So many visitors ask Tourist Israel what to do with 24 hours in Jerusalem! Historically and biblically significant, this amazing city is normally the first stop for travelers in Israel. How is it possible to see ALL of the highlights in just a short time? We really recommend visitors spend two to three days here because it is really difficult to fit everything into one day. Jerusalem is also a great home base for tours around the region since many of them include the option to begin here.
Tourist Israel’s suggested itinerary for a one or two-day experience in Jerusalem:
Remember, you only have 24 hours in Jerusalem, so wake up early so you can make the most of the day. We recommend that a one day tour of Jerusalem is the best way to get acquainted with the city as it will introduce you to the highlights in an easy to digest way. Walk to the Jaffa Gate to enter the Old City. Dress modestly as certain religious sites require women’s shoulders and knees and men’s heads to be covered out of respect. The Old City is divided into four quarters: Muslim, Christian, Jewish and Armenian. When you are navigating the narrow Old City streets, a map won’t be of much use, but there are various signs posted that will put you in the correct direction of major sites. If you get really lost, just ask a shop owner around you. Here’s what you can’t miss:
Old City Highlights:
Tower of David Museum: This archeological museum is a great way to learn about the history of Jerusalem and the perfect place to start. After entering Jaffa Gate, the museum is on your right. As you walk along on the edge of the wall, you’ll get a great view of Jerusalem.
The Shuk in the Muslim Quarter: The narrow streets are very busy in this area of the Old City. Vendors sell religious items and keepsakes for tourists. It’s unbelievable to imagine what this marketplace looked like thousands of years ago.
Church of the Holy Sepulcher: This is the most holy site for Christians as many believe Jesus was crucified and buried where this church now stands. Getting to the entrance can be a little tricky. Follow the signs in the Christian Quarter and if you find yourself squeezing through a smaller than normal opening in a stone wall, you’re just about at the entrance. There are also dozens of other sites holy to Christians in this quarter.
Western Wall: One of the holiest sites in the world for Jews is found in the Jewish Quarter. It is the closest retaining wall to the former temple on the Temple Mount. Thousands of people pray at the wall every year. Some even place written notes in the cracks in the wall.
Temple Mount: An extremely religious site for Jews, Muslims and Christians alike. It also contains the Dome of the Rock, which can be seen above the Western Wall. Visitors can access the site only at specific times and non-Muslims are not allowed into the Dome of the Rock structure. But, you can catch a great view of the bronze dome from many places in the Old City.
There is so much to see in the Old City. If you really want to see the sites and know the history behind it, consider taking a half-day walking tour.
Grab lunch at one of the restaurants in the Old City or pack your own. If you want to keep moving or just need a snack, falafel sandwiches are Israel’s version of fast food (and a bit healthier). There are various “to-go” stands along the narrow streets.
It’s time to bid farewell to the Old City. From here, you have two great options depending on your interests.
Mount of Olives: Possibly most famous for being home to the Garden of Gethsemane, this mountain overlooks the Old City of Jerusalem. While it offers great photos opportunities, there are several churches and mosques that are worth visiting. Visitors can also walk along part of “Palm Sunday” road, which eventually leads into the Old City.
Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial: This is a somber and moving museum in Jerusalem. It was originally designed to recognize non-Jewish people who helped save Jews during the Holocaust but has grown into one of the most visited sites in the country. Entrance is free.
While your entire morning has been spent walking, both these afternoon options require some type of transportation to get to (included in our one day tour of Jerusalem).
Machane Yehuda Market: If you want an authentic Israeli food experience, wrap up your afternoon with a walk through Machane Yehuda Market. Prepare yourself for a bit of chaos and a lack of personal space. Also, keep a close eye on your purse or wallet. Located right off of Jaffa Street, a 15-minute walk from the Old City, this market sells seasonal fruits and vegetables, wine and cheeses, and amazing spices. All of the locals shop here and the busiest time is on Fridays before Shabbat. Even if you don’t need to buy anything, it is worth the visit. There are also a number of restaurants and bars within the market if you’re hungry and want to really take in the evening or nightlife experience. These restaurants are often very busy. Another option, you can take a cooking class and create a meal with items from the market for dinner. The market is closed every Friday evening to Saturday evening and on holidays.
If you have a little bit more than 24 hours in Jerusalem or decide to add on an extra day, spend the entire first day in the Old City. There are a number of additional experiences in the Old City, which you can easily add to your first day in the afternoon.
Western Wall Tunnels: Archeologists have uncovered parts of the Western Wall that cannot be seen from the surface and visitors can tour these areas underground. A guide and reservations are needed.
Jerusalem Archeological Park: This is an open museum located at the southeastern corner of the Temple Mount. Visitors can walk through the ruins, including a ritual bath, which date back thousands of years.
Rampart’s Walk: Take a walk along the outer edge of the Old City’s walls. Going at your own pace, this walk offers great views of inside and outside the Old City. Entrance is right inside Jaffa Gate.
On your second day, visit Yad Vashem (or a different museum) in the morning and the Mount of Olives in the afternoon. Another option would be to visit Yemin Moshe, the first neighborhood built outside of the Old City walls.
In the evening, try one of Jerusalem’s recommended restaurants. Although many specialize in Mediterranean and Israeli cuisine, you will find plenty of international food choices.
If that’s not enough, here are some additional ideas of what to do in Jerusalem.
As you plan your trip, it’s important to keep in mind that because Jerusalem is such a religious place, a large part of the city shuts down from Friday evening to Saturday evening and on holidays. Most shops are closed and there are very few restaurants open. Don’t worry. The city starts back up again Saturday night around 9pm.
Jerusalem also has a number of hostels and hotels for travelers on any budget. Whether you decide to explore Jerusalem on your own or join a daily tour, there’s no doubt you will enjoy this unforgettable city.