Jerusalem. A melange of tradition and modern culture. One of the most sacred sites in the world, this is the city where serenity meets spirituality. A place of significance to three main faiths - Judaism, Islam and Christianity, the cultural landmarks here will leave you awestruck, to say the least. The cryptic yet captivating aura of the city coupled with the modern way of life, make Jerusalem an inimitable experience. In addition to being the capital of Israel, the city serves as the spiritual epicentre of many holy sites. From street eats to gourmet offerings to the secrets of the Old City, Jerusalem has a lot more to offer than what meets the eye.
While the list of things to do in this holy city is endless, if only you have 24 hours at your disposal, here’s a guide on how to make the most of it.
Grab a traditional Israeli breakfast
We’ll start with a pro tip. Do not mess with an Isreali’s breakfast. As the saying goes, breakfast is the most important meal of the day and Israelis seem to have followed these words to a T. With a bountiful breakfast spread, being an early riser doesn’t seem like a bad option after all. The most commonly found ingredients in a typical Israeli breakfast are eggs, fresh vegetables, a variety of cheeses, and even fish. But it’s the middle eastern twist to these simple items that make it far more eclectic than any other cuisine. From the staple shakshouka, which is poached eggs in tomato and garlic gravy to a generous drizzle of tahini over your fresh salad and even grilled fish for that matter, the sheer diversity is definitely something to look forward to. The big breakfast tradition was started by the kibbutz workers, who would gather around the communal table and eat whatever was produced during kibbutz. This was eventually adopted by the rest of the country. While time may not permit a wholesome culinary tour, do not miss out on the classic Isreali breakfast in Jerusalem.
Immerse in the riveting history and vibrant culture
It would be borderline blasphemous (pardon the melodrama) to not dive into the magnificence of the Old City right away. Home to the most sacred sites in the world, the holy land often comes across as a bit overwhelming for the first timers. But we’d suggest that walking through the narrow streets is the best way to experience the local culture.
Walk through the Jaffa Gate to enter the Old City. Divided into four sections - Muslim, Christian, Jewish and Armenian, the old city has several higlights. Honestly, it would be humanly impossible to get acquainted with all the landmark that the city houses in a day’s trip. But here’s what you can do. Our suggestion would be to head to Temple Mount, a holy sanctuary for Jews Christians and Muslims alike. It is believed that this is where Abraham sacrificed his son to god, Solomon built the first temple of the Arc and where Prophet Mohammad ascended to heaven. Centred around the Dome of the Rock, the entry to the structure is from the Western Wall Plaza. For the Christian pilgrims, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is unmissable. The most popular tourist spot, it’s set in the Christian quarter of the Old City. For those interested in the Jewish heritage, walk towards the Jewish quarter of the old city. A landmark structure here is the Western Wall. The surviving wall of Jerusalem’s First Temple, it serves as the holiest site in Judaism.The other highlights of the city include the Tower of David, The shuk in the Muslim Quarter, Via Dolorosa, Mount of Olives, Mount zion and many more. We’d suggest you spend at least two to three days here to see all the sites.
Gorge on some authentic Kosher cuisine and Mediterranean Snacks
A walk through the city can be quite exhausting. We know exactly what can help you rejuvenate. As many say, the best way to explore a city is through its culinary legacy. As you exit the old city, you can grab a bite at Ben Yehuda, the pedestrian mall. Another option is to settle for a to-go meal like falafel and shawarma.
An evening in Jerusalem
Well, it might be hard to believe, but the city has an all new side to unveil as the sun sets in. Lively and vibrant, the city has an electrifying aura to it. With local shops entertaining thronging tourists, the evenings here are a sight to behold. Walk through Machane Yehuda market on a Friday for a dose of the Shabbat vibes. Right next to Jaffa street, the market is not far from the Old City. From fresh fruits and vegetables to an exquisite selection of wines, cheese and fragrant spices, the market is the perfect break from the tiring afternoon. We’d suggest that you keep your camera handy. As the city comes to life, you can grab dinner and drinks at some of Jerusalem’s premiere bars like Barood and Talbiye. Well, Tel Aviv might have earned the title of party capital, Jerusalem is no less. With a unique underground bar scene, the city can be as wild as it gets.
Don’t miss out on freshly made hummus
It would be nothing less than brutal to not talk about hummus while discussing life in and around Jerusalem. The culinary tradition of the country offers a blend of eastern and western influences and the delectable hummus is a byproduct of that medley. Made from cooked and finely mashed chickpeas and blended with tahini, olive oil, lemon juice and garlic, hummus is served alongside pita bread. The hummus-eating experience in Jerusalem is definitely unparalleled. Though there are several places that offer home-made hummus, a bowl of freshly made, creamy and smooth dip is often not guaranteed. In fact in Israel, it’s much more than a dip. It’s a meal in itself. An essential element of the Middle-Eastern way of life, the answer to where to grab a fresh batch is highly debatable. Our recommendation would be to head to Ben - Sira Hummus or Azura in the Machane Yehuda market. Acrmavi Hummus in Hanviim Street 2 has also been consistently good.