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How To Visit Jerusalem’s Old City


Modified: December 27, 2023

by Dorrie Pinedo



Jerusalem’s Old City is a captivating and sacred destination that draws millions of visitors each year. Steeped in history, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is home to significant religious sites, diverse cultures, and a vibrant atmosphere that creates an unforgettable experience for travelers.


Nestled in the heart of Israel, the Old City is a walled area divided into four distinct quarters: the Armenian Quarter, the Christian Quarter, the Jewish Quarter, and the Muslim Quarter. Each quarter exudes its own unique charm and offers a glimpse into the religious and cultural traditions that have shaped Jerusalem for centuries.


As you step through the ancient gates, you’ll embark on a journey that will take you through narrow winding streets, bustling marketplaces, and awe-inspiring architectural wonders. Whether you’re a history enthusiast, a spiritual seeker, or a curious traveler, the Old City has something to offer everyone.


In this guide, we’ll take you on a virtual tour through the Old City of Jerusalem, highlighting its key attractions, must-visit landmarks, and practical tips to ensure a smooth and enriching visit. Let’s dive in and discover the magic and wonder that awaits within the walls of Jerusalem’s Old City.


Getting to Jerusalem

Getting to Jerusalem is relatively straightforward, as it is well-connected to major cities in Israel and has a convenient transportation network. The city is serviced by Ben Gurion International Airport, located approximately 35 kilometers away. From the airport, you can either take a taxi or use public transportation to reach Jerusalem.


If you prefer to travel by train, the recently inaugurated high-speed train connects the airport directly to Jerusalem’s central station, making it a convenient and efficient option. From there, you can easily reach the Old City by public transportation or taxi.


For those already in Israel, there are several bus services that operate routes to Jerusalem from major cities such as Tel Aviv, Haifa, and Be’er Sheva. The buses are comfortable and offer a scenic journey through the country.


Once you arrive in Jerusalem, you can explore the Old City by foot. It is compact and easily navigable, allowing you to immerse yourself in its historic charm. Alternatively, you can use a taxi or local buses to reach specific locations within the Old City if you prefer not to walk the entire way.


Keep in mind that parking within the Old City can be challenging, so it’s best to leave your car outside the walls and utilize public transport or taxis instead.


If you’re staying in other parts of Jerusalem and planning to visit the Old City as a day trip, you can easily reach it by public transportation or taxi. The city’s extensive bus network covers all major areas, and taxis are readily available for hire.


Now that you know how to get to Jerusalem and the Old City, let’s delve into the enchanting experience awaiting you as you step through its ancient gates.


Entrance Gates to the Old City

The Old City of Jerusalem is accessible through several entrance gates, each offering a unique entry point and a glimpse into different quarters. These gates are not just doorways but hold historical and cultural significance, adding to the overall charm of the Old City.


Here are the main entrance gates to the Old City:

  • Jaffa Gate: Situated on the western side of the Old City, Jaffa Gate is one of the most well-known and busy entrances. It gets its name from the nearby port city of Jaffa. This gate provides access to the Christian and Armenian Quarters.
  • Damascus Gate: Located on the northern side of the Old City, Damascus Gate is one of the oldest and most impressive gates. It opens into the Muslim Quarter and serves as a lively hub, with bustling markets and street food stalls nearby.
  • Zion Gate: Situated on the southern side of the Old City, Zion Gate allows access to the Jewish Quarter. It holds historical significance as it was the main entrance during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war.
  • Lion’s Gate: Found on the eastern side of the Old City, Lion’s Gate is also known as St. Stephen’s Gate. It leads to the Muslim Quarter and is named after the lion figures carved into the gate’s façade.
  • Dung Gate: Located on the southeastern side of the Old City, Dung Gate provides access to the Jewish Quarter and connects to the Western Wall Plaza. It is named after the adjacent archaeological area where refuse was once disposed of.

Each entrance gate has its own unique architectural features and significance. As you enter through any of these gates, take a moment to appreciate the history and beauty that surrounds you.


