In September, I traveled to Israel on business. The majority of my time was spent in Tel Aviv, but I managed to squeeze in a fabulous weekend trip to the Holy Land with my friend, Ray. This week, I am excited to share my Twinspirational Travels in Jerusalem with you.
Jerusalem is a sacred place for Christians, Jews and Muslims. Although Jerusalem means City of Peace in Hebrew, the city has been conquered, destroyed and rebuilt many times. Today, believers head to the Old City to worship at the very sites linked to the foundation of their faith.
when to go
Like many Mediterranean cities, Jerusalem has mild, wet winters and hot, humid summers. The best time to visit Jerusalem is April to May and October to November. Hotel prices increase during Jewish holidays (High Holy Days, Sukkot, and Passover). Summer is Jerusalem’s peak season, despite the hot temperatures. There are great deals on hotels in the winter, but the weather can be fickle. I don’t recommend visiting Jerusalem during Shabbat as many sites and restaurants are closed.
how long to stay
I recommend at least 10 days to view the top destinations in Israel. You’ll want to explore Tel Aviv/Old Jaffa (2-3 days), visit the Old City in Jerusalem (2-3 days), float in the Dead Sea (1 day), climb Masada (1 day) and enjoy water sports in Eilat (2 days). If time permits, you can also travel north to see the ruins in Caesarea (1 day).
where to stay
Jerusalem consists of three major districts: Old City, East Jerusalem and West Jerusalem.
Old City includes Jerusalem’s main attractions and allows you to experience the sights and sounds of an age-old civilization. You will only find small hostels and hotels within the Old City walls.
East Jerusalem, located north of the Old City, is a predominantly Arab area. East Jerusalem has cheaper hotels and good local restaurants but lacks the nightlife of West Jerusalem. Mount Olives is located in East Jerusalem and you can find spectacular views of the Old City here.
West Jerusalem, near the Old City, not only includes a good selection of hotels but also is a convenient walk to the Old City’s key sites, the Israel Museum, the Mahane Yehuda market and many restaurants and bars. My friend, Ray, and I stayed at the charming Villa Brown. The boutique hotel is a renovated 19th century villa with 24 unique rooms and suites inspired by Jerusalem’s Ottoman and British Mandate eras.
An indulgent breakfast mixing Israeli, Mediterranean and continental flavors was served on the beautiful veranda. The first course featured an assortment of homemade breads followed by 5 mezze dishes. For our last course, we choose the hummus and local classic, Jachnun.
things to do
Visit the Old City. The Old City is divided into four quarters: Christian, Muslim, Jewish and Armenian. The city is home to some of the holiest sites in the world. Since many of these holy sites close during Shabbat, I highly recommend a visit to the following sites from Sunday to Thursday:
Al Aqsa Mosque, Dome of the Rock and Temple Mount in the Muslim Quarter. The Al-Aqsa Mosque is the third holiest site in Islam (after Mecca and Medina). Muslims believe the Prophet Muhammad prayed with the souls of the prophets at this site. The Dome of the Rock was constructed in the 7th century. It is recognized by Judaism, Islam and Christianity as the site of the foundation stone and Abraham’s sacrifice. Muslims also believe Muhammad ascended to heaven here. This area is also known as Temple Mount and revered by Jews as the location of the First and Second Temples. Temple Mount is closed to non-Muslims on Fridays and Saturdays. Conservative attire is recommended. Below are some pictures from my 2009 trip.
Western Wall in the Jewish Quarter. Jews believe the Holy of Holies, or most sacred site in Judaism, was located inside the First and later Second Temple. King Herod constructed the Western Wall in 20 BC with the expansion the Second Temple. When the Romans destroyed the Second Temple in 70 AD, the western support wall survived. Today, many Jews believe the Dome of the Rock is the site of the Holy of Holies. The Western Wall is the closest place Jews can pray to this sacred site. The wall is divided into two sections by gender. The underground Western Wall tunnels allow you to see more of the ancient structure. Visitors should dress modestly and cameras are not allowed on the Sabbath. Below are some pictures from my 2009 trip.
Via Doloroso and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the Muslim and Christian Quarters. Via Dolorosa marks the last steps of Jesus in Jerusalem. Today, many Christians walk Jesus’ path from the place of his judgment to the site of his crucifixion. There are a total of 14 stations and the path starts at the Lion’s gate in the Muslim Quarter and concludes at The Church of the Holy Sepulcher in the Christian Quarter. The Holy Sepulcher is the holiest Christian site and marks the spot where Jesus was crucified, buried and resurrected. Below are some pictures from my 2009 trip.
Tower of David Citadel near Jaffa Gate. The Jerusalem Citadel is a medieval fortress that contains archaeological relics dating back over 2,000 years. Despite its name, the citadel has no connection to King David. You will, however, find spectacular views of the Old City, the Mount of Olives and the Dead Sea from the Tower of David. I recommend a visit to the nearby Tower of David Museum for a lesson on the history of Jerusalem. Below are some pictures from my 2009 trip.
See Breathtaking Views from the Mount of Olives. Located in East Jerusalem, the Mount of Olives is the place to come for stunning views across Jerusalem and the Old City. This site was a traditional burial site and has over 150,000 graves.
Visit Yad Vashem. Yad Vashem, Israel’s largest Holocaust memorial, is located on the edge of Jerusalem. The new museum opened in 2005 and its nine galleries present the Holocaust through photography, film, documents, letters, works of art and personal items discovered in the camps and ghettos.
Explore Machane Yehuda Market. The largest market in Jerusalem features over 250 vendors, selling fruits, vegetables, spices, specialty foods and clothing. The market is a quick ten minute walk from the center of Jerusalem.
Given its sheer size, exploring the Machane Yehuda Market can be a bit daunting. My friend, Ray and I, participated in a self guided food tour using the app, biteMojo. The process was easy: download the app, pick the Machane Yehuda Market and enjoy 6 authentic, local bites over 2-3 hours. This tour costs 110 NIS. Note you will need an active internet connection. The app shows the location of your 6 bites and nearby attractions. Each bite features a “Discover” button, where you learn about the bite. When you arrive at a restaurant, you click the “Claim Bite” button. After each bite, you’ll be asked to rate the bite, the service and the location.
On our tour we sampled:
Half Emroli @ Hachapuria
Stuffed Grape Leaf, Cigar and Kubeh @ Morduch
Burger / Mushroom Burgers @ Josef Burger & Bar
Date and Passion Fruit Juices @ Etrogiman
Beer Chaser and Chili Nachos @ Beer Bazaar
Half Cookie Ice Cream Sandwich @ Cookie Cream
My favorite bite was the flavorful stuffed grape leaf, cigar and kubeh. Overall, we enjoyed biteMojo’s preselected locations and our ability to tour at our own pace.
Sample Israeli wine at the Winery in the Mamilla Hotel. The Mamilla is modern hotel that almost contradicts its historic and conservative location near Old Jerusalem. The Winery offers a wide selection of local kosher wines. Tastings are complimentary for hotel guests every Friday.
Visit the Rooftop of the Mamilla Hotel. The rooftop of the Mamilla hotel offers breathtaking panoramic views of the Old City. My friend, Ray and I, sipped on cocktails and sampled some small bites all while enjoying the best view in all of Jerusalem.
Special thanks to Ray for making my second trip to Israel so much fun!
“The view of Jerusalem is the history of the world; it is more, it is the history of earth and of heaven.” – Benjamin Disraeli