Famous Architecture of Jerusalem Walking Tour (Self Guided), Jerusalem

Traditionally, Jerusalem was said to be the center of the universe. It is a very old city with many ancient buildings, with architecture dating back to Roman times and later reflecting both European and Islamic influences. The following self-guided tour will take you to the most interesting architectural highlights of Jerusalem.
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Famous Architecture of Jerusalem Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Famous Architecture of Jerusalem Walking Tour
Guide Location: Israel » Jerusalem (See other walking tours in Jerusalem)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 7
Tour Duration: 3 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 7.1 Km or 4.4 Miles
Author: vickyc
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Oriental House
  • Church of the Holy Sepulchre
  • Dome of the Rock
  • Tower of David
  • Great Synagogue
  • Knesset (Parliament) Building
  • The Supreme Court of Israel
Oriental House

1) Oriental House

The Orient House has a controversial yet fascinating history in the city of Jerusalem. It started out as the official headquarters for the PLO, or Palestinian Liberation Organization. It served this purpose during the 1980s and 1990s.

The structure was built in the year 1897. It was commissioned by Ismail Musa al-Husseini. It has been owned by that family ever since. It was designed to be a residence, but was often used by very famous guests, such as Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany. It also was visited by Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia in the 1930s.

During the Arab-Israeli war of the late 1940s, it was located in Jordan. Not soon after, the United Nations Reliefs and Works Agency (UNRWA) was located there. By 1950, it became a luxury hotel.

From 1967 on, during the time that the area has been under the control of the country of Israel, there have been many attempts to permanently close the building, as many Arab related factions have continued to try to use the place as a political headquarters.

As late as January 2010, the site was re-opened as a way of promoting Palestinian Authority in the area again. The Orient House still stands as this kind of politically charged icon for the struggle between the Israelis and the Palestinians.
Church of the Holy Sepulchre

2) Church of the Holy Sepulchre (must see)

The Church of the Holy Sepulcher is also known as “The Church of the Resurrection” by Eastern Orthodox Christians. It is located within the walls of Old Jerusalem close to the Muristan. It sits on one of the holiest sites in the Christian faith. It is believed that this is the site of Calvary, or Golgotha, where Jesus Christ was crucified. It is also located over the tomb where he was buried.

The Church is rather an odd hodgepodge of styles, a mix of humble and simple in spots and ornate in others. It encompasses five Stations of the Cross and is the ending place of the Via Dolorosa. The outside façade was built by the Crusaders centuries ago. Immediately inside there is a tall bench where a caretaker (Muslim) sat to keep differing Christian factions apart. Even today parts of the building are under the control of the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox and Armenian Apostolic groups, and this is called the Status Quo. Serious arguments can occur if a chair is moved or a door is left open, as these are seen as signs of disrespect to the other groups.

Under the Rotunda is the tomb of Christ. The tomb is encased in a shrine called an aedicule which contains the Chapel of the Angel, which has a small piece of the stone that was rolled away from the tomb, and the Chapel. The later version of this spot contains the tomb itself. Inside the tomb is a cracked marble slab that shows where Christ’s body was laid after the crucifixion – this is not the original stone.

There are numerous chapels to see at the Church, each with its own special section of this holy ground. Directly beneath Calvary is the Chapel of Adam. Ancient tradition holds that Jesus was crucified over the site of Adam’s burial place. Behind the aedicule is Coptic Chapel where more of the tomb is visible. The Chapel of the Prison of Christ, the Chapel of St. Mary Magdalene, and the Chapel of the Finding of the Cross are also open for visitation. The Chapel of St. Vartan is Armenian and encompasses an area that was newly excavated in the 1970s. Unfortunately, this area is not generally open to the public.

Access to the Church of the Sepulcher is free. Hours vary. Please dress appropriately for the sanctity of the area.

Come early and bring a guidebook. Nothing is signposted and there are no guides so if you'd rather not bring a guidebook, at least do some research first.
Dome of the Rock

3) Dome of the Rock (must see)

The Dome of the Rock is located on top of the Temple Mount in Old Jerusalem. It is a Muslim shrine that was built in 691 CE by Umayyad Caliph Abd al-Malik. It has been refurbished several times in the ensuing centuries. It is built over a stone that is considered sacred by several religions.

Muslims believe this stone is the place where the Prophet Muhammad ascended into heaven. This occurred during the Night Journey to Jerusalem. This is also the place that Gabriel brought Muhammad to pray with Abraham, Jesus, and Moses. This is the oldest Islamic monument in the world, and it contains the oldest mihrab still standing.

Jews believe it was on this rock that Abraham was prepared to sacrifice his son. Both Christians and Muslims believe the rock to be the home of Solomon’s Temple that was destroyed. In fact, several subsequent churches, built by the Knights Templar, follow the same design that is found in the shrine.

The shrine is an octagonal shape and the outside is covered in exquisite tile work and white marble. Extensive refurbishing has been done on tile work and it has been kept as true to the original as possible. There are also extensive mosaics on the inside of the shrine. The Dome itself has also been refurbished. The original gold one has been replaced with aluminum and a gift from King Hussein of Jordan covered it in gold leaf making it a truly spectacular sight.

