How To Spend 48 Hours in Jerusalem

Jewish people from around the world come to pray at the Western Wall in Jerusalem
Jewish people from around the world come to pray at the Western Wall in Jerusalem | © Hugh Mitton / Alamy Stock Photo
Florence Sinclair

Visit the most popular archaeological and religious sites in Jerusalem in just two days, from the Western Wall to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the Machne Yehuda Market and the Mount of Olives.

The holy city, home to the three Abrahamic faiths, is best visited on weekdays as many sites close on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays during the religious holidays. Plan to avoid long queues and dress modestly – long trousers for men and knee-length skirts or dresses and long-sleeved tops for women.

If you’d rather leave your travel plans in the hands of travel experts, join Culture Trip’s specially curated seven-day tour of Israel – from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv and the Dead Sea.

Day one: Old City and East Jerusalem

Morning: Visit the Temple Mount

Grab breakfast on the go from the numerous street food stalls piled up with kaak bel simsim (a sesame-topped ring of bread) or nawa’im (a sweet saffron-flavoured bread filled with dates). Head through the Old City to the Temple Mount, sacred to Jews, Muslims and Christians. On top of the site lies the beautiful Dome of the Rock, decorated with glazed ceramic tiles and a large golden dome. Non-Muslim visitors are required to use the Mughrabi Gate by the Western Wall to enter the Temple Mount. It should be noted that opening times are strict, and the queues are long. Also, the site is subject to frequent closure.

The Temple Mount is sacred to Jews, Muslims and Christians

Walk along the Via Dolorosa and stop at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre

Stroll down Via Dolorosa, the route Jesus walked with his cross to his crucifixion. Jerusalem Audio Walking Tours is a handy app that provides an audio tour of the path along with navigation. Stop at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where Jesus was crucified, and visit the Tomb of the Sepulchre, where Jesus was buried before his resurrection.

The Ethiopian Monastery and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre are must-visits in Jerusalem

Afternoon: Enjoy a hummus lunch

Take a lunch break at one of the top spots for hummus in Jerusalem – Hummus Lina in the Christian Quarter or Abu Shukri in the Muslim Quarter.

Various vendors sell their wares in the Muslim Quarter

Explore the Museum on the Seam and East Jerusalem

Walk through the Arab souq and exit through the Damascus Gate. Head to the Museum on the Seam to catch a contemporary art exhibition. From there, visit The Garden Tomb, which houses Jesus’s tomb, and then make your way to the American Colony Hotel (one of the top hotels in Jerusalem) to enjoy coffee and an aperitif in the courtyard cafe or garden bar.

The Garden Tomb houses Jesus’s tomb

Evening: Join one of the many fun events in Jerusalem

Check the events taking place at the Yabous Cultural Centre or Dar Issaf Nashashibi, or search on GoJerusalem.com to discover more timely experiences. During the summer, the Sacred Music Festival is not to be missed. End the day at one of the restaurants in the Notre Dame of Jerusalem Center hotel, whose gorgeous terrace looks out over the Old City.

The Notre Dame of Jerusalem Center hotel offers picturesque views of the Old City

Day two: Mount of Olives and Museums

Morning: Summit the Mount of Olives

Either walk (20-30 minutes uphill from Gethsemane) or take a taxi to the top of the Mount of Olives and walk down, exploring the sights. Start with the Mosque and Chapel of the Ascension, where Jesus ascended into heaven, and then make your way down to the Church of the Pater Noster, which houses beautiful courtyards decorated with the Lord’s Prayer in more than 160 languages.

Head down another level to the Russian Orthodox Church of Mary Magdalene. Admire its gleaming golden domes and take in the view of the Old City and the Jewish cemetery below. Many Jews believe that on the Messiah’s return, God will begin to redeem the dead at the Mount of Olives; therefore, more than 150,000 Jews have chosen to be buried here for the best chances of salvation. Continue past the Tombs of the Prophets and down to the Church of All Nations, which lies next to the Garden of Gethsemane, and admire the stunning golden mosaics on its facade.

The Mount of Olives is a prominent location in both the Old and New Testaments

Afternoon: Visit the Machane Yehuda Market for lunch

Walk or take a taxi to the bustling Machane Yehuda Market in West Jerusalem and sample some of the street food. Enjoy a flaky boureka pastry stuffed with cheese and spinach, an Iraqi sabich (a pita sandwich filled with aubergine and boiled eggs) from Aricha Sabich, a Yemeni malawach sandwich (made with two fried pancakes) from Jachnun Bar, or some Kurdish home cooking from Ishtabach.

Many restaurants are based at the bustling Machane Yehuda Market

Stroll around the museums

Head out farther west and spend a long afternoon at the Israel Museum or the moving Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial. Both attractions are vast and will take up the best part of your day. If you would like to learn more about Palestinian culture, head back east and spend the afternoon at the Palestinian Heritage Museum. If you have time, visit the Rockefeller Archaeological Museum, which is nearby.

The Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial is particularity moving

Evening: See the Western Wall

Head back in evening to the Old City to take in the atmosphere at the Western Wall before watching the sunset one last time from the roof of the Austrian Hospice. For dinner, try The Eucalyptus, a kosher-friendly biblical-themed restaurant that overlooks the walls of the Old City. It offers three tasting menus – the King David Feast, the Song of Songs Feast and the Queen of Sheba Feast.

The Western Wall is in the Old City of Jerusalem
landscape with balloons floating in the air

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