The Best Things to Do in Jerusalem

You can spend years in the religious capital exploring sights, so we’ve crammed every must-see site into one handy guide

Jerusalem © Shutterstock
By Jennifer Greenberg
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Of the many things to do in Israel a visit to Jerusalem is a must! From the Wailing Wall to Yad Vashem, and everything in between, squeezing thousands of years of history into a few days isn’t an easy task, but we were up for the challenge. And, not to toot our own horn, but our list of top things to do in Jerusalem also includes modern destinations and foodie meccas, all of which you can feasibly see on the same trip. Remember: while Jerusalem might be ancient, it’s red hot as far as the hotels, tech scene, and, of course, oh-so-good restaurants are concerned. Here’s a look at the museums, religious sights, and fun family activities you should immediately add to your Jerusalem to-do list.

You can also find out more about how Time Out selects the very best things to do all over the world, or take a look at our list of the 50 best things to do in the world right now.

The top attractions in Jerusalem

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The Wailing Wall
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Attractions, Historic buildings and sites

The Wailing Wall - The Kotel

icon-location-pin Jerusalem Old City

No visit to Jerusalem is complete without a visit to the Kotel. Considered to be the holiest place for the Jewish faith, a short walk through the Old City of Jerusalem will lead you to this sacred site. Be sure to write a wish or personal note on a scrap of paper and slit it in the cracks of wall as visitors have for years. The Kotel is the pulsing center of the historically amazing Old City of Jerusalem.

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Piccolino © PR
Restaurants

The best Jerusalem restaurants

Whether or not you’re looking for kosher restaurants, Jerusalem offers a wide range of options that are both mouthwateringly delicious and suitable for a plethora of palates. Unlike many of the world’s other top destinations, in the Holy Land, you’ll find fantastic culinary experiences that aren’t solely expensive (thanks in large part to the city’s unparalleled Israeli markets). Here’s a look at the best restaurants in Jerusalem and what the thriving restaurant scene has to offer. Believe us, after a day of travelling throughout Israel or shopping at Mamilla Mall for Israeli jewelry and designer clothing, you'll be grateful for a reason to wear your newest purchases. And for those of you that are still up and pumping, try out the Jerusalem nightlife scene, it will surprise you. 

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Yad Vashem
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Museums, History

Yad Vashem - World Holocaust Remembrance Center

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Yad Vashem’s 45-acre campus comprises indoor museums and outdoor monuments, exhibitions, memorial sites, gardens, sculptures, and world-class research and education centers – all devoted to preserving the memory of the Holocaust. The hollowed-out cavern with a single candle reflected by a series of mirrors commemorates the 1.5 million children killed.

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Gatsby
© Kobi Charvit
Nightlife

Jerusalem nightlife: the best bars and nightclubs

Many things come to mind when people think about things to do in Jerusalem, but it doesn’t tend to include nightlife. This, however, is quickly changing as the Jewish history-charged city – thanks to the great Jerusalem hotels, hostels, the Jerusalem restaurants, Israeli fashion designers and a bustling tech scene – is attracting a new crop of urban savvy tourists and denizens who may not have left the confines of the White City due to the endless to do in Tel Aviv in the past. Whether you prefer to sit back with a glass of exquisite Israeli wine or are looking to dance the night away to live music on Ben Yehuda street, we’ve rounded up the best of Jerusalem nightlife: bars and clubs.

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Dome of the Rock
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Attractions, Religious buildings and sites

Dome of the Rock

icon-location-pin Jerusalem Old City

Built in 691 CE, The Dome of the Rock is one of the oldest works of Islamic architecture. Recognized as a UNESCO world heritage site, this spot is considered to be one of Jerusalem’s most recognizable landmarks. A masterpiece of Islamic architecture, the shrine is said to be where Mohammed ascended to heaven. Located at the edge of the Old City in Jerusalem, a walk through the ancient alleyways will lead you to this special monument.

