Jerusalem is a city of contrasts. On the one hand, there’s the Old City. On the other, the modern neighborhoods. When you walk in the streets, you see many people – some are religious, some less religious, and some not religious at all. On the weekdays, the city is full of people, and everything is operating, and on the weekends, almost nothing. Some people don’t like those contrasts. “How can you live in Jerusalem?” they say, “It’s so tense.” But I love it.
I love the richness of Jerusalem. No matter where you go, you have something to see, do, and learn. In the Old City, you can go deep into the past. But you can also get to know Judaism, Christianity, and Islam all in one place. Outside the Old City, you can visit a good museum, taste delicious food, and learn about more modern history.
This travel guide to Jerusalem includes everything you need for a perfect visit to the Holy City. And I’m updating it all the time. So if you plan to visit Jerusalem soon, check it out.
Planning a trip to Israel? Here are 11 tips to Planning Your Budget Trip to Israel.
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5 top things to see and do in Jerusalem
1 – Explore the Old City
The Old City of Jerusalem is a great place to start your trip in Jerusalem. It’s small – only 0.9 square meters – but full of things to see and do! Visit the Western Wall, Temple Mount, Via Dolorosa, and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Try your bargaining skills at the Old City market. Learn about Jewish history in the synagogues and museums of the Jewish Quarter. And so much more! There are also many free things to do in the Old City. Hiring a tour guide is recommended, but you can also explore it on your own.
And if you’re already there, you can also climb Mount of Olives. Check what you can see on Mount of Olives.
If you’re visiting on a Monday or Thursday, you may want to go to the Western Wall to watch the Bar Mitzvah ceremonies.
Looking for a private guide in Jerusalem?
2 – Visit Yad Vashem
Yad Vashem is the World Holocaust Remembrance Center. Most people come only to the Holocaust History Museum, where you can learn about life before, during, and after the Holocaust. But if you have time, there are vast grounds around the museum, filled with inspiring monuments and memorials. The museum itself is well-organized in chronicle order and includes heart-rending and thought-provoking displays. I recommend taking time to watch the filmed testimonies of Holocaust survivors. An audio guide is available for 30 ILS. Entry is free of charge, but you must reserve your visit in advance! Sometimes the museum gets filled up with groups and then they won’t let you in if you don’t have a reservation.
For reservations, please visit the official site of Yad Vashem.
3 – Taste through Machane Yehuda Market
Machane Yehuda Market is one of the most popular markets in Israel and a great place to taste local food. It was founded in the late 19th century when the first Jewish neighborhoods were built outside the Old City walls. Today, it looks very modern, with well-established stalls and stores selling fresh fruits, vegetables, meat, fish, and more. There are also stores selling clothes, wallets, and anything else you might need. And if you fancy a meal, there are plenty of great restaurants. At night, the stalls close and the bars open. Beautiful graffiti works are revealed on the shutters.
Check out my post >> Where to eat in Jerusalem?
4 – Visit the City of David
Many recommend going to the Western Wall Tunnels, but I think the City of David is better. You get to see the most ancient part of Jerusalem and also go underground. What more can you ask? If you’re traveling with kids, they might also enjoy the water tunnel at the end of the visit. Get ready to see a lot of archeological findings and dive into the past. It’s right next to the Old City, so you can combine.
For exact opening hours and prices, please visit the official site of the City of David.
5 – Visit the Israel Museum
If you’re into large museums filled with tons of archeological and cultural displays, then head to the Israel Museum. It has fascinating displays connected to the history of the Land of Israel, from prehistoric times, through biblical times, until today. If you lose your focus quickly, as I do, you can come for a short visit and see only the highlights. The Model of Jerusalem in the Second Temple Period is inspiring and highly fascinating. It’s also worth visiting the Shrine of the Book, where the Dead Sea Scrolls are showcased. And then, if you have a bit more time, you can quickly pass through the archeology wing. The entry fee is relatively high, but the displays are stunning and hold historical significance.
Read my post >> Highlights of the Israel Museum.
For exact opening hours and prices, please visit the official site of the Israel Museum.
More things to do in Jerusalem
- Enjoy the beautiful viewpoints of Jerusalem. There are fantastic viewpoints of Jerusalem in the Old City, on Mount of Olives, and also farther away, from the Harmon Hanatziv Promenade and Ramat Rachel. Click here to learn about 5 beautiful viewpoints in Jerusalem.
- Visit the charming neighborhood of Ein Karem. According to Christian tradition, Ein Karem was the birthplace of John the Baptist, who later baptized Jesus in the Jordan River. Learn more about a visit to Ein Karem.
