The Old City’s Most Significant Sites for First-Time Visitors

January 21st 2015

The Old City of Jerusalem is among the most magical places in all of Israel. Everywhere you turn, you’ll come face-to-face with the ancient history of the Jews. Here are four must-see points of interest to make sure appear on your itinerary

Beneath the Surface
Jerusalem Old City - KOTEL - HUGE RES
Is there a first-time visitor to Jerusalem who doesn’t stop at the Kotel, also known as the Western Wall or the Wailing Wall? This textured limestone structure is the last standing remnant of the Second Holy Temple that was destroyed by the Romans 2,000 years ago. Place a small piece of paper on which you’ve written a prayer in one of the cracks between the ancient stones. What’s more, beneath the Kotel is an entire underground excavation that tells a fascinating story of the history of Jerusalem. On your tour of the Kotel Tunnels, you’ll traverse layers of history, catch glimpses of more areas through Plexiglas flooring and enjoy presentation illustrated by a 3D model that replicates what the Old City of Jerusalem looked like in the days of Herod’s Temple.

Where Kings and Prophets Walked

Known in Hebrew as Ir David, the City of David is technically outside the walls of the Old City, but its entrance is extremely close to Dung Gate, so visitors commonly combine the two destinations. Here you can tour the epicenter of ancient Jerusalem, where coronations of kings were held and prophets wrote books of the Bible. A highlight is Hezekiah’s Tunnel, where water has not ceased flowing since Biblical times. Bring your water shoes!

Courtyards of the Quarter

The Old City of Jerusalem’s Jewish Quarter, often referred to as “the Rova,” is brimming with remarkable sites. Don’t miss the Cardo, the ancient Roman street that was originally a center of commercial trade. Excavated in the 1970s, today it’s an upscale shopping area. The reconstructed Hurva synagogue is also unskippable. Despite bring destroyed multiple times since its construction three centuries ago, the Hurva was rebuilt once again in 2010. An outdoor metal staircase in the rear leads to a structure with rare acoustic properties. Other highlights of the Jewish Quarter include the Four Sephardic Synagogues, the Burnt House from the Second Temple period and the Tower of David Museum.

Encircling the Old City
Old City Wall Ramparts

If you want to take in the entire Old City, head up to the Ramparts Walk, a narrow path along the upper ledges of the Old City’s walls. Following the path allows you to encircle the Old City from above. From that vantage point, you’ll see the rooftops, domes and spires of the sacred buildings of three religions. The Southern Ramparts Walk is the shorter of the two options, which originate at Jaffa Gate. The catwalks have secure handrails, but there are a number of steps to climb.

Visit these sites and be drawn in to the Old City of Jerusalem’s ability to enhance and deepen your bond with your past.