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© Ayelet Beck
Restaurants

The most authentic Jerusalem restaurants

While street food in Israel isn’t hard to come by, it’s hard to weed out the authentic eats from the tourist traps. Jerusalem’s food scene is one where like its classical musicians, Jewish authenticity takes center stage. Even the hottest spots thrive on Jerusalem’s genuine vibe, as hip night spots lead by chefs bring out the beauty of the market, delighting locals and visitors alike. In all this hustle and bustle, no matter how hip, there’s always a touch of vintage, history and Jerusalem-chic. From traditional sabich and falafel to new school pita pocket fillings like fried red mullet and "chraime" (a spicy North African fish dish), Jerusalem restaurants are serving up the goods. Join Keren Brown in her foodie adventures as she explores the Holy City to hone down on Jerusalem’s most authentic spots from little nooks serving piping-hot bourekas to cozy no-frills restaurants serving homemade dumplings.

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Mahane Yehuda Market
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Shopping, Markets and fairs

Mahane Yehuda Market

icon-location-pin Machne Yehuda

An intoxicating fusion of colors, scents and sounds, Mahane Yehuda is Jerusalem’s biggest and oldest market. The stalls here sell everything from fresh produce to clothing and in recent years, Mahane Yehuda has also become a yuppie hub with designer boutiques and top chef restaurants. 

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Yad Vashem
© Shutterstock
Art

Jerusalem’s must-visit museums and Israeli art galleries

Whether you’re a first time visitor or a seasoned veteran, when looking for things to do in Jerusalem, it’s impossible to conquer every artifact in Jewish history, Jerusalem restaurant, and under-the-radar site. Throw in Jewish art galleries and top tier museums in Israel and you’re looking at an Israeli culture overload, in the best of ways. Check out the best art spaces the Holy Capital has to offer for enlightening exhibitions suited to all ages.

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Kadosh © Anatoly Michaello
Restaurants, Cafés

Beans of gold: The best cafes in Jerusalem

By Tali Bakshi After you've enjoyed the best restaurants in Jerusalem, examined all the accommodation possibilities, and partied with the best of holy city's nightlife, let us present you with the following important list: the best cafes in Jerusalem, so that there is enough caffeine for the journey home, but also so you can get a sense of what this magical city has to offer 

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Tower of David © Shutterstock
Attractions

Discover landmarks in Jewish history

Of the many things to do in Israel, the landmark establishments of the country are rife with Jewish history dating back thousands upon thousands of years through to modern times. From stunning museums that are architectural gems in their own right, like the famous Yad Vashem holocaust museum, to actual excavations and archaeological digs, these centers and institutions bear witness to Israel's prolific Jewish history – a history so extensive and significant, you’ll have to see it to believe it. Check out these attractions, and if your kids get restless, take a break for some family-friendly activities and authentic Jerusalem eats in between sightseeing. 

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Tower of David
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Museums

Tower of David (Citadel)

icon-location-pin Jerusalem Old City

Permanent exhibitions tell the story of Jerusalem through specialized cultural events, activities, and tours. During the spring months, the exhibition “The Kaiser is Coming!" is on display, featuring archival images and history of Wilhelm II, Emperor of Germany in 1898.

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Jerusalem hotel
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Hotels

The best Jerusalem hotels

Despite the lingering threat of unrest, Jerusalem is a thriving city and when it comes to its hotels, surprisingly modern. Aside from Five Star Alliance hotels and the luxurious King David, you’ll find unique boutique stays that put up a fair fight to the boutique hotels in Tel Aviv. And, If you come off season, you will even get reasonable prices that don't warrant a Jerusalem hostel, but rather still provide the most over-the-top amenities. Here’s a look at the best hotels for the next time you come to site-see in the Old City of Jerusalem or Israeli wine and dine at the best Jerusalem restaurants. Oh, and don't be surprised if you get to the hotel later than you thought, the Jerusalem nightlife scene is thriving more than ever!  

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Church of the Holy Sepulcher
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Attractions, Religious buildings and sites

Church of the Holy Sepulcher

icon-location-pin Jerusalem Old City

Built on the site revered by Christians as the location of Jesus' resurrection, the church has been a location of pilgrimage since the 4th century. Christians of all denominations and people from around the world can be seen visiting its various frankincense laden vestibules and chambers.