- Visit the Tower of David Museum. This excellent renewed museum is located at the entrance to the Old City of Jerusalem, right next to Jaffa Gate. It’s an interactive museum with several exhibitions, each focusing on a different aspect of Jerusalem.
- Explore the ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods of Jerusalem. Not far from Machane Yehuda Market, there are the Ultra-Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods of Jerusalem, where you can glimpse into the life of the very religious Jews. Walking through the main street – Malkei Yisrael – is a special experience. Learn more about Judaism in Israel here.
How many days to visit Jerusalem?
I would recommend 2 to 3 days. Jerusalem has so many things to do that you can easily spend a week and more in the city. But most people don’t have a week to spend in Jerusalem. So, 2 to 3 days should be enough to experience the main sites and ambiance of the city. Keep in mind that you can spend a whole day and even more in the Old City!
Get ideas here >> 3 Days in Jerusalem: A Classic Itinerary for First Timers.
When to come to Jerusalem?
I would recommend coming between February to May. The weather is usually pleasant all year round. In July-August, it could be very hot during the day. In the evenings, it could be cold also in the summer so make sure to bring something warm. If you want to avoid crowds, it’s best to avoid weekends and holidays. Check the dates of the main Jewish holidays here. They change each year because they are celebrated according to the Hebrew calendar.
Where to stay in Jerusalem?
To get the most out of your visit to Jerusalem, I recommend staying close to the city center. If you’re on a very tight budget, you may find better prices in the Old City or East Jerusalem. But usually, accommodations over there are less maintained and less tidy.
If you want to enjoy comfort, the city center is your best bet. There are many hostels and Airbnb properties in the city center, with hostels ranging around 100 ILS for a dorm bed and Airbnbs ranging around 400 ILS for the whole property. Look for places near Jaffa Road, Ben Yehuda Pedestrian Street, or the Machane Yehuda Market. If you want to stay away from the crowds but still be close by, try finding places in Rehavia or the German Colony.
For more info, read my post >> Best Places to Stay in Jerusalem for Budget Travelers.
Where to eat in Jerusalem?
There are a lot of good restaurants and chains in Jerusalem. You’ll find most of them in Machane Yehuda Market and Ben Yehuda Pedestrian Street. There are also some good hummus places in the Old City. Here are my favorite budget places to eat in Jerusalem.
If you observe Kosher, stick to the city center. Don’t eat in the Old City, because the only Kosher restaurants over there are in the Jewish Quarter. And the restaurants there aren’t so tasty.
Money-saving tips for Jerusalem
Jerusalem is pricey, as is most of Israel. You can expect to pay at least 200-300 ILS (60-90 USD) per day, including food and accommodation. But if you’ll follow these money-saving tips, you can lower your budget:
If you want to save money on accommodation, Couchsurfing is a great option. They have started charging an annual subscription, but it’s still worth it. Couchsurfing is a platform that connects travelers with local hosts, who will be happy to host you for free. This way, you save money and also get to know the local people! Couchsurfing is very popular in Israel, so it’s easy to find a host. Just make sure to read the references before you send a request and stick to the safety basics.
There’s no need to rent a car for Jerusalem. And there are only a few places that require public transportation, like Yad Vashem, Ein Karem, the Israel Museum, and the Biblical Zoo. If you are staying near the city center, you can easily reach the Old City, Machane Yehuda Market, and the historic neighborhoods on foot. So, save money by walking from one place to another! The weather is usually pleasant, and all you need are comfortable shoes.
Plan nearby attractions for Shabbat.
Shabbat is the holy day of the week. It starts Friday eve and ends Saturday eve. During Shabbat, there is no public transportation in Jerusalem, except for the Arab buses. So, it’s best to plan for nearby attractions that do not require taking transport. Here are some things you can do in Jerusalem on Shabbat.
Make your own meal.
An average meal costs 30-50 ILS. So to save money, it’s best to purchase supplies in a local supermarket and make your own meals. If you’re staying in a hostel, you can use the shared kitchen. Don’t go to the market because the prices there are generally higher than in supermarkets. Plus, the vendors can tell you a higher price just because you are tourists. The Rami Levi supermarket chain is considered cheap, but it’s best to compare prices.
Drink during Happy Hour.
In Israel, alcohol is expensive. If you go to the supermarket, a bottle of beer costs about 10 ILS, depending on the type. In a bar, prices range around 30-35 ILS! So, if you want to hang out in one of Jerusalem’s bars but also want to save money, come for Happy Hour. The nightlife scene starts late, around 10-11 PM, so you’ll find Happy Hour deals earlier, around 5-8 PM. This way, you’ll get more for less.
Haggle at the market.
