How To Spend a Day in Jerusalem

Jerusalem combines intense ancient spirituality with top-notch modern cultural attractions
Jerusalem combines intense ancient spirituality with top-notch modern cultural attractions | © Judah Grubb / Shutterstock
Photo of Ebin Sandler
14 October 2021
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Visit holy sites, stroll through bustling markets and sample the perfect Israeli breakfast on your day trip to Jerusalem.

While one day is only enough time to scratch the surface of this enigmatic city, Jerusalem does allow travellers to pack a lot into just 24 hours. Much like Israel itself, it combines intense ancient spirituality with top-notch modern cultural attractions, with many key sites within walking distance of each other. Jerusalem is one of the few places in the world where you can enjoy the sound of the muezzin (Muslim call to prayer) floating through the open window of an ancient church while enjoying a tour given by a Jewish guide.

Dive into the wonders of Jerusalem on our specially curated seven-day tour of Israel. You’ll visit the Old City with Arab and Jewish locals, enjoy craft beer tasting at Machane Yehuda Market and explore some of the holiest sites in the city.

Morning

Start your day right with a strong coffee and a classic Israeli breakfast before diving into a tour of the holy sites in the Old City.

Israelis take breakfast seriously, and the traditional start to the day includes fresh bread, eggs, salads, olives and cheeses, washed down with strong black coffee and freshly squeezed juice. Tachana Rishona (First Station), a repurposed train station, is a great place to get your fix, offering a number of cafes and restaurants where you can fuel up for your big day. From here, walk 2km (1.2mi) – or jump on a guided Segway tour – to the Old City, an unmissable spiritual destination.

Pro tip: Comfortable shoes such as trainers or sturdy walking sandals are a must in Jerusalem, where walking is often the best mode of transport and the optimal way to experience the local culture.

Israelis take breakfast seriously | Left: © A Amsel / Alamy Stock Photo. Right: © SOROKAJPG / Shutterstock

In the Old City, place a note divulging your hopes, dreams or prayers into one of the deep crevices in the Western Wall, a remnant of the Jewish Holy Temple from biblical times; visit the Church of the Holy Sepulchre; and check out the gold-covered Dome of the Rock, part of the Al-Aqsa Mosque complex. Stop in the City of David complex to catch a glimpse of a remarkable archaeological project in which millennia-old artefacts of ancient civilisations are being uncovered. As you leave the Old City, take the stairs up through The Shuk, where colourful shawls, handmade leather sandals, fun tourist T-shirts and a wide variety of religious wares are on display; bargaining is encouraged.

Pro tip: You might want to keep some small change handy in the Old City in case you are approached for charitable donations.

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is a must-see | © searagen / Alamy Stock Photo

Afternoon

After a morning exploring ancient holy sites, shift gears for modern art, trendy shops and tasty food.

Exit the Old City by the Jaffa Gate and duck into Mamilla, an outdoor shopping complex built out of bricks from the original facade of the structure, which were reassembled stone by stone during renovations. Sandwiched between upscale stores are some great cafes, such as Roladin, where you can grab a pastry to tide you over as you make your way to Yoel Moshe Solomon Street, a funky alleyway with jewellery stores, art galleries and souvenir stands. The bustling Ben Yehuda pedestrian mall is just around the corner, and here you can enjoy some of the best street musicians in the city and take a break for lunch.

Yoel Moshe Solomon Street is a funky alley with jewellery stores, art galleries and souvenir stands | © Naeblys / Shutterstock

On Ben Yehuda, grab a table outdoors in one of the best people-watching spots in the city and savour one of the many available culinary options, from Israeli standards such as falafel and shawarma to burgers, crêpes and some of the best ice cream you’ll ever taste, at Aldo. The historic Nachlaot area is only a stone’s throw away and provides a fantastic opportunity to see some classic Jerusalem architecture in this quaint enclave.

A trip to Jerusalem would not be complete without a visit to the Israel Museum, a world-class institution with treasures by artists such as Rembrandt, Rubens, Oldenburg, Picasso and Chagall, in addition to a vast collection of antiquities and the Shrine of the Book, which houses the oldest biblical manuscripts in the world: the Dead Sea Scrolls. The museum also contains four fully restored interiors of synagogues from Europe, Asia and the Americas, displaying a wide range of religious architecture and ritual objects.

The Shrine of the Book houses the Dead Sea Scrolls | © Alexandre Rotenberg / Shutterstock

Pro tip: Don’t forget to carry water. Hydrating in Israel is extremely important in all seasons, especially during the summer months when the days can get steamy.

Evening

Time to hang up the backpack, change out of those trainers and get dressed for a romantic dinner and a night on the town.

After a long day on your feet, hop on the number 14 bus back to the stylish boutique hotel and spa Villa Ba’Moshava (one of the best hotels in Jerusalem) in the Greek Colony, not far from where you started the day at Tachana Rishona. Change into something more appropriate for the cooler evening weather and a dinner at Darna. This dimly lit Moroccan restaurant is in a 200-year-old building that evokes the romance and mystery of Marrakech. Darna is a one-of-a-kind dining experience and reservations are recommended.

After dinner, grab a cab to Teddy Park for an evening fountain show. Bring a bottle of wine and enjoy the synchronised lights, shooting water and music in a scene where Israelis, Palestinians and foreign tourists enjoy the evening air and free entertainment together. Finish the evening with a midnight snack and a nightcap in The Shuk, an open-air market by day that turns into one of the best nightlife scenes in Jerusalem after dark.

The Shuk turns into one of the best nightlife scenes in the city after dark | Tal Sivan Ziporin / © Culture Trip

Live music, microbrews, handcrafted cocktails and tasty treats are on hand at the various establishments. Due to the proximity to Bezalel Art School and the Nachlaot neighbourhood, it attracts an eclectic crowd in the evening, with plenty of hipsters, artists and those who are simply young at heart.

The Western Wall is a remnant of the Jewish Holy Temple from biblical times | © suronin / Shutterstock

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