The inside of the Dome of the Rock also has an octagonal shape with an outside ring and an inner circle. This is to represent the circular movement around Ka’ba in Mecca by pilgrims who visit there. The sacred rock is protected by a wooden screen that replaced the wrought iron screen erected by the Knights Templar. That screen is now protected in the Islamic Museum.

There is a fee to visit; the price includes entry into the Dome of the Rock, al-Aqsa Mosque as well as the Islamic Museum. Hours vary and only Muslims may visit at certain times. Non-Muslims have a separate entrance.

When you reach the top, if your clothing doesn't meet the dress code, you will be loaned a pair of pants to cover your legs or a scarf to cover your head.
Tower of David

4) Tower of David (must see)

Located in the Old City part of Jerusalem, the Tower of David is an old stronghold that can be found near the Jaffa Gate. It was built to bring a more solid sense of security to what had traditionally been a very unfortified part of the town. It was named as such due to the Byzantine Christians who used to live here. They believed the site was the original location of the palace of King David.

The tower was built during the 2nd Century B.C. Like many structures in the area, it was destroyed and rebuilt several times by the Christians, Muslims, Mamluks, and Ottomans. The archaeological evidence found here dates back almost 3,000 years. This place has also become a very popular location for concerts, music performances, craft shows, and benefits.

A museum was opened here in 1989 by the Jerusalem Foundation. The exhibits depicted a stretch of around 4,000 years of history, which goes all the way back to Canaanite times. You can also go all the way to the top and see a beautiful full-circle view of the city. The location gets about 3.5 millions visits a year.

There is a spectacular/interesting sound-and-light show (45 minutes) at the Citadel later in the evening which is worth viewing – but book early, as it sells out quickly.

Opening Hours:
Sun-Thu, Sat: 9am-4pm; Friday, holiday eves and holidays: 9am-2pm
Great Synagogue

5) Great Synagogue

The Great Synagogue of Jerusalem is the hallmark location of the Jewish faith in the city. It was founded in 1982 (15th of Av 5742) as a place of worship, spirituality and religious study. It also serves as an important cultural and social center for the people.

The center was built in memory of the six million Jews who died during the Holocaust of World War II. It also commemorates the lives of the people who fought and died for the defense of Israel.

This house of worship also is a kind of icon that helps the people to remember all that they have been through. It also symbolizes the perseverance and continuity of the country during times of irksome trials and horrid tragedies.

Religious devotees and visitors alike come here to be part of the prayer services, to study Torah, to attend lectures, and participate in other cultural events that are designed to inspire the hope of the country, as well as preserve the traditions of the past.

The Main Synagogue can hold 1300 men and women. It is an almost perfect acoustic building, allowing for beautiful musical sound and pitch. The ornate decoration is also quite something.
Knesset (Parliament) Building

6) Knesset (Parliament) Building (must see)

The Knesset is the official legislature of Israel. It is located in a building in Givat Ram, Jerusalem. This governmental group used many locations through the years before they finally set up permanent residence in this current structure in 1966. Much of the funding for the place was given by Baron Edmond James de Rothschild, who left 6 million Israeli Lira in his will to establish the parliament. The baron also wrote a letter to the government that shared his hope in the fact that the building might be a reminder for generations that the Jewish people will endure forever.

The inauguration of the Knesset Building was considered impressive for its day. There are many beautiful trees here, which help to extend beauty to the view. It also is an integral bit of security, as the plants help to hide people moving back and forth.

The main entrance faces north. It was designed by David Palumbo, who also was the designer of the eternal flame art piece located there. In the main hall, you can find a replica of the Israeli Declaration of Independence which took effect on 14.05.48.

The governmental section of the building holds 120 delegates. People are seated in a semi-circle around the room. In the center rests a podium, as well as the seat of the chairman. If you go north of the parliament location you can also see the Knesset Menorah. There is also an ornate rose garden, which is decorated with over 30 kinds of flowers.

Why You Should Visit:
The tour covers many areas of the Knesset building and includes a lesson on Israeli civics.

Remember to show up at least 20 mins early to undergo security screening.
Be sure to bring your passport or else you won't be admitted into the building.
The Supreme Court of Israel

7) The Supreme Court of Israel

The Supreme Court of Israel building is the official headquarters for the highest legal entity in the country. It was built by a donation that came from the Rothschild Foundation. The money was given in 1984. It was completed in 1986. The brother and sister team of Ram Karmi and Ada Karmi Melamede from Tel Aviv were commissioned as the architects for the project. The official dedication was held on November 10, 1992.

It was decided that the building would be constructed next to the Knesset. That way, all the branches of government would be in one place That was one of the important considerations in the place. The location chosen was Kiryat David Ben Gurion. The architects were also concerned about making the structure reflect the grand traditions of Israeli architecture.

You can visit the Supreme Court building Sunday through Thursday, from 8:30 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. There is no cost for admission. There are guided tours in Hebrew every day at 11:00a.m. You can also get the English version of the trip at noon. Groups of ten or more need to call ahead to make a reservation. Because this is an official government office, the security team reserves the right to cancel tours at any time.

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