Jerusalem has a very long history, one dating back to the 4th millennium BCE. During its long history, Jerusalem has been attacked 52 times, captured and recaptured 44 times, besieged 23 times, and destroyed twice. This city is also the focal point for 3 great religions of the world – Jewish, Christianity and Islam. The important question then becomes – how do you cover the best places in Jerusalem in 1 day? I tried to do exactly that. This blog-post will highlight the most historically relevant places which must be present in the tourist map for a 1 day tour.
However, please remember that Bethlehem is also covered in the same trip. Please check out my travel planner for Bethlehem.
The best and must see places of Jerusalem – covered in 1 day
Mt Olive overlooking the old city of Jerusalem
The first stop for the 1 day tour of the most important and historically relevant place of Jerusalem is definitely Mt. Olive. It is said that the route Jesus took in and out of the walled city of Jerusalem passed over Mt. Olive. From ancient times, this hillock overlooking Jerusalem from the east, was seen with importance.
The southern slopes of the hills are dominated by Jerusalem’s enormous and continuously used cemetery. Here, new graves can be found near those found 4000years ago. Westward of the summit offers great views of the mountains of Moab and Gilead. Generations have chosen burial over Mt. Olive in order to be as close as possible to Temple Mount on Judgment Day.
Mt Zion and the Last Supper Room
The title of Mt. Zion was originally used while referring to the area of the city built by King David, but later traditions transferred the name to mean the ridge that overlooks the south-west corner of the old city.
Mt. Zion is famed for the room of the Last Supper, the Apparition of the Risen Christ, and the Decent of the Holy Spirit, all of which is said to have taken place here. It is also the place that Virgin Mary lived after the death of her son, and here finally she fell into her eternal sleep.
The Church of Dormition maintains this tradition with a wall of mosaic depicting Madonna and her child. The underground chambers have a cherry wood and ivory statue of the sleeping Mary. The magnificent wooden edifice was erected in 1906 upon foundations well rooted into the past.
Inside Mt. Zion is also the Last Supper room. History has it that on the eve of the Jewish feast of Passover, Jesus and his disciples went into an upper room to partake the traditional Passover celebration. The structure now carrying the name of the Room of Last Supper was built by the Franciscans in the 14th century.
Old Jerusalem – the Walled City
The walled city of Old Jerusalem is a must see in this tour. This is one area which cannot be missed out. Before we get into the city, it is imperative that we get a short introduction to the Gates of Jerusalem. Many myths surround the walls and the 8 gates if the city.
The Lion’s Gate has the story of the Ottoman Caliph – Suleiman the Magnificent. One night, in his dream, the 4 lions that had guarded the thrones of King David and Solomon came to savage him as punishment for the heavy taxes he had imposed. Working up a sweat, he cancelled the taxes and ordered a 2.5 mile limestone wall to be built around Jerusalem instead. When work began in 1538, Suleiman erected a gate adorned with 4 lions, in memory of his dreams.
The Zion Gate is the entrance to the Jewish Quarters. It is called Bab-El-Daoud, in Arabic – David’s Gate, after King David, whose tomb is just on the opposite.
The Damascus Gate, built where the Roman emperor Hadrian opened the Northern Entrance lmost 2000 years ago, is the most ornate example of Ottoman design.
The Golden Gate, also called the Gate of Mercy in Christianity, is perhaps the one of most historical importance. Moslem tradition says that a destroying conqueror will one day enter the city thru this gate. Thus the gate is blocked and guarded by a cemetery. The Jews believe that the Messiah will enter thru this gate. For Christians, it marks the place where Jesus Christ entered the Temple Mount.
The Jewish Quarters
During our trip, we entered the old city via the Zion Gate, and walking thru the Jewish Quarters, went towards the Wailing Wall. The Jewish Quarters is that part of the old city where all the Jewish people live. The other 2 areas are the Muslim Quarters and the Christian Quarters.
The Western Wall or the Wailing Wall
The Western Wall or the Wailing Wall is also a must see and one of the most important places while on a trip of Jerusalem. The Wailing Wall is basically the remnants of the Solomon’s Temple which was built here in 955BC. This temple stood here for 400 years until in 587BC, King Nebuchadnezzar exiled the Jews and destroyed the temple. Rebuilt upon their return, the second temple was just a shadow of the original one. The temple was destroyed again by the Roman general Titus.
During this time, Jerusalem was reduced to rubble, and all that was left was the outer retaining wall of the precinct. Known for generations as the Wailing Wall, this became the Jews’ holiest place of worship – the closest they could come to the site of the sacred temple. Since the reunification of the city in 1967, it has been renamed as the Western Wall – and it no longer is the source of sadness.
For us we were lucky to be present in the place in the holy day of Sabbath, and could see the modern as well as the orthodox Jews dedicated to their prayers.
The Muslim Quarters
Though not much of historical significance, the Muslim Quarters have series of very interesting shops for the tourist here. Colourful shops selling garments, fruits, food items etc abound.
The Via Dolorosa
Next, we reached the final leg of our trip, the Via Dolorosa, and the church of Holy Sepulcher. The Via Dolorosa, or the Way of Sorrow, is the traditional path Jesus took on the fateful journey of Crucifixion. Formalised only in the 16th century, it is nonetheless a route followed since earliest Christianity. The route winds its way from the site of the ancient Fortress of Antonia, where Jesus was tried and condemned by Pontius Pilate, to the Church of Holy Sepulcher.
The Stations of the Cross are the important landmarks during the journey.
- Stn 1 – Jesus is condemned
- Stn 2 – Jesus takes up the cross
- Stn 3 – Jesus falls for the first time
- Stn 4 – Jesus meets his mother
- Stn 5 – Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus carry the cross
- Stn 6 – Veronica wipes Jesus’s face
- Stn 7 – Jesus falls for the second time
- Stn 8 – Jesus consoles the daughters of Jerusalem.
- Stn 9 – Jesus falls for the third time
- Stn 10 – Jesus is stripped off his garments
- Stn 11 – Jesus is nailed to the cross
- Stn 12 – Jesus dies on the cross.
- Stn 13 – Jesus is taken down from the cross.
- Stn 14 – Jesus is laid in the tomb
The Ethiopian Church
Built in the fourth century over the site of a Roman Pagan temple, this is considered one of the world’s holiest shrines to Christians, preserving the most important moments of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
The Church of Holy Sepulcher
The holiest place in the entire Christian world, The Church of Holy Sepulcher is a definite must see in the most important places of Jerusalem. This has, for centuries, been the heart of Christian Jerusalem. Erected in memory of the final events of Christ’s Passion – where Jesus is crucified, buried and rose again – this magnificent basilica is a fitting home to the last 5 Stations of the Cross.