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2 days in Jerusalem: what places to visit

View of the Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem
Al Aqsa Mosque as seen from Jerusalem’s ramparts

“The view of Jerusalem is the history of the world; it is more, it is the history of earth and of heaven.”

Benjamin Disraeli

To be honest I wasn’t sure what to think of Jerusalem. Marlo was raised as a member of the Seventh Day Adventist church and has always strongly to visit the city that is the bedrock of so many religions. Me? As an Atheist, I was less attracted by the religious aspect of the Holy City but incredibly intrigued by the social intertwinement of the people who reside there. A city of extremes – simultaneously embodying the city of eternal conflict as well as the cradle of worship. We scheduled 2 full days in Jerusalem to explore the capital of the three major Abrahamic religions: Christianity, Judaism and Islam.

Jews worshipping at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem
The beautiful Al Aqsa Mosque as seen from the Mount of Olives on our 2 days in Jerusalem

We designed the perfect 2-day Jerusalem itinerary for everyone with limited time to explore the Holy City. Sure, a longer trip will let you see and do a lot more of the religious sights – but this itinerary holds a perfect balance so even non-believers will enjoy a trip to energizing Jerusalem!

If you do have more time to spare, this Jerusalem itinerary was originally created as part of our 7 day Israel itinerary which includes many other fabulous destinations in Israel like Mediterranean Tel Aviv and the undiscovered Negev Desert! Be sure to check it out while you’re planning your trip to Israel.

Things to know before you visit Jerusalem

Understanding the underlying conflict

Since many years, Israel has not been graced with positive coverings in the news. The ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict dates back to even before Israel’s deceleration of Independence in 1948. Israeli’s claimed what they considered the Promised Land, as compensation for the suffering of their people during the Second World War, which was voted by the United Nations. Jerusalem was divided: The western half became part of the new state of Israel, while the eastern half, including the Old City, was occupied by Jordan.

The contest over Jerusalem escalated in 1967 and started the Arab-Israeli War. This is when Israel not only defeated invading Arab armies but also seized control of the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and East Jerusalem from Jordan. After the victory, Jerusalem became the center of a cult like devotion that had not really existed previously. Being an important place of worship for both Jews and Arabs, Temple Mount (the historic site of King Herod’s Temple) or Noble Sanctuary (the location of Muhammad’s journey to Jerusalem and ascent to heaven) is considered the holiest of places in both religions and one that continues to cause tention until today.

Since our trip, I’ve been reflecting and researching ways that I can better educate myself in understanding the Israel-Palestine conflict as well as the morals and beliefs linked to all Abraham religions. I don’t have all the answers, but as someone involved in driving tourism and educating visitors, the least I can do is share what I’ve learned. You can read how we felt about our travels to Jerusalem right here.

Market scenes in the Arab Quarter during our 2 days in Jerusalem
Covered alleyways in Jerusalem are refreshing to escape the midday sun

Safety in Jerusalem

Even though Israel often makes headlines due to its conflicts with Palestine, you can rest assured that Jerusalem is considered safe for travel. There is a constant presence of police, in particular before entering the Western Wall area, and the Israeli military in the main streets of the Muslim Quarter. Furthermore, the Old City is home to Muslims, Jews, Christians and Armenians who live side by side. celebrated Ramadan.

On Fridays, since the Muslim Quarter is particularly crowded due to masses of people praying at the Dome of the Rock and Al Aqsa Mosque, bear in mind that certain areas are closed for your safety. We were in the Old City during Ramadan and unfortunately were never allowed to visit the Al Aqsa Mosque and Dome of the Rock during our stay.

Visiting Jerusalem during Shabbat

We arrived in Israel’s capital on a Thursday afternoon, which is the day before the start of the weekly Shabbat, the Jewish day of rest, which starts Friday right before sunset and ends Saturday evening right after sunset. In Jerusalem, Shabbat is a totally unique experience. Something which we incredibly looked forward to: to witness Sabbat in real life and how this buzzing city simply seems to halt for 24 hours.

Starting from early on Friday afternoon, businesses, shops, and most restaurants begin to close. Public transportation (buses and railway) do not run at all in Jerusalem during Shabbat. Taxis however continue to operate, as do all shops at airports.

