Photo: via Welcome to Palestine

Jerusalem City

The holy city of three different religions, Jerusalem is every bit as beautiful and wondrous as it is twisted. Nowhere in the world is as rich in religious history as Jerusalem’s Old City. You can walk in the footsteps of Jesus and prophets, sleep under the same stars which guided crusaders thousands of years ago and worship at the holiest sites in the Christian, Jewish and Muslim worlds.

But nowhere is also as divided as Jerusalem. The city has always been at the heart of the Israel-Palestine conflict, with both proclaiming it as their capital. While Ramallah has evolved into the de facto capital of the Palestinian Authority, ask any Palestinian what their capital is and they will tell you Jerusalem. For this is the home of the iconic Dome of the Rock and Al Aqsa mosque, with the breath-taking gold dome which punctuates the historic cityscape. Yet just metres away is the most important site in Judaism, the Western Wall which is believed to be the last remnant of the Temple on the Mount.

The beating Arabic heart of Jerusalem is rich and bewildering, an Old City alive with colour, smell and sound. While the Christian quarter is fit to burst with hauntingly beautiful churches. If ever somewhere deserved the title ‘living history’, this is it. Jerusalem also exists outside the ornate gates of the Old City, with the 21st century making its influence felt through the emergence of smart shopping centres, dining quarters and numerous more visitor attractions. There is just so much to see and do in this city, it’s easy to see why it attracts around 3.5 million visitors every year.

This city will fascinate you, teach you and unnerve you, but, more than anything, it will leave you wanting more. Welcome to Jerusalem.

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What To Do

There is so much to see in and around the ancient city of Jerusalem that visitors could spend weeks immersed in its intense charm. Although many tour groups are shunted around the main sites in just one, rather sweaty day.

The undoubted highlights are the Dome of the Rock (a challenging place to get into but worthwhile), the chaotic, stunning old city and souq.

However, a walk around the Old City’s walls, past Damascus gate, cannot be missed. Visitors are made to pay to walk along some sections of the walls, but it is also worth seeking out the steps which lead to the roofs of the Old City. This mesmerising rooftop world is Jerusalem at its most seductive, especially as the sun is setting.

The Western Wall, at the site of Temple Mount, is the holiest site in Judaism and a moving experience for all visitors.

Adjacent from the Old City is the biblical Mount of Olives, which is peppered with beautiful churches and home to the tomb of the Virgin Mary. At the foot is the garden of Gethsemane, along with the impressive Church of All Nations.

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is another unmissable site, as this is the alleged site of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection.

Nearby is the brilliantly informative Tower of David museum and archaeological site, while there are many more churches and museums worth visiting given time.

King David’s tomb, in a church just outside the Old City walls, is another moving site despite the fact there is very little to actually see in terms of a tomb.

On any trip to Jerusalem, plan an itinerary of the must-see places, but otherwise just let this beautiful city slowly reveal its hidden tricks and secrets. For exploring by foot is the only way to really get under the skin of the incredible Jerusalem.

Where To Eat

There is everything from typical Arabic dishes to continental fine-dining available in Jerusalem. The number of restaurants in the Old City is limited, but head out to the main commercial centre for a wide range of classy, buzzing joints.

Where To Stay

There is accommodation to suit all tastes, from supreme hotels to hostel rooftops crammed with sleeping bags under the stars. Hostels are dotted throughout the Old Town meaning there is no shortage of places for visitors to rest their heads, while good-value private rooms can also be snapped up.