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Things to Do in Jerusalem - page 2

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Pool of Bethesda
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14 Tours and Activities

In the Gospel of John, chapter 5, Jesus is said to have miraculously healed a paralyzed man at the Pool of Bethesda. These pools were discovered and excavated during the nineteenth century when the Church of St. Anne, located on the same grounds, was being restored. This public bath was likely used during the first century BC and first century AD.

The Romanesque church was built in 1140 by Crusaders at the site where Hannah, mother of Mary, was born. It’s considered one of the best specimens of medieval architecture in Israel and is famous for its astounding acoustics. Stick around for a few minutes and you’ll often hear hymns being sung.

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Mahane Yehuda Market (The Shuk)
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Bursting at the seams with produce, nuts, seeds, spices, wines, meats and cheeses, baked goods, fish, housewares and clothing, Mahane Yehuda Market, informally called The Shuk, teems with locals and tourists who come for a bargain or simply to take in the frenetic atmosphere.

The history of the market dates back to the Ottoman Period, when locals began selling produce there in the early 20th century. It soon expanded into an organized market thanks to its convenient, centralized location. The local government attempted to add much-needed infrastructure — proper sewage, running water and garbage disposal to start — to the market during the British Mandate period, but it wasn’t until the 1930s that conditions began to improve.

Hungry travelers will find plenty of street food stands in and around the Mahane Yehuda Market, including some of Jerusalem’s best burekas. The market also offers a Shuk Bites card, which includes a self-guided tour map of the market and vouchers for a variety of market products. Some write the name as Machane Yehuda Market.

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Chapel of the Ascension
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The Chapel of the Ascension on Jerusalem’s Mount of Olives is a sacred site for both Christians and Muslims. It claims to be the oldest of three churches located on the Mount. Though Jesus is believed to have taken his final steps before ascending to heaven here (there is even a footprint impression on a stone slab that is believed to be from Jesus’s right foot), the site has since been converted to a mosque, after being captured by the Muslim sultan Saladin in the 10th century. It remains under the control of an Islamic group, though all faiths are welcome.

Many believe Jesus’s Assumption, 40 days after his resurrection, had taken place inside a cave. Nonetheless a church was built in this spot in the 4th century. Its exterior is marked by archways and slim marble columns, built in a Romaneque style.

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Room of the Last Supper (Cenacle)
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The Room of the Last Supper—aka the Cenacle, based on the Latin word for dining room, Coenaculum—is a sacred religious site visited by many pilgrims each year. In the Christian tradition, believers say that in this very room, on the holy Mount Zion in Jerusalem, Jesus shared his last Passover supper with his apostles on the night before his death.

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Zion Gate (Bab an-Nawi Dawud)
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When Ottoman Turkish Sultan Suleiman was rebuilding the Old City walls of Jerusalem during the sixteenth century, the architects neglected to consider a Franciscan monastery just outside the walls. What is today the Zion Gate (Bab an-Nawi Dawud) was punched through the wall to provide the monastery access to the Old City. During the 1948 War of Independence the gate was the site of fierce fighting between Jordanians and Palmach forces; the facade still bears bullet holes.

One of eight gates in the wall, Zion Gate is situated on the south side of the city, looking out toward Mount Zion. For modern day visitors, the gate serves as one of the primary entrances into the Jewish and Armenian quarters.

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Israel Museum, Jerusalem
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Founded in 1965, the Israel Museum, Jerusalem ranks as the largest cultural institution in Israel and one of the world’s top archaeology and art museums. The extensive collection of nearly half a million objects, which contains works spanning from prehistory to today, is divided into Fine Arts, Archaeology, Jewish Art and Life collections and includes the world’s most extensive collection of biblical and Holy Land archaeological pieces.

Within the galleries and exhibits of the recently upgraded 20-acre museum campus, visitors will find find the Shrine of the Book where the Dead Sea Scrolls are kept, as well as the Billy Rose Art Garden, considered among the best outdoor sculpture gardens of the twentieth century. Sculptures by masters like Pablo Picasso, Auguste Rodin and Henry Moore are scattered throughout.

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Damascus Gate (Bab al-Amud)
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Damascus Gate (Bab al-Amud), considered the largest and most beautiful entrance to Jerusalem’s Old City, has served in this capacity since Agrippa ruled during the first century BCE. As it stands today, the gate dates back to 1537. Crusaders referred to it as St. Stephen’s Gate, as it’s located not far from the site of Saint Stephen’s martyrdom, and some Israelis call it Shechem Gate.

Flanked by two towers, the gate serves as the main access point to the Old City from East Jerusalem, and once inside, visitors find themselves amid an authentic market in the Muslim Quarter where locals shop for clothing, crafts, spices, baked goods and other food items.

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Western Wall Tunnels
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The Western Wall Tunnels in Jerusalem offer a behind-the-scenes exploration of one of the most significant holy sites in Judaism: the Western Wall (also known as the Wailing Wall or Kotel). An underground continuation of the sacred prayer site, the Western Wall Tunnels provide worshipers and visitors a unique perspective on the history of the ancient limestone wall.

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Mea Shearim (Me’a She’arim)
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Having a predominantly Haredi and Hasidic population, the Orthodox Jewish neighborhood of Mea Shearim (Me'a She'arim) is a world of its own within Jerusalem. The insulated neighborhood is one of the oldest Jewish areas in the city and accordingly, life revolves around the many strict religious rules and traditions. Men can be seen wearing the traditional black frock coats with white shirts and stiff black hats to cover their heads. Women usually dress in black, long skirts and blouses and cover their heads with a headscarf or a wig. Additionally, the households in Mea Shearim reject most technology, including computers, televisions and radios as well as newspapers and magazines. Instead, important messages and news are glued onto walls or one of the numerous billboards that can be seen everywhere. Next to the messages, there are also the so called “modesty posters”, big notices with bold print that urge visitors to wear at least knee length clothing as well as tops with sleeves. Since the inhabitants of Mea Shearim also don’t want to become a major tourist attraction, photography is forbidden within the neighborhood and visitors are generally encouraged to blend in.