Now that you’ve entered the enchanting Old City, it’s time to explore the different quarters and immerse yourself in the rich cultural tapestry of Jerusalem.


Exploring the Different Quarters

The Old City of Jerusalem is divided into four distinct quarters, each representing a different religious and cultural community. Exploring these quarters will provide you with a deeper understanding of the city’s diverse heritage and traditions.


Let’s take a closer look at the unique features of each quarter:

  • Armenian Quarter: The smallest of the four quarters, the Armenian Quarter is home to the Armenian Apostolic Church and a community with a rich history in Jerusalem. It features narrow winding streets, stone buildings adorned with intricate carvings, and quaint courtyards. The St. James Cathedral, the main attraction of the quarter, is a must-visit for its beautiful architecture and religious significance.
  • Christian Quarter: The largest quarter in the Old City, the Christian Quarter is an important destination for pilgrims and history enthusiasts. It houses key Christian sites, including the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which is believed to be the place where Jesus was crucified, buried, and resurrected. The Via Dolorosa, the path Jesus walked on the way to his crucifixion, also passes through this quarter.
  • Jewish Quarter: The Jewish Quarter has a rich historical and religious significance and holds the Western Wall, one of the holiest sites in Judaism. The picturesque narrow streets are lined with ancient stone houses, synagogues, and archaeological sites. Don’t miss the opportunity to explore the Cardo, a beautifully restored ancient Roman market street.
  • Muslim Quarter: The Muslim Quarter is the largest and most vibrant quarter in the Old City. It is home to the Dome of the Rock, one of the iconic landmarks of Jerusalem. The streets are filled with lively markets, known as souks, where you can wander through a maze of shops selling spices, textiles, and traditional handicrafts. The bustling atmosphere, aromatic scents, and delicious street food make this quarter a sensory delight.

As you move from one quarter to another, you’ll witness the coexistence of different religious communities and experience the rich cultural diversity that makes Jerusalem truly unique.


Now that you have a sense of the different quarters, let’s delve into the must-visit landmarks of the Old City, starting with the famous Western Wall.


The Western Wall (Wailing Wall)

The Western Wall, also known as the Wailing Wall, is one of the most significant religious sites in Jerusalem and a place of pilgrimage for Jews from around the world. Located in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City, it is the last remaining section of the ancient Jewish temple complex.


The Western Wall is a deeply revered symbol of Jewish heritage and spirituality. It is believed to be the closest accessible point to the Holy of Holies, the inner sanctum of the ancient temple. For centuries, it has been a place where people gather to pray, reflect, and offer their prayers in the cracks of the wall.


Visiting the Western Wall offers a profound and emotional experience. As you approach the large stone wall, you’ll notice the divided sections for men and women. It is customary to approach the wall with respect, modest attire, and a head covering.


Many visitors write their prayers on small pieces of paper and insert them into the cracks of the wall, a meaningful practice believed to bring their wishes closer to God. The sight of the interwoven papers nestled within the ancient stones is a poignant reminder of the deep spiritual connection and longing expressed by thousands of people.


While the Western Wall is a place of prayer and reflection, it is also an architectural marvel. The massive stones that comprise the wall are a testament to the ancient engineering skills of the Jewish people. Take a moment to appreciate the craftsmanship and historical significance.


Adjacent to the Western Wall is the Western Wall Plaza, a spacious square where people gather for celebrations, ceremonies, and events. It is a bustling hub of activity, especially during religious festivals like Passover and Sukkot.


Visiting the Western Wall provides a profound connection to Jewish history, faith, and culture. Whether you are Jewish or not, the spiritual atmosphere and the weight of history within its stones leave a lasting impression.


Now that you’ve experienced the power of the Western Wall, let’s explore another iconic landmark of the Old City, the Dome of the Rock.


