An iconic city with a rich and lengthy past, and one of the holiest in the world, creating a design guide for Jerusalem wasn’t difficult. It was only difficult to keep it short! From ancient pools to modern art galleries, this city of contrasts offers a little bit of everything. There’s so much to do and see that it can be overwhelming to visit, whether it’s your first or fifth visit. Our design guide for Jerusalem helps you narrow down those choices, while our highlights of Jerusalem tour gives you a taste of a little bit of everything. Read on to learn more about the art, architecture, and design that dominates this incredible place.
What to See
The city is filled with wonders both modern and ancient to appeal to all interests. While we can’t include every incredible element of design, we have picked out a few of the most popular highlights. Also of interest are Yad Vashem, which is as beautiful as it is important, the Jerusalem Botanical Gardens, and the Israel Museum. Each of these sites is magical in a different way, and well worth your time. If you’re looking for a comprehensive tour and none of the below fit your needs, book a private day tour that you can customize for your needs.
The Temple Mount
The holiest site in Judaism, the third holiest in Islam, and a key pilgrimage site for Christians, the Temple Mount is a long-contested site. Held under Jordanian control and patrolled by Israeli police, this beautiful site is visible from all of the Old City. Surrounding by Herodian walls, the main structures include the Dome of the Rock, the Dome of the Chain, the al-Aqsa mosque, and 4 prominent minarets. The Dome of the Rock is visible from a number of angles, thanks to the 5,000 gold plates that adorn it. No matter the time of day, the glow that it reflects is awe-inspiring.
Covering 35 acres, this site is filled with over 100 structures. These include intricate gazebos, arching gates, and flowing fountains. There are stunning mosaic designs with ochre, cerulean, emerald, and white tiles that add to the site’s grandeur. Entrance is free, but limited both in scope and visiting hours. If you’d like to enter the Temple Mount, there is a dress code in place you must follow that requires modest dress and visitors to leave behind religious artifacts, including jewelry. You should also have your passport on you. Learn more about this holy site on our Temple Mount and Mount of Olives tour.
The Church of the Holy SepulchRE
Built around 325 CE, this church is believed to be the site of Jesus’ crucifixion, burial, and resurrection. It’s part of our afternoon tour of Jerusalem, where your guide can tell you all of the church’s ancient secrets. It was consecrated in 335 CE, and the imposing entrance doors date from 326 CE. Home to two of Christianity’s most holy sites, the Calvary and the tomb within the Aedicula, it’s also a stunning blend of styles. With Byzantine, Romanesque, and Gothic elements throughout the structure, every facet of this church is marvelous.
Murals and mosaics adorn every wall, while hanging tapestries, altars, and candelabras add to the dramatic atmosphere. The Aedicula, enclosing the tomb, is covered in gold detailed and intricate depictions. The Martyrium encloses the Calvary in a corner across from the Anastasis, protected the cave tomb where Jesus was buried. The ancient stone walls, vaulted ceilings, and elaborate decoration elevate this from a holy site to a place of incomparable beauty.
Designed by the same architect who sketched out the Empire State Building, Arthur Loomis Harmon. Dedicated in 1933, this architectural gem on King David Street incorporates a number of different types of architecture and design. The styles include Jewish, Muslim, and Christian architecture. The design is a mix of Romanesque, Gothic, Byzantine, and Moorish elements. The interior is just as impressive as the exterior, and worth a look. When you enter the lobby, you can admire the cupola, arabesque work, and the mosaics that line the ceiling. In addition to being beautiful, it’s host to cultural events from a number of organizations.
Where to Eat
With a history that stretches centuries and a mix of cultures and traditions, our design guide to Jerusalem couldn’t skip the fabulous food. From hole in the wall falafel stands to upscale eateries, this city has it all. The large shuk or market that dominates is Machane Yehuda, and worth at least a quick visit. Or try our market tour and cooking class to get your hands dirty! There’s something for everyone, but we’ve picked two of our favorite design-oriented restaurants just for you.
A Jerusalem classic, this popular restaurant deserves all the hype. The brainchild of 3 local chefs that wanted to play with the fresh ingredients from the market nearby, every dish is bursting with flavor. A vibrant mix of Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine is served in this open plan restaurant. The walls burst with crates, plants, candlesticks, and empty wine bottles for a homey touch. Dine in the airy interior or the lush courtyard outside. Some of the most popular dishes include upscale takes on local classics that comes with the tasting menu. Or try Uri’s Mom’s famous semolina cake, served with fresh fruit and a decadent cream. Founded by chefs internationally renowned for their high levels of quality and hospitality, Machneyuda is no exception. We recommend a visit to the local Machane Yehuda market before a visit for a more full experience.
Owner and chef Moshe Basson has been wowing Israelis and internationals alike with his stunning reinterpretations of biblical cuisine. From long-forgotten recipes to infrequently used herbs, Basson is a master at his craft. Considered the authority on edible regional plants, he’s no slouch when it comes to plating and design either. Sitting in a verdant alleyway in the Artist’s Quarter, Eucalyptus wows your every sense.
The alleyway is dense with plants, with galleries and workshops surrounding the outside seating for romantic dining. The interior is a subtle mix of blue and white, imparting diners with a sense of ease and simple elegance. Some of the favorites served here are twists on classic dishes, like his artichoke soup served with an almond cream. Another incredibly popular dish is pastilla, a mix of duck confit, pumpkin jam, carrot cream, and a rich red wine sauce. Additionally, menus can be changed for vegan and gluten free palates, and everything is kosher.
Where to Stay
A hotel can make or break your stay in a city. We offer a list of the best hotels in Jerusalem with more varied options for your travels. However, for our design guide to Jerusalem we’ve chosen two iconic hotels. They’re both a little more pricy, but worth visiting for a meal or stroll to admire their interiors. They’re also close to each other, Eucalyptus, and the old city to make your explorations more efficient if you’re pressed for time.
The Mamilla Hotel is an internationally famous design hotel. Moshe Safde, an Israeli architect, blends Mamilla’s original Ottoman ambiance with the modern trappings of Jerusalem masterfully. The singular combination of disparate styles, bespoke pieces, and vibrant fabrics forms a uniquely designed space. Resembling a castle with its timeless feel, the imposing stone walls are offset with Gothic chandeliers and luxury furnishings. Each room is one of a kind, a beautiful mix of classic Jerusalem and the city’s contemporary chic. Beyond the decadent design, it offers a number of amenities. A rooftop restaurant with panoramic views and a mirror bar to delight every sense are there to nourish you. Or relax in the expansive wellness center after a long day in the city.
Seated in a historical building from the 1920’s, this global leader in luxury and taste wows yet again. With elegant interiors and a facade that recalls past eras, the entire hotel is classically subtle, bar the chandeliers that dot the rooms. The interior by Sinan Kafadar, a Turkish architect and interior designer renowned for his chic touch, is flawless. Staircases climb effortlessly to upper levels, and the light filled galleries throughout the hotel add an airy feeling to the immense building. The rooms are a study in understated elegance, and a refuge from the bustle and noise beyond. Like all of its other branches, the Waldorf Astoria Jerusalem offers a classic afternoon tea. A rooftop garden filled with lush plants is the cherry on top of this opulent sundae.
Jerusalem’s unique design
A complex city of contrasts since its founding centuries ago, Jerusalem manages to wow at every turn. From ancient churches to modern design hotels, there’s a little of everything for visitors to this city. Step into the past, explore the modern art that lines the streets, and bask in the unparalleled beauty of this singular city in our design guide for Jerusalem.