Getting the Most of your Visit in the Old City of Jerusalem

June 7th 2012

Of course a visit to the Kotel, or Western Wall, is a must when visiting Jerusalem, but the Jewish Quarter of the Old City has lots more to offer. Explore hidden gems like the Wohl Archaeological Museum, the Katros House’s artifacts dating from the Second Temple, the Siloam Tunnel and more.

The Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City may be filled with history, but it’s also a living, breathing center of Judaism today. Walk amongst its cobblestoned streets to feel the connection between the ancient and modern, with synagogues dating from the 8th century BCE next to contemporary yeshivot, where people come from around the world to study the Torah.

For a taste of what life was like during the period of the Second Temple and the rule of Herod the Great, head to the Wohl Archeological Museum. Located below the present day Jewish Quarter of the Old City, the museum encompasses six ancient homes that have been magnificently preserved. Water cisterns, reception halls, stucco paintings, mosaics, and findings from the excavations are on beautiful display while plaques tell the story of the people who lived here.

Next up head to the Katros House, also called the Burnt House, which belonged to the priestly Katros family and was destroyed in 70 CE by the Romans along with the Second Temple. Excavated in the 1970s, visitors to the site today can view rooms that have been unearthed beneath the modern Jewish Quarter of the Old City. Here you will find an impressive array of coins, containers and even furniture from the time. An informative audio-visual presentation further illuminates the meaning behind this archaeological treasure.

For an unusual step into history – literally – don’t miss the Siloam Tunnel, an incredible 1,500-foot tunnel that dates back to 701 BCE. Built by King Hezekiah to protect Gihon Spring (Jerusalem’s main water source) from the Assyrians, this feat of engineering is today open to visitors from around the world. Adults and children alike will feel like adventurers when they are handed flashlights and candles to walk through this ancient tunnel. The tour takes under an hour to complete, and you’ll probably feel a bit like Indiana Jones by the end.

For something a little more modern, visit the Generations Center, near the Western Wall. Here visitors are treated to a multimedia, multi-sensory presentation about the journey of the Jewish people throughout the past 3,500 years. Each room is dedicated to a different period in Jewish history and uses archaeological artifacts, sculptures, music and special light effects to communicate the information.