The holy city, home to the three Abrahamic faiths, is best visited on weekdays as many sites are subject to 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.
Morning: 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 lines are long. Also, the site is subject to frequent closure.
Via Dolorosa and Church of the Holy Sepulchre
Walk down Via Dolorosa, the route that 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 historians say that Jesus was buried before his resurrection.
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 to enjoy coffee and an aperitif in the courtyard café or garden bar.
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.
Morning: 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, and 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.
Walk or take a taxi to the bustling Machane Yehuda Market in West Jerusalem and sample some of the street food from the variety of stalls. 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.
Head out farther west and spend a long afternoon at the Israel Museum or the moving Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial. Be aware that 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.
Evening: 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.