In 7 words: Holy to Jews, Christians and Muslims alike.
For your first visit you need no less than a full day to enjoy the city’s major sights. Going to museums will require more.
Distances are walkable in the city center, but places like Israel Museum or Yad Vashem require transportation.
Worthy attractions: Western WallTemple Mount; Mount Zion with several points of interest; Mount Olive with several points of interest; Church of the Holy Sepulchre; Hurve Synagogue; Four Sephardic Synagogues; Yad Vashem.
Left for another visit: Israel Museum; Tower of David Museum; Hebrew Music Museum; Herodian Quarter Museum; Temple Heritage Museum.
Last visit: August 2022.


Sights to See

A wealth of religious significance aside, Jerusalem did not exactly rise for me to the level of visually striking. Dome of the Rock is a definite eye-catcher, Mount Zion might be another, and there are rich details here or there, but the overall palette is muted and short on visual impact. Inside the Old City, recent additions are part of the deal (especially in the Jewish Quarter, which was destroyed during Jordanian occupation in the 1950-60s). The city has a lot of sacred places to offer to a religious person, but a non-believer might not see it as exceedingly special.

Three main hills are worth visiting around the edges of the Old City. Mount Olive ♥♥♥ offers great perspectives over the town, as well as several impressive churches and other sights, such as Dominus Flevit Church ♥ (Catholic), Mary Magdalene Church ♥♥ (Russian Orthodox), Church of All Nations ♥ (Catholic), Garden of Gethsemane ♥, Tomb of the Virgin ♥.

Mount Zion ♥♥♥ is a complex of several components: Tomb of King David ♥, Room of Last Supper, and church and crypt of Dormition Abbey ♥♥.

Temple Mount ♥♥♥ is well worth the wait in line because the Dome of the Rock ♥♥♥ is even more impressive close by than from a distance. Waiting in line is unavoidable since the area is open to non-Muslim visitors on a very limited schedule. You cannot go inside the buildings either.

The four quarters of the Old City ♥♥ do not have noticeable boundaries, but you will certainly notice more Orthodox Jews in the Jewish quarter and more people of Arabic persuasion in the Muslim quarter. I walked through all four quarters and cannot say that one or the other impressed me more (although technically, I only skirted the boundaries of the Armenian quarter, as its inside narrow lanes are not freely accessible to a visitor).

One of the main sights in the Old City is the Church of the Holy Sepulchre ♥♥♥; even a non-believer would be impressed by the various parts of the huge complex where six different denominations share the premises. Hurve Synagogue ♥ is also interesting – and its upper platform is one of the good elevated points in the center of town. Cardo ♥ offers a walk-through archaeological experience. Four Sephardic Synagogues ♥♥ is another interesting place to visit, an amalgamation of different styles with curious history.

And then, there is the Western Wall ♥♥♥, which offers as much a spiritual moment to a non-believer Jew as anything could. Conversely, Via Dolorosa requires a level of Christian indoctrination – for a non-believer, walking along it and seeing its 14 “stations” is rather meaningless.

You can separately go on a guided tour of Western Wall Tunnels ♥, which I found only mildly interesting. There was a lot of information from the guide, most of it just the basic history of the heart of Jerusalem that I already heard elsewhere; there is not much evidently eye-catching in the tunnels themselves, although the overall structure has to be considered impressive.

There are a few museums in the Old City that can be considered worth visiting, as well as a few more major ones outside the Old City walls. The majority of them remain on the future-targets list for me; among the most frequently mentioned by other travelers and local guides are: the Israel Museum, Temple Heritage Foundation, Tower of David Museum, Hebrew Music Museum, Herodian Quarter Museum. Other sights that fell off our itineraries for various reasons: walking the Old City Ramparts (not advisable on hotter days); stopping by Montefiore Mill for views over the city (superseded by other priorities).

Going beyond the Old City walls – and it is a 15-20 minute walk – Mahane Yehuda Market ♥♥♥ is as close to a must-visit as any market could come, simply delightful. And if you do walk between the Old City and Mahane Yehuda, chances are you will walk through the very lively area of Ben Yehuda Street ♥, one of the going-out centers of town.


I heard horror stories about finding parking in Jerusalem, but as long as you are willing to pay for convenience, parking is easy. On each day that I drove to the city, I found plenty of spots at the underground Karta Parking practically next to Jaffa Gate; it fills up only in the late afternoons, as the Mamila Mall above it gets busier.

Places to Eat

In the summer of 2022, we had a couple of dinners in Jerusalem. Menza ♥♥, not far from Mahane Yehuda, earned kudos all around. Luciana ♥, in Mamila Mall, felt a bit pretentious and pricey, but still offered good choices.

Yad Vashem

To a certain degree, Yad Vashem ♥♥♥ is an unmissable museum for any visitor to Jerusalem. It might be the most comprehensive museum of the Holocaust anywhere in the world; looking at every document and interpreted fact in its main museum can easily take a couple of weeks. The campus is a lot more than just the main museum; the grounds are beautifully done, with several evocative memorials. The place is undeniably somber, although on balance I recall the Washington DC Holocaust Museum as more powerful in exhibiting these horrors; Yad Vashem is more about cold facts than emotional impact. Nonetheless, staying on the grounds for over a couple of hours has a chilling effect.

Yad Vashem is located at the edge of Jerusalem, not reachable on foot from the central areas.

Ein Karem

Close by Yad Vashem is the village of Ein Karem, the birthplace of St John the Baptist. Its small central area surrounds the tiled church of St John Baharim ♥, which has its own Nativity grotto. The walls of the courtyard of the church carry transcription of a single prayer in several dozen different languages, which is an unusual feature.

The village itself is not overly special in terms of visual impact. A couple of other religious points of interest (e.g., Gorny Monastery) are within a short drive or long walk.

Also, within a short drive – but not reachable on foot – is the University Hospital (Hadassa Ein Karem) which boasts a synagogue with windows painted by Chagall ♥. Getting to see them requires a non-trivial effort even once you are parked on site: you have to ask Information Desk at the main building for help, they will direct you to the Heritage Center, where you’ll pay the entrance fee, and then they will show you into the synagogue. The 12 windows in a relatively small temple are not among the most evocative of Chagall’s works but a true connoisseur might think differently. An audioguide with narration that is about 25 minutes long is included in the price, or you can make do with a brochure.

Other notes for Israel