The Old City in Half a Day
While a half-day is hardly enough to see everything the Old City has to offer, if that’s all you’ve got, there’s no need to fret. You can still have a meaningful experience, get a taste of the atmosphere and see some of the most impressive sites if you use your time well.
To help you out, we’ve put together a sample itinerary with a mix of famous sites and hidden gems that you can visit in just a few hours and will have you coming back for more.
A quick romp through the Old City
The best view in the city (10 min.)
Every visit to the Old City absolutely must start with the iconic view from the Mount of Olives, where you’ll get a stunning portrait of Jerusalem old and new with the Dome of the Rock, Temple Mount, Al Aqsa Mosque and Church of the Holy Sepulchre set against the backdrop of the West jerusalem skyline.
From the hills to the gates (20-30 min.)
It’s a bit of a walk to down the hill, but it flies by, and you can always stop for a quick rest at some of the sites along the way, including the Garden of Gethsemane.
The Way of the Cross (15-45 min min.)
The Lions Gate is the traditional starting point for the Way off the Cross, the path Jesus of Nazareth is believed to have walked on the way to his crucifixion on the Cavalry, where the Church of the Holy Sepulchre now stands.
Along the way, you’ll pass the Church of the Flagellation and the Stations of the Cross along the Via Dolorosa.
Bonus: If you’re keen for a rest, we highly recommend stopping by for a coffee and cake at the famous Austrian Hospice.
Church of the Holy Sepulchre (20-30 min)
The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is one of the holiest Christian sites in the world. According to Catholic tradition, it is built atop the site where Jesus of Nazareth was crucified, buried and resurrected.
At any given time of day, there will be throngs of visitors and representatives of all the major Catholic denominations from around the world.
Stop and Smell the Roses (15-30 min.)
There are more direct routes to the Western Wall, but we recommend tacking on a few minutes to your journey so that you can take in and appreciate a couple of hidden gems.
Muristan Square is one of the most beautiful and vibrant parts of the Old City, filled with vendors selling everything from antiques to textiles, restaurants and cafes.
Esh Hatorah Yeshiva overlooks the Western Wall plaza and offers perhaps the most stunning view of the iconic site.
The Western Wall (20-60 min.)
The Western Wall Plaza is just a 2 minute walk down the steps from Esh Hatorah Yeshiva. You can go right up to the wall anytime a day, whether you just want to get a closer look, take part in Jewish prayers or leave a customary note in the cracks of the wall. If you’re lucky, you might even get to witness a bar mitzvah celebration.
If you have a little extra time to spare, you can either ascend to the Temple Mount to see the Dome of the Rock and the site where the Jewish temples once stood, or you can take a tour through the Western Wall Tunnels.
One of the most significant archaeological finds in the Old City, the tunnels give you a glimpse of what the city was like during the time of the Second Temple.
Stroll through the Oriental Bazaar (20-45 min)
The bazaar (often called the Arab Shuk) is a charming maze of colorful, lively alleyways filled with vendors selling jewelry, textiles and carpets, antiques, souvenirs, food and much more. Some say you’ve never really experienced the Old City until you’ve haggled over a purchase.
Lunch/Dinner at Nafora
After a whirlwind walk through the Old City, it’s definitely time to relax, and there are few better places than Nafora on the Latin Patriarch Street, (Hapatriarch Halitani), where you can enjoy the weather on their patio and order up some delicious local cuisine.
18 Latin Patriarch Street, (Hapatriarch Halitani), Old CIty, Jerusalem
Extra Bonus: The Museum of Psalms (45 min)
If you decide to stay a little longer at the Old City, the Museum of Psalms is an excellent choice for a final spiritual touch for your Old City day. This museum is Israel’s leading spiritual art museum where you can find the stunning works of Moshe Ztvi Halevi Berger.
Berger is a holocaust survivor who had made Aliya after completing an apprenticeship program abroad. Since his Aliya, he became fascinated with the Jewish religion and began working on a series of paintings based on the Book of Psalms. The museum displays the collection of these 150 breathtaking paintings with poetic annotations that will enrich your spiritual world.
Also, there is an exciting rumor that Berger’s works, besides being artistically exquisite, can cause change and have a strong emotional impact on their observers regardless of their age, faith or religion. So…it’s definitely interesting to check this one out.
Museum of Psalms, 56 Chabad Street, Jerusalem, Phone: 072-3281843
Photos: Noam Chen and stock