It’s something which we simply can’t grasp no longer, looking at the almost never ending rat race of western civilisation. On a sidenote: being in a buzzing city (like Jerusalem) during Sabbat is something which you should experience at least once in your lifetime. It’s fascinating to witness how a city full of activity almost falls asleep, yes almost feeling like as if it got deserted by its residents.

Starting as from Friday afternoon, all in mere moments. It’s only now, weeks and months after Corona virus lockdowns all over the world that I’m somehow able to compare Jerusalem during Sabbat time with something which people all over the world can relate to: empty streets, little to no traffic, shops, pubs and restaurants closed. Sabbat is the weekly moment for Jerusalem to come to rest. The city holding its breath for 24 hours.

Mosque in Jerusalem
rthodox Jews in the Old City of Jerusalem on our two days in Jerusalem itinerary
Delicious fresh hummus at the Machane Yehuda Market
Orthodox Jews in the Old City of Jerusalem on our two day itinerary
Palm trees in Jerusalem

2 days in Jerusalem: how to see the best of the Holy City

We approached Jerusalem from the South, after our road trip through the Negev Desert and the Dead Sea. It’s Thursday evening and we checked into our hotel, just in time to witness the sun dropping behind the ancient city walls. In hindsight the part of the city where we’ve spend most of our time during our visit. For obvious reasons: once you’ve visited this ancient, historic part of Jerusalem packed with activity, you’ll miss it the moment your’e no longer in it.

We ended our first evening exploring Jerusalem’s food scene at the Machane Yehuda Market. Known for its food market, Machane Yehuda is actually an entire neighborhood intertwining markets, restaurants and bars. We highly recommend the Machane Yehuda Tasting Card. You receive a set of vouchers can you exchange for tapas sized bites throughout different stalls at the market and discover the Israeli cuisine. It’s an exiting experience for foodies!

It’s about 12min on foot back to the Villa Brown Hotel, located in the heart of Jerusalem. A wonderful boutique hotel which engulfed us into the Middle Eastern vibe. The roof terrace is absolutely enchanting to soak up the morning and afternoon sun or to enjoy a cocktail to end your very first evening in Jerusalem!

Day 1 | Discovering Jewish history in Jerusalem

The first full day day of your 2 days in Jerusalem is spend discovering the sites most significant for Jewish history. Strolling through The Old City of Jerusalem feels like being dropped into a maze. Not just a regular one. A maze filled with delightful scents of fresh fruit and herbs, a festival of colours in tiny shops stuffed with local fabrics. Corner after corner new surprises await you. Pleasant ones, rest assured. A highly vivid atmosphere, no time to get bored, whatsoever. 

For some reason it reminded me of Alladin and his adventures on the market in the city of Agrabah. A throwback to one of my favourite childhood memories. Now experienced in real life. At least sort of.Something which you will definitely notice when walking around. It’s fascinating as from one moment to another you simply seem to enter a whole new world. A world where you can experience a totally different vibe and other habits than the ones you were confronted with just moments ago, only one corner ago.

08:00 | Start your day by taking in the Old City walls while you make your way to the Zion Gate. Located on the southern part of the city wall, the gate took a beating during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. Its facade remains riddled with bullet holes as a reminder of the fighting that took place here. The Zion Gate leads in the direction of Mount Zion, where two important Jewish sites can be found: the Tomb of David, believed to be the resting place of King David even though there is no actual historical evidence if this, and the Cenacle, believed to be the room of the Last Supper.

Where | here
When | Sat-Thu: 8:00-17:00 ; Fri: 8:00-13:00
Entrance fee | 28 NIS per adult (self-guided)
Guided tours | you can visit the site independently or join a 3-hour guided tour. English tours operate multiple times per day.

09:00 | Enter the city through the Zion Gate and head to the Tower of David. This historical sight has actually nothing to do with King David as its name would suggest. The citadel was originally built by King Herod and now contains a museum which takes you through the history of Jerusalem and helps to pull together many of the sights you will see on your 2 days in Jerusalem.

Where | here
Opening hours | Mo-Thu: 10:00 – 18:00 ; Fri: 10:00 – 14:00; Sat: 10:00 – 18:00 
Entrance fee | 40 NIS per adult (self-guided)

Small alleyways in the Old City of Jerusalem
Souverins in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City in Jerusalem

11:00 | Next, head over to the nearby Jaffa Gate and purchase entrance tickets at the information office for the city walls walk. A hidden gem in Jerusalem where you can enjoy unique views over the Old City. There are two routes you can take: a Northern route which passes by the Christian and Muslim Quarter and the Southern route that passes by the Armenian Quarter and end at the Jewish Quarter near the Western Wall. Start at the Jaffa Gate and end at the Dung Gate.

