The ancient city of Jerusalem is the most popular destination for tourists arriving in Israel. Walking through the narrow stone alleyways of Jerusalem is like taking a trip back in time – from ancient churches and mosques to some of the holiest places in Judaism, this is one of the most sacred places in the world.
You don’t need to be religious to visit, though. Jerusalem is home to stunning archeological sites, world-class cuisine and culture, and the natural beauty of the Dead Sea, the Judean Desert, and vibrant oasis and fauna.
So whether you’re visiting for the history, the great cafes or the adventure of a lifetime, here are some of the best things to do in Jerusalem.
Start your journey with a visit of the Old City of Jerusalem
A walled area in the heart of Jerusalem, the Old City is a rather small area at just under 1 square km. The area is divided into four quarters: the Christian, Jewish, Armenian and Muslim quarters. The Muslin Quarter is the largest but none of the areas are segregated, and you’ll find a somewhat mixed population everywhere within the Old City.
Some of the most important attractions in Jerusalem are located within the Old City, including the Western Wall, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, and the Via Dolorosa, the processional route that Jesus walked on his way to the crucifixion site. The only way to cross into the Old City is through the seven wall gates.
The best way to discover the area is with a city tour. Lace-up your shoes and let your guide take you through the four quarters, stopping by famous landmarks like the Jaffa Gate, the Tower of David, and the Western Wall.
1 – Say a prayer at the Western Wall | Old City
The Western Wall is a 488-meter long (the original ancient wall was much larger) limestone wall erected in 19 BCE. It’s the only remaining part of the Second Jewish Temple built by Herod the Great.
The wall is very close to the Temple Mount, the holiest site in Judaism. As Temple Mount has access restrictions in place, the Western Wall is the holiest praying place for Jews today.
Of the 488 meters remaining of the retaining wall, only about 57 meters are actively used for prayers. This section of the wall is also called Western Wall – or more specifically, the Wailing Wall, to avoid confusion.
This section of the wall faces the Western Wall Plaza, a large square where bar mitzvah ceremonies are often held while serving as a sort of “holding area” where people stand while coming or going towards the wall.
Visitors (both men and women) are allowed to approach the wall to pray, as long as they’re dressed modestly.
2 – Step inside the Al-Aqsa Mosque | Old City
The Al-Aqsa Mosque is one of the most important religious places for Muslims and one of the top things to do in Jerusalem. It’s built where Prophet Muhammad’s Isrā is supposed to have led a number of messengers of God (including Jesus and Moses) in prayers. Muhammad was also supposed to have been taken up to talk to God from here.
The mosque was built in the 7th century, then rebuilt several times because of earthquakes. Despite expansions and changes throughout the centuries, the heart of the building remains mostly intact.
It now occupies 12 acres and can hold 5,000 worshippers at once. Designed in early Islamic architecture, it features a beautiful dome with detailed enamel work and a golden tile-covered facade.
The location of the mosque has been a source of conflict for a long time, as this is also the place where the legendary Temple of Jerusalem was built, and it’s just steps away from the Western Wall.
3 – Enjoy the amazing architecture of the City Gates | Old City
The walls that surround the Old City of Jerusalem (an area that’s just under 1 square km in East Jerusalem) contain a number of gates. The walls were built in the mid 16th century.
There have always been seven gates on the walls, but with some changes. Of the original seven gates, Golden Gate (also known as the Gate of Mercy) is no longer in use and has been blocked since the Middle Ages. This is still the most important of all gates, as it’s believed it was used by Jesus to enter Jerusalem (according to Christians and Muslims) and will be used by him again when he returns (Jewish faith).
The most important of the open gates is the Damascus Gate, one of the most beautiful and busier ones. A popular bazaar (souk) is located is on the other side of the gate, and it has long been considered a symbol of Palestinian struggle.
The smaller Dung Gate (also known as Silwan Gate) and Zion Gate are commonly used by pedestrians entering the Old City. The massive Lion’s Gate is adorned with animal carvings and is known to Christians as the beginning of the walk (Via Dolorosa) of Jesus to the place of his crucifixion.
Jaffa Gate is made up of an impressive six meters high entryway that leads to both the Jewish and Christian quarters, while Herod’s Gate (or Flower’s Gate) offers direct access to the Old City markets.
The simple and relatively small New Gate was not part of the original seven gates and it was added in the late 1800s for easy access to the Christian Quarter.
4 – Walk the historical The Cardo | Old City
An ancient Roman street that once served as passage for carriages and animals, The Cardo was an important part of life in what is the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City today.
All that’s left of it today are the columns that flanked both sides of the street and marked the covered pedestrian area, but you can still see remnants of where shops used to be set.
A small section of the ancient street is now being used as a market again, a place where artists and artisans can sell their fare. Special live events are also held here sometimes.
5 – Marvel at the beauty of Dome of the Rock | Old City
Originally built in 692 (though it had to be rebuilt in 1023 after a collapse), the Dome of the Rock is officially the world’s oldest example of Islamic architecture. Heavily decorated in beautiful blue and gold mosaics and a gold-plated roof, the mosque is one of the most stunning landmarks in Jerusalem and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The mosque is located on Temple Mount (Haram Al-Sharif), a hill that’s considered holy by Islam, Judaism, and Christianity. The plaza where the Dome of the Rock sits is surrounded by an ancient fortified wall, which includes the Western Wall section.
6 – Step inside the beautiful Hurva Synagogue | Old City
Located in the Jewish Quarter, the Hurva Synagogue was originally built in the 18th century but destroyed twice – the first time soon after construction in 1721 and then again during the 1948 Arab–Israeli War.
The second time, it took a very long time to stand again – It wasn’t until 1967 that Israeli forces recaptured the area and then there was a lot of debate on whether the destroyed synagogue should be rebuilt or instead a war memorial erected in its place.
In the end, the reconstruction wasn’t unveiled until 2010. Rebuilt in the synagogue’s original 19th-century style that highlights its ancient beauty, Hurva also offers amazing views over the city.
7 – Spend time at Dormition Abbey | Old City
Located outside the walls of the Old City, the abbey was originally built in the early 5th century on Mount Zion. Destroyed in the 7th century and rebuilt in the 1800s, the abbey is supposed to occupy the site where the Virgin Mary died. “Dormition” is the word used to describe the Virgin’s death, as she is said to have “fallen asleep” in the Bible since both her soul and body ascended to heaven.
