Jerusalem, Israel is Much More Than a Religious Hotspot

Dome of the Rock, Jerusalem, Israel
Jerusalem, Israel. Photo by Sander Crombach on Unsplash

While many people think of Tel Aviv as the heart of Israel, Jerusalem is the country’s capital. One of the oldest cities in the world and a holy sport to three of the major Abrahamic religions鈥擩udaism, Christianity, and Islam, is much more than just an ancient city. Beyond the history and religious attractions, you’ll find a buzzy area with trendy restaurants, bars, and markets. Jerusalem is a city filled with tons of things to do and it’s a city you have to visit at least once during your lifetime.

Best Time to Visit

April through May and October through November are the best times to visit Jerusalem. The temperatures are better, ranging from the mid ’60s to high ’70s, and there are less crowds. Be sure to check the calendar for Jewish holidays because that’s when the prices are the highest. Summer is peak season even thought the temperatures are really hot.

How to Get Around

The best ways to get around the city are by bus, train, or foot. Many of the attractions are within walking distance of each other. Taxis are another option, but they’re expensive.

Where to Stay

King David Hotel

This 5-star hotel overlooks the Old City walls and domes and it’s just a 15-minute walk from the Old City. King David Hotel has two restaurants, two bars/lounges, a pool, a fitness center, and a spa.

Leonardo Hotel Jerusalem

Leonardo Hotel Jerusalem, a 4-star hotel, is just a short walk from all of the major cultural attractions in Jerusalem. The hotel has two restaurants, a bar, a pool, a spa, and a fitness area.

American Colony Hotel The Leading Hotels of the World 

Open for over a hundred years, this 5-star hotel has hosted celebrities including Winston Churchill, Uma Thurman, and Bob Dylan. Highlights of the hotel include the gardens, pool, a fitness center, a spa, an antique and souvenir shop, a bookshop, a print shop, and several dining options.

What to Do

Old City

This is the place that has most of the attractions in the city including the Western Wall, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and the Temple Mount. Built by King David in 1004 B.C., the Old City has four districts: the Jewish Quarter, the Muslim Quarter, the Christian Quarter, and the American Quarter. Each of the districts has its own vibes, religious sites, shops, and foods.

Mahane Yehuda

For a taste of modern life in Jerusalem, head to Mahane Yehuda in West Jerusalem. The market has pretty much anything you could imagine including spices, clothes, food, and souvenirs. It gets really crowded on Fridays, before the Sabbath.

Israel Museum

The Israel Museum, founded in 1965, is the country’s largest cultural institution and one of the leading art and archaeology museums in the world. With around 500,000 artifacts including ancient and contemporary ones, the main attractions are the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Shrine of the Book.

What to Eat

Kanafeh and Baklava

Knafeh is a dessert made with shredded filo pastry that’s soaked in strips and layered with sweetened sheep or goat’s cheese and crushed pistachios. Also, you should try baklava which is made of filo pastry filled with chopped nuts and sweetened syrup or honey.

Shawarma

Shawarma is made from chicken, lamb, or turkey grilled on a spit and then stuffed in a pita with salads, sauces, tahini or hummus.

Falafel

These crispy, fried balls made of ground chickpeas, herbs, and spices and served in a pita with salad, hummus, tahini, and french fries.