Much of Jerusalem is disputed but when it comes to the sheer brilliance of the city’s cultural and historical sites, there is no room for debate. From the Old City, which is a fascination ‘living museum’, to the large, shiny shopping plazas that are home to name-brands and the latest fashion trends, Jerusalem is filled with contradictions which only serve to make it more appealing. Calls to prayer echo through the ancient city walls and the smell of freshly made falafel wafts through the city’s narrow cobbled streets, making Jerusalem a carnival for the senses.
Things to see
Prepare yourself for one of the most stunning displays of religious fervor in the world. Millions of devotees and pilgrims of the Jewish faith gather at the Western Wall throughout the year to push prayers written on tattered shards of paper into tiny cracks in the brick.
The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is a remarkable structure that stands on the most significant site in Christian history: the spot where Jesus was crucified. The church is, unsurprisingly, popular with Christian pilgrims but also has great architectural appeal.
If you’re looking for the most popular street in Jerusalem, look no further than Ben Yehuda. Day or night, you are guaranteed to find action on this pedestrianized strip where shawarmas, clothing shops, and entertainment are the order of the day.
All that remains of the city’s walled past are 8 city gates dating to the 1500s. The most ornate portal is Damascus Gate, which is surrounded by vegetable markets. Another popular point of entry is the Jaffa Gate, which is the only city gate which stands at perpendicular angle to the wall.
Hotels in Jerusalem
Whether you’re looking for cheap hostels or a hotel with a personal ironing service, Jerusalem has it all. The Old City is the fairground of backpackers and travelers will find the most basic of prices but also the most basic of rooms. Just outside the Old City wall are more upmarket options.
The West Side is more refined and many hotels here offer up only the best that money can buy. When it comes to luxury hotels, Jerusalem has got it licked. From world class restaurants and stunning spa facilities to spacious rooms with marble bathroom counter tops, the city’s five-star hideouts have it all.
Where to stay
The Old City has a wide range of accommodations but can get overwhelmed with students and backpackers. Honeymooners may find the quieter Yemin Moshe, which overlooks the Old City, just as charming but far more agreeable.
Located in the trendy West Jerusalem, the German Colony features many upmarket places to stay. The neighborhood itself is filled with quirky cafes, eclectic shops, and a great deal of character.
The western edge of Jerusalem is another interesting area to be based. The quiet and historic neighborhood of Motza is located here. While this area is a bit far from the center and offers up fewer hotels, it is ideal for families looking for calm surroundings.
How to get to Jerusalem
The main airport serving Jerusalem is Ben Gurion International Airport, which is a 40-minute drive from the city. This is where most international travelers make their entry into the country. Ben Gurion Airport is the largest and the busiest international and domestic gateway in the country.
There are a few options for travelers who want to reach the city center from the airport, including a local bus service operated by Egged Co-Operative and several private taxi companies.
Israel Railways, the main rail operator, offers efficient services from all over the country, including Tel Aviv. Most lines end at Malha Railway Station, the main station for all regional and international train travel.