Few places in the world have the religious, historical and political significance that Jerusalem boasts. Some of the holiest sites in Christianity, Judaism and Islam are just a stone’s throw away from each other, and history comes alive with every step. But Jerusalem is also a thriving, beautiful modern city with incredible art, food and nightlife. An incredibly safe city for solo female travelers and families alike, it is an amazing vacation destination. Read on for the top 10 things to do in Jerusalem and reasons to visit:
Also known as the Western Wall or Kotel, the Wailing Wall is the holiest place in Judaism. Millions of visitors come each year to pray at this short segment of ancient wall that is believed to be the last remnant of the Second Temple built by Solomon. Whatever your religious leaning, a visit to the wall is a powerful experience as worshippers from around the world slip prayers written on folded pieces of paper into cracks in the walls.
The golden dome at the center of the Temple Mount can be seen from around the city and is the third-holiest site in Sunni Islam. Muslims believe this to be the spot where Muhammad was transported from Mecca during the Night Journey. Again, no matter what your beliefs, the stunning exterior is a work of art worth checking out. It is open to non-Muslims for only a few select hours each week, so be sure to check before visiting.
As the most important pilgrimage site for Christians for centuries, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is a must-visit for Christians, history buffs and art lovers alike. Believed to be the location of Christ’s crucifixion, burial and resurrection, it is about as holy a site as you can find. In addition to its spiritual importance, the interior of the church is covered in breathtaking mosaics.
Midway between the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Western Wall and Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem’s walled old city is the colorful bazaar, one of the best places in Israel to purchase authentic souvenirs from your trip. Incredible deals can be had for those willing and able to bargain with the lively shopkeepers. A good rule of thumb is to start at about half the asking price.
The country’s largest cultural institution, you could easily spend the day exploring the impressive collection at the Israel Museum. Most famous for housing the original Dead Sea Scrolls, the museum also has an extensive collection of art and artifacts from the ancient to the present, both Israeli and international.
The world’s largest Holocaust museum, Jerusalem’s Yad Vashem is a memorial to the memory of the millions of Jews who perished during World War II. The expansive 45-acre complex houses a history museum, art exhibits, synagogue, library, commemorative sites and more, and is Israel’s second most-visited site after the Western Wall.
For a break from all the history and religion, just step outside the walls of the Old City to experience Jerusalem as the locals do. Chill out in a café, go shopping, relax at a hookah bar or dance the night away at one of the many clubs that come alive on Thursday nights.
One of the best reasons to visit Jerusalem is to experience its amazing food. The culinary landscape is made up of the cuisines of countless immigrants who have made Jerusalem their home. Grab a falafel or shawarma to experience the street food or grab a seat in one of the increasing number of chef-driven fine dining establishments.
The city’s large open-air market, or shuk, is a tourist destination in and of itself. The newly revitalized market offers a glimpse into local life as second- and third-generation butchers and vendors hawk their produce, meats and other products. A number of cute cafes and boutiques have popped up as well, making it a wonderful place to wander.
Besides all the amazing things to do and see in Jerusalem, the city also makes a great base for the traveler in Israel. The Dead Sea is a short drive away, the holy cities of Bethlehem and Nazareth are right there and the surrounding Judean Hills are a gorgeous place to visit and sample some of the country’s fine wines.
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