Essential Things to Do in Jerusalem ~ Regardless of Your Religious Beliefs

Thought to be three or even four-thousand years old, Jerusalem is one of the most historic and culturally-rich destinations on Earth – and home to many of the world’s most important religious sites.

Regardless of your religious beliefs (or lack there of), a visit to this extraordinarily fascinating city is a must for all open-minded travellers in search of deeper experiences and understanding.

Israel Photography by Ben Holbrook from DriftwoodJournals.com-2057

All words & photographs by your Jerusalem jaunting guide, Ben Holbrook.

From from exploring the vibrant markets and storied religious sites in the Old Town to wailing at the Western Wall and discovering the city’s live music scene, here are a few essential things to do in Jerusalem. 

Market Magic at Jerusalem’s Mahane Yehuda Market

Mahane Yehuda Market Israel Photography by Ben Holbrook from DriftwoodJournals.com-1323

Known by the locals simply as ‘The Shuk’, the colourful and bustling Mahane Yehuda Market is an ideal place to ease yourself into daily life in Jerusalem.

Mahane Yehuda Market Israel Photography by Ben Holbrook from DriftwoodJournals.com-1323

Head there immediately after you’ve had breakfast and watch the stalls burst to life as their owners stick the shelves with colourful fruits, herbs, spices, nuts and mounds of pastries and tempting tahini.

Mahane Yehuda Market Israel Photography by Ben Holbrook from DriftwoodJournals.com-1323

The aromas come thick and fast and will lead you from one stall to the next. 

Mahane Yehuda Market Israel Photography by Ben Holbrook from DriftwoodJournals.com-1323

Pick up some baklava to nibble on as you go, or pull up a stool at one of the many little market restaurants for a hearty Israeli breakfast.

Israel Travel Photography by Ben Holbrook from DriftwoodJournals.com-1520

Sara rests in an alley behind the market.

You have arrived.

Take a Pilgrimage Through Jerusalem’s Old City

Jerusalem old town, Israel Travel Photography by Ben Holbrook from DriftwoodJournals.com-1965Jerusalem old town, Israel Travel Photography by Ben Holbrook from DriftwoodJournals.com-1965

Thought to be four or even five-thousand years old and occupying less than one square kilometre, Jerusalem’s walled Old City is of immense religious importance to those who practise Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

Jerusalem old town, Israel Travel Photography by Ben Holbrook from DriftwoodJournals.com-1965

It is made up of four quarters: the Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Armenian (which is also Christian) Quarters, each with a slightly different look and feel.

Israel Travel Photography by Ben Holbrook from DriftwoodJournals.com-2337

Generally speaking, however, it’s the sense that you are travelling back in time that is most invigorating as you wander from quarter to quarter, as you weave your way through warrenous alleyways lined with trinket stores and food stalls.

Church of the Holy Sepulchre

Don’t miss David Street and Via Dolorosa, which is thought to be the very path that Jesus took to his crucifixion

Tip: Below I have outlined a few of the key places you should definitely explore in Jerusalem’s Old City, but I definitely think it’s worth joining a walking tour like one, as it can be difficult to navigate and there’s a whole lot of history to unpack.

Wail at the Western Wall

Western Wall, or ‘Wailing Wall’ -Israel Travel Photography by Ben Holbrook from DriftwoodJournals.com-2314Western Wall, or ‘Wailing Wall’ -Israel Travel Photography by Ben Holbrook from DriftwoodJournals.com-2314

The Western Wall, or ‘Wailing Wall’ as it’s also known, is the only remnant of the Second Temple of Jerusalem, which was the most holy of all Jewish temples.

Western Wall, or ‘Wailing Wall’ -Israel Travel Photography by Ben Holbrook from DriftwoodJournals.com-2314Western Wall, or ‘Wailing Wall’ -Israel Travel Photography by Ben Holbrook from DriftwoodJournals.com-2314

Today, the Temple Mount stands in its place and is the holiest site for Judaism.

Western Wall, or ‘Wailing Wall’ -Israel Travel Photography by Ben Holbrook from DriftwoodJournals.com-2314

However, because the Western Wall is the closest Jewish people are allowed to pray to the Temple Mount, the wall itself is considered sacred.

