Jerusalem for a day on the Sabbath

Nature
The wow factor for nature - does it show nature at its best? Doesn't need to be the wilder-beast migration or diving with hundreds of hammerheads. Rather make you pause as you realise just how awesome the natural world can be
0
Culture
How much does this experience showcase some of the better and finer things that us humans can offer? Sure, it can be ancient ruins and renaissance churches, but it can also be festivals or soaking up some of the great modern cities of the world
10
Fun factor/activity
Very simple - was it fun? This is usually linked in with doing some kind of activity - i mean, walking along some cliffs is nice, but paragliding from them, now that is fun. Its a vastly underrated factor in a truly great experience
3
Avoid the crowds
Big tour groups and being surrounded by loud fellow tourists can sap the life out of even the greatest of travel experiences. This score is to reflect just how much you can avoid this. But. . . The score also takes into account if the crowds actually add to the experience, such as with a party town or a bustling food market
2
World famous
How world famous is the experience?
10
unique
How hard is it to have a similar experience in other places round the world?
10
Overall Score
The highest score of nature or culture, + fun factor, + avoid the crowds, + the highest score of world famous or unique. Then turned into a score out of 100. More details at the bottom of the page
62 *What the scores mean and where do they come from
continent
Asia / Middle East
country
Israel
Length of time
1 day or less
Rough cost
Obviously people have different tastes, so this will depend on those tastes, but this is a rough idea of price of the whole experience based on 2 people able to split the accommodation costs and excluding travel there and back
$ 20
Time of year visited
January
Primary Tags
Click on any of the tags to see all travel experiences with the same tag
RANKING
How this travel experience ranks compared to all the other experiences on this site
182nd/334 This travel experience's ranking compared to all the other experiences on this site
Top 60% SUMMARY RATING: Great experience

Summary

One of the most famous cities in the world and the spiritual centre for three of the world’s major religions, Jerusalem is steeped in history and has sites that attract hordes of tourists and worshippers alike

We went on the sabbath, which in Israel means many things are closed, and in winter, which means it’ll be around 10-12 Celsius / 50-54 Fahrenheit in the day, so it was probably a bit quieter than normal and I think that was a positive on the overall experience

I’ve read in books like the Lonely Planet that you need four days to experience Jerusalem.  I think that may be true if you are deeply religious or have a passion for the history of the area, but for those who just broadly want to check it out, and have the right level of energy, you can have a great experience with only one day

So, if only have one day, I have 2 suggestions.  Firstly, focus on the key sites of the old city, in particular the Western Wall, Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Temple on the Mount.  Secondly, don’t try to do more than that and, instead, get lost wandering through Jerusalem’s narrow streets and off the tourist trail.  You’ll notice subtle differences moving between quarters and stumble upon some of the lesser known sites.  Far more enjoyable that following a guided tour, and less tiring

highlights

#1 Getting lost in the winding streets of Jerusalem as you notice the subtle differences as you move from one quarter to the next

#2 Marvelling at the sacred spots in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, built on the biblical Calvary where Jesus was nailed to the cross

#3 Watching as hundreds of practicing Jews make their way to pray at the Western Wall

#4 Getting a view across the old city from either a hotel rooftop or the Tomb of the Prophets lookout just to the East near Gethsemane

#5 Seeing the gold-plated Dome of the Rock, an important site for all 3 religions

#6 Walking along the outer ramparts that give you a good view of both sides of the wall

#7 Stumbling upon sites that anywhere else would be a top attraction, but in Jerusalem barely register as a footnote

Rough itinerary

  • Enter through the New Gate in the north west corner.  Walk through part of the Western Quarter to the start of the rampart walk at the Jaffa Gate
  • Buy a ticket for the rampart walk and make you way to the Western Wall via the ramparts
  • Watch the various practicing jews praying at the Western Wall (take something to cover your head at the entrance)
  • Make your way to the centre around Mauristan for some food, preferably on a rooftop
  • Next head to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre to check out the site of Calvary
  • Head eastward towards the Muslim quarter and out the Lion’s Gate
  • Walk past Gethsemane and up the hill to the Tomb of the Prophets lookout for the best views of the Old City (get a cab from the gate to the lookout and back if tired, probably a good idea)
  • Return to the Lion’s Gate and get lost broadly making your way back to the New Gate for a celebratory drink on the rooftop of the Notre Dame Hotel

Travel Tips

  • Going on the Sabbath means that some places are closed (note that the Temple Mount is closed to non-muslims on a Friday and Saturday), but generally means that the old city is quieter
  • Winter makes it less busy and also less energy-sapping, but wrap up warmly.  We were fine walking around, but the evenings were quite bitter
  • There is a lot of walking, around 20,000 steps / 15km
  • Expect tacky commercialism around some of the main sites
  • Jerusalem is one of those places where you can get templed out super quickly.  For sure you could get a deeper history understanding with a guide and certainly make sure you see the major attractions, but I’d really recommend just getting lost in the old city.  It makes you fall into the mystery of it all and, when you stumble on a site you want know more about, you always have google / trail guide description / someone there who will be happy to explain more
  • Everywhere we went was free except for the walk along the ramparts which was around 18 Shekels
  • You can drink alcohol in many of the bars in the Christian quarter and in the various hotels around Jerusalem on the sabbath.  It’s worth having an evening drink overlooking the old city from the Notre Dame Hotel rooftop right outside the New Gate in the North West quarter.  There is a formal entry point where you have to pay for the view, but just go to the bar and order a drink.  They said you are not supposed to drink outside but many people, including ourselves, did
  • There is a great viewing point from the Tomb of the Prophets lookout just to the East near GethsemaneI.  I wouldn’t bother with the Gethsemane area other than for the view though
  • Hotels are expensive in Jerusalem.  We stayed at the Herbert Samuel Hotel which was nice and the staff super helpful, but considering you’ll be out all day I’d say aim for somewhere less expensive
  • Bear in mind if heading to Jordan that you cannot get a visa on arrival at the King Hussain Bridge land crossing.  You need to take the Sheik Hussain Bridge crossing to the north.  For more details on this route, see the travel entry for Crossing from Israel / Jerusalem to Jordan when needing a visa on arrival

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Score Detail

Background - how many times have you asked someone what a travel experience was like and the response was "amazing" or "awesome"?  That response is nice to know, but it makes it hard to differentiate that experience compared to others.  That is exactly what these scores are trying to do - differentiate the experience by giving a score out of 10 based on 6 categories and then giving an overall experience score

This overall experience score is calculated by:  take the highest of the "Culture" or "Nature" score (1-10) + "Fun factor" (1-10) + "Avoiding the crowds" (1-10) + highest of the "Unique" or "World Famous score" (1-10).  Then convert into a score out of 100

Extra detail - the logic being that I find all of the 6 individual scores important, but I don't want to mark an experience down just because it doesn't cover both "Culture" and "Nature", or because it isn't both "World Famous" and "Unique".  Take the examples of Safari in The Serengeti and walking through Rome - they both appeal at opposite ends of the nature / culture spectrum, and you can have a fantastic time without needing to appeal to both sides.  So, their overall scores aren't penalized for their lack of one or the other, and I've done the same for "World Famous" vs "Unique".  But . . . I do think that the "Fun factor" of an experience is important, irrelevant of other factors, and so is "Avoiding the Crowds" (or where there are crowds that add to the experience).  So, both of these scores are standalone