Old City of Jerusalem

Getting acquainted with the Old City of Jerusalem

Old City of Jerusalem MapIt is said that every major city in the world has an aura reflecting what is important there. Jerusalem’s aura is religion. The Old City is the embodiment of this aura and just walking around is the best way to feel it. Be sure to have a good map of the old City and dress modestly with no shorts or miniskirts. Paving is irregular so good shoes help. Women should carry a scarf for use in Muslim places.

The Old City is divided into four quarters –Armenian, ChristianJewish and Muslim. (Armenia was the first state to become a Christian country and Armenians began visiting Jerusalem and establishing places for pilgrims early on.) Walking the Old City of Jerusalem in one day is exhausting unless you just want to say that you have “been there.” Many travel guides try to take you to every place in one trip but tying it all together in one great walk just takes too much time and energy. Instead, you can take one of these walks (See Below) and join up with another trip for a longer walk or you can enter the city at different gates at different times or on different days.

Rooftop View of the Old City
Rooftop View of the Old City

Although you can get from one quarter to another inside the city, each of these walking trips starts from a different gate to allow you to make short forays. Directions at the end of each trip will help you find another trip if you want to keep going. Official tour groups generally visit in the late morning and early afternoon. Fridays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. are crowded in Muslim areas with local people getting to and from the mosque for Friday prayers. If you are able, you might want to choose a less crowded time. If you are viewing this website on your computer, you might want to print out the walking section along with the map to take with you.

An old walled GateThe present walls of the Old City are the work of Suleiman the Magnificent and are less than 450 years old, but they are built on foundations going back to the time of the crusaders. The Old City also has numerous reminders of ancient walls since the boundaries have changed several times and it used to be smaller. The present walls were built to be walked on and they will give you a view of the extension of the city, although safety means you should walk in a small group when up there. Check with the Christian Information Center, or your residence, as to where there is a current entrance and the time when it is open.

Walk 1 - Damascas Gate
Damascus GateDamascus Gate

The Damascus Gate The most prominent gate is Damascus Gate (or Gate of the Column). The column it is named for was the beginning of a colonnaded Roman street named the Cardo Maximus. Go down a large flight of steps at the end of Nablus Road and into the gate. When you emerge you are in the Old City and in an open space. Straight across a shopping area are the entrances to two walkways. Take the right hand one and walk down a street of stores and bakeries. Have some coffee and pastry. The walkway eventually runs into a domestic souk with goods for local people. Before the domestic area turn right and go towards the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. Ask people for the way to the Parvis of the Holy Sepulcher

Inside the Damascus GateInside the Damascus Gate

The Holy Sepulcher is controlled by the Franciscans (representing the Latin Catholics), the Greek Orthodox Church, and the Armenian Apostolic Church. Go in the double doors to a place where Jesus’ body was said to have been laid and anointed. Some visitors wipe the surface with a cloth to represent their burial wrap. On your left is the rotunda over the Tomb of Christ. It was recently rebuilt with gold-leaf rays to represent the sun. You can go into the Tomb although there will be a waiting line. To the right is the Greek Orthodox chapel with a place marked as the center of the world. 

Walk around the church to see various places concerning the crucifixion that are listed in the latter stops on the Via Dolorosa and in “A Clash of Pieties”. You can also go down a set of steps leading to the chapel of St. Helena and a designated place where she found Jesus’ cross.

When you are done you can go out the same door you came in and return to the Damascus Gate. If you want to see more of the Old City walk outside to the Jaffa Gate and follow Walk 2.

Walk 2 - Jaffa Gate
Walk 3 - Jaffa Gate plaza to the Noble Sanctuary/Temple Mount and the Jewish Quarter
Walk 4 – Jaffa Gate plaza to Mount Zion or City of David
Walk 5 – Mount of Olives or Olivet
Walk 6 – The beginning of the Via Dolorosa

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