Where | here
When  |
Sat – Thurs: 9:00 – 16:00 (17:00 in summer); Fri: 9:00 – 14:00 but only the northern circuit is open
Cost |
20 NIS (ticket is good for two days and includes entrance to both the southern circuit and the northern circuit)

12:30 | Time to dive into Israeli cuisine at the Quarter Café. This kosher restaurant offers all different kind of kosher local specialities but the top attraction is the incredible view over the Old city. Vegan options are available. A must stop and one of the best dining locations in the Old City in our book!

13:30 (12:30 in winter) | One of the highlights of a trip to Jerusalem is a visit of Temple Mount to see the spectacular Dome of the Rock. This place is considered sacred by all three major Abrahamic religions: Islam, Judaism and Catholicism. For Jews and Catholics, the site is known as the reins of Kind Herod’s temple, for Muslims, it is known as the place where Muhammad ascented to heaven. Temple Mount can be accessed by 11 gates in the Old City of Jerusalem but because of entry restrictions, tourists and non-Muslims are only allowed to enter through the Mugrabi Gate. This gate is located near the Western Wall Plaza and can be accessed by a wooden bridge. You will first need to access the Western Wall Plaza and pass the necessary metal detectors.

Where | here
Who | non-Muslim visitors are limited to dedicated visitor slots
When  | Mon – Thur: 7:30 (8:30 summer) – 10:30 (11:30 summer) and 12:30 (13:30 summer) -13:30 (14:30 summer); Fri – Sat: closed
Cost |
free

Dome of the Rock at Temple Mount during our two days in Jerusalem
Al Aqsa Mosque as seen from the Jerusalem ramparts walk during our two days in Jerusalem
The Wailing Wall during our 2 days in Jerusalem itinerary
Orthodox Jews praying at the Wailing Wall on our two days in Jerusalem
Prayers hidden in the Wailing Wall of Jerusalem

14:15 | After exploring the Temple Mount, head back down to the Western Wall Plaza. At the Western Wall, watching the observant pray along the 2nd most holy Jewish site in Jerusalem. The Western Wall is divided into two sections: the left section is reserved for men and the right section is dedicated to women. The Western Wall or Wailing Wall is considered holy by Catholics and Jews as this is the nearest place to Temple Mount where Jews are permitted to pray. It’s a fantastic location to witness Orthodox Jewish traditions.

Where | here
When  | 24hours
Cost |
free

15:00 | Exit the Dung Gate to the City of David and nearby Hezekiah’s Tunnel. The City of David is located just outside the Old City walls in a neighborhood of Silwan, a Palestinian Arab village and is considered to be the original settlement Jerusalem. In essence, the City of David in the birthplace of Jerusalem. Discover important historical and biblical sites like the underground tunnels through which Jerusalem was conquered, the hidden spring where ancient kings were coronated and the mysteries of Hezekiah’s Tunnel, where water has flowed to the city Jerusalem since the time of the prophets.

Opening hours | Sun-Thur: 08:00 – 19:00 (08:00 – 17:00 in winter) – Fri: 08:00 – 16:00 (08:00 – 14:00 in winter)
Entrance fee | 28 NIS per adult (self-guided)
Guided tours | you can visit the site independently or join a 3-hour guided tour. English tours operate multiple times per day.

18:00 | A short taxi ride or 20 min walk (about 1km) will take you uphill from the City of David to the Holocaust Memorial near the Mount of Olives (where you will return on your second day in Jerusalem). From the Holocaust Memorial you’ll have an absolutely amazing view over Jerusalem and the golden dome of the Al Aqsa Mosque bathing in the golden light of the afternoon. Before you, the graves of thousands of Jews face the city of Jerusalem. Many Jews wish to be buried as close as possible to the city of Jerusalem as it is believed that the Messiah will return upon earth on the Mount of Olives and where the resurrection of the dead shall begin. Burials on the Mount of Olives started 3000 years ago and contains up to 150.000 graves, including those of famous Jews. After you’ve taken in the incredible views, let the taxi drive you back to Villa Brown Hotel to freshen up.

