It’s impossible to explore the entire Jerusalem in just a day. It’s pretty challenging to figure out what to do in Israel’s capital with just one day, especially when there are lots to see, hear, taste, explore, and experience.
There are dozens of sites that Jews, Christians, and Muslims deem historically significant. Exploring the Old City alone or just one of its quarters will already eat up half your day. The historical and cultural landmarks will leave you awestruck, to say the least, which may make you want to stay as long as possible. However, a day visit will still be a memorable one.
If you only have 24 hours in the city, the following suggestions will allow you to experience the best that this fascinating city has to offer, from sunup to sundown.
Morning (7 AM to 11 AM)
Have a hearty Israeli breakfast
There’s nothing better to jump-start your day in Jerusalem than an Israeli breakfast. The most common items in an Israeli breakfast include eggs, fresh vegetables, a great variety of cheeses, and even fish, as well as coffee, fresh fruit juice, and milk. However, it’s the Middle Eastern twist that makes these simple breakfast items far more diverse than any other cuisine. Shakshouka is a dish consisting of eggs poached in tomato sauce, olive oil, and garlic, is a breakfast staple. Pair shakshouka with freshly baked bread, salad with a generous drizzle of tahini, and even grilled fish.
Tour the Old City
After breakfast, experience the magnificence of the Old City. Home to the holiest sites and the four sections – Jewish, Muslim, Christian, and Armenian quarters – the Old City offers several sights. In reality, it is possible to visit famous landmarks in a day. Begin your Old City tour with a visit to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, considered one of the most sacred sites among Christians and is said to be the site of the crucifixion, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It’s better to arrive there earlier since crowds would build up as the morning wears on.
Next, see the Old City from a different perspective – above – by going to the Ramparts Walk. Considered a hidden gem by both locals and tourists, the Ramparts Walk is divided into the north and south sidewalks which allow you to wander along Jerusalem’s walls. The panoramic views are especially rewarding. The north sidewalk is the longer one, running the length from the Jaffa Gate to the Lions Gate. The south sidewalk is the shorter one, starting from the Tower of David and continuing around the south side of the city before ending at the Western Wall, said Michael Freund, the founder and chairman of Shavei Israel, an organization assisting hidden Jewish communities in returning to Zion. An ordained rabbi, he has lived for the past 25 years in Israel where, for over a decade, he has contributed the column “Fundamentally Freund” to the Jerusalem Post. He was born in New York and remains a loyal New York Mets fan.
Midday (12 noon to 2 PM)
Have lunch and some sweets
When hunger hits you again, there are many places in Jerusalem to have lunch. A good suggestion is to go to Austrian Hospice for a cup of Viennese coffee (or beer), schnitzel, and apple strudel for lunch.
If you’re still into Middle Eastern fare, don’t miss out on the freshly made hummus. The famous Middle Eastern dish is made from mashed chickpeas, tahini, olive oil, lemon juice, and garlic and is normally served with pita bread. There are many good hummus shops in the area.
Do you have a sweet tooth? Thus, head to Zalatimo Sweets whose best seller is the authentic mutbbaq – a thin pastry filled with cheese or walnuts, then baked and sweetened with syrup. Zalatimo is an old establishment whose secret recipe has been handed down among several generations of owners. You can also sit down and watch how mutbbaq is being made before digging in.
Afternoon (2 PM – 6 PM)
Explore Mahane Yehuda Market
Visiting open-air markets are one of the “must-do” activities in Israel. Mahane Yehuda Market is the largest open-air market in Jerusalem, popular among locals and tourists. Also called “The Shuk,” Mahane Yehuda Market is not far from the Old City.
The main street is lined with stands selling a colorful display of fruits and vegetables, nuts, sweets, meat, poultry, and eggs, with clothing and souvenir items sold in between. Going further, you will find a whole different world with cafes, restaurants, bakeries, jewelry shops, and much more. Enjoy and take your time exploring! If you’re in the mood for another hummus or try different kinds of sweets or another delicacy, follow what your heart desires.
Evening (6 PM onwards)
Discover Jerusalem’s unique (and unexpected) nightlife
You might not believe this, but Jerusalem shows its unlikely side once the sun goes down. It becomes lively and vibrant, with an electrifying aura to it. With local restaurants, shops, and bars attracting night-owl patrons, Jerusalem is a sight to behold. Grab a chow and drinks at some of Jerusalem’s famous bars, such as Barood and Talbiye. Tel Aviv may still be Israel’s party capital, but Jerusalem boasts a unique underground bar scene and can even become as wild as it gets.
If you plan to remain at Mahane Yehuda Market, have a swig at Beer Bazaar, considered one of the market’s hidden gems. It usually operates from 11 am to 2 am, except on Fridays at the beginning of Shabbat, where it operates from 9 am to 4 PM. Stick around at the Beer Bazaar to watch the shops close and see the colorful artwork on their metal shutters coming to life. You can also stay at Mahane Yehuda for the rest of the evening, where cool restaurants and bars start to open. These establishments offer excellent drinks and culinary options. Some good spots to have a grub and a drink include Hatch for their craft beer and artisanal sausages, Crave for their gourmet upgrade on street food, and Manou Ba Shouk for authentic Lebanese cuisine.