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Hutzot Hayotzer
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Shopping, Arts, crafts & hobbies

Hutzot Hayotzer

icon-location-pin Yemin Moshe

Just outside the Old City wall near the quaint Yemin Moshe neighborhood, Hutzot Hayotzer houses over 26 galleries and artist studios, offering a diverse selection of handmade items and paintings. Every August, there is also an arts and crafts festival with exhibitions and live music in the ancient amphitheater, called Sultan’s Pool. 

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Old City Market (Arab Souq)
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Shopping, Markets and fairs

Old City Market (Arab Souq)

icon-location-pin Jerusalem Old City

With a distinctive Arabian nights feel to it, the Arab market – or souq – located in the Christian and Muslim Quarters of the Old City is a labyrinth of alleyways lined with shops selling everything from handmade jewelry and exotic scarves to hookahs and ceramics.

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Ticho House
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Museums, Art and design

Ticho House

icon-location-pin Jerusalem City Center

Ticho House was one of the first houses in Jerusalem built outside the Old City walls, and it’s filled with the atmosphere of old Jerusalem and the art of Israel’s beloved painter Anna Ticho (1894 -1980). Today the house hosts exhibits of leading artists, alongside chamber performances by immigrant and veteran Israeli artists.

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Hostel
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Hotels

The best Jerusalem hostels

Jerusalem, old and new, is packed with historical sites, archaeological artifacts, Israeli markets and a handful of the best museums in Israel. After a sweaty day of squeezing through the Kotel tunnels, admiring Jewish artifacts at the Israel Museum, and weaving through the masses at Mahane Yehuda, you’ll want somewhere to shower, nap, and recharge before heading back out at night to, say, one of Israel's jazz and blues venues. Save your shekels and opt for one of these Jerusalem hostels instead. You’re bound to meet cool travelers like yourself in a comfortable, inviting environment. Some of the hostels even sport a bar and live music!

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The Cardo
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Art, Arts centers

The Cardo

icon-location-pin Jerusalem Old City

Aside from popular tourist, archaeological and holy sites, the Old City of Jerusalem also boasts the Cardo, an ancient thoroughfare in the Jewish Quarter riddled with lively eateries, local artisan workshops, Judaica stores, boutiques and spice stalls. Part of the Cardo has been restored to appear as it would have in Roman times.

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Nahalat Shiva
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Shopping, Arts, crafts & hobbies

Nahalat Shiva

icon-location-pin Jerusalem City Center

This charming cobblestoned neighborhood offers some of the best artisan shops in the city. Yoel Salomon St, Nahalat Shiva's main thoroughfare, hosts "Altogether 8" – three ceramic cooperatives that together present the works of 40 of the best ceramic designers in Israel. 

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Herbert Samuel © Shiran Carmel
Restaurants

The best hotel restaurants in Jerusalem

Tackling a packed itinerary of Jerusalem site-seeing can be exhausting to say the least. There is so much to see and do with the family that eating a proper meal at the end of the day is often left off the itinerary. Usually hurried and on the fly, dinner becomes a matter of stuffing your face from hunger. These hotel restaurants in Jerusalem kill two birds with one stone: not only can you eat well, but you also don't have to waste any time travelling for yet another rendez vous because you're already at your hotel. Reserve your precious hours for the major attractions that can't be missed and Jerusalem’s surprisingly lively nightlife. 

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Jerusalem Biblical Zoo
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Attractions, Zoo and aquariums

Jerusalem Biblical Zoo

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A 62-acre zoo with a lake at its center, the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo encompasses two levels, interconnecting pools and waterfalls. The zoo is surrounded by green hills and has grassy lawns with plenty of shade inside, and includes multiple research laboratories dedicated to wildlife conservation. Kids love the Noah’s Ark visitor center, a boat-shaped wooden structure with information and games pertaining to all the animals mentioned in the Bible.

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Bird Observatory
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Attractions, Parks and gardens

Bird Observatory

icon-location-pin Nachlat Shiva

Israel lies between three continents on the route of migrating birds, with more than 500 million crossing Israel's skies twice a year. This charming observatory houses the Israel national bird-ringing center. Together with the active ringing station, it’s an ideal tool for conservation research monitoring bird populations.

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