A place of intense sanctity to Jews, Christians and Muslims, holy sites tumble over each other, and layers of history wait to be unpeeled.
Jerusalem is a place which demands to be visited by anyone seeking to understand the history of the West. It cries out to be experienced, to be touched, as it will surely touch you. The Old City of Jerusalem is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
We recommend several days touring in Jerusalem, at least one day focused on the Old City and one day focused on the New City.
Old City of Jerusalem
The Old City tour will provide you with an overview of the history of Jerusalem in the three monotheistic religions, including a visit to the Western Wall (Kottel) which still stands as Judaism’s holiest site – the outer wall of the Jewish Second Temple, re-built by Herod the Great, and once reckoned as one of Wonders of World; the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, marking the spot where Jesus was crucified and buried, and one of the earliest and most important pilgrimage sites in all the Christian faith; and the Dome of the Rock, one of the oldest and most breath taking sites of Islamic architecture and the third holiest site in Islam. You will explore how these sites have come to co-exist one on top of each other, and how the histories of the three great monotheistic faiths are woven together. There is also plenty of Roman and Crusader history to be explored in Jerusalem’s Old City, and opportunities for delving deeper into any one aspect of the city’s heritage.
Here are some of our recommended museums and experiences in and around the Old City which you can visit with our guides:
The Western Wall, or Kotel, is one of the most visited sites in Jerusalem. However, the open-air portion of the wall is only about 60 metres long, whereas the majority of this ancient wall is hidden away underground. This tunnel tour allows access to an additional 485 metres of the wall. The tour is complete with stories of ancient Jerusalem, and the longing of the Jewish people for this symbolic place. The tour will also expose you to many archaeological finds along the way, including discoveries from the Herodian, Umayyad and Hasmonean periods.
The City of David is the heart of ancient Jerusalem, the city of kings and prophets, where books of the Bible were written. Together with your guide you will travel through underground tunnels and hidden springs of the ancient city, where kings were crowned and residents fled from conquerors. You will walk in illuminated darkness through the water of Hezekiah’s Tunnel, where water has flowed since the time of the prophets.
The Tower of David Museum of the History of Jerusalem is located in the medieval citadel known as the Tower of David, near the Jaffa Gate, the historic entrance to the Old City. The museum presents Jerusalem’s story, detailing the major events in its history from the first evidence of a city in Jerusalem in the second millennium BCE, until the city became the capital of the modern State of Israel. The museum also explores the significance of Jerusalem to the three major monotheistic religions. The Citadel itself is an impressive and fascinating historical site, affording stunning views over the Old City.
The Jerusalem Archaeological Park (Davidson Center) is an enthralling place where you will feel history all around you. Here you encounter the Southern Wall of the Second Temple, build by Herod. An enormous flight of steps leads to the Southern Wall from the south. These are the steps that Jews including Jesus of Nazareth walked up to approach the Temple, especially on the great pilgrimage festivals of Passover, Shavuot and Sukkot. The stairs that lead to the double gate are intact and well-preserved. The archaeological park also consists of Robinson’s Arch, the Herodian Street, and huge building stones which are fallen remains from the Temple Mount as it stood in ancient times. Today the fallen stones and other destroyed artefacts are a remembrance of the destruction in 70 AD.
New City of Jerusalem
The New City of Jerusalem is also more than worthy of at least a full days’ exploration, and includes museums such as the Israel Museum, home to the oldest known copy of the bible (the Dead Sea Scrolls), Yad Vashem, Israel’s incredibly powerful monument to the holocaust, as well as sites such as Mahane Yehuda market which will excite the senses with its vast array of culinary goodies – a foodie’s dream!
The Israel Museum is surely one of Jerusalem’s treasures. Following a multi-million dollar renovation the museum has received international acclaim and has been named one of the ten most impressive museums in the world. The museum is home to the Dead Sea Scrolls (the Shrine of the Book). You will learn about the remarkable story of these manuscripts, the sect who most likely wrote them, and how they were discovered. The museum also boasts a huge and impressive model of the Second Temple, and an outstanding permanent collection of art, archaeology, sculptures and artefacts.
Yad Vashem brings a weighty but meaningful note to Jerusalem touring. Yad Vashem is Israel’s official monument to the Holocaust, located on the western slope of Mount Herzl on the Mount of Remembrance in Jerusalem. Visitors tend to find their visit extremely moving and meaningful, particularly in the context of understanding the history and the people of the modern State of Israel. The museum has justifiably achieved international acclaim for its in-depth and powerful portrayal of extremely challenging material. The complex includes the Holocaust History Museum, the Children’s Memorial and the Hall of Remembrance, The Museum of Holocaust Art, sculptures, outdoor commemorative sites such as the Valley of the Communities, a synagogue, a research institute with archives, a library, a publishing house, and an educational center named The International School for Holocaust Studies. Children under 10 are not permitted to enter the main historical museum.
Jerusalem is a treasure not only for its history and spirituality, but also for its food! We offer various different culinary tours of the Jerusalem in both the Mahane Yehuda market of the New City the traditional bakeries, eateries and food factories of the Old City. Whichever food tour you choose you will find yourself surrounded by inviting colours, smells and of course plenty of samples to taste. We also offer a wonderful culinary night tour of Jerusalem – a fun dinner on the move!
Day tours to the Dead Sea and other wonders of the Judean Desert such as Masada, Ein Gedi and Qumran are also easily undertaken from Jerusalem. Please ask about including touring days in the Old City of Jerusalem, the New City of Jerusalem, Jerusalem environs, and the Judean desert in your Israel itinerary.
Our guide was delightful and knowledgeable. When we got to the City of David and she shares that she had been the assistant to the head archaeologist for several years, that was wild. Needless to say, she had some great insights.
Mark J, New York
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