Western Wall, or ‘Wailing Wall’ -Israel Travel Photography by Ben Holbrook from DriftwoodJournals.com-2314Western Wall, or ‘Wailing Wall’ -Israel Travel Photography by Ben Holbrook from DriftwoodJournals.com-2314

The Western Wall (aka Wailing Wall) in Jerusalem is the holiest site for people of the Jewish faith.

Western Wall, or ‘Wailing Wall’ -Israel Travel Photography by Ben Holbrook from DriftwoodJournals.com-2314

Divided devotees.

It’s divided into two areas: one for women to pray and another for men.

Western Wall, or ‘Wailing Wall’ -Israel Travel Photography by Ben Holbrook from DriftwoodJournals.com-2314Western Wall, or ‘Wailing Wall’ -Israel Travel Photography by Ben Holbrook from DriftwoodJournals.com-2314

Today the wall is divided in two: one area where men are allowed to pray and another for women. Jewish people from all over the world make annual visits to the wall, often slipping small pieces of paper into the cracks of the wall with their prayers. 

Climb the Tower of David

Tower of David, Israel Photography by Ben Holbrook from DriftwoodJournals.com-1879

Located just beyond Jaffa Gate, one of the 8 entry points into the Old City, the Tower of David is a sprawling medieval citadel.

Join one of the tours or audiovisual shows to learn about Jerusalem’s unparalleled history or take to the rooftop to gain spectacular 360-degree views over the city. 

Book your tickets and tour here.

Visit the Site of Christ’s Crucifixion Church of the Sepulchre

Church of the Holy Sepulchre

Inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Israel Travel Photography by Ben Holbrook from DriftwoodJournals.com-2460

Inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Israel Travel Photography by Ben Holbrook from DriftwoodJournals.com-2460

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is celebrated as the site of Jesus’ crucifixion, burial and resurrection.

His empty tomb still remains in impressively pristine condition, as does the Stone of Anointing, which is said to be the very spot where Jesus’ body was prepared for burial.

Take in the Views from the Mount of Olives

Jerusalem from the Olive Mount Viewing Point - Israel Travel Photography by Ben Holbrook from DriftwoodJournals.com-1583

Overlooking the Old City of Jerusalem, the Mount of Olives – named after the olive groves that once blanketed the entire area –offers serious views over Jerusalem and is the perfect place to gain some perspective over this small but mighty city.

As well as the dramatic views, it’s also where the Bible says Jesus ascended to heaven. So if you’re hoping to get in through those pearly gates, this is the place to do it.

Tip: It’s a little bit of a schlep out of the city, so you’d be wise to join a tour like this one.

Discover Jerusalem’s Whomping Nightlife

Nocturno - best live music and nightlife in Israel Travel Photography by Ben Holbrook from DriftwoodJournals.com-2866

OK, it might be something of an exaggeration to describe it as ‘whomping’, but the areas surrounding Jerusalem’s Old City are surprisingly lively at night.

Explore the narrow streets splintering off Jaffa Road, such asYosef Rivlin Street, Ben Sira Street and Zion Square, and you’ll find countless trendy bars, shisha lounges and restaurants filled with beautiful young things (and plenty of wannabes too).

One of my favourite experiences in Israel was the night I spent at the popular local hotspot Nocturno Complex. With its great food, local craft beers and nightly live music shows, this is the place to be for an authentic taste of Jerusalem’s thriving nightlife scene.

Nocturno - best live music and nightlife in Israel Travel Photography by Ben Holbrook from DriftwoodJournals.com-2866


Make it Happen

Where to stay:The Ibis City Centeris an ultra-bright and modern hotel located in an ideal situation for exploring Jerusalem’s Old City and various nightlife options. Perfect for couples and families alike.

Get there: I use and recommend the Omio portal to find and book the quickest and cheapest flights, trains and buses.

Get around: I use and recommend using the Discover Cars portal to find the best deals on car rental.

Sleep there: I use and recommend Booking.com and Airbnb to book the best hotels and apartments when travelling – often with free cancelations.

Find local tours and experience: I use and recommend using the GetYourGuide app to quickly, cheaply and securely book travel tours and experiences wherever you are. From food tours and theatre tickets to skip-the-line entry to famous museums and landmarks, you can book it all with a few swipes of your phone.

Store your luggage: Wherever you’re travelling, free yourself up by storing your luggage with Eelway. Drop off your bags at their partner network shops and hotels, where your luggage is securely stored and insured. There’s no minimum or maximum storage time and most of their luggage storage drop-off points are open 24/7.

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