How to spend 24 hours in Jerusalem
So here is your challenge (should you choose to take it). You are going to be in one of the most historical and exciting places in the world…Jerusalem. But you only have 24 hours to take in the sites, history and culture. This is going to be a whirlwind tour…but it can be done if you have a plan.
Know before you go…
Jerusalem’s Old City is divided into four quarters—Jewish, Christian, Muslim and Armenian—each with its own story, sites and culture. A great thing to keep in mind that often the best thing to do is just wander. You do not have to worry about getting lost, because the Old City is only about 1 square kilometer and surrounded by Ottoman walls. You cannot go too far (or get TOO lost).
With time being a challenge in this scenario a guided tour (preferably a guided Jerusalem tours from Tel Aviv) will go a long way in helping you soak up the history and everything below the surface. A suggested starting point is a place like Hallelujah Tours. They have several great ones that are affordable and can help organize your tour.
Now that you have your plan…let’s get started:
Starting with breakfast at the hostel…you get an early start.
Start your day at the Temple Mount
If you can enter the Old City through the Jaffa Gate (special note…many special gates throughout the city, you could do a tour of just them alone, but you will want to make time to look at and marvel at these old gates) you can walk straight down the Western Wall (a.k.a. Wailing Wall or Kotel). It’s a small section of a retaining wall of the Temple Mount, formerly part of the Second Jewish Temple built by Herod the Great (and subsequently destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD).
After visiting the Western Wall, you can walk only a few steps over to the Temple Mount to see the Dome of the Rock. The Temple Mount is the holiest site in Judaism, the third holiest site in Islam, and a revered site to Christians as well. Because of its importance to all three, it’s been a focus of conflict and bloodshed for almost 2,000 years.
Special note: You have to have your knees, shoulders, and chest covered (no v-necks!) and go through strict security screenings to enter the Temple Mount, and even then non-Muslims won’t be able to actually enter any of the buildings. Also remember that men and women are not allowed to touch in this area (even if they are related).
Go up onto the Mount of Olives
Once you are done on the Temple Mount, you can walk outside the Lion’s gate. Your next stop should be the Mount of Olives (you can option to hike or taxi to this location).
Once you are at the center of the Mount of Olives you begin walking down it and back toward the Old City. There are several things you can stop at along the way, if you have particular religious interests.
At bottom of the Mount of Olives is what’s believed to be the Garden of Gethsemane (where Jesus prayed before his arrest and crucifixion). It was “discovered” by Crusader knights, and is believed to be the Garden of Gethsemane due to its location and the olive trees, which are estimated to be around 2,000 years old (olive trees don’t have rings so they can’t say for sure).
Now you are back into the Old City and, into the Armenian and Arab Quarters and along the (supposed) Via Dolorosa to our lunch destination.
Eat a delicious, traditional lunch!
In the the Arab Quarter is a great little lunch spot. It’s right at a big intersection of the Via Dolorosa and another street across from Austrian Hospice.
There you can have a traditional Palestinian lunch of grilled meats, hummus, pita, and salads, with fresh mint lemonade to wash it down. A recommended place for certain.
Visit Mahane Yehuda a.k.a. The Shuk
My favorite place in Jerusalem is found here! It’s a massive marketplace, with over 250 different stands, shops, and restaurants selling everything you could want. It is easy to get lost (and excited) in this area as there is so much.
You can shop, sit and have a coffee or beer, or have a real sit-down meal (or do them all!).
At night the place transforms into something even more awesome (if that’s even possible). The market stalls close up shop, their stall doors revealing bright graffiti murals, and a bunch of bars open alongside the restaurants that remain. Music is playing the party atmosphere is so amazing (and surprising).
The above plan is a full day! Many more you can do, but that is for another article (or maybe the above makes you want to stay a little longer…wink)