Jerusalem is the capital city of Israel, and in its heart, there is a unique treasure that is the Old City, which is one of the most extraordinary places in the world. It is a place dear to the Jewish, Islamic and Christian religions. The Old City is at the very centre of Jerusalem, and it includes the Kotel, i.e. Wailing Wall or Western Wall, which is the holiest place for Judaism.
Beyond the Western Wall, the Dome of the Rock is the site where Muslims believe the prophet Muhammad rose to heaven. Additionally, also in the Old City, there is the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which is the place where Christians believe Jesus was crucified and buried.
The Four Quarters Of The Old City
The Old City of Jerusalem comprises four quarters: the Armenian Quarter, the Christian Quarter, the Jewish Quarter, and the Muslim Quarter. The Old City is encircled by ancient walls of Jerusalem and connected through seven entry gates. The busiest gate is Jaffa Gate, which is close to the Tower of David Museum, which is dedicated to the history of Jerusalem.
Every district is featured by a different atmosphere and architectural style. There is a magical place on top of the walls of the Old City to see a stunning view of the Old City, which is well-known as Ramparts Walk.
The Armenian And Christian Quarters
The Armenian and Christian Quarters is the house of forty holy Christian sites, and pilgrims visit it worldwide. The Christian Quarter was developed around the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which is the place where Jesus has been crucified and buried. The Armenian Quarter is the smallest quarter of the Old City, and it is where almost two thousand five hundred Armenians live. The Armenian community resides in this beautiful place dating back more than two thousand years ago.
The Jewish Quarter
The Jewish Quarter is featured by characteristic narrow alleyways, which are lined up with the Jewish residents’ houses and Yeshivas, i.e. Torah’s schools. Walking through the narrow alleyways, you will find yourself in the Western Wall Plaza, where the Kotel is located. The Kotel is the holiest place for Jews, and it is the only wall of the Temple, which remained until today.
Indeed, even though the Western Wall appears enormous and majestic, it represents only a tiny part of the colossal Temple. It is customary to write a note, prayer or request on a piece of paper and put it inside the cracks of the Wall. Underground the Western Wall, there are the Western Wall Tunnels, which are connected to the Kotel, and they are accessible in the big square. The holiest section of the Western Wall is believed to be the portion close to the Holy of Holies.
The Muslim Quarter
The Muslim Quarter is featured by busier and crowded streets, and most of all by the famous market, i.e. Shuk, where all kinds of Middle East products are sold. The Arab Shuk is an ancient shopping centre, and you will find something else besides the usual religious and tourist products.
In the Muslim Quarter, there is the Little Western Wall, which is another portion of the Kotel. There is the Dome of the Rock in this district, where non-Muslims are not allowed to enter. Nevertheless, tourists are allowed to visit the surrounding of the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
Landmarks Of The Old City Of Jerusalem
The Old City of Jerusalem is the historically richest and the largest site in the world because it is full of archaeological artefacts and museums. There are several must-visit places of the Old City:
The Kotel – The Western Wall is the holiest place for the Jewish people, and it is reachable through a beautiful walk along the pathways of the Jewish Quarter. It is a two thousand old wall, which was built with limestone and was a part of the Second Jewish Temple. It is a tradition to write a note, prayer or request and put it inside the cracks of the Wall, as many visitors did for many years.
The Jerusalem Archeological Park – Davidson Center contains a high-tech virtual reconstructed model of the ancient Old City of Jerusalem with a three-dimensional reconstruction of the Temple, according to ancient writings and archaeological remnants.
The Kotel Tunnels contains unrevealed hidden parts of the Western Wall. It is a labyrinth of underground passages, streets and ancient water channels dating back to the Second Temple period. Many underpasses and hidden pathways have been discovered recently. Indeed, Jerusalem is made of different cities in one, having been built layer by layer, with each hallway revealing a history of thousands of years.
The Tower of David hosts a permanent exhibition about the history of Jerusalem and offering several cultural activities, events and tourist tours. In the springtime, there is usually an exhibition called “The Kaiser is coming!”, which is dedicated to the Emperor of Germany, Wilhelm II.
The Tower of David is located close to Jaffa Gate, and it is a restored ancient fortress. It is well-known also as Jerusalem’s Citadel, and it is a stunning archaeological building, which is unique in the world with thousands of years’ history. Inside the museum, there are ancient guard rooms, and from the top of King Herod’s tower, there is an unbelievably astonishing 360° view of the entire city of Jerusalem. In the night, there is an outdoor light show with projected lights on the stone walls and sounds, which tell about the unique history of Jerusalem.
The Dome of the Rock history dates back to 691 CE, and it is one of the oldest works of Islamic architecture. It is a recognised UNESCO world heritage site, and it is one of the most important landmarks of Jerusalem. Indeed, the Dome of the Rock is one of the masterpieces of Arab architecture. The Shrine is the place where Mohammed ascended to heaven, following the Islamic tradition. It is located on the edge of the Old City of Jerusalem.
The Church of the Holy Sepulcher is a 12th-century building, which was built on a previous 4th-century structure, and it is one of the holiest Christian sites in Jerusalem. Indeed, it is the destination of Christians’ pilgrimages since the 4th century. The Church of the Holy Sepulcher is a mystical place with vestibules full of frankincense, and ancient chambers, which Christians visit from all over the world.
The Old City Market – The Arab Shouk is a labyrinth of spices, clothes, jewellery and Middle Eastern products, evocating the magical ambience of an Arabian night. The Arab Market is situated in the Muslim Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem, which is a maze of pathways lined up with stores selling every kind of items, such as handmade jewellery, exotic clothes, hookahs and ceramics.
The Via Dolorosa, i.e. The Terra Sancta Museum, is a Christian multimedia museum dedicated to the history of pilgrims in Jerusalem and the history of the development of the Via Dolorosa. The installation is in eight languages.
The Cardo is located in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City in Jerusalem, and it dates back to two thousand and seven hundred years ago. Nowadays, it is a stunning archaeological place with unique and striking mosaics, which are made of thousands of coloured micro stones designed and created by artist Dudu Harel. Close to the mosaics, different stores are selling Middle Eastern typical products, artisans’ and artists’ handmade artworks, which are inspired by the archaeological remnants of the area.
The Temple Institute is an educational institution devoted to educate and recreate life aspects during the First and the Second Temple. Visiting the Temple Institute gives the sensation to go back to two thousand years ago, showcasing holy vessels and garments used in the Temple, along with paintings portraying biblical scenarios.
Jerusalem’s Old City is a unique place to be on your list of must-visit landmarks in Israel because of the unicity of its very ancient history.