Considered to be the most abundant area of interesting sites and things to do, you will find a variety of attractions for every age and every season in Jerusalem.
Apart from the holy sites of the three religions, the capital of Israel includes some of the most famous points of interest in the country.
The attractions in Jerusalem are fascinating and varied so you won't even have a minute to spare - starting with the Biblical zoo and the Israel Aquarium adjacent to it, through to the City of David site located near the Western Wall and strolling the alleys of the Mahane Yehuda market with its many colorful booths, cafes and authentic restaurants.
On this page we have collected for you the must-see attractions in Jerusalem, special attractions for children, special tours, museums and all the things you must do in Israel's capital city.
10 Must-see Attractions in Jerusalem
There are not a few attractions in Jerusalem, and of course we will start with those that you must not miss. Here is our choice of 10 attractions that are musts for any visitor to Jerusalem.
The Botanical Gardens: for nature lovers
The Botanical Gardens, a magical kingdom of plants, supplies a rich experience of colors and images from around the world, for lovers of nature and geography, since contains a huge variety of plants from around the globe. The large area of the gardens enable walking there for a number of hours, especially if you like plants, and it has many and interesting stopping points.
Nachlaot: a tour that is a story
One of the most desired areas in the list of attractions in Jerusalem today is Nachlaot, an area that includes 32 neighborhoods that were built close to one another in the last part of the 19th century and up until Mandatory times.
The neighborhoods, some of which include dense construction with a number of apartments of the size regular in those times and common courtyards, tell many stories of ethnic groups, families, communities, and in general – the story of the Jewish community’s exit from behind the Old City walls. In Nachlaot, one can also enjoy today the narrow, Jerusalem alleyways, water cisterns, colorful building and more.
The Biblical Zoo
Any list of ‘must-see’ attractions in Jerusalem must include our Biblical Zoo, which also includes, among other things, the unique concept - Noah’s Ark, which symbolizes, like the original Noah’s Ark, the need for preserving and protecting the multiplicity of animals in Israel and around the world.
At the expansive zoo, you will be able to enjoy displays, various different sections and of course many types of rare and beautiful creatures. It should be noted that the zoo plays an important part in preserving many animals that are in danger of extinction, and one can hear or read about them in the zoo. The zoo also has a local train, rest areas, an auditorium and more.
Jaffa Road and HaNeviim Street
As opposed to the rest of our recommendations, this concerns a long walking tour along two of the city’s main streets – from a historical and general point of view. Along these two streets (located close to each other, even next each other at least at their start) one can find many buildings with fascinating stories of their own, among them are: hospitals, noble mansions, the Russian Compound, Consular Buildings, etc. If you want to “feel” the city, start an afternoon tour with these streets.
The Mahane Yehuda Market: the Real Jerusalem Magic
The old and popular Mahane Yehhuda market stars in all the lists of recommendations for tourists visiting Jerusalem, and not for nothing. This is probably the best known market in Israel. The Mahane Yehuda market serves as a real, working market with stalls, distinctive shops, alleys divided according to their subject matter, and lots and lots of hustle and bustle for those that like this type of atmosphere.
Over the last years, the market has become even better known, with a colorful restaurant scene that began to grow there next to the traditional market shops. Today, one can enjoy its daily life in addition to its bustling night life. Read more about the Mahane Yehuda Market in our Blog.
Mt. Herzl, known as the Israel national-military cemetery, is a recommended site for anyone interested in discovering another facet of Jewish History in the Land of Israel.
In addition to its being a cemetery that brings together many casualties from the wars of Israel, many of the country’s leaders and Zionist leaders - including Theodor (Binyamin Ze’ev) Herzl - are buried here, next to symbolic memorials for various events in the history of the Jewish People in the Land of Israel.
Mamilla Avenue: Shopping in Jerusalem!
Mamilla Avenue (Alrov Mamilla Avenue) has become, since its refurbishment, one of the best-know and best-loved shopping centers in Jerusalem – whether due to its design as a colorful boulevard, or due to its location close to the Jaffa Gate and the Old City.
In any event, one can easily reach the boulevard by public transportation (recommended in any case in this bustling city) on the way to visiting the Old City, and enjoy the lively shops and cafés located there.