Dome of the Rock

The Dome of the Rock is an architectural masterpiece and one of the most recognizable symbols of Jerusalem’s Old City. Situated on the Temple Mount, this stunning golden-domed shrine holds immense significance for both Muslims and the wider religious community.


Contrary to popular belief, the Dome of the Rock is not a mosque but a shrine. It was built in the 7th century to commemorate the ascension of the Prophet Muhammad to heaven. The shrine is adorned with intricate mosaics, marble columns, and beautiful calligraphy, showcasing the exquisite craftsmanship of the time.


Approaching the Dome of the Rock, you’ll be struck by its iconic golden dome, shimmering in the sunlight. The dome’s intricate geometric patterns and Arabic inscriptions are a testament to the artistry and architectural brilliance of Islamic culture.


Visitors are allowed to explore the outside of the Dome of the Rock; however, entry into the shrine itself is restricted to Muslims. Nonetheless, the exterior is a sight to behold, with its stunning architecture and panoramic views of the Old City.


While the Dome of the Rock is an important religious site, it attracts visitors from all walks of life who appreciate its beauty and historical significance. It stands as a symbol of peaceful coexistence, bringing people together through their shared appreciation of art, culture, and spirituality.


Adjacent to the Dome of the Rock is the Al-Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest site in Islam. Its stunning architecture and vast courtyards make it a remarkable place to explore and admire.


Visiting the Dome of the Rock allows you to witness the majesty of Islamic art, experience its cultural significance, and marvel at its architectural grandeur. It is a testament to the rich history and diversity that Jerusalem has to offer.


As you continue your journey through the Old City, the next stop is the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, a significant Christian site and pilgrimage destination.


Church of the Holy Sepulchre

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is a revered pilgrimage site for Christians and a must-visit landmark within Jerusalem’s Old City. Located in the Christian Quarter, this ancient church holds great religious significance, as it is believed to be the site of Jesus Christ’s crucifixion, burial, and resurrection.


Entering the church, you’ll immediately be struck by its grandeur and historical importance. The interior is a complex maze of chapels, altars, and ornate decorations that represent different denominations of Christianity.


One of the most significant areas within the church is the Chapel of the Crucifixion, which marks the spot where Jesus was believed to have been crucified. Here, you’ll find a striking crucifix and a sense of reverence as visitors pay their respects.


Descending a flight of stairs, you’ll reach the Stone of Unction, where Jesus’ body is said to have been anointed before burial. Many visitors lay their hands on the stone, offering their prayers and seeking solace.


Another notable area is the Aedicule, a small structure that encloses the tomb of Jesus. The Aedicule underwent extensive restoration to preserve this sacred site. Inside, visitors can witness the Holy Sepulchre, an important place of prayer and reflection for Christians from around the world.


As you explore the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, you’ll encounter various Christian denominations conducting their worship services, creating a unique multicultural experience. The atmosphere is filled with reverence, hymns, and the scent of incense.


Keep in mind that the Church of the Holy Sepulchre draws large crowds, especially during religious festivals and holidays. Patience and respect for the spiritual nature of the place are essential as you navigate through the busy corridors.


The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is not just a religious site but also a testament to the artistic and architectural achievements of various periods. Its intricate mosaics, imposing columns, and beautiful domes offer a feast for the eyes.


A visit to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is a profound and enlightening experience, providing a deeper connection to Christianity and the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. As you step outside the church, the next stop on your journey through the Old City could be the Mount of Olives.


Mount of Olives

The Mount of Olives is a prominent landmark located just east of the Old City of Jerusalem. This sacred hill provides breathtaking panoramic views of the city and holds great religious significance in Christianity, Judaism, and Islam.


The Mount of Olives is adorned with ancient olive trees, adding to its beauty and symbolism. According to biblical tradition, it was here that Jesus ascended to heaven after his resurrection.


As you ascend the Mount of Olives, you’ll be able to appreciate stunning vistas of Jerusalem’s skyline, including iconic landmarks such as the Dome of the Rock and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The view from the top at sunset or sunrise is particularly mesmerizing.


