tourist information center where you can get an official list of guides and official price that is the hourly rate (~50NIS for an hour, no matter how many people in the group). Do not skip it. Otherwise, Old City is full of elderly males who will offer you unofficial tours (without pretending to be official guides), if you like the person take the offer, just ask what is the price in advance. Unofficial locals like that can be a good source of information about local life rather than history.

There's no doubt about it that Jerusalem is overwhelming. If you only have a day or 2 to see the city and you'd like to visit many places in a short time, hiring a local private guide that has his own van might be the right thing for you (instead of dealing with a rented car & parking for those days).

However when choosing a guide, try to ask the right questions and advise him/her with a plan that will fit your interest. You'll know the person is a good private tour guide if he will tailor a tour according to your needs.

Get around[edit]

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.

Note: The Old City contains many small alleys and tiny streets that often do not appear on guide books and street maps. Major roads are almost always marked, so do not simply rely on the map and take the next left/right as it may not the road you are looking for.

See[edit][add listing]

Christian Quarter[edit]

Christian Quarter Map
Entrance to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre

The Christian Quarter, the result of rapid expansion under Byzantine rule, is 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), [1]. Summer: 5AM-8PM daily; winter: 4AM-7PM daily. 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 churches even for each denomination 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 have two chapels, the Ethiopians have 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 altar, though it is usually closed. There are even what are known as "ecumenical altars" set up on the sides in various areas which are apparently 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 shoulders covered, no cleavage, and dresses should go below the knee. Do not wear anything which might be considered even the slightest bit risque. If you do not oblige, they will turn you back.  edit
  • Lutheran Church of the Redeemer, Muristan Rd. M-Sa 9AM-1PM and 1:30PM-5PM. 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. Church admission free; bell tower admission ₪5 adults and ₪3 students..  edit
  • 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.  edit
  • 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.  edit Be sure to say no to aggressive salesmen here- they can be particularly clingy on this street and may try to use physical contact to intimidate visitors into buying their goods. Just end the conversation and leave without hesistation- better safe than sorry!
  • 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.  edit
  • 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.  edit

Muslim Quarter[edit]

Dome of the Rock

The Muslim Quarter (Arabic: حارَة المُسلِمين‎, Hārat al-Muslimīn) is the largest and most densely populated quarter of the Old City and is situated in the northeastern corner, extending from the Lions' Gate in the east, along the northern wall of the Al Haram Al Sharif (Temple Mount) in the south, to the Damascus Gate route in the west. It has a larger population than all of the other three quarters combined with 22,000 people living there in 2005 and an estimated 28,000 in 2010. It is the busiest and most lively quarter of the Old City with the major bazaars of the Old City crossing across the quarter such as Souk Khan Al Zeit, Al Wad Road, Souk Al Attarin, Souk Al Lakhamin and Souk Al Khawajat. All sorts of wares can be found in these markets from Christian souvenirs along the Via Dolorosa (Christ's walk to his crucifixion), traditional Palestinian dresses and Muslim headscarves as well as Islamic 'abayas' or 'Jalabiyyas' for women, pro-Palestinian shirts and paraphernalia, to beautifully woven traditional carpets, antiques, and marble and ivory caskets and furniture among simpler postcards and travel necessities. The quarter has changed hands many times from the 12th through 15th centuries, resulting in decay since the 16th century. It is also noticeably the dirtiest quarter in the Old City, in part due to the higher more dense population of the quarter. The narrow streets of the Muslim Quarter can get very crowded, especially before and after Friday prayers and during Ramadan, the only time of year when most Palestinians from the West Bank are able to visit the Old City. Sexual harassment (including groping) is or was sometimes reported by foreign women after Friday prayers as huge crowds pour out of the Noble Sanctuary. Since 2013, Israel has denied entry to the Old City to any Palestinian male under the age of 50 in attempts to curb this and other (more political-oriented) violence.

The site which is known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary and also commonly known to Jews and Christians as the Temple Mount, on which the al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock are situated, is extremely controversial and security is tightly regulated by Israel's police; entry to the next two sites, the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa Mosque, is only allowed to Muslims; all non-Muslim tourists should refer to the cautions within next section after the Muslim Quarter, for the "Temple Mount."

