Despite its small size, the Old City of Jerusalem has holy sites for three Abrahamic religions. They are the Western Wall, Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and Dome of the Rock. Let’s begin exploring!
Note: for attractions near the Old City check out Around The Old City Of Jerusalem.
The Most Famous Attractions
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 several dozen times. Nonetheless, during each visit, I discover something new. But now let’s start with the most famous attractions.
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 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.
There is, of course, the option of the light train, and I will elaborate on it in the next section.
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 trail, including an uphill walk. Also, there is currently some construction on-site, so not sure how long this parking will be available.
- 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). It 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, the Pango parking app allowed me to leave the car for two hours. And after 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 the City Of David takes around 40 minutes to pass).
- Giv’at HaTahmoshet (Ammunition Hill) Parking – it is a park and ride site (free parking for those who use the light train). And from there you can take the light train. Safra square tram stop is within a five-minute walk from Jaffa Gate. It is less convenient than Mamilla Parking, but it is cheaper, and kids love riding the light train. Also, keep the light train tickets, as you will need them to exit the Ammunition Hill parking.
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 half a kilometer 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 will 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 the Mount Zion photo above). But, if you are heading to the City Of David or the Western Wall then you can also walk along Ma’ale HaShalom street.
City Of David
Though today City Of David is located outside of the Old City, this is where Jerusalem began.
You can find my full guide at City Of David.
Davidson Center is a splendid archaeological park, with findings from different periods.
You can find my full guide at Davidson Center – Jerusalem Archaeological Park.
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.
Dome Of The Rock And The Temple Mount
Inside Dome of the Rock, you can find the Foundation Stone. And the Foundation Stone has a great significance in Abrahamic religions. For example, the belief that this is the place where God created the world and the first human.
You can find additional information about this site at Dome Of The Rock And The Temple Mount.
Alleys and Markets in the Old City
When exiting Temple Mount, you will be using the visitor’s entrance. And it leads back to Western Wall.
When visiting the Old City do not rush between different sites. Enjoy a stroll in the alleys and the markets. And on our way to the Church Of The Holy Sepulchre, we will take a small detour through the Jewish quarter.
Here you can see the Four Sephardi Synagogues with the Hurva Synagogue behind it:
Do some street photography 🙂
And visit the market:
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 the 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 the Tower Of David.
Ramparts Walk – Walls Promenade
Ramparts Walk offers 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, making it an interesting experience.
You can find my full guide at Ramparts Walk.
Zedekiah’s Cave – King Solomon’s Quarries
Though the entrance to Zedekiah’s Cave is from the outside of the Old City (near Damascus Gate), its halls are beneath the Muslim quarter. Hence I am including it in this post.
Zedekiah’s Cave is one of Jerusalem’s’ wonders, with a lot of interesting history and great acoustics. Thus, it is also a good place for a concert. Check out my full Zedekiah’s Cave guide to find out more.
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 only half to full day), then take a tour. It 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 additional sites 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.
Additional ResourcesHere 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, Sea Of Galilee, and Makhtesh Ramon.
- Wondering what events are there in Israel? Here is the Events And Festivals By Season guide.