Jewish Graves looking towards Jerusalem and Temple Mount
Jewish graves overlooking the Old City of Jerusalem on the Mount of Olives

Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD rises upon you. For behold, darkness covers the earth, and thick darkness is over the peoples; but the LORD will rise upon you, and His glory will appear over you.

Isaiah 60:1

20:00 | Have dinner in Downtown at Anna, one of the best restaurants in Jerusalem. The restaurant is located at the top of a historic building that houses a museum and cultural center and offers fresh Italian inspired dishes. On the menu are delicious pasta’s and seafood dishes. The perfect way to end the first evening of your 2 days in Jerusalem.

First day walking route along important Jewish sites in Jerusalem

Day 2 | Discovering Christian and Islamic sites in Jerusalem

The second day of your 2 days in Jerusalem is dedicated to exploring the Christian and Muslim Quarter. A feast for the senses as you enter the vibrant souks and the myrrh scented churches. A magical world of shops, food stalls with delicious fresh squeezed juices and precious stones and the Via Dolorosa form the epicenter of both the Christian and Muslim Quarter. For a moment it felt like walking through Aladdin’s world.

09:00 | Take a taxi back to Mount of Olives where you ended your first day, yesterday afternoon. Instead of stopping at the Holocaust Memorial, you’ll start your day at the Chapel of the Ascension, the spot where Christians believe Jesus ascended into heaven. A footprint in the stone slab in the chapel supposedly marks the footstep of Christ.

Where | here
When  | 8:00 – 18:00 (summer); 08:00 – 14:30 (winter)
Cost | Free

09:30 | Walk down from the Mount of Olives visiting the small church where Jesus first taught the Lord’s Prayer, and the tombs of the prophets Haggai, Malachi and Zachariah which are beautifully hidden beneath the impressive Jewish cemetery.

Hidden gem on our two days in Jerusalem itinerary: Tombs of the Prophets Haggai, Malachi and Zachariah at the Mount of Olives
Tombs of the Prophets Haggai, Malachi and Zachariah at the Mount of Olives

11:00 | Near the bottom of the Mount of Olives, stop at the Garden of Gethsemane. According to the Gospel, this is a place often frequented by Jesus and his disciples and is believed to be the place where Jesus was arrested the night before his crucifixion. The small garden is a nice place to walk around in, among the very old olive trees.

Where | here
When  | 08:00-12:00, 14:00-18:00 (17:00 Oct-Mar); Grotto: 8.30-12:00, 14.30-17:00 (15.40pm Sun & Thu)
Cost | Free

12:00 | Next, head to the Church of St. Anne, the best-preserved Crusader church in Jerusalem, by passing through the historical Lion’s Gate. This also marks the starting point for the Stations of the Cross. There are 14 stations in total, the first 9 around the Via Dolorosa and the final 5 in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The first two station are located near the Church of St. Anne and represent Christ being sentenced to death and picking up the cross. There are little signs that indicate each station but they’re not in-your-face obvious so take a good look around. Each Friday, a procession walks the entire Station of the Cross, often accompanied by devoted believers carrying their own wooden cross.

Starting Point | Monestary of the Flagellation, Lions Gate, Old City, Jerusalem
When  | Every Friday at 3:00 pm
Cost | Free

12:30 | Depending on how much time you spend at each Station of The Cross, you can arrive at the third station in either 10 min or 60 min. The Via Dolorosa is lined with intricate shops after all. After you passed the third station, grab lunch at Abu Shukri. Granted, this local lunch spot is praised in most guide books but with reason. It serves super delicious hummus and other Middle-Eastern dishes. The Middle-Eastern vibe resonates through this hole-in-the-wall through its color scheme and decorations.

14:00 | Continue your way along the Stations of The Cross and the Via Dolorosa to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The church is believed to stand on the sight Jesus was crucified and contains the final 5 stations of the cross. It is the highlight of any 2 day Jerusalem itinerary and is jointly owned by Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox and Armenian Apostolic denominations. The result is a mishmash of designs slowly decaying in a magnificently atmospheric building.

