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Jerusalem

Photo © sarabee

Travel Guide Middle East Israel Jerusalem

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Introduction

Dome of the Rock

Dome of the Rock

© All Rights Reserved jkirsch

Jerusalem, the capital of Israel, is appropriately described as the City of Gold. It is magical, with the mix of ancient history and modernization blended together to form a worldly experience. Jerusalem will forever remain one of the holiest cities in the world, where an interesting mix of religions living together in tolerance, respect and harmony. But religious pilgrimage isn't the only reason to visit Jerusalem: those not interested in religion can choose from a wide range of vacation activities and night-time entertainment to keep busy and enjoy the ambience to all hours of the early morning. Views from the hills around Jerusalem are breathtaking.

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Neighbourhoods

  • Old City - Surrounded by walls, this history-packed square kilometer is home to holy sites for Jews, Christians, and Muslims, and is truly breathtaking. It was recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. The Old City is by far the most important destination for travelers, although they usually sleep in hotels elsewhere in the city.
  • East Jerusalem - The part of Jerusalem controlled by Jordan from 1948 to 1967. It includes the entire east of the city, but also some suburban neighborhoods in the northwest and southwest. East Jerusalem is home to 250,000 Muslims and Christians, as well as nearly 200,000 Jews who live in neighborhoods constructed since 1967. The areas adjacent to the Old City are full of religious and historical attractions. (The Old City itself is politically part of East Jerusalem, but is described in a separate article.)
  • West Jerusalem - The Jewish-Israeli part of Jerusalem, also known as New Jerusalem, which has been part of Israel since 1948. It is the modern commercial heart of the city, having been the focus for development in the capital between 1948 and 1967.
  • Haredi neighbourhoods - This area is overwhelmingly inhabited by Haredi ("ultra-Orthodox") Jews. Their distinctive culture is reflected in a distinctive feel which these neighborhoods have compared to the rest of Jerusalem. Most of these neighborhoods are in West Jerusalem, but since 1967 some new neighborhoods have been built across the Green Line, in the northwest corner of East Jerusalem.

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Sights and Activities

The Old City is the atmospheric historical core of Jerusalem, surrounded by Ottoman period walls, filled with sites of massive religious significance and a bustling approach to life. (Please note that some sites, particularly Islamic ones, may bar members of other religions from entry or praying on the grounds). The most iconic site in Jerusalem is the Temple Mount/Noble Sanctuary, which is holiest site in Judaism and the third holiest in Islam. It is crowned by the magnificent gold-and-blue Dome of the Rock, which stands on the site of the ancient Jewish Temples. It also includes the Al-Aqsa Mosque (The Far Mosque), from where the Muslim prophet Muhammad is believed to have ascended to heaven.

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Events and Festivals

  • Christian Holy Week - During the weeks leading up to Easter, Christians from around the world visit the holy land. Many hold re-enactments of Christ's final days at these holy sites, along with a variety of processions, religious services and masses. On Palm Sunday Christian pilgrims climb the Mount of Olives, in memory of Jesus' triumphant entry into Jerusalem. During this highly emotional procession, many believers carry crosses, in remembrance of Jesus's journey to be crucified for sinners. Easter is a grand celebration of Christ's Resurrection from the dead.
  • Jerusalem Light Festival - This annual light festival draws some of the greatest light sculptors to Jerusalem. Beautiful works of illuminated art are displayed all throughout Old City. Visitors can also plan to attend operas and dance performances during this festival.
  • Contact Point - Hosted annually by Jerusalem's "Season of Culture", Contact Point, is a lively event where art, dance, and music presentations are held all night long. The Israel Museum (which is a must-see attraction in Jerusalem) also keeps their doors open for guests long past closing time.
  • Wine Tasting Festival - A festive event hosted by The Israel Museum (see above). Wine lovers can sample a variety of wines from over 30 wineries in the region, and while visitors are enjoying their wine, they can take a stroll in the beautiful sculpture garden housed at the museum. The admission price usually includes tastings along with a commemorative tasting glass.
  • Balabasta! - This festival occurs every Monday during the month of August in Jerusalem's prized open air market, Mahane Yehuda. Every evening, Balabasta festivities bring this market to life, with live musical performances, dancing, and local artists displaying their latest creations.
  • Jerusalem Knights Festival - Visitors can achieve the sense that they've stepped back into a different time when they attend this festival. Local performers dress in traditional medieval clothing and appear as knights, kings, princesses, magicians, troubadours, court jesters, and peddlers to roam the historic grounds. Authentic sounds and chants of the Middle Ages can be heard. Acrobatics and theater performances will also take place during this event. This event occurs annually on Thursdays in October/November.
  • Hutzot Hayotzer Arts and Crafts Fair - Every summer, Jerusalem hosts the largest crafts fair in Israel near Sultan's Pool, just outside the city walls. This popular event attracts a thousands of people and displays many different types of crafts from all over the world. Visitors will have numerous stalls to view, and options to buy unique regional crafts that they won't be able to find anywhere else. Both local and international artists will be represented.