  • Dome of the Rock. Known in Arabic as Qubbat as-Sakhrah (قبة الصخرة) and in Hebrew as Kipat Ha-Sela (כיפת הסלע), 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 Muslims believe the Prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven. This association has made the building (together with the neighbouring al-Aqsa Mosque) the third-holiest site in Islam after Mecca and Medina. The Dome was built between 687-691 CE by the ninth Omayyad caliph, Abd al-Malik. It was constructed directly on top of the ruins of the Jewish Second Temple. The Dome is probably the most spectacular building in the Old City thanks to a recent renovation in which dazzling gold donated by the King of Jordan (1993) was layered over the bronze. 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 (or Ishmael, Isma'il, according to Islamic lore) where Mohammad left the Earth on his Night Journey (a small indentation was reportedly left by his foot), as well as the site of Herod's Temple.  edit
  • al-Aqsa Mosque. Construction of Al Masjid Al Aqsa (Arabic: المسجد الاقصى) 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 permamantly off-limits to non-Muslim visitors.  edit
  • Museum of Islamic Art. Housed in the Crusader-era refectory of the Knights Templar, this filled museum contains wonderful 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.  edit
  • St. Anne's Church and The Pools of Bethesda. M-Sa 8AM-noon and 2PM-6PM; closes at 4PM during winter. 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. 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 paralyzed man. ₪7 adults, ₪5 students and children.  edit
  • Monastery of the Flagellation. Oct-Mar: 7AM-5PM daily; Apr-Sep: 7AM-6PM daily. Owned by the Franciscans, this site is traditionally held to be where Christ was flogged by Roman soldiers prior to his crucifixion. 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.  edit
  • King Zedekiyahu's Cave, also called Soloman's Quarries, (between Damascus & Herod's gates). Carved during several thousand years, some stone ashlars which never made it to their destination are still partially-carved out of the bedrock, as well as a cherub carving. Freemasons meet here annually. ₪16.  edit
  • Ecce Homo Arch. M-Sa 8:30AM-12:30PM and 2PM-5PM. This arch, which spans the Via Dolorosa, was built by the Romans in 70 CE 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").  edit

Temple Mount (Noble Sanctuary)[edit]

Travel Warning

NOTE: Noble Sanctuary/Temple Mount Area

Non-Muslims are strictly prohibited permanently from entering the al-Aqsa Mosque and currently from entering the Dome of the Rock, two buildings atop the Temple Mount. Documentation will be checked upon attempts to enter these two buildings. Israeli police have recently (2012-14) barred Palestinian males under the age of 50 from the entire Old City.

Visiting hours to the open-air, exterior area of the Temple Mount for people of all beliefs are Monday-Thursday 7:30AM-11AM and 1:30PM-2:30PM. During the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan visiting hours are 7:30AM-11AM only. (Note that these prayer hours can be changed as they are based on Muslim prayer times which is based on the Muslim lunar calendar which moves backwards about ten days each year as compared to the solar calendars, and the dates of Ramadan move backwards as well, as it is a moving month and holiday depending on the moon). Non-Muslims also may be completely barred by Israeli police entirely, depending on the political situation. Non-Muslims are allowed to enter the Temple Mount itself outside of these times, and it is free of charge.

Entry to the Temple Mount for people of all beliefs is via an elevated wooden walkway at the south end of the Western Wall in the Jewish Quarter called Mughrabi Gate (Moor's Gate).

Rules and Regulations at the Noble Sanctuary/Temple Mount Area

Visitors are subject to a strict security screening, and items such as non-Muslim prayerbooks and prayer instruments are strictly prohibited. Visitors may not wear shorts, miniskirts, sleeveless shirts/tops, non-Muslim religious attire such as kippahs, nor clothes with religious and political slogans. Headscarves are not compulsory for female visitors.

