A religious tourist destination par excellence, Jerusalem enchants all its visitors with an impressive number of spiritual sites, with an authentic culture, and a special atmosphere. The historic meeting place of the three monotheist religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam), the Israeli capital city tirelessly dazzles us with its cobbled stone streets and sacred shrines. Let’s discover together, which are the must-see landmarks in Jerusalem.
The Wailing Wall
Also referred to as the Western Wall or the Kotel, it is the only remnant of the Second Temple built by Herod in the 1st century BC. Considered the holiest site in Judaism, it is the main place of pilgrimage for Jews from all over the world.
As you approach it, you can notice the 24 different layers of stone, indicating the different stages of construction, as well as the notes left by believers in between the stones.
The Wailing Wall is also a venue of religious celebrations, and you can be the witness of Bar Mitzva ceremonies while visiting the area. If you are interested in archaeological explorations, don’t hesitate to get a tour to the underground part of the wall.
Dome of the Rock
This iconic golden dome overlooking the city is one of the most photographed monuments in the world.
The Dome of the Rock is a sacred place both in Judaism and in Islam.
For Jews, this is the place where Abraham prepared to sacrifice his son, while for Muslims, it is the place fro where the Prophet Muhammad would have rushed to the eternal paradise.
City of David
David’s Citadel was built on the Hasmonean remains where Herod the Great erected the towers Phetsaël, Myriam and Hippicus. By visiting it, you can relive 3000 years of history since the time of King David whose dream of making Jerusalem an independent city came true only in 1967.
The Church of the Holy Sepulcher
A pilgrimage site for Christians, the Church of Holy Sepulcher is home to Jesus’ tomb. Actually, the church was built over the cave where the body of Jesus was laid.
The construction of the first church of the Holy Sepulcher began in 326 on Emperor Constantine’s order. It was built on the place of a former Roman temple and sanctuary dating from the 2nd century, which according to local tradition, stood on the spot where Jesus was crucified and buried.
When the Roman buildings were demolished, several tombs carved into the rock were discovered. One of them was identified as that of Joseph of Arimathea. The present monument was built by the Crusaders in 1144, and it covers the four primitive elements destroyed by the Persians in 614.
The stone slab on which the Savior was anointed is visible at the entrance, and the Holy Sepulcher Chapel can be visited for a few minutes.
Another very important church, built in 1955 to commemorate the Lord’s tears for Jerusalem, Dominus Flevit was erected on religious ruins dating from the 7th century.
Many bones from Jesus’ times were found all around.
From the chapel’s windows, you can get great views over the city.
The very meaning of this hill rising South of Jerusalem’s Old City walls can be understood from its name – Zion (one of the names Jerusalem is referred by in the Bible).
For Christians, Mount Zion is home to Church of the Dormition with its triangular roof, and the place where the Last Supper is supposed to have taken place. The church was built in 1898 by the German Benedictine order on the place of Mary’s Assumption to heaven.
Inside this church you can admire a mosaic depicting Mary and Child Jesus adorning the top of the apse. For Jews, Mount Zion is home to a much revered place – King David’s tomb. This is where they used to pray during the Jordanian occupation, when they could not get to the Kotel.
Named Mount Olives because of the olive groves once covering its sides, this is another hill in Jerusalem bearing deep spiritual values.
According to the Jewish tradition, Messiah will rise first and foremost from Mount Olives before entering Jerusalem. Moreover, Mount Olives is home to a huge Jewish cemetery (the largest in the world) and to several Christian landmarks such as the Gethsemane Garden, Dominus Flevit, the the Church of St. Mary Magdalene, and the Church of Pater Noster.
Yad Vashem, the Memorial of the Martyrs and Heroes of the Holocaust, was created in 1953 by an act of the Israeli Parliament to commemorate the six million Jewish men, women and children murdered by the Nazis and their collaborators between 1933 and 1945.
This memorial also maintains the memory of the heroism and courage of the Jewish fighters and supporters in the ghetto revolts.
Located on Har Hazikaron (Remembrance Mountain), a hill of the western outskirts of Jerusalem, Yad Vashem Memorial and Institute includes several monuments, a history museum and an important archive and research center on Holocaust.
The architect Moshe Safdi designed the building in the shape of a triangular prism that stretches on 180 meters and crosses the hill from one side to the other. Despite the darkness, the top leaves a bit of daylight get it symbolizing the hope that never dies. Inside the prism narrows to mark the descent into hell then widens and opens into the valley that leads to Jerusalem (the symbol of Israel and of the Jewish people).
One of the most important museums of art and archaeology in the world, Israel Museum displays over 500.000 exhibits that retrace the art and culture of the Jewish world, dating from prehistory to modern times.
Israel Museum was recently renovated and reopened to the public. Among the museum’s treasures, there are the oldest Biblical scrolls found in the Qumran Caves (above the Dead Sea). They are exhibited in the Shrine of the Book – a hall that imitates the environmental conditions of the Judean Desert, where the scripts survived thousands of years.
Another interesting feature of the building is its ability to be submerged underground in case of war.