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3 Days of History, Culture, Food and Fun in Jerusalem

  • Itinerary Article

Jerusalem is absolutely packed with things to do and sites to see, and in all honesty, you could probably spend a week here without seeing everything. However, 3 days is usually enough to see most of the highlights and get a taste of the city that will no doubt leave you hungry for more.

If you’re like most people and having trouble deciding what to see and how to fit it all in, then this handy itinerary guideline might be just what the doctor ordered…

Day 1: The Magical Old City and Vibrant Downtown Jerusalem

The most important meal of the day, 9:00 to 10:00 am

Whether you’re eating at your hotel or one of the fine breakfast joints in Jerusalem, start your day off like an Israeli by eating well and taking your time.

If you’re eating breakfast out in the city center, check out the famous Tmol Shilshom or Menza for a hearty sit-down meal.

The Old City, 10:00 am to 1:00 pm

From downtown Jerusalem, it’s a short walk to Jaffa Gate, the main entrance to the Old City, where you’ll definitely want to check off as many highlights as possible:

  • The Western Wall
  • The Church of the Holy Sepulchre
  • The Temple Mount
  • The Western Wall Tunnels
  • The oriental bazaar

If you’re worried about finding your way around, check out some of the amazing half-day tours of the Old City that will take you to all the main sights, as well as a few hidden gems, with tour guides who are more than happy to tell you all about the history and culture of the area.

An authentic Jerusalem Lunch, 1:00-2:00 pm

Walking through the Old City will no doubt work up your appetite, but luckily, it’s also home to some of the best local fare you’ll find in the city.

For shawarma and other meat dishes, our favorites are Al Nasser Restaurant in the Muslim Quarter and Nafoura, not far from Jaffa Gate.

If you’re just in the mood for some tasty hummus, falafel and salads, you can’t go wrong with the famous Abu Shukri or Lina in the Muslim Quarter.

And finally, for kosher eats, there’s Between the Arches, a fish restaurant by the Western Wall, and B’shaarayich in the Jewish Quarter, among others.

Downtown Walk Around, 2:00 to 4:00 pm

The best way to experience downtown Jerusalem is to stroll around and do like the locals.

From the Old City, you can walk through Mamilla Mall and stop in any shops that tickle your fancy or head on to the famous Ben Yehuda Street to take in the atmosphere of street musicians and Israeli cafe culture.

If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, think about taking a walk through Mea Shearim to experience the culture of old world Jewry in modern times.

If not, check out Shatz Street, just a few minutes from Ben Yehuda — it’s on the way to your next destination anyway. Here, you’ll find a number of independent boutiques selling locally designed clothing, accessories, jewelry and more.

Mahane Yehuda Market and Nahlaot, 4:00 to 6:00 pm

The afternoon is the perfect time to explore Jerusalem’s famous Mahane Yehuda Market, an eclectic mix of traditional Middle Eastern and modern alternative culture.

On your way, stroll through the charming neighborhood of Nahlaot. One of Jerusalem’s most diverse neighborhoods, you’re just as likely to run into hipsters as you are ultra-orthodox families.

Stroll through the bustling shuk, soak in the atmosphere and maybe buy some healthy snacks from the local vendors, or stop inside one of the cafes, bars and restaurants in and around the market for coffee and a bite.

Marzipan on Agripas Street is a must-visit if you’re a fan of sweet pastries, and you can’t get much more Mahane Yehuda than a coffee at Cafe Mizrachi.

Happy Hour Apertif, 6:00 pm

Depending on where you plan to eat dinner, there’s a world of choices for a pre-dinner drink. If you’re going to dine around the shuk, then Casino de Paris is a fine choice.

Downtown Jerusalem is bursting with options, including cocktails at Zuta, a glass of wine on the terrace at Piccolino or something more casual on Rivlin or Ben Shetach Streets or the hip Taklit on Heleni Hamalka.

Dinner Time, 7:00 pm

After a long day of walking around the city, we definitely recommend going all in on dinner at one of the many amazing restaurants around downtown Jerusalem.

For one-of-a-kind culinary art and a lively atmosphere, there’s no substitute for the world famous Machneyuda restaurant near the Mahane Yehuda Market.

However, if you’ve got some fussy eaters in your group, you can opt for crowd-pleasers like the kosher Italian Piccolino or the something-for-everyone (nonkosher) Focaccia Bar.

And vegans need not fear. The recently opened Village Green in Nahalat Shiva has an all-vegan menu.