One must be prepared for sometimes a long queue at the security checkpoint. Non-Muslims are strictly banned from praying on the Noble Sanctuary/Temple Mount, and any non-Muslims who are caught praying on the site will be immediately expelled from the site by the police; arrests have also occurred. Any prayer by non-Muslims and the chanting of religious and political slogans on the Noble Sanctuary will be regarded by Muslims as extremely provocative and can result in a backlash of violence and in the physical danger of the person involved.

The key attraction of the Old City, the Temple Mount, known in Arabic as Haram al-Sharif (حارم الشريف) and in Hebrew as Har Ha-Bayit (הר הבית), is a vast rectangular esplanade in the south-eastern part of the city. It is built over the peak of Mount Moriah, traditionally the site of where Abraham was challenged to sacrifice his son Isaac, and the site of Solomon's Temple (the First Temple) which was destroyed by Babylon in 586 BCE. Reconstruction began in the early sixth century BCE after the Babylonian Exile, and the current structure was an expansion that was built up by Herod the Great; Herod's Temple (but not the Temple Mount) was destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE.

A tour is available of buried pools, tunnels underneath, foundations of, and more along the Temple Mount, and those are explained in the next section, "Jewish Quarter." For entry to the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa Mosque only allowed for Muslim visitors, see the "Muslim Quarter" above.

Jewish Quarter[edit]

Jewish Quarter Map

Some areas were underground and excavated after 1967. The rest were partially or completely razed by the Jordanians after they expelled all the Jewish residents in 1948, and most buildings in it have been rebuilt from scratch since Israel conquered the Old City in 1967. Despite strict laws mandating the use of Jerusalem limestone in all facades in order to maintain uniformity, these buildings look and feel new. [20]

