Jerusalem is my favourite city in the world. It is fascinating and I love the history that is intertwined into the Old City. I often tell people that, even without sightseeing, just being there is an experience. No where else in the world can you find so many different groups of devout people. The religious tension that comes from that though is undeniable and can sometimes be quite intense which is why I keep my visits short. Here are the the best things to do in Jerusalem with 3 days on your hands.
Where to stay in Jerusalem
Accommodation in Jerusalem is expensive, so I always stay at Abraham Hostels Jerusalem. 10 minutes walk from the Old City, this place is comfortable and affordable. They also organise a number of interesting day trips for those staying longer, including visiting the West Bank and the Dead Sea.
Things to do in Jerusalem: Day 1
Get comfortable shoes on, some snacks in your bag and head to the Old City ready for a long day exploring. You should wear conservative clothing (cover your shoulders and your knees) and women should take a scarf that they can use to cover their hair for sensitive sites. There is so much history in the Old City that it is worth taking a good guide book with you to give some background information on the places you visit.
Church of Holy Sepulchre (free)
When you enter the Old City, turn left towards the Christian Quarter and head straight to the Church of Holy Sepulchre, getting their early to avoid the crowds. Many believe this to be the place where jesus was crucified, buried and resurrected. Well hidden, you might want a map in hand to guide you. There are a number of sites to take in inside the church including the location of crucification and the tomb.
Dome on the Rock (free)
Make your way to the Muslim Quarter and the entrance of Dome on the Rock (next to the Western Wall). Entry is only accessible to members of the public for a few hours each day so check the schedule beforehand. You will need to arrive at the gate at least 30 minutes before it opens to join the queue as sometimes it gets so busy they stop letting people in.
The Dome on the Rock is an area of tension as both Jews and Muslims believe it to be a place of religious significance. So expect tight security and lots of guards. You will not be allowed inside the mosque (check google images – its impressive), but even from the outside it is an incredible building. Women should wear a headscarf out of respect and don’t try and peer inside the mosque or kneel on the floor to take a picture as the guards here will be quick to tell you off!
Lunch in the market
Find a place busy with locals to grab some lunch. My favourite is to eat in the Muslim quarter either hummus (roughly $6) or falafel (roughly $1-2). Don’t forget to try an Arabic coffee (roughly $1) and a freshly squeezed orange and carrot juice (roughly $3).
Western Wall Tunnels (30NIS)
Visiting The Western Wall Tunnels is my favourite things to do in Jerusalem (closely followed by visiting Dome on the Rock). Do not miss the opportunity to see the full scale of the Western Wall, most of which lays hidden beneath the ground. You can only enter with a guided tour and this will need to be booked in advance (book early to avoid disappointment).
Save visiting the outside section of the Western Wall for after the tour when it will have more significance. Up close you will find dedicated orthodox Jews praying and pushing pieces of paper in the rock with wishes on. Men should wear a yamaka (provided at the entrance) and women a headscarf out of respect.
Shopping in the Market
Use anytime left to explore the market. Each quarter has a different feel and sells different items and crafts. You would have seen lots as you were going throughout the day. If you spot something you like, buy it straight away – it is easy to get lost. Also, in the Muslim Quarter, the stalls often close as the sellers leave for prayer. Make sure you visit the Armenian Quarter.
Things to do in Jerusalem: Day 2
After a busy day in Jerusalem, you will probably be wanting a break from all the hustle and bustle of the centre and to take things a little slower. You will either need access to a car or to take a taxi or public transport to the sites today.
Yad Vashem (free, parking 28NIS)
As you would expect, this is a sobering museum, but also an amazing one. The holocaust exhibits are laid out in separate rooms, leading you through a journey in a tunnel that, at the end, opens up onto a view over Jerusalem.
There are a number of peaceful memorials dotted around the quiet grounds that are worth visiting. The most memorable for me is the memorial to the children who lost their lives. Thousands of candles reflected in the dark, all from one flame. You will want half a day to visit the museum and you can grab lunch in the museums cafe.
(alternative) The Israel Museum (54NIS)
If you do not feel like visiting Yad Vasham, an alternative is to go to The Israel Museum with its impressive collection of historic items and art pieces.
Hike in Jerusalem’s forests
When looking for things to do in Jerusalem, many people miss the beautiful nature that surrounds the city. It’s a great way to clear your head after a visit to the museum. Park your car (or get dropped off) at the car park on the road to Even Sapir (between Ein Kerem Hospital and Even Sapir). Here you can follow the trail signs up into the woods to 2 small springs, Ein Tamar and Ein Aminadav. Cool your feet off in the water on a hot day.
The views up here are magnificent.
Jerusalem’s live music venues (55-200NIS)
There are a number of venues in the city that play live music, booking in advance is advised. Yellow Submarine play a mix of local artists and occasionally bigger names. Birman offers Jazz and Blues performances, as does Anna Ticho House along with classical performances. Also, Avram is an option who host a variety of genres and a show almost nightly.
Things to do in Jerusalem: Day 3
The last day is an opportunity to catch all the sites that you missed in the city on day 1.
Machane Yehuda Market (free)
Located a short walk from Abraham Hostel Jerusalem, is this busy food market. Begin your day by wandering the stalls taking in all the sights and smells, sampling foods that take your fancy. When full, take some with you as snacks for the day. There is so much to try here from halva, shawarma and, Jachnun.
Mount of Olives (free)
The Mount of Olives is a peaceful area that offers a good view over Jerusalem. Head to Seven Arches Hotel (either by bus or taxi) where you can get the best panoramic view. From here you can walk down the Mount of Olives. Stopping at Dominus Flevit along the way. The western and southern slopes are covered with a Jewish cemetery that holds roughly 70,000 graves.
Near the bottom of Mount of Olives is the Church of All Nations and, adjacent to it, the Garden of Gethsemane. Here you can see olive trees that some believe are 2000 years old.
Mount Zion (free)
Mount Zion is the highest point of the old city. There are a number of sights to visit. First, go to the Site of the Last Supper. Then take time to wander the area stopping at the Church of Aposties and the Tomb of King David. It is especially nice to see Mount Zion after 5pm when the streets empty except for orthodox Jews coming back and forth for prayer. The Tomb of King David opens late.
If you found this list of things to do in Jerusalem useful and are also planning a trip to Tel Aviv, check out my 2 day itinerary: 48 hours and $48 in Tel Aviv