No trip to Israel is complete without spending time in Jerusalem, and for culture and history buffs, this is even more true. The city is simply drenched in history, every layer of ground beneath your feet holds remnants from some ancient era.
And as for culture, Jerusalem is a sacred city for Christians, Muslims, and Jews. It is an iconic subject for painters and has a plethora of galleries and museums. Most Jerusalem tours will include the top Jerusalem sites, but if you’re doing it alone, this 3-day Jerusalem itinerary should satisfy your thirst for culture and historical sites.
Dedicate an entire morning (or more) to exploring the Old City on foot. It is the heart of Jerusalem and home to most of the city’s top attractions.
Enter through the Jaffa Gate into the Armenian Quarter, home to about 3,000 Armenians. You can see their traditional painted ceramics at the Armenian Ceramics Center, and visit the Latin Patriarchate Cathedral.
Now you will be heading towards the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Via Dolorosa. This stretch of Old City lanes is the traditional route taken by Jesus as he carried his cross towards Calvary. Every few meters there is a small church marking the Stations of the Cross.
The Holy Sepulchre is a 4th-century church shared by several denominations and home to many shrines and chapels. The church marks the traditional site of Christ’s crucifixion and burial. Take your time discovering the different areas of the church before heading out along Al Souq Street through the bustling Muristan Market to David Street where you’ll turn left into the Jewish Quarter.
Here you can see the excavated Roman street that once crossed the city. The northern half of the Cardo has been turned into a modern shopping street with boutique stores.
Now you are in the heart of the Jewish Quarter where there are numerous eateries, synagogues, and religious schools. Hurva Synagogue has a fascinating history and was originally built in 1864. It has been destroyed and rebuilt several times. See the archaeological remains in the basement and get a panoramic view from the balcony encircling the dome roof. Continue through the square and follow the constant flow of tourists and locals towards the descent to the Western Wall Plaza.
Before descending the stairs to the plaza take in the magnificent view across the Western Wall and the Dome of the Rock. The Western Wall is the last remaining section of the wall that once surrounded the Second Temple on the Temple Mount. The wall dates back to about 20 BC.
Take the walkway alongside the Western Wall up to Temple Mount. Visitors are allowed on Temple Mount Sunday to Thursday, 13:30 to 14:30. If you are a Muslim the open hours are more flexible. On the mount be sure to see the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosque among the other interesting structures. Non-Muslims will have to make do with seeing the Dome of the Rock and the mosque from the outside.
In the afternoon stay in the Old City area and explore one of these options:
- Take a walk along the 16th-century Old City ramparts starting at Jaffa Gate or Lions Gate.
- Visit the City of David across the road from the Dung Gate. It is an underground archaeological site, believed to be the original site of King David’s city.
- Tour the Western Wall Tunnels that have been excavated beneath the Old City. The entrance is next to the Western Wall.
- Wohl Archaeological Museum – See the excavated Second Temple Era residential quarters.
End your first day in Jerusalem with a visit to the Tower of David adjacent to Jaffa Gate, and you can opt to stay for the evening Sound and Light Show.
Today you can venture into the new city of Jerusalem and discover some of the more recent cultural sites. Soak up the atmosphere in the busy shopping streets and experience modern Israeli culture.
Start your walk at Zion Square, walk up the pedestrian street Ben Yehuda, or follow Jaffa Street up towards Davidka Square. If you’re interested in seeing the Ultra-Orthodox neighborhood of Mea Shaárim, then you can take King George Street on your right and follow it until you see signs for Mea Shearim.
This magnificent market is the perfect place to sample some of Israel’s finest delicacies. You’ll find excellent restaurants serving traditional dishes from various Israeli cultures including the Ethiopian, Persian, and Georgian communities.
This socio-political contemporary art museum is situated on the seam between West and East Jerusalem. You could walk there but it is a bit far, and better to take a taxi. The New York Times named it one of the world’s top cultural must-see destinations.
Another taxi ride will bring you to Israel’s Holocaust museum and memorial. The museum uses authentic artifacts, testimonials from Holocaust survivors, historic photographs, and film footage to highlight this dark period of history.
End your second day on a lighter note with some downtime at Jerusalem’s Tachana (First Station). It is a shopping, dining, and cultural complex housed in an 1892 structure. You’ll enjoy good food, art galleries, and some local color.
On your last day in Jerusalem enjoy the city’s top museum and some of the famous biblical sites. Finish the day with a breathtaking view across the city.
You could spend a full day in this massive museum complex. It is Israel’s largest cultural institution and houses collections of art, archaeological pieces, religious artifacts, and cultural works from around the world. One of the highlights of the Israel Museum is the Shrine of the Book, a unique building holding the Dead Sea Scrolls.
As your last stop on this three-day Jerusalem itinerary, spend a couple of hours on the Mount of Olives. The impressive mount is home to several historic landmarks including a 3,000-year-old Jewish cemetery on the western slopes. Visit the Garden of Gethsemane, the Church of Dominus Flevit, the Pater Noster Church, the Ascension Church, and the Basilica of the Agony facing the Old City. One of the main reasons to end your time in Jerusalem on this historic mount is for the view across the Old City.
Don’t hesitate to integrate a day tour into your itinerary. Day tours in Jerusalem can save time and money. For example, if you decide to make a side trip to Bethlehem, Masada, Jericho, or the Dead Sea.