Day 2: Masada and the Dead Sea

Road Trip, 7:00 am

Just an hour by car or bus from Jerusalem, the Dead Sea region is one of the most unique parts of Israel and the perfect day-trip from the city.

Head out early to to beat the heat.

Read more about getting to the Dead Sea and Masada >>

Masada, 8:00 am

This ancient Jewish fortress is bursting with beauty and history. You can either hike up the trail, walk up the steps or take the cable car.

Once you’re at the top, check out the ancient ruins that date back to Roman times and take in the incredible view of the desert, the Dead Sea and the mountains.

Dead Sea Relaxation and Lunch, 10:00 am

Choose between one of the private hotel and spa beaches or public beaches at Ein Bokek or Ein Gedi, get some sun and take a dip in the salty, therapeutic waters of the Dead Sea.

Everybody must get a picture effortlessly floating on the water.

Most of the hotels and spas offer an enticing buffet lunch.

Drive back to Jerusalem and stop at Qumran Caves, 2:00 pm

After recharging your batteries with some Dead Sea relaxation, head back to Jerusalem. If you’re driving, the Qumran Caves are definitely worth a stop along the way.

Qumran is the site of one of the most important archaeological finds of the 20th century — the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Special Note

If it all sounds a bit overwhelming, there is no shortage of incredible day-tours to Masada and the Dead Sea that include transportation, a licensed tour guide and access to a private beach on the Dead Sea.

Check out the best Dead Sea and Masada tours >>

Explore Baka and the First Station, 4:00 pm

After a rough and tumble day in the desert, freshen up at your hotel and head to the First Station in Jerusalem’s Baka neighborhood.

Stroll along the cycling path behind the First Station and check out Emek Refaim Street, where you can find cafe’s, restaurants and boutique shops.

However dinner at the First Station is a must with dining options like the Asian fusion at Station 9 or fresh, Mediterranean-inspired cuisine at Adom or Kitchen Station.

First Station, 4 David Remez Street, Jerusalem

Day 3: A Day at the Museums of Jerusalem

Islamic Art Museum, 10:00 am

The Museum for Islamic Art in Talbiya usually flies beneath the radar when people talk about Jerusalem museums, but it is actually one of the most unique and interesting.

Head over for an up-close encounter with Islamic Art from throughout history, including the Sir David Salomons Collection of timepieces from the Islamic empire.

2 Hapalmach Street, Jerusalem

Lunch at Talbiye or Modern, 12:00 pm

If you’re too hungry to wait, all you have to do is walk right next door from the Museum of Islamic Art to Talbiye (not kosher), a quaint restaurant run by the famous Machneyuda Group. Weather permitting, you can sit outside and enjoy the quaint neighborhood atmosphere of Talbiya. No need to worry if it’s not, as Talbiye has an incredibly charming Vienna coffeehouse-inspired interior.

Alternatively, you can head straight to the Israel Museum and eat at its onsite kosher, dairy restaurant, Modern.

Talbiye, 5 Chopin Street, Jerusalem
Modern, The Israel Museum, 11 Derech Rupin, Jerusalem

The Israel Museum, 1:00 pm

No trip to Jerusalem is complete without a visit to the Israel Museum. In terms of significant Middle Eastern historical artifacts, it is probably second only to the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.

The crown jewel, of course, is the Shrine of the Book, which houses the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Aleppo Codex — 2 of the oldest written copies of the Bible. But you’ll also want to check out the other permanent and special exhibitions, massive modern art collection and the beautiful art garden.

The Israel Museum offers self-guided audio tours and guided tours in several languages for those who are interested.

11 Derech Rupin, Jerusalem

The Bible Lands Museum, 4:00 pm

The Israel Museum is massive, and you could easily spend a whole day there, but a stop by the Bible Lands Museum isn’t a bad idea either.

A bit more compact and family-friendly than the Israel Museum, the Bible Lands Museum is focused on telling the stories of the people of the ancient Middle East through captivating exhibitions.

21 Shmuel Stephan Weiz Street, Jerusalem

Dinner Time, 7:00 pm

One meal out in downtown Jerusalem is hardly enough, so head back and take your pick of some of the incredible restaurants in the city center.

Jerusalem Nightlife Experience, 9:00 pm

Stay out a bit later on your last night in the city and see what it has to offer by night — everything from chic cocktail and wine bars to alternative music bars.

We’re partial to ending the night at Birman for free live jazz performances and an authentic Jerusalem vibe.

Birman, 8 Dorot Rishonim, Jerusalem

Featured images: Noam Chen, Itamar Grinberg, Ministry of Tourism