Mount Zion is a significant religious landmark and the Cenacle (the site of the Last Supper and the washing of his disciples’ feet) is also here. Visitors can enter the large room and walk around the space, which is kept mostly empty.
8 – Visit the impressive Church of the Holy Sepulchre | Old City
Located in the Christian Quarter of the Old City, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre dates back to the 4th century. For Christians, this is the most significant and holiest place on Earth and at the top of the list for things to do in Jerusalem. It’s the place where Jesus was crucified and the tomb where he was buried (and was found empty after his resurrection).
The entrance of the church faces a parvis (courtyard) with a number of other buildings, including chapels that belong to different denominations – the Armenian Orthodox Chapel of St. John and a Roman Catholic Crusader chapel are two important examples.
The first thing visitors see as they enter the church is the Stone of Anointing (where Jesus’ body was supposed to be set to be prepared for burial). Stairs up lead to the Calvary (Golgotha), the exact spot where Jesus is supposed to have been crucified. Many relics can be found throughout the church.
9 – Soak in the history at the Tower of David | Old City
A medieval fortress located near the Jaffa Gate that leads into the Old City, the Tower of David represents the spirit of Jerusalem. Originally built in the 2nd century BCE but destroyed and rebuilt many times, the citadel you see today is part new, part ancient.
Today, the citadel’s museum is the perfect place to explore the history of Jerusalem through archeological ruins, multi-sensory exhibitions, and a magnificent light and sound show every evening retelling the history of Jerusalem through a cutting-edge cinematic production.
There are also temporary exhibitions that combine the ancient history of the citadel with modern artistry.
10 – Go underground into Zedekiah’s Cave | Old City
Also known as King Solomon’s Quarries, this massive 5-acre cave is actually man-made. It was created “accidentally” as local people extracted limestone to build temples and structures over thousands of years. Even the Western Wall was built using stones taken from here.
Zedekiah’s Cave (named after a legend that says King Zedekiah hid here when escaping from Babylonian troops) runs so deep that the many galleries and chambers stretch for over five blocks under the Old City of Jerusalem.
Once the cave was no longer mined, it was apparently forgotten. It wasn’t rediscovered until the mid-1800s when an American missionary and his dog stumbled upon it (the story goes it was actually the dog that found the cave). Although the cave was explored and studied on and off for years, it was only in the mid-1980s that lights and paths were added to encourage tourists to visit.
11 – Tour the streets of New Jerusalem
New Jerusalem is the name often given to every part of the city outside of the walled Old City center. While the Old City section of Jerusalem is small (less than 1 square km) in size, the rest of the city is large, spread out towards the hills and filled with plenty of interesting sites to visit and destinations to explore.
A guided tour is the best way to explore the city’s 4,000-year-old history, especially if you only have a few days to see it all.
A tour will not only take you to the most famous sights, but also to often skipped destinations like the Holocaust History Museum in New Jerusalem, the Kidron valley, and other sights mentioned in the Old and New Testament.
12 – See adorable creatures at the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo
The zoo got its start in 1940 as a small animal center. As it grew and moved several times over the years, it also changed names. Most people remember it as the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo for its original purpose of showing animals mentioned in the Hebrew Bible.
Today, it operates under the name The Tisch Family Biblical Zoo in Jerusalem and also houses endangered species from around the world and especially from Afro-Asian areas.
Located in the Malha valley, just 7 kilometers from the city center, the 62-acre space is home to over 2,000 animals. The park is divided into different exhibit areas where animals live in natural habitats, including an African Savanna area, a raptor aviary, an “underground world” focusing on animals that live below ground, and the “Bible Land Wildlife Preserve,” dedicated to animals that inhabited the area during Biblical times.
Guided animal feedings and enrichment activities are held throughout the week.
13 – Have a spa day in the Dead Sea
Jerusalem is a great starting point for day trips to the Dead Sea. Just one hour away, the Dead Sea is a popular destination for its unique qualities.
Over 400 meters below sea level and a salt composition of 34 percent, the Dead Sea is considered one of the first health resorts in history (popular with Roman emperors).
Today, a day trip to the Dead Sea should include a spa day, where you can bathe in mineral-rich mud and therapeutic water. Since you can float in the sea here, you can simply lie back and soak up the views as you enjoy the sun and feel your muscles relax.
The Dead Sea Spa also offers massages and other treatments for a well-rounded care day. mention spa
14 – Learn about the Holy Land at The Israel Museum
The country’s largest art and archaeological museum holds a massive collection of historical artifacts connected to the Holy Land. The collection includes unique items like a nail from the time Jesus would’ve been crucified, technological advances from ancient times, wooden burial coffins, and pottery recovered from Roman catacombs.
Outside the main museum building, there’s a model of the Second Temple, and the museum also has a significant Fine Arts Wing holding a large collection of works of art (from paintings to photography, drawings and design) from different parts of the world. There’s also an extensive collection of Israeli art and a museum wing dedicated to chronicling the life of Jewish communities around the world.
The most famous wing of the museum is the Shrine of the Book, where the Dead Sea Scrolls are located. Although the scrolls seem to date between the 3rd century BCE and the 1st century CE, they weren’t discovered until 1946, completely by accident, inside the Qumran Caves.
Some of the scrolls – which are actually extra-biblical texts written on papyrus, parchment, and even copper – are intact but most are just fragments of larger manuscripts that were damaged or destroyed by the elements over the centuries. Among the most interesting ones is the Book of Enoch, attributed to Noah’s great-grandfather.
15 – Step back in time with a day trip to Bethlehem
Only 10 km away from Jerusalem, Bethlehem is part of the West Bank in Palestine. As the home of the Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem is a major tourist destination, especially for Christians.
The original Orthodox church of the Nativity was built on the site considered to be the birthplace of Jesus and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The original chapel was built around the year 330, though it was destroyed by a fire and rebuilt in the 500s under the guidance of Byzantine Emperor Justinian.
While that section of the church still exists (and it has barely changed since then), it has also been expanded and now occupies a massive 12,000 square meters.
