GUIDE TO VISITING JERUSALEM
Everything you need to know for your trip to Jerusalem
Jerusalem is one of the world’s great treasures, attracting millions of travelers every year to experience its many charms and rich history. Probably best known for its religious significance to Jews, Christians, and Muslims, Jerusalem is also home to some of Israel’s most visited museums, archaeological sites, nature parks, family-friendly attractions, and even food and wine scenes.
The Old City
The Old City was historically divided into four Quarters — Muslim, Christian, Armenian, and Jewish — though these distinctions don’t necessarily correspond to clear religious or ethnic divisions, as their names might suggest. The Old City is surrounded by walls that date back to the 16th century; indeed, Jerusalem has been surrounded by walls throughout much of its history. Today, the walls add to the Old City’s ancient mystique and serve to separate it from the hustle and bustle of modern Jerusalem. In fact, the walls themselves are every bit as much of an attraction as what lies within, and visitors can actually tour the Old City from up on the ramparts (adventurous travelers can even rappel down the Old City walls). At the center of the Old City, you’ll find the lively suq (market), which is a great place to get lost looking for lunch or a gift.
Western Wall, Old City of Jerusalem
The Temple Mount, Old City of Jerusalem
Religious Sites in the Old City
One can easily spend an entire day walking around the Old City and visiting religious sites. In fact, for travelers interested in seeing all the wonderful landmarks and sites of interest in the Old City, one day probably isn’t enough.
Abbey of the Dormition,
Old City of Jerusalem
Old City Christian Sites
Legend has it that when Neil Armstrong visited Jerusalem not long after the moon landing, he stood awestruck on the Southern Steps of the Temple and marveled that the experience of standing where Jesus stood was more thrilling than standing on the moon. Christian travelers will find many sites associated with the life, ministry, and miracles of Jesus, such as the Pools of Bethesda, where Jesus healed the paralyzed man. Travelers can also trace the footsteps of Jesus on the Via Dolorosa and 14 Stations of the Cross, leading to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, which many Christians believe to house the sites of the Crucifixion, burial, and Resurrection. The many Old City churches and monasteries that date back to the early followers of Jesus and through the millennia attract visitors from Christian communities across the world.
Mount of Olives
Through the Lion’s Gate and just outside the Old City walls, the Mount of Olives contains many significant landmarks for Christian travelers, including the Tomb of the Virgin Mary, the Garden of Gethsemane, and the Tomb of Lazarus. Visitors will also find a number of important historic churches, such as the Church of All Nations and the Chapel of the Ascension, built on the spot where Jesus is believed to have ascended to Heaven on the fortieth day after the Resurrection.
Jewish Landmarks in the Old City
The Jewish People have had a special and unbroken relationship with Jerusalem that dates back to Abraham and has survived through the millennia despite repeated conquests by foreign forces. Archaeological remains of the First and Second Temples and their surrounding infrastructure and commercial centers hold ancient memories and have drawn Jewish travelers to Jerusalem throughout the generations. The ancient Temple was the center of Jewish ritual life and the holiest place in the world for Jews. The last remnant of the Temple is the Kotel, or Western Wall, where Jews have continued to visit and pray since the Temple’s destruction two thousand years ago.
The Davidson Center gives visitors an opportunity to imagine walking through the ancient Temple complex, and The City of David offers up-close tours through the archaeological remains that have been and continue to be discovered under the Old City. Other sites of interest for Jewish visitors to the Old City include the Hurva Synagogue, the Four Sephardic Synagogues, the Tower of David (Citadel), and the Burnt House.
Outside the walls of the Old City
As Israel’s largest city, Jerusalem offers a variety of treasures to visitors interested in discovering the city’s many facets. From world-class museums and galleries to markets, gardens, and national monuments, the city is full of amazing surprises for every traveler.
Love Statue Israel Museum, Jerusalem
Museums and places of interest
Jerusalem’s two largest and most visited museums are the Israel Museum and the Yad Vashem Holocaust Remembrance Center. At the Israel Museum, visitors can explore the many archaeology exhibits covering the history of the region from the dawn of civilization through the recent past; vast biblical and religious holdings, including the Dead Sea Scrolls; an impressive art wing with exhibits ranging from modern Israeli art to the ancient art of the Americas, and much more. The Yad Vashem Holocaust Remembrance Center is dedicated to documenting the events of the Holocaust in order to honor and preserve the memories of the victims, share the stories of the heroes who resisted the Nazis and labored to rescue and shelter victims, and educate the world about these atrocities as well as the circumstances that facilitated them.
