Jerusalem tours are centered around the city's history. Renowned for being one of the oldest cities in the world, Jerusalem holds within her hands unmatched threads of history from a myriad of peoples including Canaanite, Israelite (Jewish), Babylonian, Persian, Greek, Roman, Christian, and Muslim. As such, millions of visitors travel to this holy city to grasp Jerusalem history tangibly for themselves.
The history of Jerusalem is easily explored via a wealth of historical sites, most of which are concentrated in the Old City. Even a short jaunt to -say 2-3 days- can yield a good feel for Jerusalem history by touring specific sites.
Here, iTravelJerusalem presents top sites for gaining insight into the history of Jerusalem, based on the three main religions whose heritages are focused on this city – Jewish, Christian, and Muslim.
Starting Your Tour
To learn about Jerusalem history, it's highly recommended to begin on the Mount of Olives. Here you are on high, garnering a view of the Old City which allows you to see all four of its quarters at once: Jewish, Christian, Muslim, and Armenian.
Jerusalem is the most sacred city in the Jewish heritage. About 3000 years ago, King David established Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and drew up plans for the First Temple, eventually completed by King Solomon. The most significant site for Jewish history in Jerusalem is the the Western Wall, (also called the Kotel or Wailing Wall), which was an outer western wall surrounding the Second Temple built by King Herod about 2000 years ago. People come at any hour of the day or night to pray and witness the Western Wall's holiness. When planning your Jerusalem tours, we recommend you visit the Western Wall tunnels, where you'll go underground and walk along the wall's Jerusalem stones, and even get a peak at the closest spot to the Holy of Holies. Tip: You must order tickets ahead of time.
From the Western Wall, it's just a short walk to the main areas of the Jewish Quarter where you can tour, for example, the ancient Roman Cardo street, and the Hurva Synagogue. Exit through the Muslim Quarter and you'll get to the Tower of David Museum, near Jaffa Gate.
Just outside the Old City lies the City of David, an archaeological complex with water passages and tunnels leading to the Second Temple area – a must for learning about the history of Jerusalem.
In the Christian tradition, Jerusalem is the place where Jesus was crucified and resurrected. If you started your tour at the Mount of Olives (as mentioned above), it's easy access to the Garden of Gethsemane and the Church of All Nations, the site where Jesus gathered with his disciples the night of his arrest, and the burial place of Mary Magdalene according to the Eastern Orthodox Church.
Christian Jerusalem tours can also include Ein Karem, an outer village neighborhood of Jerusalem where the Church of St. John the Baptist is located. And Bethlehem itself is less than a 10-minute drive from Jerusalem, housing the famous Church of the Nativity.
When envisioning the history of Jerusalem, one often conjures up the image of the Dome of the Rock. The area is considered the 3rd holiest prayer site for Sunni Muslims, behind Saudi Arabia's Mecca and Medina cities. According to the Koran, Muhammad made a night journey here, and then ascended to heaven. (This area, known in Judaism as Mount Moriah, is also the same place Abraham bound his son Isaac for sacrifice, then interceded by the angel Gabriel.)
Located on the same Temple Mount area is the Al Aqsa Mosque, also a top Muslim landmark.
More Tourist Information
Interested in tourist information centers, booklet guides and phone numbers? Please see our Old City Useful Information page which includes information about the Old City as well as general information for Jerusalem visitors. The page is a welcome guide for all Jerusalem tours.