Zedekiah's Cave (Solomon’s Quarries)
This is a huge and impressive artificial cave, located directly under the houses of the Moslem Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem, and rich in traditions and assumptions concerning its role. Jewish tradition, for example, claims that it served King Solomon’s builders, however the archeological evidences testifies to its use in the time of the Second Temple.
One can tour the cave and on occasion events and special shows take place there. Tip! It is recommended to tour the case with a guide, since there are many interesting stories about it that are worth knowing.
Sacher Garden: the perfect place for a picnic
A broad and expansive garden that is perfect for stopping and while visiting the city. The garden is close to the Knesset building and other sites in the area, and it offers a variety of beauty spots, benches, and even a special area for barbequing and picnics.
The Jerusalem Bird Observatory
For lovers of birds in Israel, there is no need to add a lot, however for the rest of the visitors, an explanation is necessary. This site supplies a unique viewpoint on the rich variety of migratory birds in Israel. This is an urban nature site, where you can watch the region’s variety of birds, and it is all for free!
Holy Places in Jerusalem
The city of Jerusalem is known throughout the world due to its being holy to the world’s three main religions, and as a result, one can find there places that are holy to Jews, Christians and Moslems. Here are some of the most recommended ones.
The Western Wall
Every tour or article that deals with religious attractions in Jerusalem must of course start with the Western Wall, which according to Jewish tradition constitutes one of the four walls that surround the Temple Mount, and one of the most outstanding remains of the Second Temple. The Western Wall has become, over many years, a center for pilgrimage for both Jews and non-Jews, since it has religious significance of its own.
In addition to its religious importance, the Wall has national-military importance, since stories of many battles have been told over the years concerning the heroism of the soldiers who liberated Jerusalem. Next to the Wall, one can find additional religious and historical sites, such as the Western Wall Tunnels and the archeological garden.
The Hurva Synagogue
One of the relatively new sites on the list of attractions in Jerusalem is the “Hurva” Synagogue. The synagogue, which was built in the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem in the 19th century, constituted a religious focal point of enormous community importance for the Jews in Jerusalem during the time of the “Yishuv” (Jewish settlement in Palestine before the founding of the State of Israel).
This impressive synagogue was destroyed by the Jordanian Arab Legion during the War of Independence and stood thus for more than 60 years, until its reconstruction in 2010. Today, the synagogue is one of the symbols of the Jewish Quarter and the return to Zion, and many visitors tend to stop and enter for a guided tour and even to pray, on their way to the Western Wall or coming back from it.
The Al-Aqsa Mosque
This site, is in effect, a complex of Moslem prayer sites located in the southern part of the Temple Mount, and which are considered to be the third-most important holy places for (Sunni) Muslims. According to Muslim tradition, this is where Muhammed rose to Heaven with the Angel Gabriel.
Despite this being a relatively “touristy” site, there are still restrictions on the entry of non-Muslims, which include restricted entry on certain days and hours, security checks and in many cases, the need for Police supervision, and more.
The Mosque of Omar
The mosque, which is located exactly opposite the entrance to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, constitutes a pilgrimage site for Muslims. The mosque was built in 1193, to memorialize the Caliph Omar and the story of his praying outside the Holy Sepulchre (according to tradition, the Caliph Omar prayed outside the church in order not to create struggles between the Christians and the Moslems, who were to turn the place into a Holy Site).
Many visitors, both Christian and Moslem, visit this place on their way to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, since it is to a great extent, a Holy Site for both religions (concerning the place).
The Church of the Holy Sepulchre
The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is, in the minds of many, the site most visited by tourists in the Land of Israel, and one of the holiest, if not THE holiest sites in Christianity, since according to Christian tradition, it is the location of the Crucifixion, the Death and the Resurrection of Jesus.
The church is divided into compounds with different “rights” and ceremonies, and in addition, it contains on its own, several important Christian sites, such as the Stone of the Anointing and the Empty Tomb.
The Ethiopian Church
A magnificent church, located in the center of Jerusalem, in a building built at the height of the 19th century, as part of the attempts by the world powers to establish footholds in the city in light of the approaching fall of the Ottoman Empire.
