Our experts recommend the top attractions in and around Jerusalem—with advice on how to get the most out of your visit.
Tisch Family Zoological Gardens (Biblical Zoo)
Old Testament-themed zoo showcasing near-extinct and endangered species native to the region. Biblical quotes incorporated into exhibits. Latest addition is a model Noah’s ark. Tip: Avoid school holidays when the place is packed with families. Malcha; tel. 972 (0) 2 675 0111; fee. www.jerusalemzoo.org.il
Jerusalem Archaeological Park
A visit to the excavations “makes you comprehend the grandeur of the historical city, perched at the edge of the desert.”—Dita Kohl-Roman, publisher, Eretz Magazine. Located at the city’s historical epicenter—between the Temple Mount, Mount of Olives, and Valley of Hinnon. Remains span 5,000 years beginning with Bronze Age. Davidson Center, Dung Gate; tel. 972 (0) 2 627 7962; fee. www.archpark.org.il
“Wading through a dark, 2,700-year-old tunnel with gushing water is a real Indiana Jones experience.”—Michael Kohn, coordinating author, Lonely Planet Guide to Israel and the Palestinian Territories. Built about 701 B.C. as an aqueduct leading from Gihon Spring to the Pool of Siloam. Tip: Bring a flashlight or buy one on-site. City of David, Kidron Valley; tel. 972 (0) 2 626 2341; fee. www.cityofdavid.org.il
The national art and archaeology museum exhibits local and international art collections, Judaica, and antiquities. Renovations are underway to update the building and exhibits. Also on site: the Shrine of the Book, a sculpture garden and recently relocated Second Temple model. Ruppin Boulevard, Givat Ram; tel. 972 (0) 2 670 8811. www.imj.org.il
The colorful produce market has local character and popular eateries by day, hangouts and occasional street performances in the evening. “Best seen when everyone is getting ready for the Sabbath.”—Michael Kohn. Between Jaffa and Agrippas Streets.
Mount of Olives
Holy site for Jews, Christians, and Muslims is named for the olive trees that once blanketed the hillsides. World-famous Jewish cemetery—former prime minister Menachem Begin is buried here—covers western and southern slopes. Home to Russian Orthodox Church of St. Mary Magdalene, Garden of Gethsemane, and other sacred places. Tip: View from the Mount’s Seven Arches Hotel encompasses the Old City walls, detailed mosque domes, church towers, modern buildings, and the barren hills of the Judaean desert.
Museum on the Seam
Symbolically situated at the former crossing point between Jordan and Israel. Celebrates and promotes sociopolitical contemporary art created by Israeli and international artists. “A small but intense emotional experience that represents the mood of the city.”—Michael Kohn. 4 Chel Handasa Street; tel. 972 (0) 2 628 1278. www.coexistence.art.museum
The Old City
“The Western Wall, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and the Temple Mount with the Dome of the Rock represent the three major religions”—Gadi Wexler, program director, Yad Ben-Zvi Study Institute. “Walking the stations of the cross makes you feel part of history, and strolling the souks in the narrow cobble-stoned alleys is the most amazing thing in Jerusalem.”—Michael Kohn.
“The best parts (of the walk) are from the Tower of David to the Jewish Quarter, and from the Jaffa Gate to the Damascus Gate.”—Gadi Wexler. Ancient Jerusalem stone catwalk atop the Old City walls. Offers unique perspective on the Old City, the modern buildings of the new city, Mount of Olives, and Judaean desert. Tip: Wear sturdy walking shoes, requires climbing high steps. tel. 972 (0) 2 627 7550; fee.
- Nat Geo Expeditions
Supreme Court of Israel
Eclectic, postmodern complex constructed of local limestone; incorporates numerous Jewish historical elements—courtrooms replicate Talmudic synagogues and formal entrance area Pyramid is an architectural representation of the Second Temple period; guided tours in English. Sha’arei Mishpat Street; tel. 972 (0)2 675 9612. www.court.gov.il
Tower of David Museum
Restored citadel houses extensive museum tracing the city’s 4,000-year history. Includes models, illustrations, and interactive, multimedia exhibits. Guided tours and education programs available in numerous languages. View merge of old and new Jerusalem architecture from the tower. Tip: In summer, check open-air concert schedule. Jaffa Gate; tel. 972 (0) 2 626 5333; fee. www.towerofdavid.org.il
“The Holocaust memorial, in a country that was built for and by the survivors, represents the set of values that is at the heart of the country.”—Dita Kohl-Roman. World’s largest repository of Holocaust information. New wing designed by internationally renowned architect Moshe Safdie. Guided tours in English at 11 a.m. Herzl Boulevard; tel. 972 (0) 2 644 3400; fee for headsets. www.yadvashem.org