Visiting Jerusalem in a short amount of time can be a real challenge. Every corner is a testimony to the history that forged the city. I moved to Jerusalem 20 years ago after emigrating from Gibraltar and I continue to discover the city’s secrets each day.
On a chilly but sunny morning in Jerusalem, the first step would undoubtedly be the Old city. Divided into four quarters – Armenian, Christian, Jewish and Muslim – surrounded by a magnificent fortress, walking around is a must to feel the depth of its history. You can enter the Old City through the Jaffa Gate welcomed by the Tower of David Citadel, dating back more than 3,000 years and subsequently rebuilt by the Mamluk during the Ottoman period. Numerous street food booths, quaint cafes and souvenir shops await your arrival. Once through the Armenian Patriarchate, you would be amazed by the beauty of the St. James Cathedral built to commemorate the first bishop of Jerusalem – St. James Minor. It is one of the rare remaining cathedrals from the Crusades. A few metres away you can visit St. Mark’s Chapel, a fascinating Syriac Orthodox church. Then, you head to the Jewish quarter and pass by the Hurva Synagogue and the Katros House – testaments to the history of both Temples of Jerusalem.
After continuing your way downstairs with a stop at the artistic shops in the Cardo byzantine, you will arrive at the Western or Wailing Wall (Kotel), the only remaining wall of the Second Temple. Near the Western Wall, you will find a gate to ascend to the Temple Mount and visit the Dome of the Rock and Al Aqsa. There pilgrims can visit the beautiful mosques, pray and walk around the most expansive plaza in the city. Walking across the Temple Mount will lead you to the heart of the Muslim quarter, with an indulgent market filled with spices and products. Leaving the market up Via Dolorosa, you will enter the Christian quarter. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre hosts the Tomb of Jesus and bears witness to his journey. Around the courtyard of this Church, you could also visit the Mosque of Omar and the Al-Khanqah al-Salahiyya Mosque, adorned with almost identical minarets equidistant to the door of the Tomb of Jesus.
With all of this walking around, you’re probably hungry. I suggest you head over to a delicious gourmet breakfast at Mahane Yehuda Market which is our shuk (souk). Now it’s time to delight your taste buds! Jerusalem cuisine is a fusion of Middle Eastern and Western cuisine. I would strongly recommend stopping by the “Atelier” where Chef Tali Friedman will invite you to cook a feast with the high-quality ingredients you will pick yourselves in the market, and eat in her restaurant overlooking the hustle and bustle of the market. In the evening, stroll through the market to enjoy live bar music, and once again enjoy the contrasts from the traditional to the modern.
On the second day, book your breakfast at the legendary five-star King David hotel. Opened in 1931 under the British Mandate, the hotel hosted heads of state and famous personalities – among them King Abdullah I of Jordan, Margaret Thatcher and Madonna. Following breakfast, head to the Israel Museum and the Bible Lands Museum. In the first one, you will receive a complete glance of the history of Israel and precious objects including the Dead Sea Scrolls, which are 2,000 years old ancient manuscripts of the Bible discovered near the Dead Sea as well as a model of Jerusalem during the Roman Empire. The Bible Lands Museum allows you to explore the early Canaanite civilisations. From this hill of museums, snap a few photos of the view of Jerusalem and the Knesset, the Israeli Parliament.
While your 36 hours in Jerusalem might be finished at this point, there is so much more to see and experience. As you leave the city, you will most likely already be planning your next visit and we can’t wait to see you again soon. What makes our city unique is a combination of the history rooted here, the modern economy being built here, and our people. We’re very excited to welcome you.