You can easily visit Bethlehem from Jerusalem on a half or full-day tour. Half-day tours usually take you to visit the Church of the Nativity, the Shepherd’s Field (where Jesus’ birth was announced by angels), and the Chapel of the Milk Grotto, where the Holy family hid before they could flee to Egypt to escape the Massacre of the Innocents.
Full-day tours usually add other stops to the trip, including a visit to the Judean Desert, the city of Jericho, and the Mount of Olives.
16 – Have some food and fun at The First Station
A center where great food, culture, and entertainment come together under one roof, the First Station is a great place to visit to try local food or buy some authentic souvenirs.
Start at the Lechem Basar (Meat and Eat) or Station 9 (for your Asian cuisine fix), or grab a bite at the very famous Adom, which serves Italian and French specialties. Vegetarians will love Beit Hakavan (which also serves kosher meat).
There are plenty of artists’ workshops here, from stained glass to contemporary Judaica to stunning mosaic work. You can just walk around and admire the excellent handiwork or grab a wonderful piece to take home.
On Fridays, First Station becomes a family destination, with train rides, a carousel, a bungee trampoline, and live entertainment.
17 – Hike up to Masada on a day trip
Built sometime in the early 1st century BCE, the ancient Masada fortification sits high up on a rocky outcrop looking over the Dead Sea. Home to Harod the Great until taken by Roman troops in 73 CE, the fortress then served as a monastery in the 6th century.
Masada has been abandoned since then and was eventually declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Today, the fortress is part of the larger area known as the Masada National Park.
The park includes a museum showcasing archeological artifacts found during excavations in the area and two hiking paths that brave souls can take to reach the top (alternatively, there’s also a cable car).
At night, special multisensory sound and light shows transform the fortress into an absolutely stunning destination.
A popular tourist attraction, Masada is best discovered with the help of a guide who can share some of the history that makes this place so historically fascinating. Luckily, there are plenty of tour options to visit what has become one of the top things to do in Jerusalem.
For those who want to hike up to Masada, there are sunrise tours. It’s a hard climb up but the sight of the sun rising over the Judean Desert more than makes up for it. Once up top, you’ll explore the ruins (including the beautiful Roman baths and mosaics) before heading for another hike in less harsh conditions at the Ein Gedi nature reserve and oasis.
Hiking tours often end up with a visit to the Dead Sea, where you’ll have a chance to relax tired muscles with a mineral-rich mud bath.
It’s also possible to choose a tour that skips the hike and takes you to the fortress via the cable car.
Whatever you choose, you’ll get the chance to experience mountains, desert, and amazing fauna.
18 – Spend some time in Gazelle Valley
This 64-acre space in the heart of Jerusalem has been a natural habitat for over 50 gazelles for many decades. As the city grew and urban development cut the gazelles’ access to the nearby mountains, the valley became their permanent home.
Despite a close call in 1993, when a luxury development almost took over the land, the gazelles have remained there. The addition of a small pond contributed to a growing ecosystem that can naturally sustain the valley wildlife without human intervention, and in 2015, the area officially became Gazelle Valley Park.
Today, visitors can come to observe the gazelles (who live in the valley completely free), as well as reptiles, migratory birds, and other small animals that call the valley home.
19 – Discover Underground Jerusalem
The City of David is famous for its underground areas, which can only be accessed as part of a guided tour – so why not join a full tour instead that will also take you to explore the Jewish Quarter, the 2000-year-old Western Wall, the excavation sites, and even a number of synagogues.
Once at the City of David, your guide will take you to see ongoing excavations, the Gihon Spring, and the Hezekiah’s tunnel, which connects to a pool of water. You’ll also visit an underground complex with ancient mosaic floors.
20 – Go underwater at the Israel Aquarium
Israel’s first public aquarium is located right in Jerusalem, not far from the zoo. While it’s a great place to see animals, the real purpose of The Gottesman Family Israel Aquarium is the conservation of the country’s marine habitats and species.
The exhibits inside the aquarium are divided into specific themes, such as the “four seas of Israel Gallery” (which showcases fish from the Red Sea and great information on the uniqueness of the Dead Sea) and the Mediterranean Coast Exhibit.
A jellyfish gallery, a special tank featuring the coral reefs of the Red Sea, and a massive sea shell collection are part of the main attractions here. Visitors can explore the challenges Israel’s aquatic environment is facing, including overfishing and desalination.
21 – See ancient masterpieces at the Museum of Islamic Art
Jerusalem’s Museum for Islamic Art holds a significant collection that goes as far back as the 7th century. Home to everything from pottery and textiles to weapons, jewelry and ceremonial objects, the museum’s goal is to chronicle the history of art in Islamic culture. There’s also a significant collection of Islamic carpets.
Special exhibits are dedicated to the art of Arabic writing and the spread of Islam, with additional displays dedicated to the Ottoman Empire and its magnificent pottery.
The permanent collection fills six galleries, with additional space reserved for temporary exhibits. Past displays have focused on photographs of Arab and Bedouin villages, the work of young Israeli artists, contemporary graphic design in Iran, and the meaning of time.
22 – Grab a bite (or two) on a food tour of the Machane Yehuda Market
The Machane Yehuda Market (or “the shuk” as the locals like to call it) is one of Jerusalem’s most famous destinations. This food market has been around since the late 19th century, though improvements over the decades mean the market is now partially covered and protected from the elements.
The 250+ vendors here don’t just offer fresh food for sale, but there are also grill stands, juice bars, a number of very popular cafes and restaurants, and shops selling everything from textiles to wines. Tip: If you haven’t stocked up on souvenirs yet, this is the place to find amazing ones.
The market is not only huge but also very busy so joining a guided tour is the best way to make sure you don’t miss out on the best stops. On your tour, your guide will take you to hand-picked food stalls to try great local dishes, such as Jerusalem hummus, halva, and baked sweets.
You’ll have a chance to explore the nearby Nachlaot neighborhood, speak with the merchants at the market, and hear about the history of the market.
23 – Pay your respects on Mount Herzl
Mount Herzl is Israel’s national cemetery and the final resting place of many important names in the history of the country, including Theodor Herzl (considered the father of modern Zionism) and five prime ministers.
The cemetery is also home to the National Hall For Israel’s Fallen, a monument dedicated to soldiers who died defending Israel. The indoor structure is made up of a waving brick funnel – each brick is dedicated to a soldier and his/her name is engraved on the brick. Special memorial services are held every single morning in honor of those who died that day.
Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center, is also located here. This is the country’s official memorial to those who died during the Holocaust or fighting the Nazis. The collection includes survivor testimonies, personal possession and artifacts recovered from camps, documentary footage, and much more.
24 – Escape to Tel Aviv on a day trip
The cosmopolitan, modern city of Tel Aviv is famous for its great restaurants, amazing shopping and spectacular beaches. The city is Israel’s “modern face,” a great contrast to all the historical and natural sights you’ll encounter in Jerusalem.
Only about an hour away from Jerusalem, Tel Aviv is a great day trip but also a fun stop on your way to other great tours around the area. Many tours including Tel Aviv as a stop also head to Bethlehem, stop at the Dead Sea so you can take a relaxing dip and take advantage of its healing properties, and explore Jericho.
Tours start with hotel pick-up in Jerusalem before you head off in the direction of Tel Aviv, making quick stops at places like the Cave of St. Jerome and the Milk Grotto. You’ll see a number of sights mentioned in the Old Testament, visit Jesus’s birthplace, and get a chance to ride the Jericho Cable Car for amazing views on your way to the Mount of Temptation.
25 – Stroll around the City of David
The City of David is an archeological excavation site in the outskirts of Jerusalem. The ruins, which date back to the Bronze Age, are part of the Jerusalem Walls National Park. The Tower of David, Mount Zion, and a number of ancient cemeteries are also part of the park.
While there are plenty of beautiful ruins to explore as you walk through the park, the most magical part of the City of David is underground.
The narrow tunnels lead to several tombs and a number of underground galleries, including the well-known Siloam tunnel (Hezekiah’s Tunnel), which runs for 530 meters and was used to bring water from the underground Gihon Spring to the city.
26 – Admire the beauty of Petra on a day trip
An archeological site dating back to 300 BC, Petra is famous for its stunning buildings, tombs and temples cut directly into the stone. Petra is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and covers a massive 264 square km.
Since Petra is located in southern Jordan, traveling on your own can sometimes be tricky. Traveling with an organized tour makes it easy, as the tour company will take care of all paperwork (border visas) and organize everything for your convenience.
Although it’s possible to visit Petra on a day trip, multi-day trips are best due to the size of the area. Day trips often depart very early in the morning (as early as 2-3am for some of them) and can last up to 24 hours. They’ll take you to some of the most important spots in Petra, including the Treasury and the most scenic viewpoints in the Wadi Rum sandstone valley.
Multi-day trips, on the other hand, offer a much deeper experience. In addition to Petra, you’ll also explore the Roman ruins of Jerash, visit the Amman Citadel Hill, and even ride a 4×4 Jeep through the desert. At night, you’ll sleep in a genuine Bedouin camp in a yurt-style tent and eat authentic local, homemade meals.
For an “express” trip to Petra, you can also book an airplane tour, where you’ll fly from Tel Aviv to the south of Israel before boarding a private bus to Petra. You’ll be there in less than an hour and have the rest of the day to explore Petra before heading back.
27 – Discover a different side of Jerusalem with a street art tour
Street art and graffiti have become an essential part of Jerusalem’s culture. From garage doors painted with famous Israeli faces and World War II heroes to murals painted on walls or the underside of balconies, the colorful art is everywhere.
This isn’t only underground art either – some of the work was created by well-known artists like Addam Yekutieli and the artist group Cite de la Creation.
You can see the best of it with a guided tour of Jerusalem’s street art. Tours are often conducted by a working artist, who will be able to explain how street art has been used to explore religious tensions as you walk through Jerusalem’s alleyways and the area around the Mahane Yehuda Market.
28 – Stroll through the Jerusalem Botanical Gardens
Organized into sections to showcase plants from around the world, this botanical garden also features a popular 500-meter long “Bible Path,” where visitors can walk among almost 100 plant species mentioned in the Bible.
A massive bonsai area, a large collection of plants representing Israel and the Middle East, plenty of migratory birds, and a garden train for kids make this a great destination for the entire family. In addition to a hands-on trail for children, there are also workshops and lectures for adults.
29 – Escape to Nazareth, Tiberias, the Sea of Galilee, and Mount Tabor on a combined day trip
Usually combined together, these four stunning destinations are a great way to explore beyond Jerusalem. Join a full-day tour to discover these natural and historical spots that have played a significant role in the history of Israel.
Nazareth, better known as the birthplace of Jesus according to the Bible, is also where his tomb and the place of his crucifixion are located. The nearby Sea of Galilee is where Jesus walked on water and the world’s lowest freshwater lake.
30 – Head into the Judean Desert with a jeep tour
The Judean Desert might be small, but it’s beautiful and unique. As you leave Jerusalem and start driving into it, you’ll be driving “down” deeper and deeper until you’re below sea level.
A fascinating area filled with orange and yellowish rocks, the dessert is home to a small nomadic Bedouin population, a number of historical landmarks (including Masada, the Herodium tomb, and the Mar Saba and St George monasteries.
Some of the most exciting places to visit in the Judean Desert cannot be accessed by car, and you’ll have a Jeep or 4×4 tour instead.
These tours can take you to the Qumran caves, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered, or through the ravines and valleys that surround the beautiful Murbaat Caves and Cliffs of Dragot. Some tours will even take you to the shores of the Dead Sea to enjoy a delicious lunch before heading back.
31 – Shop till you drop at Mamilla Mall
This upscale open-air mall meets shopping street (Alrov Mamilla Avenue) covers a 600-meter pedestrian space filled with 140 shops, plenty of chic cafes, and great restaurants. A great mix of international big names like Tommy Hilfiger to local designers and chain stores, there’s something for every taste and every budget here.
The mall was designed to incorporate parts of the 19th-century buildings that once stood here, including the Stern House and the Convent of St. Vincent de Paul. New materials, which include masonry blocks, actually mimic those old buildings for a unique, old-meets-new style.
Sculptures and other art exhibits are arranged throughout the space, and live music and performances are also popular, especially in summer.
32 – Walk the length of Chords Bridge
The modern 360-meters-long and 118 meters tall Chords Bridge is also known locally as the Bridge of Strings because of its unique look that some say represents King David’s harp. An impressive spar cable-stayed bridge in operation since 2008, Chords Bridge welcomes people into the city as they arrive from the airport.
