24 Hours in Jerusalem: The Perfect Itinerary
Jerusalem is the city everyone wants to see on a trip to Israel - and there’s no need to explain why. Beautiful, mysterious, evocative, home to three major world religions and with a history that makes the mind boggle, wandering its streets, exploring its holy sites, and drinking in the atmosphere of this unique place is something few people forget.
The inner courtyard of the Tower of David in Jerusalem
But what do you do if you only have 24 hours in Jerusalem? After all, this is a city with a history that stretches back thousands of years, a treasure trove of a walled city, full of ancient buildings, places of worship, and nods to Kings, Sultans and Crusaders at every turn. But Jerusalem is far more than the Old City - it’s also got galleries, museums, an artist’s quarter and a lively central market. So where should you begin?
Don’t panic - you can really do a great deal in a day. You can take a well-structured, professional guided tour in Jerusalem, or just plan on your own. It's possible - just take a deep breath, put on some comfy shoes (Jerusalem is hilly and the Old City is closed to motor vehicles), and get ready to walk your heart out. Oh, and set the alarm early, because you’ve got a jam-packed itinerary!
Head to the Old City
You could spend days, if not weeks, exploring this one square-kilometer stretch of Jerusalem, surrounded by ancient walls, but even if you have just two or three hours, you can still see a great deal.
Walk along the Via Dolorosa, where Christ carried his cross, en route to his crucifixion, towards the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, one of the most important sites in Christian history.
The Greek Chapel of the Church of Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem
Explore the Dome of the Rock and Temple Mount (over which the Prophet Mohammed is said to have flown, on his night journey to Mecca). Continue onto the Western Wall, the site holiest to Jews, then explore the Cardo (a major thoroughfare in Roman times).
Also put a little time inside to shop for souvenirs- glassware, Armenian pottery, wooden crosses, spices, halva, dates - the Old City Bazaar has it all.
Take a stroll around the Mishkenot Sha’ananim and Yemin Moshe neighborhoods
Mishkenot Sha’ananim was the first neighborhood outside the Old City Walls to be constructed, on a hill directly opposite Mount Zion. Today it's popular with artists and writers and there’s plenty going on, culturally, inside its famous Music Centre.
Montefiore Windmill in the Mishkanot Shaananim neighborhood (Photo by Dmitry Mishin)
Stroll its beautiful streets and look down on the Sultan's Pool, then move onto Yemin Moshe, another beautiful neighborhood, and home to one of Jerusalem’s most famous landmarks- the Montefiore Windmill. You can actually go inside and see its history (there’s a photographic exhibition of the life and times of the building). This area has beautiful quiet homes and narrow cobbled streets…it’s a joy to wander.
Continue onto the Israel Museum or Yad Vashem
If you want to grab lunch, then either head downtown to the pedestrianized Ben Yehuda area, where there are lots of cafes and restaurants, or grab some Israeli street food falafel, hummus, sabich, shawarma…Israel has the most delicious ‘grab and go’ options, which are cheap and nutritious, not to mention fresh juice stands on every block.
The local street food is delicious!
Then you have a choice - with only one day in Jerusalem, you’ll have to choose between two incredible museums.
The Israel Museum is home to some world-famous exhibits including an excellent art collection, a model of the Second Temple and the Dead Sea Scrolls (discovered in a cave in 1947 by a shepherd boy, close to the Qumran Caves).
These are housed in a wonderfully designed building which is a pleasure to walk in. In the Israel Museum, you can also see replicas of synagogues found around the globe (Venice, Curacao, Cochin) and explore their beautiful sculpture gardens.
Alternatively, head to Yad Vashem, Israel’s national monument to the Holocaust. Using video footage, photos, artifacts and personal testimony, explore the lead-up to the greatest tragedy in Jewish history - the mass murder of millions of European Jews. Yad Vashem is not an easy place to visit, but the museum is incredibly educational and a trip here is always moving and worthwhile.
Explore Mahane Yehuda and Nachlaot
Head on to Mahane Yehuda, Jerusalem's famous bustling market, where you can pick up all kinds of fruits and vegetables, not to mention grab street food, coffee and beer. It’s a real ‘snapshot’ of life in the capital, and it’s also home to some great street graffiti (on the shutters of the stores, which are pulled down at the end of each day).
A Street Market in Jerusalem
Mahane Yehuda is also the perfect place to take a food tour or to visit on Thursday nights, when its packed full of young people enjoying the end of the week (Friday and Saturday - the Jewish sabbath - are the official weekends in Israel).
Next door to the market is Nachlaot, an area that’s popular with students. Full of tiny courtyards, cobbled streets and narrow alleyways. Some people call it the Soho of Jerusalem (though that may be going too far!) Stop for coffee in one of its lovely cafes, wander past ancient synagogues and pop in to some of the neighborhood's vintage shops and art galleries.
Enjoy cocktails and then dinner at Notre Dame or the Mamilla Hotel
Finally, and you really deserve it by this time, it’s time to sit back and rest. And what better way to do it than with cocktails (or a glass of wine, or a cold lemonade) at one of the capital’s ‘view to die for’ restaurants?
Here, we have to recommend both the Mamilla rooftop and the Notre Dame restaurant. Both offer staggeringly beautiful views of the Old City, not to mention diverse menus.
Mamilla Hotel (Image source: Mamilla Hotel official website)
The Mamilla Rooftop restaurant is kosher, for those who keep the Jewish dietary laws and serves excellent grilled meats and fish, goose liver and duck (the veggies can opt for salads and their excellent mushroom risotto). They also offer Shabbat lunches, although these have to be prepaid.
Notre Dame is famous for its ‘cheese and wine’ offerings - over 40 gourmet cheeses and an extensive wine list. They also have meze plates, fantastic salads, a range of pasta and some excellent steaks. And if you have room for dessert, order their orange creme brulee - it’s divine.
That’s it - you’ve been on your feet all day, seen a lot of sights, and had a wonderful evening with good food, overlooking the Old City of Jerusalem. Now go and get the good night’s sleep you truly deserve.
Feel free to contact us by email or phone, if you’d like further information about any of the package tours, day trips, or privately-guided trips we offer around this incredible country.