Where | here
When  | Sun: 05:00 – 20:00; Mon – Sat: 05:00 – 21:00 (Oct-Mar); Everyday: 04:00 – 19:00 (Apr-Sep)
Cost | Free

Walking the Via Dolorosa and the Stations of the Cross on our two days in Jerusalem itinerary
Incredible architecture of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre
The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is a must top during your 2 days in Jerusalem
Dangling lights at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the Christian Quarter of Jerusalem
Worshippers at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the Christian Quarter on our 2 days in Jerusalem

15:30 | Make your way to the Jaffa Gate to explore the northern circuit of Jerusalem’s Old City walls. The northern walk goes from the Jaffa Gate to the Lion’s Gate and is a bit longer than the southern section you walked yesterday. You can get off at any gate en route but you can only start the walk at the Jaffa Gate. This part of the walk offer nice views over the Christian and Muslim Quarter. We suggest to leave the Old City walls at the Damascus Gate so you can start exploring the lively Arabic Market. Here you will find religious items, jewelry, pottery, hookah, clothing and textiles, and endless souvenirs. Get lost in the many alleyways, and feel free to pop into the stores tucked away in the hidden corners.

Where | here
When  | Sat – Thurs: 9:00 – 16:00 (17:00 in summer); Fri: 9:00 – 14:00 but only the northern circuit is open
Cost | 20 NIS (ticket is good for two days and includes entrance to both the southern circuit and the northern circuit)

The lively Muslim Quarter during our two days in Jerusalem
The lively Muslim Quarter during our two days in Jerusalem
Fantastic colors and smells at the Arab Market in the Muslim Quarter. One of the best places to visit on our 2 days in Jerusalem itinerary
Delicious fruit juices are plenty available while exploring the Arab Market in the Muslim Quarter
Women selling fruit and nuts at the entrance of the Arab Market
Arab Market in the Muslim Quarter, a must stop on any Jerusalem itinerary

17:30 | Hungry after shopping and exploring? Make your way to Jaffar Sweets near the Damascus Gate. Famous for serving the best Knafeh and Baklava in Jerusalem. Order with a cup of fresh mint tea and let yourself be transported into Aladdin’s world.

18:00 | Leave the Old City through the Damascus Gate and make your way back to the Villa Brown Hotel to freshen up for dinner.

20:00 | Have dinner at The Eucalyptus, established by one of the most famous chefs in Jerusalem. This Kosher restaurant focusses on modernized interpretations of traditional Israeli cuisine. We highly recommend to order the tasting menu as it not only has exquisite choices, but it also has several options for vegetarian customers.

Second day in Jerusalem walking route Christian and Muslim Quarter

Where to stay in Jerusalem

We’ve fallen in love with Brown hotels while traveling through Israel. We stayed at Brown TLV Urban while exploring Tel Aviv and decided to stay at the Villa Brown Hotel for our stay in Jerusalem. We didn’t regret it one bit! The hotel is centrally located making both the Old City and the Machane Yehuda Market accessible on foot. They have a lovely terrace to enjoy the evening with a cocktail!

If luxury is what you’re after, the David Citadel Hotel might be perfect for you. Located close to the Jaffa Gate (only 6min walk away), you’ll have spectacular views over the Old City right from your hotel! Imagine having breakfast while witnessing the Holy City come to life. Though it has a prime location to the Old City, the hotel is a bit further from the Machane Yehuda Market (25min walk).

Our experience after spending 2 days in Jerusalem

Our personal highlight? We had heard so much about the Wailing Wall, so yes, we really needed to experience that one with my own eyes. Situated in the Jewish quarter, it immediately was probably the most surreal (and probably confronting) moment of our visit in Jerusalem when we wanted to enter the square on which the Wailing Wall is resided.

You need to pass through a metal detector before entering this holy place in the Jewish quarter. Safety first. And of course, no matter how I might be describing Jerusalem and its uniqe atmosphere, one should never forget that tensions do exist here between the different religions living apart together in this city of ages. Yet the mere presence of both police agents and soldiers also provides a feeling of safety. Things seem to be under control. And they remained under control in the 2 days of our Jerusalem visit.

In conclusion I can only admit that if I would be granted three wishes by Alladin’s Genie, one of them would be to revisit Jerusalem. Right here right now.

Jerusalem is a dream of a city. A melting pot of cultures and religions. And that’s actually just perfect. No matter what you might read or hear about it in books or on tv. Make sure you become a part of the history of the world’s most religious capital.

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