The Old City Of Jerusalem is not large. It is a 0.9 square kilometers of walled area. And I visited the Old City at least two dozen times. Nonetheless, during each visit, I discover something new. Let’s begin exploring!
Note: for attractions near the Old City check Around The Old City Of Jerusalem post.
If you are planning to visit Jerusalem, the Old City is a must, and you need to reserve at least half a day. And in this post, we will be exploring different places in the Old City including, as I call them, “The Big Three”.
“The Big Three” are:
- The Western Wall – the holiest place where Jews are permitted to pray.
- Church Of The Holy Sepulchre – the church contains two holiest sites in Christianity.
- Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa Mosque which is the third holiest site in Islam.
Within one square kilometer, you can find the holy sites of three major Abrahamic religions—Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
Map of the Old City:
And here is my photo of the Old City Map sign that I saw during one of my visits:
Note: you can click on the image to enlarge it.
Reaching The Old City
You can reach the Old City by using public transport, by driving or a combination of both. Here are the most common ways.
You can take a bus to the Old City. For example, when I checked how to get to Dung Gate from Tel Aviv, Moovit suggested bus #1. You can use this preset Moovit link. Just enter your starting point and you will get updated directions. Another option is taking a taxi.
If you decide to take a car then you have several parking options.
- Mamilla Parking AKA Karta Parking – you can reach by car to Mamilla mall and park inside the mall. The upside is the closeness of the mall to Jaffa Gate. The downside is that convenience comes at a price.
You have the option to take the Western Wall Train and Shuttle bus to Goren Square near the Western Wall. It runs from Karta Parking Lot B (the bus parking lot parallel to Yitzhak Kariv Street) every 20 minutes between 08:40 and 13:20. AFAIR it costs 10 NIS per person.
- HaPa’amon Garden – there is free parking on land (on the left of the paved parking lot). From the HaPa’amon Garden, it is about a 15 min walk to the Old City. It is free, but it has the longest walk, including an uphill walk. Also, there is currently some construction on-site, so not sure how long this parking will be available for.
- First Station Parking – the First Station is located near HaPa’amon Garden and you can find a big parking lot at this complex. You have to pay for the parking, and they offer a free shuttle to the Old City (the shuttle stop is in the middle of the parking area). This is a blue and white paved area, so the easiest way is to pay via an app. And then take a free shuttle to Dung Gate. It is very close to the Western Wall and the City Of David. The shuttle runs every 20 minutes and operates at least from 8 am to 8 pm on weekdays (see photo with the timetable below).
A word of caution: on one of the instances when I parked, Pango allowed to leave the car for two hours. And after the two hours, I had to renew the parking manually. But, we went to the City Of David, and at the requested time I was inside underground tunnels. When I exited the tunnel I renewed parking at the app. But as I returned to the car, I found out that I got a 100 NIS fine during that 20-minute window. So I paid both for the parking and the fine. Thus, if you are in a similar situation, put a reminder on the phone for at least one hour before due time (for example, the water tunnel at City Of David takes around 40 minutes to pass).
- Giv’at HaTahmoshet (Ammunition Hill) Parking – it is a park and ride site (free parking). And from there you can take the light train. Safra square tram stop is within five minutes walk from Jaffa Gate. It is less convenient than Mamilla Parking, but it is cheaper, and kids love riding the light train.
The Road From HaPa’amon Garden
I will show you the way from HaPa’amon Garden since it is the most complicated one.
After about 500 meters you will reach Mendes-France Square. At that point, you will see Mount Zion. Here is a look over stairs climbing to the top of Mount Zion and you can see the clock tower that is next to Dormition (you can also see a part of the Dormition abbey’s dome):
As you climb mount Zion, if you look back you’ll see Mishkenot Sha’ananim neighborhood. It was the first area of Jewish settlement in Jerusalem outside the Old City walls. You can also see its iconic symbol, the Windmill (top left):
Usually, I climb the stairs towards the Abbey of Dormition (stairs that can be seen on “Mount Zion” photo above). But, since this time we went to Western Wall, we choose the shortest way, and it’s along Ma’ale HaShalom street. I don’t like this street since there is no walkway for pedestrians and many choose walking either on stones along the road or on the road itself:
At 100% zoom, it looks that the last sister has pretty advanced shoes. Looks like specialized trip sandals 🙂
Nachman Meuman Stickers
The car has many Nachman Meuman stickers. This slogan used by a subgroup of Breslover Hasidim and it’s referring to the founder of the Breslov movement, Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, along with a reference to his burial place in Uman, Ukraine.
As you can see the slogan starts with one letter, then two, three and lastly four. In other words, the word is build up gradually, and each time one letter is added. I wasn’t aware of the cause, so decided to look it up. According to the net, the reason for building the word is to increase its spiritual power. Pesachim has the opposite example, where each time one letter is removed to decrease the spiritual energy.
Near the Temple Mount there is a site where archaeological finds dating back to the First Temple period are displayed.
The most critical and fascinating finds are dated to the Second Temple period.
The earliest find is dated to the First Temple period, to the time of King Solomon in the 10th century BC. This find includes the city wall itself, a tower, a royal edifice and above all, a gatehouse.
Note: unless stated otherwise all quotes were taken from the Official Sites.
Visiting Hours are Sunday to Thursday 8:00 AM – 5:00 PM,
Friday 8:00 AM – 2:00 PM. But please recheck before visiting.
At the Archaeological Park
I would suggest starting with watching a ten-minute video that interchanges the experience of Second Temple pilgrims with that of present-day visitors (there is a building on the right – not visible in the photo above).
