Located in the Middle East, between the Mediterranean and the Dead Sea, Jerusalem is one of the oldest cities in the world. It bears strong religious affiliations with Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. After visiting Jordan for 8 days, we made our way over the border in the south of Israel and spent a few days exploring this fascinating city. Let’s get some cultural and religious information out of the way first about Jerusalem.
Jerusalem – The Old City
The size of the old city is actually only 1km squared! This is mind-boggling when you think about it because of all the religious significance that’s contained inside those walls!
The old city itself is divided into four sections (or quarters). There’s the Muslim quarter, Christian quarter, the Jewish quarter and the Armenian quarter. Located between the Armenian and Christian quarters is the Jaffa Gate and Dung Gate – which provides access to the Western Wall (wailing wall).
The old city is filled with quirky cafes, restaurants, and souvenir shops. You could easily spend a full day just strolling around the narrow stone cobbled streets.
The Wailing Wall
This is one of the most religious and significant sights in Jerusalem. This was is the last piece of the wall from the second temple of Jerusalem which was destroyed by the Romans way back when. The Temple Mount is located past the Wailing Wall (Western Wall) and it’s the holiest site in the world according to Judaism. The Dome of the rock and the Al-Aqsa mosque signify Jerusalem as the 3rd holiest place for Muslims. When entering the Western Wall, men and women are divided so that they can enter the respective sections of the wall. I didn’t know this and walked straight into the women’s section unbeknownst to myself. It was only after a polite lady came up to me after about 5 mins and told me to “get out” that I realised that I was the only male in the area 🙂 I quickly exited and slipped across into the male-only section.
The male section is much larger than the female area and the actual wall is filled with pieces of paper – where prayers are written down and stuffed into the wall.
Other Things To Do In Jerusalem
Ok, enough about Religion as we’re not Religious at all 🙂 Here are a few other things you can check out in Jerusalem.
Machane Yehuda Market
Outside of the old city lies the modern city of Jerusalem – where the Machane Yehuda market can be found. It’s a really cool, authentic middle eastern vibe market. It contains tons of small shops selling everything from all parts of the world. One thing you’ll note when walking around here is the vast array of smells that linger in the air.
Explore the Neighborhoods
There are so many different neighborhoods in Jerusalem that you’ll never run out of new areas to take a peak in. Some of the notable ones are: Ein Karem; located at the bottom of the Jerusalem Hills Nachalat Shiva: a vibrant area with many cafes, bars, restaurants and galleries. If you’re into window shopping (as Florence is) then this is worth a visit.
Bezalel Street Fair
We just missed this as we arrived late on a Friday into the City. This fair started in 2009 and has quickly become a very prominent hangout for young couples and families, as well as tourists and artists. The market is between Shmuel NaNagid Street and Bezelel Street. We don’t have any photo of it as we weren’t able to visit it – but we were told it’s a pretty cool area to wander about in.
Where To Stay In Jerusalem?
Whenever we arrive in a new city for the first time, we always try and find accommodation that’s centrally located and within walking distance to the main attractions. We did our research and found that Azzahra Hotel & Restaurant fitted the bill. We ended up staying two nights here and it’s in the perfect location for exploring the city and/or having a base.
The hotel is located in a very quiet street just 5 mins walk away from the Damascus Gate. The room was comfortable and spotless. The WiFi was also fast and it allowed up to catch up on some work while chilling after a long day of sightseeing.
An interesting fact about the Azzahra Hotel is that it’s the oldest hotel in Jerusalem – opening its doors way back in 1948. The building was initially built as a home 118 years ago, but was converted into a hotel 30 years later.
As you would imagine, the hotel has retained its quirky style and this is evident as you walk around the inside, as the rooms are not laid out in a traditional hotel fashion. This adds tons of character to the building.
The hotel is renowned for its pizza so we had to try it out. The base was cooked perfectly and the tomato sauce had the favour that reminded me of my mum’s pasta sauce back home. Prices are very affordable and there’s a 10% discount for hotel guests. There’s also a range of French, Meditteranean and Middle Eastern dishes on offer, but as I said – the pizza is the real deal here 🙂
We enjoyed our few days in Jerusalem and would recommend it to others to come visit – especially if you want to gain a real understanding of the various Religions that co-exist in the city. As we said, we’re not Religious but that didn’t stop us from finding out some interesting facts about the city and its people. Visually, Jerusalem (both old and new) is a stunning city and there’s plenty to do and see here – along with a magnitude of cafes and restaurants to sample some local and foreign cuisine in.