  • The Western Wall, ('If you miss it, you need to see the eye doctor.' ;-)), [2]. Open 24 hours daily. Known in Hebrew as Ha-Kotel Ha-Ma'aravi (הכותל המערבי), the Western Wall, which dates back over 2,000 years, is a surviving remnant of the Temple Mount, marking its western edge. 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 BCE. 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 70 CE. For this reason it has also become known as the "Wailing Wall". During this period, north of the current Western Wall Plaza, they dug a tunnel to be closer to the peak of Mount Moriah which the Temple Mount is intended to cover, which is now accessible again via the Western Wall Tunnels (see below). As some halakhic authorities consider Jews to be forbidden on the Temple Mount, this is the only part of the structure they say that Jews are allowed to approach. Other halakhic authorities disagree, and there is usually no government prohibition against Jews ascending the Temple Mount, so long as those Jews don't actually pray atop the mountain. 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. More recently, the Women Of The Wall group secured a Supreme Court edict allowing a co-ed prayer area. Anyone is allowed to approach the wall as long as they behave with decorum, and dress appropriately (no shorts; shawls are available to borrow on the women's side to cover shoulders and midriffs; kippahs are not required but offered gratis on the men's side). Controversy has occasionally erupted when Reform and Conservative Jews conducted their services at the Wall, since non-Orthodox Jewish practice allows women and men to pray together. 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 (Friday's sunset until Saturday's). 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. free.  edit
  • Western Wall Tunnels. This is a tour of the underground parts of the Western Wall, including the evolution of the Temple Mount from the First Temple period to today. A wonderful tour for those interested in the archaeology and history of the Temple Mount. You will see Earth's 5th-largest megalith known to have been moved by humans underlying the foundation of the wall, an underground synagogue (nearest spot to the Temple site where Jews are allowed to pray), a pool, Roman road, and a water tunnel from Herod's time. The tour must be booked far in advance but is well worth the preparation. During the low season, you can also try your luck and join an excursion without the reservation.  edit
  • Ophel Archaeological Park, 02-627-7550, [3]. Su-Th 8AM-7PM, F 8AM-2PM. This area on the southern side of the Temple Mount was rebuilt many times over the centuries. Remains of Herodian (34–4 BCE), Byzantine (395–661 CE) and Omayyad (661–750 CE) can be found on the grounds. Audio guides are available for ₪6 and highly recommended. ₪25 adults, ₪15 students.  edit
  • Saint Mary's Hospice, (from the steps descending toward the Western Wall). The ruins of a 12th century German Crusader Hospice within view of the Temple Mount. Worth a short visit. A Jewish art gallery/shop is to the left of the door to the hospice's church, as it is now operated by the Aish HaTorah Yeshiva. free.  edit
  • 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 the Cardo contains an exclusive, covered shopping arcade. Here is also the free "Alone On The Walls Museum" documenting the fall of Jerusalem to the Arab Legion in 1948.  edit
  • 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 Israel took control in 1967, a lone arch was reconstructed from the remaining shell, making it a popular photographic attraction. In 2006, however, the arch was removed and reconstruction of the synagogue commenced. The synagogue was re-dedicated on March 15, 2010, and is now available for tours (must be pre-booked).  edit
  • The Broad Wall. 24/7, by appointment for The Tower. 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 which is still 3m (10') tall today and was 8m tall. 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 BCE. A tower of the same era and a Hasmonean (Hellenised Jew) era tower next to it, by appointment only, are 25m (75') deep under a school near The Broad Wall.  edit
  • Machase Square. Relics from Byzantine Christianity and 1800-1900's Judaism: Excavations of Emperor Justinian's "Nea Cathedral" exactly where the Madaba Map says it should be (a 2nd excavation of the same building is just south of the city wall). Site of the last Jewish Resistance during the 1948 war, after and during which 1300 Jewish civilians were expelled from Old City, and Rothschild House from the late 1800's which still stands with many arches in the facade. free.  edit
  • Western Wall Experience at the Aish World Center, 6 Hatamid St., 073-2293539, [4]. Su-Th 9am-5pm. The Aish World Center at the Western Wall offers a one hour introductory program to tourists visiting the Western Wall. The program includes a rooftop explanation from the #1 view in Jerusalem according to major Israeli newspapers, a film presentation on the meaning of the Western Wall in Jewish thought and a visit to the "Hall of Notes" to prepare a note prior to visiting the Wall. This program is the ultimate introduction to a meaningful visit to the Western Wall. (must be pre-booked) ₪25 adults, ₪15 students/ children.  edit
  • Medieval Synaguge of the Rambam. Jerusalem's sole synagogue from circa 1270~1530 CE, rebuilt after 1967.  edit
  • Wohl Archaeological Museum. Su-Th 9AM-4:30PM. 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, before the Romans rampaged and burned the wealthy Upper City in 70 CE. Some homes showcase the lifestyle of Jews who were wealthy by Levantine and European standards of the day, others of the era's middle-class Jews. Photography inside the museum is not allowed. "₪35.  edit
  • Siebenberg Museum, 02-628-2341. A private collection unearthed 150m from the Western Wall: arrowheads/inkwells/coins/pottery/glass cup, Solomonic burial chamber, Hasmonean stone-caring of a menorah, 2nd Temple jewelry, aqueduct and mikve, and a Byzantine cistern, up to 19m (60') below the surface.  edit
  • The Four Sephardic Synagogues. Looted during Israel's War for Independence, they're now re-built and used by non-Sephardic Jews as well. Architecture from Turkish to Spainiard Jews.  edit
  • Temple Institute, [5]. Su-Th 9AM-5PM, F 9AM-2PM. A fairly interesting place which has reconstructed 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 modestly: long pants and sleeves for men, and modest wear for women. ₪20.  edit
  • Karaite Synagogue, HaKaraim Street (Take a left when you see the ruined synagogue and look for the sign KARAITE SYNAGOGUE), 02-628-6688, 02-627-4728, 050-212-1045. Su-F until sunset. The Karaite Jews, numbering 30-50,000 worldwide, are a unique sect of Judaism that has been at odds with mainstream rabbinic Judaism for centuries. The Karaites reject the Talmud (Oral Law) and only rely on the Torah, Prophets, and Writings. You must call ahead for a tour of the synagogue. Tours are only in Hebrew, but it might be possible to pre-arrange English or Russian.  edit

Armenian Quarter[edit]