Most shops in Jerusalem have fixed prices. The prices are negotiable in the markets. Vendors typically ask for more than what the product is worth, so you should haggle. Tell them it’s too much and ask if they can give a discount. It’s also good to walk around the market, look for the same product in other stores, and compare prices.
How to get around Jerusalem
Many of the city’s top attractions are within walking distance of one another. If you want to get to farther attractions, there’s the light train and buses. A one-way ride costs 5.5 ILS. To use public transportation, you have to use the Rav-Kav public transit card or a public transport payment app, like Moovit or Rav-Pass (HopOn). The Rav-Kav is available at the airport or in designated offices. At every light rail station, there’s a ticketing machine where you can load your Rav Kav or get a new one.
On the light train, the stations are announced in Hebrew, English, and Arabic. Some buses have a screen with the name of the next station in Hebrew and English. To find the best route in the city, you can use the Moovit app or Google Maps.
Another option –Get on the Hop-On Hop-Off Bus in Jerusalem. While it’s not the best Hop-On Hop-Off I’ve been on, it can still provide you with some overview of the city and you can use it to get to one or two of the main attractions.
How to get to certain attractions
The Old City is easy to reach on foot. Here are some other popular destinations and how to get to them by public transportation:
Yad Vashem: Board the light-rail train at the city center and get off at Mount Herzl station. Yad Vashem is a short walk away. It takes about 30 minutes.
Ein Karem: Board the light-rail train at the city center and get off at Mount Herzl station. Then, walk down to Ein Karem through the wadi. There is a staircase from the road leading to Yad Vashem. Another option is to take bus number 28 from the Ein Karem/ Herzl Boulevard station, on the road leading down to Ein Karem. It takes about 40 minutes.
The Israel Museum: Take bus number 7, 9, or 66 from the city center to the Israel Museum. It takes about 20 minutes.
The Biblical Zoo: Board the light-rail train at the city center and get off at Yefe Nof station. Then, take bus number 33 from the Yefe Nof Light Rail Station and get off at the Biblical Zoo. It takes about 40 minutes.
Annual events and festivals in Jerusalem
This event usually takes place on Hol Hamoed Sukkot – October.
The Jerusalem March is one of the biggest and most colorful events in Hol HaMoed of Sukkot. It is meant to show support for Israel. Thousands of marchers from Israel and abroad gather in Jerusalem and march through the streets of the city. There are several marching routes, differing by length.
Check out this video by Johan Björk:
Chutzot Hayotzer Festival
2024 dates have not been published yet, but usually it happens in August.
Chutzot Hayotzer Festival is an international art festival that showcases arts and crafts from Israel and abroad. There are also live music shows, food and drink stalls, and other entertainment. The festival goes on for several days and happens in the Sultan Pool, near the Old City.
For more information, enter the official website of the Chutzot Hayotzer Festival.
Check out this video by Hachevra HaIronit Ariel:
This year – June 5, 2024.
Jerusalem Day celebrates the reunification of Jerusalem following the 1967 Six-Day War. On this day, people march and dance through the city with Israeli flags. The march ends at the Western Wall, with a ceremony and celebration. Usually, this day causes clashes with the Arab population in East Jerusalem and the Old City.
Check out this video by tzviki1234:
Upcoming 2024 – usually in May.
The MusraraMix Festival is an international multidisciplinary event that takes place in Musrara, a neighborhood between West and East Jerusalem. The festival goes on for several days and includes many artistic and social happenings, which embody the cultural and political essence of Jerusalem.
For more information, enter the official website of the MusraraMix Festival.
Check out this video by musraranaggarschool:
Jerusalem Festival of Lights
This year not set yet. Maybe July.
The Festival of Lights is an international event that fills the Old City with magnificent light displays. The displays are created by both Israeli and international light artists. There are several routes encompassing the four quarters of the Old City. Try coming to the Old City during the day and then at night to see the difference.
For more information, enter the official website of the Festival of Lights.
Check out this video by the Israeli tourism department:
Recommended places outside Jerusalem
Jerusalem is centrally positioned between Tel Aviv and the Dead Sea. Tel Aviv is 40 minutes away by train, while the Dead Sea is one hour away by bus. So these two destinations are great day trips outside Jerusalem.
For more recommended places outside Jerusalem, read my posts:
Wherever you go, it’s important to think about travel insurance – also when traveling to Jerusalem!
World Nomads offers coverage for more than 150 activities as well as emergency medical, lost luggage, trip cancellation, and more.
Want to get ready for your visit to Jerusalem? It’s important to understand the local customs and the history of the place. Here are some posts that could be a good read before arriving in Jerusalem: