Benjamin Disraeli once said “The view of Jerusalem is the history of the world; it is more, it is the history of Earth and of Heaven” – and indeed this city embodies Mankind’s aspiration to a higher cause. Unlike other ancient cities Jerusalem is very much alive, full of activity and offering unrivaled possibilities to the savvy tourist, travelling with family or alone. So, here are four favorites per category, among the many splendors of Jerusalem.
Things to do, places to go
This city is a treasure trove so we chose to focus on sites which are unique and specific to Jerusalem, each a memorable experience unlike any other. Here goes.
Tread with kings – The mazes of the Old City
Jerusalem’s Old City is mostly accessible by foot, so bring out your walking shoes! Experience antiquity and delight at the ancient market streets through the Old City’s four quarters. There are fine establishments catering to every taste and the locals are friendly, so get your bearings straight and start exploring alleyways and hidden passages. (Sacred sites, antiquity shops, marketplace – suitable for all ages as a casual stroll but also a plethora of interest for able-bodied tourists)
Ein Karem (The spring in the vineyard) – A twenty minute ride from the Centrum, Ein Karem is just as magical as the name implies. Said to be John the Baptist’s birthplace, there are many churches and monasteries in this enchanted valley as well as alleys full of fine-art galleries and restaurants, all tucked in plush greenery. Come away from the hubbub, relax and explore. (Nature treks, sacred sites, galleries and restaurants, suitable for all ages.)
Sacred underworld – the Western Wall tunnels – After witnessing the Western Wall, walk down and take a guided tour through this less-known site. Underneath the place most sacred to Jews, the ancient tunnels await you. Come and feel history’s might, breathe it in amidst the beautiful columns. This is a must for history buffs, now renovated and fully accessible (a historical tour, mostly for adults).
The City of David (Ir David) is a circle tour through some of the most important places of ancient Jerusalem. The tour starts and ends at the visitors’ center and encompasses beautiful vantage points, archaeological sites, underground waterways, caverns and a multimedia show. This is the definitive experience of Jerusalem’s history. (suitable for families, although the tour includes many stairways).
History – Through a child’s eye
Jerusalem teems with attractions for toddlers but we feel that children too should be allowed to sense history – on their own terms. So, if major fun and awesome history are the criteria, these are our picks:
Tisch Family Biblical Zoo is a must-see, located in a magical valley and featuring rare animals as well as a much necessary petting zoo. There’s also a full-scale model of Noah’s ark that serves as a visitors’ center and auditorium alongside a petite train, both of which are sure to capture kids’ hearts (a great 3-4 hour excursion for the whole family)
Hezekiah’s water tunnel is an optional segment of the “Ir David” tour, mentioned above. Through this clandestine tunnel, ancient smugglers brought water into the city during a terrible siege. Not one child on Earth would give up an opportunity to be a “Water Pirate”. (Suitable for ages 5 and up, water-worthy shoes and gear are needed).
Bloomfield Science Museum offers many hands-on experiences for children and child-at-hearts. Here children of all ages are taken through ingenious technological experiences – from days of yore and well into the future. Of all we had here, our personal favorite was the DIY thunder maker(!) (interactive museum for all ages).
Jerusalem’s first railway station is a great nostalgic place featuring attractions for all ages. Not only the endearing sight-seeing (kids really love trains, don’t they?) but also bike/trike/Segway rentals and a children’s pavilion with play areas and a bubble station, so come one – come all. (Sightseeing and activities for all ages)
Where to stay?
Hotels in Jerusalem are aplenty, but none surpass the King David Hotel in Jerusalem. Located at the apex of the Old City, it offers impeccable service and an incomparable view to the wall, domes and minarets of ancient Jerusalem. This landmark hotel was, and is, the choice of celebrities and sovereigns. It is the crown jewel of “Dan Hotels”, a distinguished establishment also featuring three other great hotels throughout the city.
Apartment rentals are for the independent-minded and can be found anywhere in the city, accommodating all tastes and preferences. If you’re looking for a home away from home, check out The Colony Suites, located in the picturesque Emek Refaim. This area used to be a German colony (hence the name) and although not at the Old City, is still very accessible with plenty of amenities in reach.
Summary – “The grandeur of Jerusalem is also… its problem” – Umberto Eco
O’ Jerusalem, where history is always present. Imagine a city constantly alive for 3,000 years. There’s no other place like this on Earth and little wonder it is, that all rulers throughout history coveted it. Now, stop imagining and start planning, for you too can visit come to this Crown Jewel of cities. You might not be able to unlock all of its secrets, but you should certainly try!