The Mount Herzl National Cemetery, Menachem Begin Heritage Center, Knesset (Parliament), and Supreme Court are each great choices for travelers who are interested in Israeli society and politics. In addition, art lovers can find countless galleries, the artist colony of Hutzot HaYotzer, sculpture gardens, and a number of local artisan workshops that offer fun, hands-on creative experiences that are wonderful choices for families with children.
Mount of Olives, Jerusalem
Jaffa Gate, Jerusalem
Jerusalem for Families
Visiting Jerusalem with your family can be an incredible experience — if you plan correctly. There are plenty of great things to see and do in Jerusalem that will keep everyone from kids through grandparents engaged so you can make the most out of your visit.
Ben Yehuda Street, Jerusalem
Family-Friendly Attractions in Jerusalem
Within the walls of the Old City, history comes alive in amazing ways, and simply walking through the excavated ruins of the ancient city can transport you back to the days of the First and Second Temple periods. Under the cobblestone streets and alleyways, visitors can explore recently unearthed passageways that have withstood time, the elements, and conquering armies. Underground tunnels reveal whole stretches of the city that existed thousands of years ago, including additional expanses of the Western Wall as well as a brilliantly engineered water tunnel designed to protect Jerusalem’s natural water resources from invading forces. Bring the family back to the Old City after dark for a spectacle that will treat everyone’s eyes and ears while telling the captivating history of Jerusalem using virtual reality images projected onto the ancient walls of the Tower of David (the Citadel).
Around Jerusalem, there are plenty of other places to visit that will both engage and enrich travelers of all ages, including the Biblical Zoo, the Botanical Gardens, and the Hebrew Music Museum. Many families choose a day to split up, so grownups have an opportunity to visit locations that may not be a great choice for younger children (Yad Vashem, for example), while the kids enjoy themselves at more family-friendly spots. Having an extra tour guide or an experienced childcare professional will make a day like this possible.
Activities the Whole Family Will Love
In addition to choosing family-friendly attractions to visit on your Jerusalem tour, it’s always a good idea to sprinkle in a few hands-on activities to break up longer days that may be rich in educational content but slightly less interactive. Some great options include participating in a live archaeological dig, learning about ancient or modern Jerusalem on a fun and competitive scavenger hunt, or reliving the story of the Burma Road on an exhilarating off-road Jeep tour.
There’s an interactive activity or workshop in and around Jerusalem for just about everyone. Foodies will love hunting for local treats in the Mahane Yehuda market or participating in a praline-making workshop with a professional artisan chocolatier; art lovers can find countless creative workshops to try, from ceramics and mosaics to jewelry and print-making; and outdoorsy-types can enjoy exploring Jerusalem by bicycle or Segway or even rappelling down into the Gai-Ben-Hinnom valley.
The Right Tour Guide for your Family
There’s so much to discover in Jerusalem: dueling historical narratives that date back to the dawn of civilization; a rich tapestry of interwoven religious traditions; artistic and cultural treasures, and beyond. It would be impossible to see and do it all on a short visit, but with an expertly crafted itinerary and the right tour guide for you and your family, it’s possible to perfectly tailor your Jerusalem visit and maximize your experience. All of our tour guides are fluent English-speakers, highly experienced and licensed by the State of Israel, and matched specifically to our clients’ needs and preferences. You can rest assured that your touring itinerary will be brought to life by a personable, courteous, and highly educated guide who brings the perfect balance of insight, humor, and nuance to the task of introducing you to all the wonder there is to behold in Jerusalem.
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Old City Shuk
Machane Yehuda Market
Tailor-Made Private Tours of Jerusalem
Whether you’re planning to spend two weeks or two days in Jerusalem, you’ll want to know that you’re getting the most out of your visit. That’s why choosing to work with a professional tour operator who can create a private tour that’s perfectly tailored to your interests, your schedule, and your budget is the right option for many travelers.
Ben Yehuda street sign, Jerusalem
Jerusalem Your Way
Every traveler is different, and Dekel Tours believes that every private tour ought to reflect those individual differences. We take the time to get to know our clients and work with them to custom design a travel itinerary that works for them. Because we’re regional experts, we can skillfully match our clients to the types of travel experiences that best suit their preferences while always delivering on our Uncompromising Quality promise. So, whether you want to see all the “highlights” or go off the beaten track, whether you’re looking to explore your religious heritage or delve into the local arts and culture scenes, whatever your interests and whatever brings you to Jerusalem, we’ll build the tour that’s right for you.
