We only had one day in Jerusalem due to traveling in and out of Istanbul. Of course more time in the city would have been best, but that’s the way it worked out!
“The view of Jerusalem is the history of the world; it is more, it is the history of earth and heaven.” -Benjamin Disraeli.
We stayed at the Jerusalem Hotel which is a quaint Palestinian family-run hotel in a former Arab mansion. Our room was full of antique furniture and stone walls with a newly renovated bathroom. The location was very convenient, although our taxi driver did need some help finding it. The hotel is just a block away from the Garden Tomb and within walking distance to the Damascus Gate to enter the Old City.
We decided to hire a guide to show us around for the day. Our friend recommended Yosi to us and we are so glad that we did. It is definitely possible to see Jerusalem without a guide especially since the Old City is completely walkable and most signage was in English. However, with just one day in Jerusalem, we wanted to maximize our time and it worked out really well.
Dome of the Rock
After meeting Yosi and starting the day with a sorely needed history lesson over an Israeli breakfast, our first destination was to enter the Old City through Jaffa Gate with its Tower of David. Then we made our way through the old Jewish Quarter through security checkpoints to Temple Mount to see the Dome of the Rock.
The Dome of the Rock was built in 688 AD on top of the remains of King Solomon’s temple. It is one of the most holy spots for Muslims and marks the spot where Isaiah went to sacrifice his son Isaac as well as where Muhammad made his ascent into heaven. Jews believe it contains the foundation stone where Adam and Eve were created and time began. It is where the holy of holies for King Solomon’s temple contained the Ark of the Covenant, and where the Messiah will come. The Al-Aqsa Mosque is also on the mount. Only Muslims can enter but you can get a peek inside this ancient mosque. Check the opening hours for non-Muslims and to see the awesome view of the Mount of Olives.
One day in Jerusalem would not be complete without visiting the Western Wall, which was built in 20 BC. It is the only remaining part of the temple complex, the holiest prayer site for Jews. There was lots of activity here. Families come from all over the world for bar mitzvah and pilgrimages. We bought tickets for the Western Wall tunnel tour which leads you down to the original street level where the guides explain how the temples would have looked, the underground cisterns, and an interesting perspective on how Herod had the walls constructed.
As we walked through the Old City to each of our destinations, our guide would nonchalantly point out ancient sites. The Old City has a Muslim Quarter, Jewish Quarter and a Christian Quarter each full to the brim with historical sites and monuments like Church of St. Anne, the place where it was believed the parents of Virgin Mary lived or King David’s tomb or the Room of the Last Supper or the Ethiopian Monastery.
After seeing the Western Wall, our guide led us along the Via Dolorosa which is the route that Jesus is believed to have taken as he carried his cross to Calvary. There are 10 stations along the way where there is a church or shrine to mark the location. It starts with the first station which is the place many believe that Pontius Pilate condemned Jesus. The ending station is the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The church has the last 5 stations of the Passion of Jesus and many Christians believe it to be built over the spot where Christ was crucified, buried and resurrected. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre was built in 300 AD by Constantine’s mother who established many Christian sites.
All along the Via Dolorosa we saw many, many pilgrims coming to see these sites. Some were in big groups carrying a large cross walking along chanting or with music. It was so neat to see the reverence and dedication by so many people. In the Church of the Holy Sepulchre we watched men and women rub the Stone of Unction with handkerchiefs to take home, pay respect to relics, pray at the tomb, and queue to touch the Rock of Calvary. It was also really interesting to learn about which church maintains the sites, be it the Greek Orthodox or the Franciscans.
Along the Via Dolorosa we stopped for a little Turkish coffee and bird’s nest pistachio baklava at Holy Rock Cafe amongst the souvenir shops. It was delicious and the perfect rest and pick- me-up for all the walking required for one day in Jerusalem. Turkish coffee is served unfiltered so the grounds will collect at the bottom of your cup. You don’t drink the last 1/3 of your coffee.
We stopped for lunch in The Quarter Cafe in the Jewish Quarter. Many places inside the walls were overpriced, but the food was good and the view was great.
Outside the Old City
We left the Old City and drove to the Israel Museum, after lunch. The outdoor gardens with a large scale model of the Old Jerusalem, and of course the Dead Sea Scrolls, were all highlights. We also drove to see the BYU Jerusalem Center which has a gorgeous view overlooking the city. We ended the day at the Mahane Yehuda food market to sample spices, breads, olives, halva, baklava and other sweets. This is a great place for people watching. For dinner we walked outside of the Old City to Ishtabach. They serve a Kurdish-Syrian filled pastry with your choice of filling that was delicious.
We saw all that we could in our one day in Jerusalem. It is amazing how Islam, Judaism and Christianity overlap and interlace. It was a fascinating history lesson. My favorite way to learn!
More to Explore
Have only one day in Jerusalem soon, or a quick stop you want to make the most of? Check out the Highlights of Jerusalem to help you plan your stay.