Jerusalem Old City Gates Walking Tour (Self Guided), Jerusalem

The Old City of Jerusalem is very old indeed. It probably existed more than 4500 years ago. It is surrounded by gates, which, too, are old constructions built by Suleiman the Magnificent in the 16th century. There are archaeological gardens along the wall and near the gates. Prophesies about some of these gates are written in the Bible and the Koran. This self-guided tour will lead you from gate to gate revealing the mystery around them.
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Jerusalem Old City Gates Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Jerusalem Old City Gates Walking Tour
Guide Location: Israel » Jerusalem (See other walking tours in Jerusalem)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 9
Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.0 Km or 2.5 Miles
Author: vickyc
Damascus (Shechem) Gate

1) Damascus (Shechem) Gate (must see)

This is one of the structural openings that are part of the wall enclosing Old Jerusalem. This spot gets its name because it is the way you would go to the capital of Syria. It is approximately 135 miles away (or 220 kilometers). It faced the north.

This location also serves as the main entrance into East Jerusalem. By far it is more interesting than many other places in the old town. In many ways, it is the beginning of what one might call a microcosm of the Palestinian world. In this location, vendors bring goods to and from the Old City, families still have picnics, and life continues much the way it has for years upon years. Yet, on the steps of the buildings, you can find Israeli soldiers standing guard. You can become quite taken with the sales people there also, selling their herbs, produce and the like. The women are famous for wearing their embroidered dresses that are a part of their dowry and identity.

The structure has remained pretty much intact since the time of Süleyman the Magnificent. He also happens to be the person who oversaw the gate's construction between 1537 and 1542. The present size, though, was the result of work commissioned by Roman emperor Hadrian. There was a column that once stood here. This old structure gave birth to the other name for this place: Bab al-Amud (Gate of the Column).

Why You Should Visit:
This is one of the Old City's prettiest gates with the castellated wall. Very majestic!

There is lots to see, smell and buy once you're in the Muslim Quarter (and actually, most of the Old City).
Herod's Gate

2) Herod's Gate

Herod's Gate is located in the wall surrounding the Old City. It attaches to the Muslim Quarter. There is a lovely Arab neighborhood close by, called Bab a-Zahara, which is a variation on the name for the famous opening.

In terms of age, this is one of the newest gates in the town. Suleiman the Magnificent built the wall. A small opening was built in front of the old gate. It almost never got used. By the year 1875, the Turkish Army closed it and made a more permanent passage. This was mainly done to allow access to the local streets and homes which were built a little further out.

This place gets its name from Herod the Great. During the time of the Crusaders, it was believed that Antipas had a house in that same location. This inspired the medieval knights to even found a church close by. The Dir Al Ads house of prayer has been been built on the original location.

In rather recent times (1998-2004) there has been a lot of archaeological digging in this area, which to date has unveiled nine different levels of history where the gates played an important role in the defense of the northern part of the Jerusalem wall. There are artifacts that have come from this spot that range in dates from the Iron Age up to the Ottoman Empire.
Lions’ Gate

3) Lions’ Gate (must see)

The Lions’ Gate gets its name after the pairs of the stone animals that have been carved into the design. It is reported in a legend that Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent, who built the walls around the Old City in the 16th century, dreamed about lions who were about to devour him because he had failed to make sure that the defenses for this part of the citadel were secure.

After waking up from the terrible dream, he ordered the walls to be built and the lions to be placed at the city’s gate. There is some speculation that the carvings are actually of panthers. In this case, they may represent the animals in the crest of the Mameluke sultan Baybars. So, the structure may originally have been part of an older building.

The structure has also been called “Bab Sitt Maryam”. It gets its name from Mary, the mother of Jesus. Legend has it that she has been laid to rest somewhere around the Kidron Valley. In Christian tradition and lore, the gate is for St. Stephen, the first martyr of the new faith, who was stoned to death. On Palm Sunday, you can still come and watch the procession of the people, which recreates the historical route of Jesus from Scripture, come from the Mount into the Old City.

The Arabic name for the gate is "Meshikuli", which in more modern terms means a small opening in a door or wall. In days gone by, it was used to watch people coming towards a gate, in case of attack. One could also pour boiling oil or tar down upon enemies from such a place.

Why You Should Visit:
Very impressive and in incredible condition, considering that it has never been restored!

