Compiling a list of the best ten things to see and do in Jerusalem is an almost impossible task…but we’ve furrowed our brows and come up with the ultimate Jerusalem checklist – the sites that you really should see on a visit to the Holy City!
Jerusalem, of course, is not only the capital of Israel, but also one of the world’s most famous cities. Its incredibly rich history means it’s a focal point for the three main faiths – Christians, Jews and Muslims, who ALL hold Jerusalem close to their hearts. As a result, it’s perhaps not surprising to know that Jerusalem is one of the most fought over cities in history (destroyed twice, attacked 52 times, and captured and recaptured 44 times)…
But ignoring all that political tension, Jerusalem really is an amazing city. And yes, the sites we’ve listed below are truly just the tip of an iceberg…
This official memorial site to the millions of Jews lost in the Holocaust is a must-see, simply because it provides an amazing glimpse into the soul of Israel.
Definitely an experience that will humble you, Yad Vashem remembers the past and ensures its memory remains for future generations to learn about what happened, why it happened and what was the meaning behind it all. As a result, it’s no surprise that over 800,000 people visit the Yad Vashem Museum every year.
Read our full guide to Yad Vashem.
Old City of Jerusalem
The Old City of Jerusalem has to be one of the greatest historical sites in the world. Intense, deeply religious, and with all that history to enjoy…this is a must-see in Israel if ever there was one!
There are amazing sites within the walls of the Old City to see, including the real biggies: the Western “Wailing” Wall, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and the Dome of the Rock. But there are also other awesome things to savor, such as the endless alleys and bazaars that are fun and very easy to get lost in, or mouth-watering culinary delights, including the sweet Arab dessert Knafeh, or the ever-legendary hummus.
Take it from us after countless visits, you can easily spend days here and still want more! Read our full guide to the Old City here.
The Israel Museum is without question one of the very best in the world. With a huge range of exhibits, ranging from artifacts and ancient documents to Israeli art, this is a place that will over even the most jaded of tourists.
After a major refurbishment in 2010, the Israel Museum has become even more of a must-see; just don’t miss the amazing Shrine of the Book, the Second Temple model, the calming and beautiful Billy Rose Art Garden, and the ever updating collection of fine Jewish art.
Read our full guide to the Israel Museum.
Markets are the life blood of any major city, and Machane Yehuda market is no exception.
This lively, bustling market is certainly the place to be if you’re after a slice of what the locals get up to. Check out the amazing fresh produce; we can highly recommend trying the amazing breads, cookies, halva, and health juice drinks from the entertaining Medicine Man, Uzi Eli. Bring your camera – and your taste-buds!
Read our guide to Machane Yehuda market.
Mount of Olives
Located on the eastern side of Jerusalem, the Mount of Olives is the place to come for spectacular views across Jerusalem and especially vistas of the Old City of Jerusalem.
Historically, the Mount of Olives was a site of great importance and considered the center of Jerusalem. Still today, the site is a location of holy pilgrimage for both Jews and Christians, with over 150,000 graves (the mount was a traditional burial site in Jerusalem for 3000 years) and a number of important Christian churches located on this amazing mountain ridge.
Read our full guide to the Mount of Olives.
The Western “Wailing” Wall, otherwise known as HaKotel in Hebrew, is one of the absolute must-sees on any visit to Jerusalem.
We mentioned it above in the Old City, but the Western Wall truly deserves its own allocated visiting time. The raw, emotional power of this huge wall (the only remnants of the famed Second Temple), may just blow your socks off, regardless of your own religious persuasion. Be prepared to be moved, emotionally and spiritually.
Read our full guide to the Western Wall.
Tower of David & The Night Spectacular
The Tower of David Citadel is located right within the walls of the Old City, next to Jaffa Gate, but often gets overlooked. Don’t make that mistake!
The Citadel is full of amazing history, and the many rooms of ancient artifacts and stunning rampart views over the Old City make it a must-see. There is also a typically awesome temporary exhibition that takes place throughout the year (currently The Kaiser is Coming!). Don’t forget to wrap up your day’s sightseeing with the Night Spectacular!
The Biblical Zoo
The Jerusalem Biblical Zoo typically makes it to the top of the most-visited sites in Israel list every year, and it’s not hard to see why.
Great fun for all the family (and yep, we mean all the family), take a respite from all that sightseeing with a walk through this delightful zoo which is spread over 62 acres, and which includes many animals from the Hebrew bible together with a unique program of breeding endangered species. Don’t forget to feed the birds – and stop by at the giant Noah’s Ark cafe at the far end of the zoo!
Read our full guide to the Biblical Zoo here.
City of David
This impressive site is the Jerusalem of ancient times, and is located just outside the present-day Old City.
The City of David is one big collection of archaeological wonders; take one of the super-knowledgeable guides (or tours) for the full story of this amazing site and feel like you’re walking through history (yes, archaeological exploration of the City of David began in the mid-19th century and is still ongoing). And don’t miss the fun and thrilling Hezekiah’s Tunnels – the kids will love this!
Read more about the City of David here.
The Knesset (yep, you have to pronounce the K) is the legislative branch of the Israeli government, the only democracy in the Middle East.
It might not be on everybody’s bucket list, but the Knesset is much more than just a drab set of government buildings, mostly thanks to the range of FREE tours available (in a variety of languages). The General Tour gives you the basics in an hour and is highly recommended for first-timers.
Read the full guide to the Knesset here.
Some other honorable mentions should also go out to those Jerusalem sites that just missed out on a Top 10 spot, particularly the Biblical Lands Museum, the 99 Tour Bus which takes a two hour tour through the main sites of Jerusalem, and Ben Yehuda Street, which is one huge pedestrian mall and a great place for some shopping and people-watching.
To help you out with the logistics, below is a map of the ten essential Jerusalem sites listed above.
View Ten ESSENTIAL things to see in Jerusalem in a larger map
And here are some Jerusalem tours we can highly recommend…