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Weather

Jerusalem has a pleasant climate with generally lower temperatures compared to areas along the coast or in the desert. Temperatures from May to September average between 27 °C and 31 °C during the day, between 16 °C and 18 °C at night. December to February has highs of 13 °C to 16 °C and nights are rather chilly, 5 °C to 7 °C. Temperatures of 42 °C have been recorde though, as well as possible frost during winter, though not severe (-3 °C). May to October is almost completely dry while January and February have around 130 mm of rain (or, though rare, sometimes snow).

JanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Avg Max11.8 °C12.6 °C15.4 °C21.5 °C25.3 °C27.6 °C29 °C29.4 °C28.2 °C24.7 °C18.8 °C14 °C
Avg Min6.4 °C6.4 °C8.4 °C12.6 °C15.7 °C17.8 °C19.4 °C19.5 °C18.6 °C16.6 °C12.3 °C8.4 °C
Rainfall133.2 mm118.3 mm92.7 mm24.5 mm3.2 mm0 mm0 mm0 mm0.3 mm15.4 mm60.8 mm105.7 mm
Rain Days12.911.79.64.41.30000.33.67.310.9

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Getting There

By Plane

The nearest airport is in Tel Aviv, which has connections to many destinations in the Middle East and Europe as well as a few further afield to cities in North America, Africa and Asia. Travel from the airport to the centre of Jerusalem takes 40–50 minutes, or more if there is traffic.

By Train

Israel Railways has trains to/from Tel Aviv via Beit Shemesh. The service, which follows the route of the 1892 Jaffa-Jerusalem line, is noted for its scenery rather than speed. Use the train if you have plenty of time and want to see nice mountain scenery, but not if you are in a hurry.

From Tel Aviv, take the Jerusalem route, with stops at Lod (where you can make connections to Beer Sheva, Ashkelon and Rishon LeZion), Ramla, Bet Shemesh, and arrive at Jerusalem's Malkha train station, which is inconveniently located in the south of the city. The old train station in the city center is currently out of service. A few trains also stop at the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo station, but it is within walking distance from Malkha station.

Journey time from Tel Aviv Merkaz/Savidor station to Malkha station is about 1.5 hr. There's one train per hour 05.54-19.54 on weekdays, 05.25-14.25 (15.25 in summer) on Friday, 20.10 (22.10 in summer) on Saturday. Trains from Malkha depart on weekdays 05.44-21.41 (the last one only as far as Lod), on Friday 06.00-13.56 (14.56 in summer), on Saturday at 19.47 (21.47 in summer).

From the train station there are several buses to destinations in and around Jerusalem. To downtown take bus #77 or #18, and ask for "MerKaz Ha-ir". To the central bus station, #5 is the fastest, though the #6 and #32 are alternatives. Taxis are also available.

A faster rail link (connecting Jerusalem to Tel Aviv in half an hour and Ben Gurion Airport in 20 minutes) is under construction and is scheduled to open in 2018. Its terminus will be an underground station next to the central bus station.

By Bus

Egged has buses to other cities and towns in the country, including to Tel Aviv. Most intercity buses arrive at the so-called Central Bus Station (CBS) at the western edge of Jaffa Street, the city's main road. There is a light rail stop just outside the CBS, and many city buses stop there too.

Two Egged bus routes connect Tel Aviv to the Jerusalem CBS. Route 405 leaves the Tel Aviv CBS about every 20 minutes from 5:50AM-midnight. Route 480 leaves the Arlozorov station (the central train station) about every 10 minutes from 5:50AM-0:10AM. Each route takes about an hour and costs about 18 NIS.

On the Sabbath, and very late at night, your only option is a sherut (shared taxi). These depart from Tel Aviv's Central Bus Station and Ben Gurion Airport, and charge a small surcharge on top of the normal bus fare. As of mid-2012 a sherut costs 23 NIS (28 NIS at night, 33 NIS at Shabbat) and drops you off downtown, not far from Zion Square.