Primarily designed to carry the city’s light rail system, it has become a tourist attraction. Many visitors follow the illuminated pedestrian walkway to catch sight of the trains passing by and escape the city traffic.
33 – Learn about Jericho on a day trip
The Palestinian city of Jericho is often referred to as “the oldest city in the world.” Some of the archeological excavations in the area have revealed settlements that are more than 11,000 years old, including remnants of the world’s oldest protective wall built around a city.
You can explore Jericho with a day tour that also includes other great stops along the way to see famous biblical sites. Stop by Bethlehem, visit the Church of the Nativity, and even stop by an olive wood factory.
From there you’ll have a chance to discover the beautiful Judean Desert before you drive into Jericho to see Zaccheus’ Tree, visit the Mound of Ancient Jericho, and ride the Jericho cable car up to the Mount of Temptation.
34 – Mix history and fun at Montefiore Windmill
Built in 1857 as a flour mill, this unique windmill is now a museum dedicated to the life and work of Moses Montefiore, A British philanthropist who helped finance the foundation of Mishkenot Sha’ananim, the first Jewish settlement outside Jerusalem’s walls. The collection inside includes Montefiore’s original travel carriage.
The mill was bombed in 1948 and restored to working order in 2012. It’s a popular landmark (the blades actually spin) that serves as a monument to modern Israel.
After a quick visit to the museum, head back down to the ground floor, where the Jerusalem Winery has a tasting room.
35 – Go back in time at the Bible Lands Museum
This unique archeological museum looks at the history of biblical nations, including the ancient Egyptians, Persians, Philistines, and Canaanites, among others.
The main aim of the museum is to offer visitors a chance to understand the historical context in which these societies developed, so artifacts like idols, pottery, weapons, and documents are accompanied by Biblical verses where similar objects are mentioned.
Divided into 20 different areas that cover everything from Prehistoric Times to the Old Kingdom of Egypt and Rome and Judaea, the exhibits look into gods, heroes and mortals, explore the history of writing, and give visitors a peek into everyday life by sharing what people ate, created art, and buried their dead.
36 – Climb to the top of the Mount of Olives
The Mount of Olives is a mountain ridge that was once covered in olive groves. It’s a place intrinsically connected to the life of Jesus but also serves as an important Jewish cemetery. The Garden of Gethsemane is located here – the place where Jesus is said to have been arrested before his crucifixion.
The Chapel of the Ascension is also located on the Mount of Olives. It marks the spot from where Jesus is supposed to have ascended into heaven after his death and resurrection.
37 – Take the kids to Kiftzuba
Traveling with kids? The Kiftzuba Amusement Park is perfect for children under 10. Packed with both indoor and outdoor facilities, the main attractions here include a small family roller coaster, bumper cars that adults can also ride, bumper boats, a toddler train, and two carousels.
There are also climbing gyms, arcade and laser games, and even an air-conditioned Lego room. For steamy summer days, there’s an outdoor shaded area with access to water and picnic tables. And for the little ones, there’s a massive indoor area with slides, a giant ball pit, and a Gymboree.
38 – Get your caffeine fix at some of the best cafes in Jerusalem
In Israel, coffee is a cultural institution — and Jerusalem definitely knows how to do coffee well. Whether you’re after some “plain” black coffee or want a unique cardamom or kosher coffee or a café hafuch (Hebrew for cappuccino), there’s plenty to enjoy here.
Kadosh Café Patisserie is a great place to start. Technically a cafe meets pastry shop, this space attracts people as much for their amazing sandwiches and stuffed baked mushrooms as for its old-school coffee drinks.
Bezalel is one of the few cafes you’ll find open on Saturdays in Jerusalem, so expect a big crowd if you visit then. Otherwise, any time is good to order a cup of great coffee, grab a bite (vegetarian options are available here), and enjoy the relaxed atmosphere.
For an authentic Israeli breakfast, try Nadi, popular with the locals. Or head to kosher cafe Kalo to try their great croissants.
39 – Learn about Israel’s past at the Menachem Begin Heritage Center
A memorial dedicated to Israel’s sixth Prime Minister and his work for the Independence of Israel, the Menachem Begin Heritage Center Museum also chronicles the forming of Israel. Menachem Begin was a soldier himself and worked tirelessly – both on the battlefield and later in the political arena – to help provide the Jewish people a place to call home.
The museum features a number of multimedia exhibits that recount his life and work, as well as holds cultural and educational events to reach out to the public. Recordings of Menachem Begin’s writings and speeches are available and visitors can witness some of the most dramatic moments of his career through audiovisual stations.
40 – Kick back at some of the best parks in Jerusalem
Jerusalem has plenty of green spaces for when you need a quiet escape or a chance to just sit back and relax.
If you’re going to visit just one green area in Jerusalem, the Garden of Gethsemane should be it. Located at the foot of the famous Mount of Olives where Jesus was arrested, it’s home to some of the world’s oldest olive trees.
If you have more time, there are other parks worth visiting. As the largest urban park in the city, Gan Sacher is a great place for a picnic, but also offers lots of facilities, including great biking trails. There’s also Independence Park, which is much smaller but also much greener and a favorite venue for concerts.
Located across the Old City, Teddy Park is a modern park featuring artsy structures and beautiful fountains incorporating lights and sounds. Stop by when the sun comes down for a light show. If you have time to explore a bit further, the Ein Hemed National Park is located just 7km outside Jerusalem. Visitors can visit the ruins of a fortified structure, enjoy a number of streams, or have a picnic under huge terebinth trees.
41 – Embark on a West Bank day trip
The West Bank is a large area of land located between Jordan and Israel. Many popular destinations, including Bethlehem, the River Jordan and Jericho, are located here. Among the many archeological sites of historical significance there’s the Solomon’s Pools.
Located very close to Bethlehem, the three reservoirs that make up Solomon’s Pools once provided water not only to Jerusalem itself but also the Second Temple. Although the pools were originally attributed to King Solomon, archeologists now believe they are much older.
Another popular destination is the Herodion National Park, home to a number of ruins that date back to 40 BCE. The most important ones include the remains of Herod’s palace and fortifications, his tomb, escape tunnels and a theater.
42 – Attend a sports event
If you’re a sports enthusiast, you’re in luck – locals are too, and you can easily attend a game when visiting Jerusalem.