Here is the Robinson’s Arch (at the top) and part of the Western Wall inside the Davidson Center.
Robinson’s Arch is the name given to an arch that once stood at the southwestern corner of the Temple Mount. It was built as part of the reconstruction of the Second Temple initiated by Herod the Great at the end of the 1st century BCE. The massive stone span was constructed along with the retaining walls of the Temple Mount. It carried traffic up from ancient Jerusalem’s Lower Market area and over the Tyropoeon street to the Royal Stoa complex on the esplanade of the Mount. The overpass was destroyed during the Great Jewish Revolt, only a few decades after its completion.
The arch is named after Biblical scholar Edward Robinson who identified its remnants in 1838.
The Western Wall, Wailing Wall or Kotel is an ancient limestone wall in the Old City. Herod began its construction as part of the expansion of the Second Jewish Temple. And due to its connection to the Temple Mount (and Temple Mount entry restrictions), the Wall is the holiest place for Jews.
You can find my full guide on this topic at the Western Wall page.
Dome Of The Rock And The Temple Mount
The Dome of the Rock is an Islamic shrine located on the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem.
It was initially completed in 691 CE at the order of Umayyad Caliph Abd al-Malik during the Second Fitna, built on the site of the Roman temple of Jupiter Capitolinus, which had in turn been built on the site of the Second Jewish Temple, destroyed during the Roman Siege of Jerusalem in 70 CE. The original dome collapsed in 1015 and was rebuilt in 1022–23. The Dome of the Rock is in its core one of the oldest extant works of Islamic architecture.
The entrance to The Temple Mount is free, but there are security limitations. If everything is calm then before entering your bags will be scanned, and you will be checked with metal detectors. If it is not calm, then the police forbid entrance to the site without prearrangement. It is recommended to call in advance to find out regarding changes. Telephone number: 972-2-6226250.
In calm times opening hours are:
Summer: Sundays – Thursdays: 8:30 am – 11:30 am, 1:30 pm – 2:30 pm.
Winter: Sundays – Thursdays: 7:30 am – 10:30 am, 12:30 pm – 1:30 pm.
The Temple Mount is closed to tourists on Fridays and Saturdays.
On The Temple Mount
I passed security pretty easily, regular bags check and metal scanner. Though, I saw that some people had their passport checked.
When on the Temple Mount you will also see al-Aqsa Mosque. But it is less photogenic than Dome of the Rock, and there were people in the al-Aqsa Mosque (though opening hours are only when there are praying). Thus, I concentrated on the Dome of the Rock.
When exiting Temple Mount, I was directed back to the “Touristic” entrance. There is a big entrance/exit, but is used only by Muslim prayers and leads to the Muslim Quarter. The “Touristic” entrance leads back to Western Wall.
When visiting the Old City don’t rush between different sites. Enjoy a stroll in the alleys of the cities. And on our way to the Church Of The Holy Sepulchre, we will take a small detour through the Jewish quarter.
Church of the Holy Sepulchre
According to traditions, Church Of The Holy Sepulchre contains two of the holiest sites in Christianity. They are the Golgotha (AKA Calvary) – the site where Jesus of Nazareth was crucified, and Jesus’s empty tomb, where he is said to have been buried and resurrected.
You can find my full guide at Church Of The Holy Sepulchre.
Church of the Redeemer
Church Of The Redeemer is not only a church, but it is also a place where you can listen to concerts, tour an archeological park, and visit one of the best viewpoints in the Old City. Check out my full guide about Church Of The Redeemer.
Tower Of David
Tower Of David is a history museum, specifically about the history of Jerusalem. If you love history and archeology, then I would recommend this museum to you. Besides having a wide range of exhibits, it also shows everything in chronological order (which makes it easier for most people).
Moreover, Night Experiences at the Tower of David is a lovely addition, and if you have not been to either, then consider purchasing the combo tickets.
You can find my full guide at Tower Of David post.
Ramparts Walk – Walls Promenade
Ramparts Walk offer Southern And Northern routes. Both of them together almost cover the whole circumference of the Old City. And as you guessed from the name, they allow walking the old city’s massive walls and see both inside and outside from a high viewpoint, which makes it an interesting experience.
Here is the link my full Ramparts Walk guide.
Old City walls and Dormition from the Southern Ramparts Walk:
For most people visiting the Old City Of Jerusalem is a must. There is so much to see, so much history and so many holy places. As I mentioned in the beginning, dedicate at least half a day to the Old City. And if you are short on time (have an only half – full day) then take a tour, this will allow you to see more in less time. Also, keep in mind that this post is a combination of many visits and it will be hard to cover all the mentioned places in one day. Moreover, there are many more attractions in the Old City, and I covered only the main ones.
If you are looking for additional places to visit then check out Around The Old City Of Jerusalem.
Have you ever visited the Old City Of Jerusalem? What is your favorite place? Let us know in the comments below.
That’s all for today, and I’ll see you in future travels!
For additional points of interest nearby check out Jerusalem page.
Here are several resources that I created to help travelers:
- Israel Trip Planner is the page that will help you to create your perfect travel route.
- National Parks And Nature Reserves page lists and put all national parks on the map. There is also a top list, information about ticket types and campsites.
- If you are looking for things to do, here are the pages for Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa, and Sea Of Galilee.
- Wondering what events are there in Israel? Here is the Events And Festivals By Season guide.
And if you have any questions then check out Useful Information For Tourists To Israel.