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Introduction To The  Best Places To Visit in Jerusalem





Best Places To Visit in Jerusalem

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Jerusalem Introduction


The Dome of the Rock is a stunning building


Jerusalem consists of the Old City, the compact, historic center of Jerusalem and a sprawling newer metropolis that is an amalgam of disjointed architectures. The city’s desert setting combined with its urban sprawl do not make an attractive setting, but the sight of the Old City and it walls sparks an interest rivaled by few places that we have visited.

Jerusalem is a religious icon for practitioners of Judaism, Islam and Christianity. It is the site once occupied by the Temple of Solomon and the Second Temple, locations revered by many Jews. Christians believe that this is the place where Jesus Christ was crucified, buried and rose from the dead. Furthermore, the Old City is home to the third holiest site in Islam (the Dome of the Rock), as well as the revered Al-Aqsa Mosque, the second oldest mosque in the world.

While there are a number of interesting attractions in greater Jerusalem, the reality is that they are overshadowed by the historical and religious attractions in the Old City.

The original settlement of Jerusalem is thought to date to the time of King David, approximately a thousand years before the birth of Christ. Archaeologists believe that the Old City sits atop layer upon layer of older settlements, but much of the history remains unknown as most of the Old City is off limits to “digs”, usually for reasons related to religion and political protocols.  

The stately, protective and somewhat menacing wall that surrounds and defines the Old City is relatively modern.  The walls that you see today were rebuilt on the ruins of older walls at the command of Suleiman the Magnificent of the Ottoman Empire (at the time, he was regarded as the leader of the Islamic world) in the 16th century to protect the city from raids by other regional powers. 

Entrance to the Old City is by gate, each of which has a unique name (the Jaffa Gate, the Dung Gate, Lions Gate, Herod’s gate, etc.), an interesting history and equally numerous explanations of its name, design or purpose. Indeed, other gates that are no longer “open” also have unique stories sometimes tied to religion, history or the inclination of ruling powers in the past centuries.  Our map of Jerusalem shows the gates that are open and the information box for each of these contains a short description.

Perhaps the most interesting of the closed gates is the Golden Gate , located to the east of the Noble Sanctuary, an area that includes  the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque.  Known also as the Temple Mount, this area once was the site of Solomon's Temple and later the Second Temple, which was destroyed by the Romans during an uprising in the mid-first century.

        The Golden Gate viewed from ouside the city. The objects in the foreground are tombs

It is at the Golden Gate that many Jews believe that the Messiah will enter Jerusalem at the End of Days. The Golden Gate was sealed by the Muslims in the 8th century.  While some say it was closed to  prevent the arrival of the Messiah (and rebuilt closed by Suleiman in the 16th century), it is more likely that the gates were closed to protect the sanctity of the Noble Sanctuary.  Some believers in Islam contend that this location will be the place of Allah’s Final Judgment of humanity. If you view this location from outside the wall, you will note that the valley and hillsides surrounding the Golden Gate are filled with graves of both Muslims and Jews hoping to be among the first welcomed to the afterlife.

The walls of the Old City  looking toward David's TowerThe Old City is approximately a square kilometer in size and divided into Muslim, Armenian, Jewish and Christian quarters. Each quarter has a number of historic and religious attractions that will be of  interest to most travelers.

The "quarters" differ somewhat in architecture and culture, but all of the quarters seem to present city scenes from the ancient past.

Walking is the only way possible to explore the Old City and we recommend that you tour the area in the daytime and avoid it at night. Access to the Noble Sanctuary (also known as the Temple Mount) is tightly restricted to a single gate and certain hours of the day. Fridays (the holiest day of the week for Muslims) is not a day to visit.

Many of the best places to visit in Jerusalem are holy sites and you will not be admitted with proper dress.  Shorts and tank tops are not permitted.  In fact, the less skin showing, the better your chances of gaining entry. Headscarves are suggested for women travelers.

Next - explore Harod's Citadel, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the Western Wall and other amazing attractions in the Old City.

Or - take a look at  the index to the ThereArePlaces Guide to Jerusalem that can be found on the upper right-hand edge of this page.

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Best Places To Visit in Jerusalem

On This Page
Introduction to the Old City
The Golden Gate

Page 2
Harod"s Citadel
Via Dolorosa
Church of the Holy Sepulchre
The Cardo
The Western Wall
Ha-Hurva Synagogue

Page 3
Noble Sanctuary/Temple Mount
Dome of the Rock
Al-Aqsa Mosque

Page 4
Garden of Gethsemane (including The Basilica of The Agony, The Church of Mary Magdalene and the Virgin's Burial Place)
Kidron Valley
The Knesset
Yad Vashem
The Israel Museum

Or Choose
Jerusalem Map

Best Places to Visit in Israel













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