Top 10 things to do in Jerusalem

Visiter Jérusalem

Visiting Jerusalem? Discover the best things to do and see in this holy place in the heart of the Middle East?

Jerusalem is a city like no other. A holy city turned controversial Israeli capital, it holds a central place in each of the three religions of the Book: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Home to a diverse population of nearly a million, its Old City is a splendid testimony to the city’s centuries-old ethnic mix, divided into four walled quarters.

The Muslim quarter, the Armenian quarter, the Christian quarter and the Jewish quarter make up the city’s religious and cultural identity. Located some 30 km from the Dead Sea, Jerusalem is a city with a strong character. A city divided between East and West. Despite episodic tensions and conflicts between communities, security is the order of the day and the city welcomes many tourists, comforted by a deep sense of calm. Perhaps this is due to the spirituality of the place? Whatever the case, Jerusalem knows how to win over visitors and the curious. In the end, Jerusalem is a wonder to behold for anyone who decides to visit.

Wondering what to do in Jerusalem during your stay? Here’s a selection of must-do activities when you visit Jerusalem and want to make the most of your stay!

1. Praying at the Wailing Wall

Le mur des lamentations

Photo credit: Flickr – Etienne Valois

The Wailing Wall is undoubtedly one of the must-sees in Jerusalem. It is also known as the Western Wall or the Kotel. In fact, it’s part of the retaining wall of Jerusalem’s Temple esplanade. Almost 2,000 years old, it is located in the Jewish quarter of the historic center. In the 7th century, it was incorporated into the walls of the famous Mosque Esplanade during the construction of the Dome of the Rock and then the al-Aqsa Mosque. For Jews, it’s a religious mecca: it forms the wall of the Temple Mount and is unquestionably the holy place par excellence for drawing close to God in prayer.

Many Israeli political ceremonies take place here, and the monument, despite being a barrier, is so important in the region that it almost seems capable of bringing people together!

2. Climbing the Mount of Olives

Mont des Oliviers

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Liz Glasco

At first glance, the Mount of Olives looks like a gigantic Jewish cemetery. But there’s nothing morbid about it! This lovely wooded hillside is covered with Christian monuments –Jesus’ Ascensiontook place hereand includes some major cultural landmarks. To visit Jerusalem without taking a walk on the Mount of Olives would be, from a tourist point of view, sacrilege! Here you’ll find the Basilica of Gethsemane and the altar where Jesus is said to have prayed.

Further on, a path leads straight to a viewpoint overlooking the Temple esplanade and the Dome of the Rock. If the Mount of Olives is a must-see in Jerusalem, it’s as much for its intrinsic beauty as for its symbolic and spiritual charge.

3. Visit the Church of the Holy Sepulchre

Église du Saint-Sépulcre

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Martin Froyda

The Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre is located in the Christian quarter of the Old City. It is a major place of pilgrimage! This shrine is nothing less than the site of the crucifixion, and includes the grotto where Christ’s body was laid to rest after his death. You are therefore entering the place of his resurrection.

Whether you’re a believer or not, you can’t help but be overwhelmed by the beauty of the place. Indeed, it’s one of the most beautiful churches in the world. So don’t hesitate to visit it when you come to Jerusalem!

4. Climbing Herodion

L'Hérodion de Jérusalem

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Altosvic

This time, we’re talking about a very special place: the Herodion. It’s a man-made hill almost a hundred meters high and resembling a volcano. Located some twenty kilometers south of Jerusalem, it houses the ruins of a fortified palace built by King Herod Iᵉʳ the Great.

The interior of the hill is hollowed out with galleries thought to house King Herod’s tomb. The site is protected for its historical value. In fact, Israel has designated it a National Park, but it’s easy to get to. The Herodion is a must-see in Jerusalem, and the many visitors who come to admire it are well aware of this!

5. Mounting the Tower of David

Tour de David

Photo credit: Flickr – Dennis Jarvis

This ancient fortified area, also known as the Citadel of Jerusalem, is located to the north-west of the Old City’s Armenian Quarter, near the Jaffa Gate. Built in the 2nd century BC by the Hasmoneans and consolidated by King Herod I the Great, it bears witness to the area’s architectural wealth. Built, destroyed and rebuilt over the centuries by Jerusalem’s successive conquerors, distinctive elements of each culture are present!

The fortress visible today dates back with certainty to the time of the Crusades. The adjoining museum is a great place to learn more about the city’s history. Once again, the Tower of David is a must-see if you’re visiting Jerusalem.