Shared taxis are also the best option if travelling from Jerusalem to Palestinian cities, especially Ramallah and Bethlehem. The main bus station (On Sultan Suleiman street, next to the Rockfeler Museum) serves the surrounding Palestinian towns and villages, including Abu-Dis (Line 36), and Bethlehem (Line 124), those buses are colored mostly in blue strips. Another bus terminal, on Nablus road (Straight on from the Damascus gate) serves Ramallah, other main Palestinian cities.

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Getting Around

By Car

Cabs are plentiful in the city of gold. You can probably flag one down quickly by walking to the nearest busy street. Just in case this doesn't work, it is good to have the number of a cab company ready, or to install the Gett smartphone app.

Be warned as the drivers may try to rip you off by "taking the scenic route" or charging a fixed price instead of on the meter. Insist that the driver turns on the meter (moneh) and you should have no problems. If the driver will not activate the meter, get out and take a different one. If you have the meter on, cabs are relatively cheap.

Note that a private taxi is called "moneet" in Hebrew, and "taxi" by Arabs. Both differ from the shared taxi ("sherut" or "servees"), which runs fixed routes for many people like a bus.

By Public Transport

The Jerusalem Light Rail line opened in 2011. It links the north-eastern neighborhoods to the south-western neighborhoods, runs along the western side of the Old City, and passes through the city centre. There are plans to construct additional lines in the future. The ticket price is around 6 NIS. When you get on, tap your card against the reader. The light rail runs from about 05:30 to midnight. Its frequency is every 6 minutes during the day and less often at night. Like buses, it does not run on the Sabbath.

Buses are the main form of public transportation in areas not served by the light rail. Jewish and Arab bus companies run separate bus networks in Jerusalem, serving Jewish and Arab neighborhoods respectively, although there is some overlap.

The Arab bus network, in East Jerusalem, is run by Al-Safariat Al-Mowahadda ("The united traveling service"). It mainly consists of lines running radially to Arab neighborhoods from two bus stations near Damascus Gate.

The bus network is run by Egged bus company. It serves everywhere in West Jerusalem, as well as the Old City and Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem. It is more useful for tourists, and also easier to get information about. Unlike Arab buses, its fare is integrated with the light rail (one ticket will get you unlimited rides on bus and light rail for 90 minutes after your first boarding). Also unlike Arab buses, Jewish buses do not operate on the Sabbath.

By Foot

While Jerusalem is built in a mountainous area, the central areas of the city are rather flat and very walkable. Due to the altitude, the humidity level of Jerusalem is much lower than most cities in Israel, making walking quite pleasant. The Old City has to be toured by foot, not only because it is more impressive this way, but also because its narrow lanes and alleyways are mostly inaccessible to cars.

By Bike

In recent years, a number of bike paths have opened in Jerusalem. However, the rights of cyclists are not always respected: you will frequently find bike paths blocked, and drivers will expect cyclists to give right of way, though they will not intentionally harm you if you force the right of way.

Bike rentals are available at the Abraham Hostel (67 Hanevi'im, Davidka square), as well as at Bilu Bikes (7 Bilu), among other places. The city does not provide bike sharing.

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Eat

Jerusalem, being the multicultural city that it is, has food from all countries, cultures, and tastes. Besides the ubiquitous falafel stands, there is European, Ethiopian, Mediterranean, and Middle Eastern foods. There is also a large ranges in prices, from the ritzy Mamilla and Emek Refaim, to falafel stands surrounding Machaneh Yehuda and the Central Bus Station. A good rule of thumb is to look for restaurants filled with Hebrew or Arabic speaking locals. For falafel, the busiest place is probably the best, because falafel balls become less tasty the longer they are waiting out of the deep fryer.

If you keep kosher, Jerusalem is a wonderful place to visit. In the Jewish sections of the city almost everything is kosher. However you should still check for the kashrut certificate on the wall. If you don't see it and the staff cannot show you it, it's a good sign to move along. The certificate is stamped בשרי ("basari", meat) or חלבי ("halavi", dairy). The current Jerusalem certificates are cream colored for normal certification, light purple for stricter certification ("mehuderet"), and marbled brown colored for strictest supervision ("mehadrin"). Certificates are valid for 6 or 12 months at a time (typically until Pesach or Rosh Hashana) with the expiration date prominently marked. Note it is not unusual for it to take a few days to get the new certificate up. In Haredi areas, the municipal kashrut certificate may be missing, but a certificate from a local Haredi organization will be provided. Also note that only some branches of McDonalds in Jerusalem are kosher. Kosher branches have yellow arches on a blue background, rather than the usual red background.