Can get crowded especially on Fridays because of the influx of Muslims for prayer at the nearby al-Aqsa mosque.
Golden Gate

4) Golden Gate (must see)

The Golden Gate is located on the eastern walls of the Old City of Jerusalem and leads directly to the Temple Mount. It is one of the more holy sites in the town, as it is revered by all three of the major religious faiths. It is recorded that Jesus entered the place on Palm Sunday. For the Jews, the arrival of the Messiah will happen here. For the Muslims, the future resurrection will start from this spot.

The construction of the location happened in the 6th to 7th Centuries A.D. (probably somewhere around 640 A.D.), on the spot where the old gate used to be from the second temple. It has been sealed since the 1500s. There are a total of 11 such structures, seven of which are still open to the public. They are called: Jaffa, Zion, Dung, St. Stephen’s (Lions’), Herod’s, Damascus (Shechem) and New. The most famous may be the Golden Gate.

The spot has been home to some gate since the time of Herod the Great. The original, however, would have been destroyed by Titus in 70 A.D., during the Roman conquest of rebels in Israel and Judea.

From the location, you can traverse easily to the Temple Mount, which would allow you a magnificent view across the Kidron Valley to the Mount of Olives. If you take a little hike into the lowlands, you will find the old trail to Bethany. You can also go to the famous Garden of Gethsemane.
Single Gate

5) Single Gate

The Single Gate is sealed and the Jews believe that the Messiah will pass into the city here. It was built before the Ottoman period and leads to the basement of the Temple Mount.
Huldah Gate

6) Huldah Gate

The Huldah Gates are the two sets of now-blocked gates in the south wall of the Temple Mount, situated in Jerusalem's Old City. The western set is a double arched gate (the double gate), and the eastern is a triple arched gate (the triple gate). Each arch of the double gate led into an aisle of a passageway leading from the gate into the Mount, and to steps leading to the Mount's surface; when the al-Aqsa Mosque was built, the old steps were blocked, and the eastern aisle lengthened so that new steps from its end would exit north of the Mosque. The 19th century excavations of the area by Charles Warren discovered an erratic series of passageways under the triple gate, some leading below the wall and beyond the Mount's southern edge. The passageways from both gates are now used by the waqf as mosques.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Double Gate

7) Double Gate

The Double Gate is sealed. It used to lead to Solomon's Stables, that are breathtaking underground constructions built with enormous stones. People believe that Solomon would not have been able to build them without the help of supernatural forces.
Zion Gate

8) Zion Gate

This famous location also goes by the name of Shaar Zion, or Bab Sahyun. The locals also call it the "Jewish Quarter Gate. It is one of eight gates that were built into the walls of the Old City.

It is built into the south side of the wall, facing Mount Zion and Hebron. As the Arab name for this structure implies, it leads directly into the Armenian and Jewish Quarters. It is also sometimes called David's Gate. And if the legends are true about the famous king being buried on Mt. Zion, then the name fits well.

The famous southern gate constructed by order of Suleiman the Magnificent. It was built circa 1540. During the 19th century, the location became famous as a gathering place of lepers. In 1948, some of the underground forces of the Jewish people repatriated the Jewish Quarter by means of this opening into the town. The stones in the walls and homes here are chipped from the battle. The holes made during the conflict are still visible today. When the last of the British troops left Jerusalem on May 13, 1948, Mordechai Weingarten was presented with a key to the gate. Up until this time, Jordan controlled the location.

In current times, pedestrians and cars of all kinds use the opening, although getting a vehicle through the L shaped opening is almost impossible. Today, it is a one way road, only leading into the city, because two way traffic simply became too dangerous.
Jaffa Gate

9) Jaffa Gate

The Jaffa Gate is a 16th Century Ottoman addition to the wall around Jerusalem, which is located on the western side of the old city. It faces the city by the same name. It is the main entrance into that section of the town. It is one of eight such structures that are part of the famous wall around the city. It is also, perhaps oddly, set at a 90 degree angle, and is the only structural opening set as such. No doubt, this was done as a defensive tactic by the builders.

It goes by several different names also: in Hebrew, it is Sha'ar Yafo, and in Arabic, it is called Bab el-Khalil, which means "Gate of the Friend." You may also hear this place referred to as the “prayer niche of David.”

The Biblical character Jonah left on a sea journey from here. Pilgrims also debarked on their trip to the Holy City. Even in today’s times, this famous old road is still used. It is now a superhighway that will take you to Tel Aviv.

The name for this site is a reminder of the prophet Abraham. Legend holds he was buried there somewhere. Since he lived in Hebron, another name for the opening is the "Hebron Gate." King David makes this place sacred for Muslims because he is considered an Islamic Prophet. The Crusaders also build an opening they called “David’s Gate.”

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