Soccer (football) is Israel’s favorite sport, and you can catch a game at the Teddy Stadium. Three local teams use the stadium but national team games are also held here. With a capacity for up to 34,000 spectators and great concession stands, it’s a fan weekend option if you’re in town.
The multi-purpose Jerusalem Sports Arena (also known as Pais Arena) might be smaller (about 11,000 seats) but it’s the go-to place to catch a basketball game. Concerts and cultural events are also held here, and in 2017 it was also the local host for an ice hockey game between Canada and the US.
43 – Visit other churches in Jerusalem
There are plenty of interesting ancient churches in Jerusalem beside the well-known ones. They provide great historical insight into the Holy Land and are less busy than other touristy destinations if you want a break from the crowds.
The Orthodox Christian Church of Mary Magdalene is a good place to start. It’s also hard to miss – with its gilded domes and bright white facade, it’s a sight to behold. The Church of the Visitation – dedicated to a specific event when the Virgin Mary visits John the Baptist’s mother – is located in a hilly location, surrounded by beautiful lush greenery.
Located on Mount Zion, the Roman Catholic Church of Saint Peter in Gallicantu was destroyed and rebuilt many times throughout history. Today, it features beautiful mosaics and a number of underground caves some believe may have served as a prison for Jesus.
Other churches worth a visit is the Dominus Flevit Church, where several ancient tombs have been discovered, and the Pater Noster church, part of a Carmelite monastery.
One interesting last stop is St. Anne’s Church. Located in the Muslin Quarter, the church was built in the place believed to have been the home of the Virgin Mary (Anne was Mary’s mother).
44 – Plan a day trip to historical Caesarea, Haifa, Acre and Rosh hanikra
A number of ancient and modern cities, geological formations and archeological points of interest are located close to Jerusalem. In addition to the many well-known destinations, there are others that are equally stunning but often overlooked.
These include exciting destinations like Caesarea, Haifa, Acre, and Rosh hanikra – all of which you can combine into a day trip that will give you an insight into a different side of ancient Jerusalem and the area around it.
Built by King Herod the Great, the ancient city of Caesarea is home to stunning ruins, including a Roman theater. The modern city of Haifa, the UNESCO World Heritage site of Acre (site of several battles during the Crusades), and the Rosh HaNikra grottoes and the tunnels cutting through it are also great destinations.
45 – Grab a table at some of the best restaurants in Jerusalem
Jerusalem’s culinary scene is like no other in the country. The mix of cultures here has given birth to an amazing number of dining establishments that offer everything from traditional Middle Eastern dishes to modern takes on Mediterranean cuisine to kosher creations based on ancient dishes.
A great place to start discovering Jerusalem’s food scene is at The Eucalyptus, a kosher restaurant that focus on biblical ingredients (including foraged plants and roots) to create mouth-watering Jewish and Arab dishes.
They also place an emphasis on using the “Seven Species” – ingredients that include wheat, barley, figs, and olive oil – on the preparation of their dishes. Tasting menus that include several dishes are served under names like Queen of Sheba and King Salomon. Dinners can also choose options a-la-carte for options like artichoke soup, red lentil stew, and St. Peter’s fish.
Another great option, Machneyuda is located near the famous Mahane Yehuda Market, and all the ingredients used to prepare all their Middle Eastern and Mediterranean dishes come straight from the market. Another great option is Hummus Lina in the Christian Quarter, where everything served is made around, with or contains hummus – a great “eat like the locals” option you should definitely try.
For affordable Palestinian food, try the Azzahra Restaurant, which also serves Italian-style pizza in addition to their famous musakhan. Other favorites to try include the Azure restaurant serving Israeli dishes (kebabs and hummus are a must-try here) and Chakra, which offers an excellent selection of Israeli and Mediterranean dishes and an extensive tasting menu.
46 – Bring your camera to the Jerusalem Bird Observatory
Although only 1.5 acres in size, this wildlife park located in the heart of busy Jerusalem is home to many bird species. This includes many migrating songbirds – such as Wrynecks, Pied flycatchers, and Redstarts – that stop by the park because of its pond and many fruit trees. Spring is the best time to visit, as this is when the migrating birds stop by the park and birdwatching is excellent.
The next busy season for birdwatching is winter, when birds wintering in the area (including Grey wagtails and European robins) arrive.
Summer and fall are the quietest seasons, though in summer you might be able to catch sight of full nests (as the young are grown enough to start to sing and move around). Wooden observation posts are set throughout the park to help you catch sight of the feathered residents.
47 – Take a day trip to the Ein Gedi oasis
Just one hour from Jerusalem and near the ancient fortification of Masada, Ein Gedi is both a beautiful nature reserve and an unexpected oasis on the edge of the Judean Desert.
The 2-acre Ein Gedi nature reserve is home to a number of animal and plant species, including a large population of Nubian ibex. It also features two springs and several archeological sites. The annual Shalom Marathon – Dead Sea Half Marathon is also run in the area.
Aided by water from the oasis springs, the Ein Gedi kibbutz (agricultural community) at the site operates its own botanical garden and an eco-park where visitors can learn about solar energy and building structures with mud.
The easiest way to reach Ein Gedi is with a tour. Most full-day tours from Jerusalem include not only a visit to Ein Gedi but also a stop to admire the beauty of Masada (and tour its ruins) and some time floating and swimming in the Dead Sea (or just bathe in the mineral-rich mud).
At Ein Gedi, you’ll have a chance to hike around the oasis as the sun rises over the desert, followed by a walk through the natural reserve. You’ll then tour the Judean Desert before heading back to Jerusalem.
48 – Discover other great museums
While visitors often associate Jerusalem mainly with religious history, the city also boasts a number of amazing museums that focus on other areas. Some of them are unique in the world and deserve a visit.
If you’re traveling with children, the Bloomfield Science Museum is a good place to start. It focuses on hands-on exhibits created especially for the younger family members and features a number of high-tech inventions that originated in Israel.
Both kids and adults will appreciate the Museum of Natural History too, which has an amazing dinosaur display, a sculpture garden, large galleries dedicated to all kinds of creepy crawlers, and an impressive human body exhibit.