Despite its name, the "Jerusalem artichoke" has no connection to Jerusalem, and you won't find it used more widely here than elsewhere.

However, there is an authentic Jerusalem food - the Jerusalem mixed grill (me'orav yerushalmi), which was invented in the 1960s at one of the steakhouses near the Mahaneh Yehuda market and has since spread widely across Israel. It consists of a mixture of spicy grilled meat chunks including chicken breasts, hearts, and livers, and pieces of lamb. Nowadays you can get it as fast food wrapped in pita or laffa bread, or as a main course in sit-down restaurants. One famous place is Steakiyat Hatzot, Agrippas street; check out the photos on the wall.

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Drink

Most of the nightclubs and bars are in West Jerusalem, mostly in the city center or Talpiyot district. Consult the district article for specifics.

If you are looking for alcohol stores, there is one right by the Jaffa gate and several on Jaffa Rd. One of the stores by the Generali building (located on the right side on Jaffa when you're facing the building) stocks a wide variety of different beers and also has great prices, lower than that of other stores.

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Sleep

The Old City has a diverse mix of small hotels, religious hospices and cheap hostels. The cheapest accommodation is found here.

West Jerusalem has a blend of B&Bs, guesthouses, small hotels and large hotels - all the way up to 5-star accommodation, including the famous King David Hotel, which is worth visiting for its architecture even if you don't stay there.

East Jerusalem contains a similar mix.

Budget

PropertyAddressTypePopularity
Little House Bakah1 Yehuda StHotel-
Agron Youth Hostel & Guest HouseAgron St. 6HOSTEL82
Alcazar Hotel6 AlmutanabiHotel-
Beit Ben Yehuda GuesthouseEin Gedi STreet 28Hostel-
Citadel Youth HostelJerusalem Old city Jaffa gate 20 st Marks roadHostel80
Hashimi Hotel & HostelSouk Khan el Zeit no 73 Old CityHOSTEL-
Jaffa Gate HostelOld City, Jaffa Gate, in front of David's TowerHostel81
Mount of Olives Hotel53 Mount of Olives Road P.O. Box 19017hotel74
New Swedish HostelDavid ST.29,Jaffa Gate,Jerusalem P.O.BOX 19084Hostel80
The Jerusalem Hostel44 Jaffa road JerusalemHostel77
The Jerusalem Inn Hotel7 Horkanos st.Hotel-
Yitzhak Rabin Youth Hostel & Guest House1 Nahman Avigad St., JerusalemHOSTEL-
Citadel GuesthouseSaint Mark Road 22 old city, Jaffa gatehostel-
New Palm Hotel4 Hanivim StreetHotel-
East New ImperialJaffa Gate Old CityHotel-
Jerusalem Panorama HotelHill of Gethsamane, Ras El AmoudHotel68
Petra HostelJaffa Gate No. P.O.Box 14030 JerusalemHostel76
Rivoli Hotel3 Salah A Din streetHotel-
Capitol Hotel Israel17 Sallah A Din SteetHotel74
Eden Jerusalem HotelGiladi St. 4 JerusalemHostel-
Abraham Hostel JerusalemDavidka Square Ha'neviim 67Hostel-
Prima Park Jerusalem2 Vilnay StreetHotel-
Commodore HotelSamuel ben Adaya StreetHotel-
Montefiore Hotel7 Shatz stHotel-
Jerusalem Gate Hotel43 Yirmiyahu St.Hotel-
Jerusalem HotelNablus RoadHotel-
Eldan Hotel24 King David StreetHotel-
Jerusalem city center vacationBaruch Ben Neriya 5 NachlaotGuesthouse-
Lev Yerushalyaim Hotel18 King George St Rejwan SquareHotel-
Little House in Rehavia20 Eben Ezra St RehaviaGuesthouse-
City Center Jerusalem2 HaHistadrut StGuesthouse-
Little House in the Colony4a Lloyd George StGuesthouse-
Hebron HostelOld City, 8 Aqabat Etkia, Souk Khan el ZeitHOSTEL84
The Jerusalem Little Hotel40 Jaffa RoadHOTEL82
Palm HostelHanivim Street 6HOSTEL76
Le SixteenAgripas 21Hostel-
National Hotel JerusalemAl Zahra StreetHotel-
The Golden Walls hotelSultan Suleiman St Damascus GateHotel-
Victoria Hotel8 Al – Masoudi Street P.O. BOX 19374Hotel82
Allenby #2 Jerusalem2 Allenby Square Corner of 1 Tora Mizion St.HOSTEL-

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Keep Connected

Internet

Israel is a technologically advanced society, and internet cafés are widely available in most cities and towns. The regular price for paid internet cafés is about 15 shekels per hour but you can get it for about 10 shekels in some of the more local places. Free Wi-Fi access is common in cafés (check individual articles). All branches of 'Aroma Espresso Bar', 'Arcaffe', 'Café Café', 'McDonalds' and 'Yellow' convenience stores have free Wi-Fi access, though in some you will have to approach the staff for a password.