Armenian Quarter Map

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, [6]. Su-Th 8AM-4PM, F 8AM-2PM. 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 BCE 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 adults, ₪20 students and seniors, ₪15 children.  edit
  • St. James Cathedral. 6AM-7:30AM and 3PM-3:30PM 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) from 3PM-3:30PM. 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.  edit
  • 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.  edit
  • Armenian Museum. 9AM-4:30PM daily. Located slightly down the street from Saint James Cathedral, it is housed in what was once either the monastery or the guest house for the Armenian Monastery of Saint James. The museum holds an impressive and very well documented collection demonstrating the history of Armenia both religious and secular. Even for those who are not museum goers, it is an easily accessible, yet informative glimpse into Armenians long history. In addition, the grounds are very beautiful with a double story colonnade built around a central court yard. ₪5 adults, ₪3 students.  edit

See also: Armenian Patriarchate Website - [21]

Outside the Walls[edit]

  • Church of the Dormition. M-Th 9AM-noon and 12:30PM-6PM, F 9AM-noon and 2PM-6PM, Su 10:30AM-6PM. 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.  edit
  • King David's Tomb. Summer: Sa-Th 8AM-8PM, F 8AM-2PM. Winter: Su-Th 8AM-sunset, F 8AM-1PM. 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.  edit
  • Chamber of the Holocaust, 02-6716841 (fax: 02-6717116), [7]. Su-Th 8AM-5PM, F 8AM-1PM. 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. ₪12.  edit
  • City of David and Jerusalem water system. Apr-Sep: Su-Th 8AM-7PM, F 8AM-5PM; Oct-Mar Su-Th 8AM-5PM, F 8AM-1PM; last entrance two hours before the closing time. To get here, exit the Old City through Dung Gate (by the Kotel), turn left, and then take the first street on your right. The site comprises two archeological findings. The City of David is the oldest part of Jerusalem with remains of buildings up to the city's capture by the Babylonians in 586 BCE. The ruins include 13th century BCE walls, as well as fortifications and fragments of a palace attributed to David, the second king of Israel.  edit
The second thing is the Warren’s Shaft, the underground water system named after Charles Warren, its 19th-century discoverer. The system was originally built by the Jebusites to ensure a water supply during sieges. In the 10th century BCE a tunnel (presently known as a Canaanite 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 Shiloah in the southern end of the city. Now, the visitors have two options. You can either walk through the Hezekiah's (wet) tunnel or take the shorter Canaanite (dry) tunnel. In the wet tunnel, you will have to wade in thigh-deep water (flashlight and proper shoes are required). It takes about half an hour to pass through, and the ceiling is high in most places. The dry tunnel is really dry and quite narrow (in fact, it is a crack in the rock). Admission is ₪25.
  • St Peter in Gallicantu. M-Sa 8:30AM-5PM. 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 for adults and ₪5 for students. Children under 13 are free. Parking is available at a charge of ₪10.  edit
  • 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.  edit
  • Rockefeller Archaeological Museum, [8]. Su-Th 10AM-3PM, Sa 10AM-2PM. 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 oil 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.  edit
  • Garden Tomb. M-Sa 8:30AM-noon and 2PM-5:30PM. 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.  edit

Mount of Olives / Garden of Gethsemane[edit]

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, 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 380 CE 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.  edit
  • Church of the Pater Noster. M-Sa 9AM-11:30AM and 3PM-5PM. 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 130 languages. The Seven Arches Hotel is a short walk from the church.  edit
  • Tombs of the Prophets. M-F 9AM-3:30PM. 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 BCE prophets Haggai, Malachi and Zechariah. Rather the catacombs date from a much later period, the 1st century CE. There is an admission charge.  edit
  • Dominus Flevit Chapel. 8AM-11:45AM and 2:30PM-5PM 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.  edit
  • Church of St. Mary Magdalene, (02) 628 4371. Tu,Th 10AM-noon; 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.  edit
  • Church of All Nations / Garden of Gethsemane. 8AM-noon and 2:30PM-5PM daily; until 6PM during summer. 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.  edit
  • Tomb of the Virgin / Cave of Gethsemane. Tomb of the Virgin: 8AM-noon and 2:30PM-5PM daily. Cave of Gethsemane: 8:30AM-noon and 2:30PM-5PM 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.  edit