6. Visit the church of Sainte-Marie-Madeleine

L'Église Sainte Marie-Madeleine, Jérusalem

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Aleksandar Todorovic

A pure splendor, a local pride if not a national symbol. What a gift! It’s a gift from Tsar Alexander III of Russia himself. The Church of St. Mary Magdalene, built in the purest Russian Orthodox style, is located not far from the monuments on the Mount of Olives. Clearly a must-see when visiting Jerusalem! Built between 1885 and 1888, the church is dedicated to St. Mary Magdalene, a disciple of Jesus. She is said to have been the first to see him after his resurrection. It stands out for its « onions », reminiscent of Moscow’s famous domes overlooking Red Square. After their assassination by the Bolsheviks, the bodies of Grand Duchess Elisabeth Feodorovna and her maid were laid to rest here.

7. Getting to Yad Vashem

Yad Vashem, Jérusalem

Photo credit: Flickr – Steve Conger

Yad Vashem is not strictly speaking a tourist site. It’s much more than that. This Israeli memorial was built in memory of the victims of the Holocaust just after the Second World War. It is located in the Jerusalem forest, on the western slope of Mount Herzl, at an altitude of 804 metres.

Yad Vashem, a place of remembrance, is certainly not an entertaining activity, but it is essential for a better understanding of the workings of the Nazi horror. More than a museum, Yad Vashem is a place of remembrance, where visitors can learn about the Holocaust through personal accounts, artistic presentations, historical archives and even study. This fascinating place is sure to attract history buffs visiting Jerusalem.

8. Explore the Soreq cave

La grotte de Soreq

Photo credit: Flickr – John Estrada

The Grotte de Soreq, also known as the Grotte d’Avshalom or Grotte de la Stalactite, lies on the western slopes of the splendid Judean Mountains. It was discovered in 1968 quite by chance! While trying to crack the rock to obtain stones for cutting, a fissure revealed stalactites. And what stalactites! In this cave, which dates back 8 to 25 million years and measures over 7,000 m², there are hundreds of stalactites, some of them colossal. It’s known as one of the most beautiful stalactite caves in the world!

By the way, do you know the difference between a stalactite and a stalagmite? A stalactite, with a T, falls from the ceiling, while a stalagmite, with an M, rises from the floor. If you didn’t know, it’s your turn to spread the word!

9. Party

Faire la fête à Jérusalem

Photo credit: Flickr – ADAM MUSIAŁ

When you come to visit Jerusalem, you might not think it’s possible to party. But there is! Try the surprising Yehuda Mahane district after dark. Here, posh restaurants and trendy bars coexist effortlessly with falafel and spicy kebab stalls. Jerusalem’s youth gather in the bistros to enjoy – in moderation – some surprisingly good local beers. Cafe-bars play live music until the wee hours of the morning on Jaffa and Ben Yehuda streets. Perfect for dancing the night away when you visit Jerusalem!

10. Explore Teddy Park

Le parc Teddy, Jérusalem

Photo credit: Flickr – zeevveez

Teddy Park is an absolutely adorable place. In this country with its warm climate, the fountains of Teddy Park – named after Teddy Kollek, the city’s former mayor – are a delight. Families, friends and lovers come here to relax after work and enjoy the freshness of the 256 fountains below the old city walls.

During the summer season, it’s the place to come to admire the beautiful sound and light shows in the evening. If you’re just passing through and looking for something to do in Jerusalem, don’t hesitate to stop by!

How do I get to Jerusalem?

Jerusalem has no airport: to get there, you’ll probably have to use Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion airport. So use a flight comparison service like Ulysse to find the right flight to Jerusalem at the best price.

From there, you can take a cab, sherout (shared cab) or bus no. 475 to Tel Aviv, where you can easily find your way to Jerusalem. Once there, given the layout and size of the Old City, you’ll have no choice but to get around on foot.

To reach points of interest outside Jerusalem, such as the Mount of Olives, there are buses, but you’ll need a RavKav Card to get on. In Jerusalem, you don’t buy a ticket from the driver! The card must be purchased at a kiosk and loaded with credit. But we recommend that you make the most of your legs: there’s nothing like being a pedestrian in Jerusalem!

Also read on the Jerusalem guide :

Where to stay in Jerusalem

When you’re looking for things to do in Jerusalem, you also need to look for accommodation. There are several types of accommodation to choose from, depending on your desires and your budget. The Old City district, and particularly the tourist-friendly Jaffa Street, is home to a number of renowned hotels.

But beware: rates are quite high! So use a hotel comparator to find the best prices. Splendid establishments are located on the Mount of Olives, where you can enjoy an incredible sunset over the Old City.

The new town can also be an interesting option, with a rental offer comparable to European countries for example, including in terms of budget. There’s something for everyone!

Finally, why not opt for East Jerusalem, on the West Bank side? This will give you much more affordable rates and more typical Airbnb accommodation.

Map of hotels and accommodation – Jerusalem,il