Along the slopes of the Mount of Olives, you’ll encounter several notable sites. The Church of All Nations, also known as the Basilica of the Agony, is a Roman Catholic church that marks the place where Jesus prayed before his arrest.


The Garden of Gethsemane is another significant spot on the Mount of Olives. It is believed to be the location where Jesus spent his last night before his crucifixion. The ancient olive trees in this serene garden evoke a sense of tranquility and reflection.


Another highlight of the Mount of Olives is the Jewish cemetery. This historic burial ground is the final resting place for many revered Jewish figures, and its rows of tombstones hold historical and cultural richness.


Exploring the Mount of Olives allows you to experience the spirituality and serenity of this sacred site while marveling at the stunning views it offers. As you descend from the mount, you can continue your exploration of the Old City, perhaps along the historic Via Dolorosa.


But before we embark on that journey, let’s take a detour to explore the significance of the Mount of Olives in the context of Islamic tradition.


Via Dolorosa

Via Dolorosa, meaning the “Way of Suffering”, is a significant pilgrimage route within the Old City of Jerusalem. It follows the path believed to be taken by Jesus as he carried the cross from the place of his condemnation to his crucifixion at Golgotha.


This symbolic route is marked by a series of fourteen stations, each representing a specific event during Jesus’ journey to Calvary. Beginning at the Antonia Fortress, the route winds its way through the narrow streets of the Old City, leading to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.


Walking along Via Dolorosa allows you to retrace the footsteps of Jesus and reflect on his sacrifice. The stations are marked by plaques or small chapels, providing a solemn reminder of the final moments of Jesus’ life. Pilgrims and visitors can pause at each station to pray, meditate, or reflect on the significance of the event.


While the exact route of Via Dolorosa is based on tradition, historians and experts continue to debate its historical accuracy. However, its spiritual significance to Christians remains undiminished.


As you journey through Via Dolorosa, you’ll witness the vibrant tapestry of the Old City, with its bustling markets, ancient architecture, and rich history. Along the way, you may encounter merchants selling religious artifacts, devotional items, and local handicrafts.


Whether you are a devout Christian or a curious traveler interested in history and culture, walking the Via Dolorosa is a humbling and introspective experience. It provides an opportunity to connect with the religious traditions of Jerusalem and gain a deeper understanding of the significance of Jesus’ sacrifice.


As you reach the end of the Via Dolorosa, you’ll arrive at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the final station and our next destination for exploration.


After traversing the Via Dolorosa and experiencing its profound significance, it’s time to immerse yourself in the vibrant markets and bazaars scattered throughout the Old City. Let’s continue our journey and discover the treasures they hold.


Markets and Bazaars

Exploring the markets and bazaars of the Old City is a sensory adventure like no other. These vibrant marketplaces, teeming with life, offer a glimpse into the daily rhythm and rich cultural tapestry of Jerusalem.


One of the most famous markets in the Old City is the Arab shuk, or market, located primarily in the Muslim Quarter. As you stroll through its narrow alleyways, you’ll be greeted by a colorful array of spices, aromatic herbs, and enticing flavors. The market is a feast for the senses, with the vibrant sights, exotic smells, and bustling sounds immersing you in its lively atmosphere.


The Arab shuk is also a great place to explore local crafts and traditional Palestinian products. From intricately woven textiles and hand-painted ceramics to delicate glassware and traditional musical instruments, there’s something to captivate every visitor.


Another popular market is the Christian Quarter’s Suq Khan el-Zeit, often referred to as the “Olive Oil Market”. Here, you’ll find stalls offering a variety of olive-based products, including olive oil, soaps, and skincare items. This market celebrates the significance of olives in the region’s history and culture.


In the Jewish Quarter, you’ll find the Cardo, an ancient Roman market street that has been lovingly restored. This pedestrianized avenue is lined with boutique shops, art galleries, and cafes, offering a unique shopping experience. It’s an ideal place to find unique Judaica items, jewelry, and art pieces.