For those interested in history, there’s the Rockefeller Archaeological Museum, focused on items excavated in the 1920s and 1930s, including wooden panels from the 8th century, Ottoman artifacts, and one of the world-famous 6th century Lachish Letters. There’s also the Museum of Underground Prisoners chronicling the Jewish underground movement leading to the establishment of Israel.
The Hebrew Music Museum houses a great collection of rare musical instruments (and interactive features that give you insight into Diaspora music) while the socio-political contemporary art Museum of the Seam focuses on art that explores controversial social issues.
For an interesting insight into how non-Jewish aid (in this case, the support of Christian Zionists and big names like Harry Truman and Winston Churchill) helped established Israel, visit the Friends of Zion Museum. Or head to the Herzl Museum, which looks into the life of Theodor Herzl, the father of modern political Zionism. The museum is famous for its amazing 4D exhibits, costumed actors and interactive displays.
49 – Enjoy some evening bowling in Jerusalem
Take a break from the heat and historical destinations and head into a bowling alley for an evening of fun. Jerusalem has some great bowling alleys with fun lanes, family-friendly environments, and lots of extras like arcade games, restaurants and pool tables on-site.
The Arbel Bowling alley at the Lev Talpiyot Shopping Centre takes the top spot with 18 computerized lanes with a top-of-the-line lighting system, a well-designed billiard hall, and a cafe serving drinks and snacks.
Great background music, a welcoming environment and long hours (the place keeps going till the wee hours of the night or until everybody’s ready to go home) make this the perfect way to end a long day.
50 – Stop by the Hansen House
Built in the late 1800s as a leprosy asylum, the Hansen House was once set far away outside the city walls. As Jerusalem grew, the building became part of the city itself before closing after a cure for leprosy was discovered in the 1950s and there was no need for it anymore.
Today, the Hansen House is an important museum and exhibition center. A permanent exhibit here recounts the history of the old asylum through medical equipment and objects that once belonged to patients. It also gives visitors an insight into what medicine was like in the 1800s, before a cure for leprosy came into play.
Temporary exhibits focus on a number of topics, covering art, photography, and design. The home also serves as the temporary home for a number of festivals and events, including the Jerusalem Design Week and the PLAY festival for the entire family.
51 – Take a day trip to historical Golan Heights
The Golan Heights is a rocky plateau overlooking the Jordan River. Originally part of Syria until the Six Day War in 1967, the territory is now divided among the two nations. For the past few decades, it has become a significant destination for its many attractions, which include everything from archeological sites to waterfalls and the Gamla Nature Reserve.
Golan Heights can be easily explored as a day trip from Jerusalem. Tours usually spend a full day in the area, but overnight trips are also available – a great chance to spend the night in a traditional Kibbutz guesthouse and have more time to add additional stops to your trip on the second day.
Day tours usually focus on the highlights of the area, including the Sea of Galilee, the beauty of the Jordan Valley, and the Ancient Katzrin village and synagogue. A stop at Mount Bental allows visitors to see the ruins of ancient Syrian fortifications as well as the area captured during the Six Day War. Two-day tours usually include the Banias Nature Reserve, Nimrod Fortress National Park with its 13th-century fortress, and the holy city of Safed.
Air-conditioned vehicles will pick you up and transport you to every destination, but some tours also explore certain areas on foot, such as the popular walking tour through the village of Katzrin.
For those wishing to make the most of this trip, it’s possible to combine a tour of Golan Heights with a tour of northern Israel, including a stop in Nazareth and a chance to walk into the Jordan River.
52 – Visit the Ammunition Hill Heritage Site
A memorial site dedicated to those who died during the Six Day War, Ammunition Hill also serves as a museum and educational space. Ammunition Hill was once a military post, but it’s now best remembered as the place where one of the bloodiest battles of the Six-Day War took place.
Visitors can tour the bunkers and fortified trenches that were part of the fight, and guided tours are available for those who want a better understanding of what happened here.
Audiovisual displays, a multimedia museum, and films retelling the story of the veterans who fought here truly bring the space to life.
53 – Dip your toes into the Ein Lavan spring
Located on the outskirts of Jerusalem, this freshwater spring fills up two large pools. Locals love to come here (especially in summer) to cool off and socialize.
If you want to avoid the crowds, you’ll have to arrive as soon as possible after sunrise. Ein Lavan is within the Nahal Refaim National Park, so the area is well-kept, with beautiful trails and olive trees around.
Shaded areas, places to sit and have a picnic, and some grass make this a great escape on hot days.
A second spring, Ein Hania, is located a short hike away. Although the pools are less developed, the area around them is filled with stone water channels and ruins. Both ruins are free to access.
54 – Catch a show at a local theater
Jerusalem has an amazing cultural presence that includes great theater, unique plastic arts and fascinating initiatives, and a renowned film scene. If you have a free evening and want to try something different, why not head out to catch some creative local production?
The Jerusalem Khan Theater is a great place to start. There are 3-5 new productions every year, so there’s always something to watch – from modern plays to classic stories to groundbreaking local work.
The theater itself is a beauty, built in the 19th century and lovingly restored to now hold a cozy 238 seats in the main hall. A second, much smaller hall, is used for intimate concerts or special events.
For something bigger (in every sense), there’s the Jerusalem Theatre, a cultural venue that has spaces for film screenings, theater, and concerts.
They also hold festivals and exhibitions, such as the very popular End of Summer festival, which takes place at the end of August every year and attracts a mix of original initiatives. Special dance performances, live entertainment shows, and special children’s plays are also available here.
55 – Cheer your day at a wine tour and tasting
Some of the world’s top vineyards are in Israel – and the country’s oldest one is right outside Jerusalem. From small boutique vineyards to major companies spread over the mountains around the city, Jerusalem is a city that knows how to do wine well.
A guided tour is the best way to truly explore the vineyards in Jerusalem. Half-day tours take you for a hike among the Judean Hills terrace vineyards before stopping by to try a glass or two under the guidance of a sommelier.
Some vineyards offer a private room where you can enjoy some of their best wines with a platter of cheese as you learn about the history of wine production in Jerusalem.
There are also special Kosher wine tours, which will take you to the Psagot Winery, set in the same place where caves served as wine storage 2000 years ago. You’ll be able to tour a boutique winery before you head to visit the Ancient Shiloh site, an important biblical site and the first capital of the Israelite Kingdom.