The church, by itself is an interesting site, can teach much about the unique Christian-Ethiopian tradition, which many do not know is very ancient. The then King of Ethiopia and the Ethiopian Kingdom were among the first to accept Christianity.
Recommended Tours of Jerusalem
Do you prefer to walk about in nature? Love to look at historical buildings? Or is a pastoral urban tour more your thing? Even the history lovers among us, and the nature lovers too, will be able to find what they are looking for in the next article, where we will recommend three tours in Jerusalem.
HaNeviim Street: Meet the Jerusalem of the peak of the 19th and 20th centuries
We have already recommended a tour of HaNeviim and Jaffa streets, as part of the ‘must’ attractions in Jerusalem, and now we will focus on a tour of HaNeviim Street. The ABCs of Jerusalem tours include tours of the historical city center, in the direction of the Old City, and the tour of this street is one such. Tours of HaNeviim street normally start at the Davidka monument, though it is possible to start at the other end near the Damascus Gate and go back up. This is one of the best-known and main streets in Jerusalem, that passes very close to Jaffa Street, so that over the years this has become one of the busiest areas of the city.
HaNeviim Street, to a certain extent even more than Jaffa Street, has various building with historical-international importance, such as hospitals, former consulates, religious edifices and the homes of the rich and famous. The reason these buildings exist is the fact that starting from the sixth decade of the 19th century (+/-), the world powers began to understand that the Ottoman empire was approaching its end, something which enabled the construction that would constitute a foothold by the power in the Holy City, and in the Holy Land in general, a foothold with strategic importance for the Middle East.
Accordingly, one can find along this street the Italian Hospital, the English Hospital, the American consulate, the Bikur Holim Hospital, the William Holman Hunt house and more (by the way, these building were listed here not according to their date of construction, and there are many more on the street that are worthwhile reading about).
Ein Karem: A Jerusalem neighborhood or a pastoral village?
Ein Karem is a neighborhood located in one of the most fruitful areas in Jerusalem, and as a result, it has been settled throughout history (as archeological evidence indicates the existence of settlements in the area since the Bronze Age). Over the years, Ein Karem became a Christian pilgrimage site and an Arab village. In the War of Independence, the control over Ein Karem moved to Israel’s hands and new immigrants were settled there.
In truth, there is no need to expand much about the pastoral streets of Ein Karem, since many tourists choose to independently walk about through its streets and to discover more and more sides to its breathtaking landscape, or to go for walks along nature paths in the area. However, note that alongside the historical buildings, the stone houses and churches, there is a new scene in the neighborhood of unique artisans that give workshops in their colorful homes.
Among the important sites in Ein Karem are: the Bible Sources Museum, the Marciano House, the Muscovite compound, the Eden Tamir Music Center and more.
The Jerusalem Forest
The Jerusalem Forest is perhaps one of the only places where today one can find impressive evidence to the variety of life and unique nature that exist in Jerusalem, at least so close to the city. Most of the nature areas that used to exist in Jerusalem have long been covered by concrete and much construction, but the Jerusalem Forest has survived, between Moshav Beit Zayit, Givat Shaul, Har Nof, Beit HaKerem and more.
Despite the fact that the forest preserves local nature, this is a forest that was planted by Keren Kayemet L’Israel (the Jewish National Fund) in the 1950s and quickly became the home of a variety of animals, such as porcupines, foxes, gazelles (in the past), hedgehogs, etc. There are a number of parking lots and several entrances to the forest, and there are also a number of paths. Among the recommended sites in the forest, one can note: the historical terraces, the restoration and preservation and the lookout point (Horvat Hamama).
From many points in the forest, one can easily view the amazing landscape. In addition, the recommended path during all seasons of the year is the Cedars Path, which is considered to be relatively easy even for families. One can combine a tour of the forest with additional tours of Jerusalem, such a tour in the direction of Yad v’Shem or even a tour towards Ein Karem.
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We recommend to take a train from the airport to Yitzhak Navon station in Jerusalem from there you can take a bus, light rail or taxi to everywhere you wish in the city.