Do[edit][add listing]

Route of the 14 Stations of the Cross
  • Walk the Via Dolorosa [22] - 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. Inside the church, on the lower level, is a chapel dedicated to the meeting.
    • 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 Sepulchre itself [23], 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. Sa-Th 9AM-4PM, F 9AM-2PM. ₪16 adults, ₪8 students and children.
  • Attend a church service, if you're so inclined. For Christian services and addresses of churches (most denominations are represented in Jerusalem), call the Christian Information Centre, Jaffa Gate, telephone 6272692, open M-Sa 8:30AM-1PM.

Buy[edit][add listing]

In terms of buying snacks, water and other drinks as you wander the old city the prices are much more inflated in the Jewish Quarter and near the Jaffa gate and the Muristan. As you move closer to the Damasus gate it is possible to find 1.5 liter bottles of water for ₪5 while a .5 liter bottle may cost you as much as ₪9 in the more touristy areas. Souk Khan al-Zeit and El-Wad streets are the main arteries of the Muslim quarter. Souk Khan al-Zeit begins just east of the Muristan while El-Wad begins at the outlet of the tunnel to the Western Wall Plaza with both leading north towards the Damascus gate. While these streets contain numerous souvenir shops and cafes catering to tourists, the majority of shops serve the local population. Butchers, Western clothing stores, hardware shops, and groceries can be found throughout the area.

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. Ceramics from Hebron are also popular with tourists.

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.

  • Sinjlawi, 25 David St., Old City (Jaffa Gate, straight down the main shopping alley), 547.698886. all shop proceeds on the Armenian Christmas Day go to the children in Bethlehem. Be advised this is a claim by this shop, but there is no evidence the funds actually leave the shopowner's possession.  edit

Eat[edit][add listing]

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; Hummus, 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).

Dessert 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 and 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.

Jewish Quarter[edit]

Ask if there is a discount or ask for the 'harova' discount. This is for people who are living or staying inside the Old City, but merchants dont know where you are staying or how long you have been here. If you are feeling cautious, say you are staying at the Heritage House. You can ask for the discount in English as there are many Anglophone guests and residents.

Be careful where you sit. There are dairy and meat only eating areas.

  • 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 ₪60.  edit
  • Bonkers Bagels, 2 Tiferet Yisrael St., (02) 627 2590. Su-Th 9AM-6PM, F 9AM-2 hrs before Shabbat. Motzei Shabbat from 1 hr aftet 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 ₪20.  edit
  • 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.  edit
  • Rami's Pizza, 131 HaYehudim. You can buy pizza, calzones, soft-serve ice cream (American ice cream) and a variety of drinks.  edit
  • 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. Meals around ₪40.  edit
  • CoffeeBagel, 18 Tiferet Israel. This cafe is in the Jewish Quarter, and is dairy-Kosher. Any combination of delicious things on a bagel is served with a smile. A quick and delicious bagel with just about anything you can imagine.  edit
  • Burgers Bar, Tiferet Israel. Kosher.  edit
  • Joseph Kohen, Tiferet Israel. Chicken Shnitzel, Falafel, Shwarma ₪28-48.  edit
  • Mehadrin, (Beit El Road). Good pizza, delicious omelettes, slushies. ₪10-20.  edit
  • Ne'eman Pastries (מאפה נאמן), Cardo Street. They sell two "personal pizzas" for ₪20. The cheese is thin and the bread is puffy, but good. There is little or no sauce. The bakery has a good selection of pastries.  edit
  • Papàs, Tiferet Israel. Pizza, Falafel, Ice Cream  edit
  • Pizza Cardo Café, Cardo Street. Standard triangle pizza that Americans will be used to. It is fairly comparable in quality, however the taste is a little off. Kosher. ₪10 per slice.  edit

Christian Quarter[edit]