56 – Tour historical underground tombs
The tomb inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is considered the most accepted burial place of Jesus, but it’s not the only one. The Garden Tomb is considered by some Christian denominations (especially Protestants) to be the place where Jesus was buried. The tomb and the beautiful gardens surrounding it, located near the Damascus Gate, are worth a visit.
The next most important tomb to visit is the Virgin Mary tomb, located within a small church built directly over the crypt. The church itself is covered in colorful icons, while the stone on which Mary’s body was placed after death is located underground.
King David’s Tomb, the burial place of the king that famously slew the giant Goliath, is located inside the building where Jesus’ Last Supper is supposed to have taken place. Although less known, the Absalom’s Tomb (the tomb of King David’s son) is a beautiful stone construction that was also used as a funeral monument.
57 – Get inked at one of the world’s oldest tattoo places
Take home the ultimate souvenir with a unique tattoo. Family-owned Razzouk Ink specializes in religious tattoos.
The salon is an institution too – the same family has been providing faith-based tattoos for over 700 years, likely making it the oldest tattoo salon in the world.
Most tattoos offered here are simple. You can pick from a Jerusalem cross, a Latin or Bible saying, St. George on horseback or an angel tattoo.
Whatever you choose, it’ll be an indelible reminder of your pilgrimage to the Holy Land.
58 – Race down your friends at Karting Jerusalem
Jerusalem’s first (and so far only) karting track is also the longest in the country at 540 meters long.
Come over for a few minutes of instruction and gear up (helmets are a must) before you jump into a Sodi Kart RX7, one of the most advanced kart models produced today.
A powerful engine, advanced performance, and top-notch security features allow you to put pedal to the medal and truly enjoy the track speed.
Located indoors, four floors down into the parking level, Team Karting is an adrenaline-charged adventure for all ages (kids over 8 can participate).
59 – Join a pub crawl or discover Jerusalem’s nightlife on your own
As a major tourist destination and a city filled with university students, it’s no surprise that Jerusalem has a lively nightlife. For visitors looking to dance the night away or grab a drink with friends, Jerusalem has plenty of great bars and nightclubs you can try.
Yellow Submarine is technically a bar, but over the years it has become the go-to concert venue in Jerusalem. Live shows, jazz concerts, and rock and roll bands can all be found here – and the space is large enough that you can dance the night away or catch a show from the sitting area.
Another popular name is Gatsby, a stylish destination known for its craft cocktails and 1920s environment. Another elegant destination is the Mirror Bar, located inside the chic Mamilla Hotel and featuring a resident DJ.
60 – Check out the best rooftop bars
Jerusalem is known for stone buildings, ancient structures and tight alleyways – not the kind of architecture that you would expect leads to rooftop bar locations. But grabbing a drink with a view is very much possible in Jerusalem.
The Mamilla Hotel Rooftop Lounge and Restaurant gets the top spot for amazing views over the Old City, and the amazing menu and signature drinks don’t hurt either.
The Waldorf Astoria Garden Terrace is just four flours above the ground, so the views aren’t as impressive, but the open-air terrace packs on the charm and it’s a great option for a quiet evening with a nice cocktail.
Where to say in Jerusalem?
Jerusalem is home to many world-class hotels offering both historical charm and all modern amenities. No matter your budget or your favorite area of the city, there’s something in Jerusalem just for you.
The 5-star Leonardo Plaza Hotel Jerusalem is within close walking distance to all major attractions and offers an amazing spa and an outdoor pool.
If you’re after sleek and trendy, it’s hard to beat the Mamilla Hotel with its amazing restaurant and a great location near the Mamilla Avenue shopping strip.
For luxurious Ottoman-inspired interiors with Middle Eastern details, the American Colony Hotel is a perfect choice. And if budget is not an issue, the famous King David Hotel pulls all the stops with several swimming pools, manicured formal gardens, and four restaurants and bars with exclusive menus.
Need a ride from the airport? Especially if you’re carrying a lot of luggage, pre-booking an airport transfer will make your arrival (and departure) a lot less stressful.
The Ben Gurion International Airport is one of the busiest in the country, especially during high season. Located about 45 km from Jerusalem, the airport is a bit out of the way and can be chaotic to maneuver at times.
Visiting Jerusalem on a budget?
Though slightly cheaper than Tel Aviv, Jerusalem is a destination that’s definitely on the expensive side. Luckily, there are plenty of things to do in Jerusalem that won’t break the bank and plenty of ways to cut costs.
There’s always something happening in Jerusalem, and free festivals, events, and exhibitions are a great way to spend an afternoon without breaking the budget.
Look into free walking tours as well. A popular free walking tour to consider is one of the Old City, where you’ll start at the New Gate and then head to the Church of Resurrection and the Muslim quarter before stopping at a lookout over the Mount of Olives and the Kidron Valley.
A walk through the narrow alleyways of the Old City is the best way to experience Jerusalem – you’ll get a feel for the local sights and smells as you tour the four quarters of the Old City, including the Dome of the Rock, al Aqsa Mosque, and the Western Wall Plaza.
Where to next?
Once you’ve enjoyed all the spectacular sights in Jerusalem (it will take a while!), it’s time to keep moving. Plenty of amazing destinations are within an hour or two of Jerusalem, so there’s no reason not to go exploring.
Tel Aviv is less than an hour (but a world away) from Jerusalem. A modern, cosmopolitan city with great restaurants and world-class entertainment, Tel Aviv is also a great destination for shopping and amazing museums.
Amman, the largest city in Jordan, is a bit further away at just under two hours. Famous for its spectacular Roman ruins and cultural scene that includes some amazing museums, Amman is also home to a great cafe culture.
If you don’t have the time to organize a visit to different cities, consider a multi-day trip. You can pick from a two or three-day tour of Petra, Jordan and the Wadi Rum Valley, spend two days exploring the gems of the North (including Galilee and Golan Heights) or try a highlights tour, which over a period of two days will take you to Bethlehem, Masada and the Dead Sea.
As a city with an ancient history and plenty of stories to tell, Jerusalem is a fascinating destination. Whether you’re here for the religious stops, the fascinating desert or the amazing archeological finds, Jerusalem is sure not to disappoint.
We hope our extensive list of things to do in Jerusalem is a good start to help you plan your trip! If you think we’ve missed a great spot, let us know in the comments!