As you navigate through the markets and bazaars, don’t be afraid to haggle and engage in friendly banter with the vendors. Bargaining is a common practice in these markets, and it can often lead to memorable interactions and unexpected treasures.


Exploring the markets and bazaars of the Old City is not just about shopping; it’s about immersing yourself in the lively energy and cultural heritage that fills the air. Take your time, sample local delicacies, and embrace the experience of being transported into a world of scents, flavors, and vibrant colors.


After exploring the markets and indulging in the local cuisine, you may want to treat yourself to some traditional Middle Eastern fare. Join me in the next section as we discover the culinary delights and recommended dining options in the Old City.


Places to Eat in the Old City

The Old City of Jerusalem offers a delightful culinary experience, with a variety of eateries catering to different tastes and budgets. From traditional Middle Eastern cuisine to international flavors, there’s something for everyone to savor and enjoy.


Here are a few recommended places to eat in the Old City:

  • Machane Yehuda Market: Located just outside the Old City, Machane Yehuda Market is a popular culinary destination. Here, you’ll find a bustling atmosphere with numerous stalls and small eateries offering a wide range of Middle Eastern dishes, such as falafel, shawarma, hummus, and freshly baked pastries.
  • Lina Restaurant: Situated in the Christian Quarter, Lina Restaurant is renowned for its traditional Palestinian cuisine. From mouthwatering grilled meats and aromatic rice dishes to flavorful stews and refreshing salads, Lina Restaurant provides an authentic taste of local flavors.
  • Azzahra Restaurant: Nestled in the Muslim Quarter, Azzahra Restaurant offers a diverse menu inspired by Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine. Here, you can indulge in delicious kebabs, savory mezzes, and decadent desserts while enjoying the vibrant ambiance.
  • Eucalyptus Restaurant: Located in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City, Eucalyptus Restaurant offers a unique culinary experience, focusing on contemporary interpretations of traditional Israeli dishes. The menu features creative twists on classic recipes, incorporating local ingredients and flavors.
  • Armenian Tavern: Situated in the Armenian Quarter, the Armenian Tavern serves authentic Armenian cuisine in a cozy and inviting atmosphere. From savory stews to delectable pastries, this restaurant offers a taste of the rich culinary heritage of the Armenian community.

These are just a few examples of the many culinary gems awaiting you in the Old City. As you explore its winding streets and vibrant markets, you’ll come across numerous small cafes, street food vendors, and hidden eateries, each offering their own delicious specialties.


Remember to try the local delicacies, such as freshly squeezed pomegranate juice, knafeh (a sweet Middle Eastern cheese pastry), and traditional Arabic coffee. Embrace the opportunity to indulge in the diverse flavors of the region and savor the culinary traditions that have been passed down through generations.


Now that we’ve covered the delectable food options in the Old City, let’s move on to discuss accommodation options for those planning to stay within its historic walls.


Accommodation Options

Staying within the historical confines of the Old City provides an unparalleled experience, allowing you to fully immerse yourself in its charm and ambiance. While accommodation options within the Old City itself are limited, there are still a few choices to consider.


One option is to stay at one of the guesthouses operated by religious orders in the Old City. These guesthouses offer simple but comfortable rooms and a unique opportunity to interact with members of the religious community.


Another alternative is to look for small boutique hotels or bed and breakfast establishments within the Old City. These offer a more personalized experience and can often be found tucked away in the narrow winding streets, blending seamlessly into the historic surroundings.


Alternatively, if you prefer a wider range of choices, you can opt to stay in hotels located just outside the Old City, within walking distance of its entrance gates. These hotels offer modern amenities, comfortable rooms, and easy access to the Old City’s attractions.


By staying near the Old City, you can explore the ancient walls and landmarks in the early morning or late evening, avoiding the crowds, and experiencing a more tranquil atmosphere.