The residents of Mea Shearim might be suspicious of strangers, but if you make the effort to follow the rules and blend in, you will find the people to be nothing but honest, helpful and friendly. Those looking for bargains and reasonable prices will discover a great selection of interesting goods in the shopping district and it is worthwhile to purchase typical Jewish necessities and clothes, visit one of the bookstores and follow the mouthwatering smells into one of the many bakeries. The bakeries could even be called the main attractions of the neighborhood, so make sure not to miss out on the Sufganiyah, delicious round jelly doughnuts topped with powdered sugar.

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Hezekiah's Tunnel (Siloam Tunnel)
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Walk the ancient stone waterway beneath Israel's ancient City of David, known as Hezekiah's Tunnel (Siloam Tunnel). It's been channeling water into Jerusalem for 2,000-plus years, and today provides a route through the city’s underground history. Expect a wet, caving-like experience thanks to a constant flow of water.

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More Things to Do in Jerusalem

Jericho

Jericho

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Jericho is an ancient biblical town, with early settlements traced back 10,000 years, possibly making it the earliest site of human civilization. Located in the occupied Palestinian Territories, and reached by traveling through the Judean Desert, Jericho is filled with archaeological ruins, monasteries, mosques, and other religious and historical sights.

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Tomb of the Virgin Mary (Mary's Tomb)

Tomb of the Virgin Mary (Mary's Tomb)

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At the base of the Mount of Olives lies the site believed by Eastern Christians to be the Tomb of the Virgin Mary (Mary's Tomb). Her monument there, embedded in rock, commemorates Mary’s Assumption and ascension into heaven. Following a dark, winding staircase down to the burial site, the walls are decorated with historic art depicting Mary, the mother of Jesus. In the crypt itself, hanging lamps and burning candles and incense create a low lit, peaceful atmosphere.

Tradition states that her body was received on the third day following her death, leaving her tomb empty. Traditions following her death here are said to taken place since the 2nd and 3rd centuries. The church that sits above is believed to have been built around the time of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, making it one of the oldest near-complete religious buildings in Jerusalem.

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Mount of Olives Cemetery

Mount of Olives Cemetery

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This historic Jewish cemetery dates back some 3,000 years and is among the most ancient and most important burial sites in all of Jerusalem. More than 70,000 tombs of some of Judaism’s most-famous figures exist at Mount of Olives Cemetery.

Visitors say this stunning memorial with incredible views is a sobering destination and a reminder of the religious foundation of this holy city and its inhabitants. Tombs are decorated with small piles of stones that signify visits from family, friends and loved ones of the departed.

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Underground Jerusalem

Underground Jerusalem

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Underground Jerusalem is an archaeological site in ancient Jerusalem, located beneath the neighborhood of Silwan. It is said to be where Jerusalem was born. Situated on a narrow ridge south of Temple Mount in East Jerusalem, it is understandably one of the most extensively excavated sites in the city. The underground city is open to visitors, who can use the same underground tunnels that residents would have used 2,000 years ago. The most famous tunnel in the area is Hezekiah’s Tunnel. He constructed tunnels to bring water to the people within the city walls; this is even quoted in the Bible: “the acts of Hezekiah and all his might, and how he made the pool and conduit, and brought water into the city” (2 Kings 20:20). There are two other major underground systems in the area: Solomon's Quarries and Solomon's Stables. There is more than a mile (two kilometers) of pathways beneath the city, away from the hustle and bustle of busy Jerusalem, under most of the city’s major historical attractions.

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Church of St. James

Church of St. James

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One of the most significant sites in Jerusalem’s Armenian Quarter, the walled Church of St. James serves as the cathedral of the Armenian Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem. Georgians first built a church on the site — believed to be the location where St. James was beheaded — during the eleventh century. The structure was resorted by Armenians during the twelfth century.

Besides its ties to the martyred disciple, the Church of St. James also houses the tomb of another James, the oldest brother of Jesus and the author of the Epistle of James, who was himself martyred in 62 AD.

The church ranks among the most ornate houses of worship anywhere in the holy land, adorned with hanging lamps, gilded icons and colorful woven carpets. The courtyard of the church features a series of interesting carved stone crosses, called khatchkars.

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Yad Vashem (World Holocaust Remembrance Center)

Yad Vashem (World Holocaust Remembrance Center)

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The term “yad vashem” comes from the Book of Isaiah and can be translated as “a place to memorialize.” Yad Vashem (World Holocaust Remembrance Center) in Jerusalem is the world’s most important Holocaust museum — a memorial to the 6 million Jewish lives lost.

The complex comprises two museums, the Holocaust History Museum and an Art Museum, as well as an exhibition pavilion, learning center and a synagogue. The centerpiece is the history museum, housed within a triangular prism-shaped structure running through the center of campus. Nine underground galleries recount the story of the Holocaust from a Jewish perspective through artifacts, survivor testimonies, personal possessions and audio-visual presentations. A visit to the museum ends in the Hall of Names, a place where the names and stories of millions of victims are recorded.

The Art Museum houses the largest and most diverse collection of Holocaust art in the world — some 10,000 works — mostly produced during the Holocaust period.

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