  • Amigo Emil, Al Khanqa St. (El Khanka St. Bazaar (left side as you go downhill)), 02-6288090. 9AM-10PM daily. This friendly place, set on a quiet bazaar street at the edge of the Christian Quarter, is a good choice for a Western-style meal and a break from the bustle of the Old City. You can order chicken wings in barbecue sauce; omelets; old-fashioned chicken soup; meat lasagna; boneless, breaded chicken breast stuffed with Israeli feta cheese; a mezze of Arabic appetizers; or grilled meats. There are special touches, such as delicious carabage halab (a wonderful Arabic pastry made by the owner's family); fresh tangerine juice in season; and there's even espresso. As this is a Christian-owned establishment, there's a wine and beer list. ₪20-60.  edit
  • Grand Shisha Bar & Cafe. Inside Jaffa Gate as you enter the archway under the New Imperial Hotel. A nice place to spend great time with family & friends. Traditional middle eastern oriental setting and colorful divan seats .Enjoy world and local beers (Taybeh), wine, soft/hot beverages,shishas and much more and listen to your favorite music.Internet/wi-fi.Jerusalemite family business since 1954.  edit
  • Versavee Bistro Bar & Cafe, 41 Greek Catholic Patriarchate (second left past the Tourist Information Office inside Jaffa Gate, into historical Versavee Building (part of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate)), 02-6276160, [9]. 08:30 - 00:00. 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, grapefruit and pomegranate. Soft drinks, beers & beverages, snacks, munchies, full cocktail bar, tobacco & free wi-fi.  edit

Armenian Quarter[edit]

  • 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. Tu-Su 11AM-10:30PM; reservation required F-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. ₪30-60.  edit

Muslim Quarter[edit]

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 ₪6 a serving (usually not kosher).

There are plenty of small Arab restaurants in the Old City but in January many closed at nightfall. (They are of course Halal.)

  • Just outside Damascus Gate, the Arabic restaurant at the Jerusalem Hotel, and also the little upstairs restaurant just round the corner from there, on Nablus Road are recommended.
  • Abu Shukri, 63 El Wad Road (corner of Via Dolorosa), (02) 627 1538. 8AM-5PM daily. A small, simple restaurant that is known for its quality hummus and serves a variety of Middle Eastern favorites. Not kosher. Under ₪60.  edit
  • Basti Restaurant, 70 El Wad Road, 026284067. 9AM-10PM daily. A family-owned restaurant that has been open since 1927. If you don't like the pizza it's free. Also offers shawrma, chicken shishkabab and lamb shishkabab (all are served with saldes and hummus and chips) as well as natural lemon with mint juice. Under ₪60.  edit
  • Jerusalem Star, 32 El Wad Road. 10AM-10PM daily. Not kosher.  edit
  • Nasr Restaurant. An excellent hole-in-the-wall shawarma place inside the Old City with delicious French fries and all the fixings you can put in your pita. Not kosher.  edit

Drink[edit][add listing]

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 (usually, be careful where you buy) and readily available throughout the Old City. Carrying an extra bottle of water is recommended due to the dry, dusty climate.

Beer and wine can be purchased in small grocery stores, particularly in the Christian and Jewish quarters.

Some restaurants serve alcohol. The main beers are Israeli Maccabee/Goldstar and Arab Taybeh beer. Spirits are less widely available but are commonly sold in hotel bars.

  • Glen (Glen whisk(e)y bar), 18 Shlomtzion st (5 min from the main gates of ald city), +972-54-9010076, [10]. 20:00. A proper English bar, very close to the old city with 17 taps of extraordinary beers from Israel and all other the world, the bar has its' own beer on tap!. It's a whisk(e)y bar with over 100 types of single malt whiskies from all over the world. It's a small bar where you can meet locals from Jerusalem and students from all over Israel. Open hours are since 20:00 every day till last customer. It plays mostly rock music. Sometimes hosts a live bands and has simple but good food.  edit

Sleep[edit][add listing]

