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Old City Jerusalem: Full Traveler’s Guide

Jerusalem's Old City is an enchanting area wrapped in over 5,000 years of ancient history, spirituality, and cultural treasures. A visit to this awe-inspiring region is an opportunity to lose yourself among ancient alleys, walk in the footsteps of prophets, kings, and conquerors, and awaken your senses to the scent of spices wafting through bustling markets. 


This sacred place unites people from all walks of life and its rich tapestry of traditions will ignite your soul. On your next visit to Israel, make time to immerse yourself in Jerusalem’s Old City’s timeless beauty and divine magic that will leave a lasting imprint on your heart.


How to Reach Old City Jerusalem From Tel Aviv

Let’s start with how to get there. In recent years, Israel has invested a tremendous amount in improving both intra and inter-city transportation. From Tel Aviv, the journey by public transport is simple, frequent, and affordable. Options include:

Bus: From Tel Aviv Central Bus Station, take the 405 to Jerusalem Bus Station. Alternatively, there’s a station at the Arlozorov Bus Terminal where the 480 also runs on this route. Buses depart all day from around 5.30am in around 30-minute intervals, with a journey time of approximately 50 minutes. 

Train: In 2019, a direct line between Tel Aviv’s stations and Jerusalem’s Yitzhak Navon (adjacent to the Jerusalem Central Bus Station) began operation, much to the applause of the country’s citizens. Departing every hour, the journey time is between 37 and 52 minutes, depending on your departure station. 

Sherut: The sherut, translated from Hebrew as ‘shared taxi’, is a popular mode of transport for locals. You can find a line-up of yellow sherut vans outside Tel Aviv Central Bus Station. The window will display the destination, but double-check with the driver. There’s no set departure time—the vans leave as soon as they fill up (there’s space for 10-12 passengers).

Once you’ve arrived at Jerusalem Central Bus Station, you can reach the Old City in a few ways:

Light Rail: Jerusalem’s Light Rail opened in 2011 running on one line running from Mount Herzl on the west side to the East Jerusalem residential neighborhood of Pisgat Ze’ev. This is the quickest and most convenient way to reach the Old City of Jerusalem. Hop on directly outside the Central Bus Station and ride 5 stops (10 minutes) to City Hall station. From there, it’s a 7-minute walk to Jaffa Gate, the main Western entrance. Tickets must be purchased from a station machine before boarding. 

If you enjoy walking and want to soak up the scenery (perhaps grab a bite at the renowned Mahane Yehuda Market), it’s no more than a 40-minute walk to Jaffa Gate. 

Remember, public transport does not run during the Sabbath (Friday sundown to Saturday sundown). The only exception is the sherut, with prices increasing by a few shekels.

Buses and trains also run to Jerusalem from other cities. You can check Egged’s bus schedules and Israel Railways to plan your journey. 


Four Quarters

Old City Jerusalem has, for some time, been divided into four quarters Jewish, Muslim, Christian, and Armenian. There’s also a fifth area called Al-Aqsa, the site of the Dome of the Rock. Each has its entrance by the name of a gate, built during the Ottoman Empire from 1535 to 1542. The eight gates surrounding the Old City are:

  1. Jaffa Gate: The main entrance leads into the Christian Quarter on the left and the Armenian Quarter on the right.
  2. Zion Gate: Leading directly into the Armenian Quarter
  3. Dung Gate: The Jewish Quarter entrance
  4. Golden Gate: This gate leads to the Al-Aqsa compound. Throughout history, the gate was opened and closed under different rulings and has remained sealed since 1541 by Ottoman Sultan Suleiman.
  5. Lion Gate: Eastern entrance to the Muslim Quarter
  6. Herod’s Gate: Northern entrance to the Muslim Quarter
  7. Damascus Gate: This entrance leads to the Christian Quarter on the right
  8. New Gate: Added in the late 1880s, this gate leads directly into the Christian Quarter


Old City Jerusalem

To give you an idea of its size, the Old City of Jerusalem is surrounded by a sturdy wall measuring 4km in circumference.

Famous Sites and Landmarks

The best way to learn about and experience the famous sites of the Old City is through a guided tour with an expert guide. Abraham’s tours are gearing up to return, starting with our Holy City Tour, delving into a rich, vibrant past. The tour touches on many of the sites most sacred to Jews, Muslims, and Christians including: 


Western Wall

The Western Wall is a significant religious and historical site located in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City. It goes by a few names—Kotel, meaning wall in Hebrew, and Wailing Wall, to signify how Jewish people would weep during Roman Rule over the destruction of two temples. This remnant of the ancient Jewish temple is a place of prayer, quiet reflection, and spirituality for Jewish people around the world. You’ll notice a gathering of people cramming written prayers into the wall’s crevices, even touching the walls and leaving a gentle kiss in a moment of devotion. The Western Wall Tunnels is an underground discovery tour where you can see and touch segments of the wall hidden from view above ground, alongside magnificent archaeological finds.


Western Wall


Temple Mount

The Temple Mount (Haram al-Sharif) stands as a timeless emblem of ancient Jerusalem and its cultural legacy. Rising 740 meters above sea level in the eastern part of the city, it continues to hold immense reverence in contemporary times. This monumental site is the holiest place on earth for the Jewish people as it’s where the First and Second Jewish temples once stood. In the Muslim religion, Temple Mount is the third holiest site—where Prophet Mohammed’s Night Journey occurred. The compound is clustered with dozens of ancient buildings.  

Temple Mount


Al Aqsa Mosque

The Al Aqsa Mosque on Temple Mount stands as a prominent symbol of Islamic architecture and spirituality, estimated to have been built somewhere between 685 C.E. to 715 C.E. Despite its damage throughout the years, including an earthquake in 1837 and 1927, the mosque was repaired and restored to its current glory. The serene interior reveals a vast prayer hall adorned with intricate tilework, majestic arches, and ornate chandeliers. Al Aqsa Mosque exudes a sense of reverence and deep religious significance for Muslims far and wide, serving as a popular destination for pilgrims. Access to non-Muslims is restricted with rules changing frequently. 

Al Aqsa Mosque


Dome of the Rock

This mesmerizing architectural masterpiece exudes an enchanting aura, with its glistening golden dome proudly rising above the Old City. The Dome of the Rock dates back to 691-692 CE, during which its initial construction began above the site of the Second Jewish Temple. The dome was rebuilt in 1022-23, following its collapse years prior. This sacred Islamic shrine (central to the Al-Aqsa mosque compound) illustrates some of the oldest Islamic architecture of its kind. The gold-plated roof you see today was last restored in 1993 and is a focal point of the city. 

Dome of the Rock



Church of the Holy Sepulchre

The site of year-round pilgrimage by Christians all around the world, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher embodies centuries of reverence and spiritual devotion. It’s believed by many to be the crucifixion, burial, and resurrection site of Jesus Christ. Dating back to around 326 AD, the church, throughout the years, has undergone a series of demolishing and rebuilding. Within its hallowed halls, you’ll have the unique opportunity to feel the weight of centuries of devotion and take in sacred sites, including the Altar of the Crucifixion, Edicule of the Tomb, and the Stone of Anointing – the place of Jesus’ burial preparation, Angel’s Stone and Rock of Calvary (12th Station of the Cross).

Church of the Holy Sepulchre

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