24 Hour Guide to Jerusalem
Make every hour count while you roam the ancient streets of Jerusalem
Jerusalem, one of the oldest and most coveted cities in the world is a major destination in the Israeli lands. If you travel overseas to the country and miss a stop in Jerusalem, then you truly haven’t enjoyed the full Israeli experience. Lucky for you, I’ll be acting as your travel guide providing you with 24 hours of activity once you arrive to the old city of Jerusalem at 10 AM on a Thursday morning and stay until Friday evening.
Rise and shine! It’s morning in Jerusalem and you’re hungry for some breakfast food. Don’t expect to see pancakes and waffles doused in syrup, instead, at any local café or hotel dining area you’ll probably find some Israeli salad, cheese, eggs, and bread. Israeli salad is typically made up of diced cucumbers and tomatoes, tossed together into a giant salad bowl for sharing.
You can’t make a trip to Jerusalem without seeing and leaving a note in the Western Wall (a.k.a. the Kotel) in the old city. The Western Wall was once part of the Second Temple in Jerusalem before it was mostly destroyed by the Romans, leaving just a single wall. The Western Wall is an incredibly sacred site, and according to Jewish history, has been relevant since the 4th century. Before you walk up to the Wall, make sure you are dressed appropriately. Many of the women visiting the Wall wear pants or long skirts that cover their knees, along with a light coat or cardigan. Men mostly wear pants and a T-shirt or a long sleeved shirt. When you walk up to the Wall, it’s tradition to write a note about your goals, hopes and dreams, or maybe even a prayer, and to fold it up and place it into a crevice—so I recommend bringing a pen or pencil and a piece of paper with you!
Stomach rumbling already? Go visit Mahane Yehuda, or “The Shuk,” Jerusalem’s open air market. Hundreds of vendors line the market with their fresh fruits and baked goods to sell while locals flock the street, filling their bags with food to eat for the Sabbath, or in Hebrew “Shabbat.” If your stomach has started to reject the massive dollops of hummus slathered all over your meals and you want new options, there is a small pasta restaurant called Pasta Basta in the center of the Shuk you can eat at. Once you gobble down your pasta dish, take a few steps down the street to re:bar, a smoothie stand that I would say is the Israeli equivalent to Jamba Juice, but better!
Now that you have some extra fuel in your system, take a ride to Mount Herzl the “Mount of Remembrance,” Israel’s military cemetery located in the heart of Jerusalem. This national cemetery was named after Theodor Herzl, who’s grave sits atop the highest tip of the mountain. Herzl is the founder of the state of Israel and the father of modern political Zionism. If you’re lucky enough to travel with Israelis, particularly Israelis who have or are currently serving in the Israeli army, the experience walking through this beautiful cemetery is quite moving. During my visit, I was accompanied by seven Israelis, all of which have or were currently serving in the army. Hearing their stories and visiting the grave sites of the soldiers that they personally knew was simply indescribable.
Three hours on your feet after Mount Herzl, and to say the least, you’re probably mentally and physically exhausted. It’s time to check in at your hotel and/or hostel to rest and freshen up for the evening. When I traveled to Israel, my group and I stayed in the Caesar Hotel in Jerusalem, walking distance from the old city and a 15-minute walk from Ben Yehuda Street.
Time to take a short stroll to Ben Yehuda Street, known as the “Midrachov” in Hebrew, located in the central business district. It’s a lively night-life destination where street performers come out to play while you shop, eat dinner, and enjoy a drink or two. A plethora of Judaica and souvenir shops remain open all throughout the evening, where you can browse for hours, searching for the perfect Hamsa bracelet to bring home. If you’re looking for an outdoor pub to relax at with your friends, I highly suggest grabbing a table at Zollis.
Start your morning by making your way to the new city section of Jerusalem, particularly to the Mamilla Mall shopping street where you can find many high fashion boutiques and chain stores as well as modern Israeli and American restaurants. Taking you down a path directly to the old city, the buildings in Mamilla Mall glisten like the old structures seen in the old city and are illuminated at night by a string of lights that hang over the path. Offering tremendous views to the outer structure of the old city, Mamilla Mall offers plenty of brunch-like dining options. As a very modern street, Mamilla Mall is definitely a change of pace from the rest of Jerusalem.
Next on the list is probably one of the most moving museums in the world, Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust memorial located on Mount Herzl. Designed by master architect Moshe Safdie, the museum is shaped like a triangular prism and literally cuts through the mountain leading visitors to the “light” at the end of the tunnel—a gorgeous view of the city of Jerusalem. Walking through this maze of a museum is a unique educational experience that highlights the main events of the Holocaust while also sharing personal stories of survivors and those that suffered. Walking through Yad Vashem is not journey to make alone, and I highly suggest you pack some tissues!
Back to the hotel/hostel we go in order to get ready for Shabbat. At this time, finishing touches are made to the dinner dishes and everyone is dressing up for the evening. In Israel, Shabbat is a time of rest that begins at sundown on Friday evening and lasts until sundown on Saturday.
Shabbat, as a time of rest, the time between Friday and Saturday evening, is designated for relaxation, self-reflection, and quality time with friends and family. During my time in Israel, the area of Jerusalem that I stayed in turned into a ghost town during Shabbat. No businesses were open, no public transportation routes were running, and small groups of people and families were seen walking down the street. It truly feels like the world stops on Shabbat, giving you plenty of time to fully reflect and take in the 24 hours you’ve spent in Jerusalem.