On returning from a recent trip to Jerusalem, I was singing the city’s praises to a good friend of mine, when she asked me what else there was to see ‘apart from all the Jesus stuff’. We laughed, and I then went on to tell her everything I’d done.
More than ‘Jesus stuff’
Being one of the holiest cities in the world, Jerusalem naturally has many sites of religious and historic importance. Whether you’re religious or not is redundant. The following places are awe-inspiring, grandiose and worth navigating your way through the crowds for.
The Tower of David
The Tower of David is an ancient citadel at the edge of the Old City in Jerusalem, and is highly regarded as a historical asset of great significance. It’s a medieval fortress with architectural traces from the Hasmonean, Herodian-era, Byzantine and early Muslim periods. The citadel also contains important archaeological artefacts dating back over 2,000 years. The site’s home to the Tower of David Museum, which exhibits 4,000 years of Jerusalem’s history.
Tickets to the Tower of David Museum cost 40 NIS for adults and 18 NIS for children, but check the website for more information. For a completely spine-tingling experience, I’d highly recommend seeing the night spectacular. You’ll see the Tower of David transformed into a sound and light show, and learn about its rich history at the same time.
Church of the Holy Sepulchre
The Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem is thought to be the holiest Christian site in the world. It’s believed to be the place where Jesus was crucified at Calvary (Golgotha), buried, and resurrected from the dead.
The church is carefully divided between Christian denominations that jealously guard their areas. The Greek Orthodox has the largest share, and they have custody with Roman Catholics and the Armenian Apostolic.
Upon entering the grand doors of the church, you immediately see the Stone of Unction ahead of you. The limestone slab, dating from 1808, marks the preparation of Jesus’ body for burial. The white lamps that hang over the stone slab were contributed by the Armenians, Coptic Orthodox, Greeks and the Latins.
Probably the most profound sight is the tomb of Jesus. The tomb is enclosed by the 18th Century shrine, called the Edicule. It’s covered by a flat roof with a small dome at its centre and is supported by narrow columns.
A steep hill in the Old City of Jerusalem, Temple Mount is thought to be one of the most religious sites in Christianity, Judaism and Islam. There are 3 significant structures on Temple Mount: the Al-Aqsa Mosque, the Dome of the Rock and the Dome of the Chain. You can also see the 4 minarets — architectural structures similar to a tower — adjacent to the mosque.
The golden-domed Dome of the Rock is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and has been called ‘Jerusalem’s most recognisable landmark’. The Al-Aqsa mosque is the third holiest site in Sunni Islam as Muslims believe that Muhammad was taken from the Sacred Mosque in Mecca to Al-Aqsa in Jerusalem.
You can reach Temple Mount through 11 gates, though take note, as 10 are reserved for Muslims and 1 for non-Muslims.
City of David
If you want to see the site of ancient Jerusalem, then head to the City of David, whose beginnings date back to the Early Bronze Age (1850 BC). It’s the same site from the Bible where David established the capital of ancient Israel, and remained the seat of rule for the Davidic dynasty for centuries after. Today, the City of David is home to a mixed Jewish-Arab neighbourhood.
The City of David is located outside the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem, and is approximately a 4-minute walk from the Western Wall.
It’s the most excavated archeological site in Israel, but to date, only 20% has been uncovered. One of the most important discoveries was the Canaanite Water System, which dates back to the 18th century BC. The water system represents a series of underground passages and fortifications, used by the ancient Canaanites to access the city’s primary water source.
To find out more about tour prices and timings, check the website for further details.