Jerusalem Specialty Tours
Whatever your passion, we’ll make it happen. Love food and wine? How about an open-air market expedition and culinary workshop, a visit to a local artisan goat cheese farm, or an in-depth tasting tour at a boutique winery? Fascinated by archaeology? Go behind the scenes at the City of David with the lead archaeologist and see some of the recent discoveries that aren’t open to the public. Photography? Nature? Adventure? You got it!
Excursions based out of Jerusalem
If you’re staying in Jerusalem for a few days, you may want to think about taking a day trip outside of the city to see some of the other parts of the country that are accessible from Jerusalem. Take a trip to the Judean Desert and climb Masada, float in the Dead Sea, explore the Ein Gedi nature reserve, and more! You can even spend the night in an authentic Bedouin hospitality for a true desert experience (camels included). Whatever your interests, we can find a day trip that fits your Jerusalem tour perfectly: wineries in the Judean Hills, an archaeological dig and stalactite cave in the Shfela, Christian holy sites in Bethlehem, and more.
Hotels in Jerusalem
Finding the right hotel in Jerusalem can be a herculean task. With hundreds of properties to choose from, websites that aren’t the best at providing useful information, and conflicting customer reviews, it can be difficult to know that you’re choosing the hotel that best suits your needs (room configurations that work for you and your family, amenities that tick all your boxes, courteous staff and well-maintained rooms…). Dekel Tours knows how to match our clients with the best hotels that fit their preferences and their budgets; we’ll make all the arrangements for you so you can book with the peace of mind that comes from knowing that we’ve got your back; and we can do it all while securing your rooms at our preferential rates.
Jerusalem has some amazing hotels (and some that just don’t cut it). Best views of the Old City? Best family-friendly property? Best pool? Best location? Best customer service? Best breakfast? Best bang for the buck? We know hotels.
Special Events in Jerusalem
If your trip to Jerusalem revolves around a special event, every element of your travel plans will be affected by that: your touring itinerary, your transportation needs, your hotel, and more. Are you planning a Bar/Bat Mitzvah in Jerusalem? Having a destination wedding? Visiting Jerusalem during Holy Week, Passover, or Sukkot? We understand that the details matter, and we want to help you get the most out of your experience.
Western Wall, Jerusalem
Bar/Bat Mitzvah in Jerusalem
When you’re planning a Bar/Bat Mitzvah in Jerusalem, location is usually the first major question you’ll want to answer. If you’ve determined that you’re going to be celebrating in Jerusalem, don’t assume that your only option for the Torah service is at the Kotel (or Robinson’s Arch — this is the egalitarian section of the Kotel plaza). While this is certainly a fantastic choice, there might be reason to consider one of Jerusalem’s many other venue options. If you need a venue with seating for older relatives, if you want to know that there won’t be numerous other ceremonies happening right next to yours, or if you’re hoping for a venue that’s weather-proof (sun and rain can both be factors, depending on the time of year), it may be worth considering other options. Choosing the right venue for you and your party’s needs and preferences is key!
Having a dedicated Tour Specialist to help you work out the details can be extraordinarily valuable — from help choosing the right venue, organizing a reception lunch and celebratory activities, connecting you to an amazing English-speaking rabbi who’ll help you craft the ceremony that’s perfect for you and your family, and being boots on the ground to ensure smooth running on the day of the event, we’re here for you!
Travel during religious festivals
Holy Week in Jerusalem can be an incredible time for Christian travelers. Indeed, tens of thousands of pilgrims make the trip every year to participate in Easter observances. From Good Friday and Easter Sunday processions on the Via Dolorosa to quiet prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, and beyond, having a touring itinerary that’s designed around your chosen religious observances is of the utmost importance. Knowledgeable guides, smart planning, and logistical support from your dedicated Tour Specialist will make all the difference!
If you happen to be visiting Israel during religious festivals, but you’re not coming for the purpose of celebrating in Jerusalem, you may wish to consider planning your trip to Jerusalem for days when there are fewer religious events taking place, so as to avoid crowds and traffic that are inevitable during such times. Your Tour Specialist will help you craft your travel itinerary wisely so that you’re spending festival days in other parts of the country and visiting Jerusalem when you’re able to really get the most out of your stay.
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Planning a Bat Mitzvah in Jerusalem
After the Bar Mitzvah Ceremony
Special Events on Your Israel Tour
Want to see Israel — your way?
Custom tours are our specialty!
All of our custom-designed tours are created around your specific needs and preferences. We’ll build your trip package from the bottom up, so you can be sure your Israel experience is perfectly suited to you and be free to enjoy your mind-blowing tour.