Regardless of where you choose to stay, remember that the Old City is a popular tourist destination, and it’s advisable to book accommodations well in advance, especially during peak travel seasons.


Whether you decide to stay within the Old City or in a nearby neighborhood, the experience of waking up in the heart of Jerusalem and having its timeless beauty at your doorstep is one that will make your visit truly memorable.


Now that we’ve covered accommodation options, it’s time to share some practical tips to ensure a smooth and enjoyable visit to the Old City of Jerusalem.


Practical Tips for Visiting Jerusalem’s Old City

Visiting Jerusalem’s Old City can be an enchanting and immersive experience. To make the most of your visit, here are some practical tips to keep in mind:

  • Prepare for Security Checks: Security is tight in the Old City, so be prepared for bag checks and metal detector screenings at the entrance gates. It’s recommended to travel light and avoid carrying unnecessary items.
  • Dress Modestly: Since the Old City contains religious sites, it’s important to respect local customs and dress modestly. This means ensuring your shoulders, knees, and chest are covered, especially when visiting churches, synagogues, and mosques.
  • Comfortable Shoes: The Old City’s streets are ancient and often uneven, so wear comfortable shoes suitable for walking long distances. Exploring the narrow alleys and climbing the hills can be tiring, so comfortable footwear is essential.
  • Stay Hydrated: Jerusalem’s climate can be hot, especially during the summer months. Carry a water bottle with you and remember to stay hydrated throughout your visit.
  • Respect Sacred Spaces: Be mindful when entering churches, synagogues, and mosques. Follow any instructions given by the staff and avoid taking photos where it is not permitted. Maintain a respectful demeanor throughout your visit.
  • Plan Your Visit: The Old City is compact but filled with numerous attractions. Prioritize the sites you want to see and plan your itinerary accordingly to make the most efficient use of your time.
  • Visit Early or Late: To avoid large crowds, consider visiting the Old City early in the morning or later in the evening. This allows for a more peaceful and serene experience.
  • Be Mindful of Street Vendors: The Old City’s markets can be bustling with vendors trying to sell their goods. If you’re not interested, politely decline and avoid engaging in prolonged conversations if you’re not intending to purchase anything.
  • Bring Cash: While some establishments accept credit cards, it’s advisable to carry cash, especially for small purchases and when visiting street vendors.
  • Respect Local Customs: Jerusalem is a city of diverse cultures and religions. Respect the customs and traditions of the local population, and be mindful of your behavior and attire to avoid causing offense.

By following these practical tips, you can ensure a smooth and respectful visit to Jerusalem’s Old City, making the most of your time in this culturally significant and historically rich destination.


As your journey through the Old City comes to an end, take a moment to reflect on the profound experiences and lasting memories you’ve gained. The Old City of Jerusalem is a powerful testament to humanity’s shared history and the enduring legacy of faith and culture.


Safe travels, and enjoy your exploration of this remarkable UNESCO World Heritage Site.



Visiting Jerusalem’s Old City is an extraordinary experience that immerses you in centuries of history, culture, and religious significance. From the awe-inspiring Western Wall to the iconic Dome of the Rock, the Old City offers a rich tapestry of landmarks and attractions that captivate the senses.


Exploring the different quarters of the Old City, you’ll witness the coexistence of diverse religious and cultural communities, each leaving their mark on the city’s architecture, traditions, and culinary delights.


Whether you’re wandering through the bustling markets and bazaars, retracing the steps of Jesus along the Via Dolorosa, or finding serenity amidst the olive trees on the Mount of Olives, you’ll be touched by the spiritual and historical significance that permeates every corner.


Remember to respect the sacred spaces, dress modestly, and immerse yourself in the unique atmosphere of the Old City. Plan your visit strategically, allowing for time to savor the flavors of Middle Eastern cuisine and discover hidden gems along the way.


As you bid farewell to the Old City, take with you the memories of its enchanting streets, the warmth of its people, and the profound sense of connection to the past that only this ancient city can provide.