Recently, the "Jerusalem Wi-Fi" project started. This government started project aims to cover the entire Jerusalem area with Wi-Fi although at the moment the only areas covered are in the city center. A similar project has started in Tel Aviv and in Karmiel in the north. Some other cities are following suit.

Phone

See also: International Telephone Calls

The international country code for Israel is 972. Emergency numbers include 100 (police), 101 (ambulance) and 102 (fire). 112 is supported in mobile networks.

Currently Israel offers support for all the available networks including GSM/UMTS (Pelephone, Cellcom and Orange), CDMA (Pelephone) and iDen (Hot Mobile). In any case, you must check with your carrier about the roaming option and the compatibility of your device in advance. A valid suggestion otherwise is to turn off data services.

You can rent a cellphone for use in Israel either before your trip or once you arrive from several firms. You can also rent smartphones with sim cards included sometimes for lower than the cost of renting just a sim card. Vendors such as Israel Phone Rentalsoffer the advantages of a sim card rental without having to worry about bringing your own phone to Israel. If you have a GSM cellphone without a SIM-lock, you can buy a SIM-card. Prepaid SIM cards are available at Pelephone (Talk & Go), Cellcom (Talk Man) and Orange (Bigtalk) phone stores throughout Israel. Almost all shopping malls will have a Pelephone, Cellcom or Orange kiosk or store.

There are many public phones scattered around. Public phones can be always found at hotels, post offices, central bus stations and train stations. These phones use a Telecard, which, today, is a pre-paid calling card that works only with pay phones and can be purchased at post offices and some stores, as well as ordinary calling cards. Some phones also accept credit cards, usually those in hotels and post offices.

Post

The Israel Post is the national postal service of Israel and generally has fast, reliable and affordable services. Efficiency means that letters and postcards send by airmail just take about 3-7 days within Europe, a few days more to the USA and Australia. Express Mail Services (EMS) is available, with which you are guaranteed to have the postcard or letter delivered within 72 hours anywhere in the world. You can buy stamps at post offices, or newspaper stands/kiosks or some souvenir shops and hotels. The main post offices are usually open from 8:00am to 6:00pm Sunday to Thursday and 8:00am to 2:00pm on Friday, though some might keep longer hours. Branch offices and post offices in smaller towns keep shorter hours, usually with a break from 12:30pm to 3:30pm, and on Wednesday and Friday only during the morning. Parcels can be send by the regular post offices or with companies like TNT, UPS, FedEx and DHL.
Post offices in the Palestinian Territories are open Saturday to Thursday, 8:00am to 3:00pm.

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Quick Facts

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Coordinates
  • Latitude: 31.7857
  • Longitude: 35.2007

Accommodation in Jerusalem

We have a comprehensive list of accommodation in Jerusalem searchable right here on Travellerspoint. You can use our map to quickly compare budget, mid-range or top of the range accommodation in Jerusalem and areas nearby.

Contributors

as well as chandie702 (10%), dr.pepper (3%), vanessa (2%)

Jerusalem Travel Helpers

  • Hachiko

    Hi! I work every summer as an archaeologist in Israel, and spend all my free time in Jerusalem, sometimes for weeks on end. I'm in the process of compiling the Ultimate Travel Guide to Jerusalem on my blog, and would be more than happy to help and answer any questions you might have!

    Ask Hachiko a question about Jerusalem
  • Vicenta

    I just published the book "Wandering in Jerusalem", and I will be very happy to help others to plan trips to Jerusalem. It's a fascinating city that I love very much.
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    Ask Vicenta a question about Jerusalem
  • IsraelReisen

    For over 20 years i organize trips and guide individual travellers in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, the Negev desert and all of Israel as a passion and profession. We are specialists for groups of all sizes, confessions and constitutions. Originally Swiss, living in Israel for many years, we are licensed as guides in five languages.

    Ask IsraelReisen a question about Jerusalem

This is version 34. Last edited at 9:29 on Dec 6, 16 by Utrecht. 26 articles link to this page.

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