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, 2 Ohr Hachaim Street, 02-627-2224 (), [11]. The Heritage House provides safe and comfortable lodging for young Jewish travelers and students in Jerusalem so that they can best experience and develop their connection with Israel, Judaism, and the Jewish People. Warm bed, fresh bedding, laundry facilities, food options, wifi, long-distance calling, an extensive library, and information on numerous tours and educational/service opportunities throughout Israel.  edit
  • Citadel Hostel, Marks St 20 Old City, Jerusalem, +97226285253, [12]. Citadel Youth Hostel is in the heart of the Old City. During the spring and summer you can sleep on the roof (cooler than sleeping indoors). During the month of Elul, that means you get to wake up to the sounds of three of the religions present in the city (call to worship followed by shofars a few hours later followed by church bells). The interior is a bit dusty but clean and the thick stone walls keep it cool. While soap/bedding are provided, you might want to bring your own and your own sheets (can buy them from some stalls deeper in the city if you need). Wifi on the bottom floor. Hostel might be more crowded during the winter when the roof is not open for sleeping. Roof/Dorm: ₪50.  edit
  • Al-Arab Youth Hostel, Souq Khan el-Zeit, upstairs from Internet Cafe, (02) 628-3537, [13]. Dorm: ₪20-25.  edit
  • Hebron Hostel (formerly known as 'Tabasco Hostel'), 8 Aqabat Etkia (Through Damascus Gate, downhill until the fork: El Wad on the left, Suq Khan El Zeit on the right. Go right. After 500m sign showing hostel, turn left Aqabat Et Tekieh, Tabasco is situated a couple of shops further on right.), (02) 628 1101, [14]. Dorm: ₪25-30; Private Room: ₪80-100.  edit
  • New Swedish Hostel, 29 David St., +972-2-6277855 (, fax: +972-2-6264124). checkin: 10AM; checkout: 10AM. Central location in the old town with free coffee and tea. Wireless internet is ₪6 extra for the password, lockers are ₪3 extra per night and the laundry and drying is a ₪2 charge for each. There is no smoking or drinking in the hostel and there is a curfew of 2AM. ₪62.  edit
  • Petra Hotel and Hostel, 1 David Street. Just inside Jaffa Gate with views across the Old City to the Dome of the Rock. Breakfast included. Roof ₪40, dorm ₪70, private room ₪180.  edit
  • Lutheran Hostel, St Mark's Road (Christian Quarter), (02) 628 2120. Dorm rooms are no longer available as of July 2009. Dorm (single sex) ₪25, single ₪137, double ₪231.  edit
  • 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. ₪224-448.  edit
  • Abraham Hostel Jerusalem, 67 HaNevi'im at Davidka Square (Twenty-minute walk from the Old City along Jaffa St.; fifteen minutes from the Central Bus Station.), +972-2-6502200, [15]. Popular, larger hostel that keeps a community feel. Free breakfast, wi-fi, and Old City tour. Dorm from ₪80, private room from ₪280.  edit


  • Austrian Hospice, 37 Via Dolorosa (Muslim Quarter), [16]. Dorm ₪58, single ₪206, double ₪323.  edit
  • Casa Nova, 10 Casa Nova St. (Christian Quarter). 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.  edit
  • 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. ₪448-784.  edit
  • Jerusalem Panorama, Ras el-Amud St (Hill of Gethsemane), +972 2 6284887 (fax: +972 2 6273699), [17]. 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. ₪448-784.  edit
  • Mount of Olives Hotel, 53 Mount of Olives Road (Next door to the Chapel of the Ascension), (), [18]. An affordable family-run hotel situated at the summit of the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, next door to the Chapel of Ascension. Surrounded by famous churches and holy sites. Commands a dramatic view of the Old City and the magnificent Dome of the Rock. This hotel is accessible by bus #75 for ₪4 from Damascus Gate. ₪120-320.  edit
  • Seven Arches, Main Rd (Mount of Olives near the Church of the Paternoster), (02) 626 7777 (fax: 627 1319). This large, modern hotel is on the summit of the Mount of Olives and offers spectacular views. ₪448-784.  edit


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 ₪15 per hour.

Stay safe[edit]

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