Landmarks of Jerusalem Walking Tour (Self Guided), Jerusalem

Jerusalem, capital of Israel, is a stage of history for the entire universe, so to speak. Its religious and historical landmarks attract more tourists than any other city in the world. This self-guided tour will lead you through its most visited landmarks:
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Landmarks of Jerusalem Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Landmarks of Jerusalem Walking Tour
Guide Location: Israel » Jerusalem (See other walking tours in Jerusalem)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 10
Tour Duration: 3 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 5.7 km
Author: vickyc
Church of the Holy Sepulchre

1) 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.
Garden Tomb

2) Garden Tomb (must see)

The Garden Tomb, which is also known by the name of Gordon’s Calvary, is located in Jerusalem, just outside the Damascus Gate. It is a burial site cut of the rock of the mountain. For some, this is the true location of the burial and resurrection spot for Jesus. Many also contend this is the real Golgotha. This is in contradiction to the traditional beliefs that hold that the location is at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.

The theory behind this place starts in 1883 when General Charles Gordon finds this rocky ledge, which reminded him the story of the “place of the skull” talked about in the Crucifixion narratives of the Bible. Very close to this spot, he identified an ancient tomb. So, he concludes that he located the hill of crucifixion and the nearby burial place.

Whatever one might believe as to the authenticity of the garden, there are several factors that make this location plausible as a place where Jesus could have been laid. For one, the look of the hill, even after years of erosion, is that of a skull. One might also note the cistern that resides nearby, which help to prove that this ground was once a garden. Finally, the placement of a tomb as credibility to the story that Jesus could have been put to rest here.

Email in advance if you'd like a guided tour. It takes around 20 mins and the rest of the time is yours to reflect, read, take pictures...
Rockefeller Archaeological Museum

3) Rockefeller Archaeological Museum (must see)

The Rockefeller Museum houses one of the world’s best collections of artifacts from the Jerusalem area. The archeological digs were started here in the 19th century and were centered in the Ottoman area of Palestine. In more modern times, this place is managed by the Israel Museum and houses the offices of the Antiquities Authority for the country.

The British Mandate era was a time of great turmoil in Palestine. The Ottoman Empire of the day had all but left this area for waste, not considering it of much use. Indeed, this geographic area had been in decline since its fall in the wake of World War I. During that time in history, with Jewish and Arab immigrants moving here, colonial authorities were eager to assert control over the area. Perhaps the best outcome was that many old artifacts were found, cataloged, and studied.

The museum has been loaded with a considerable amount of unearthed archaeological pieces from locations across the region. Many of the exhibits will be a “work in progress” for some time to come. Despite this fact, this place is a must-see for anyone who comes to visit the area.

From the museum's grounds, you get a great view of Mt Scopus and Old City.
All exhibits are explained fully and you are not rushed in your touring.

Opening Hours:
Sun-Mon, Wed-Thu: 10am-3pm; Sat: 10am-2pm
Closed on Tuesdays, Fridays, and holiday eves

4) Bethesda

The Pool of Bethesda is a small body of water that is located in the Muslim section of Jerusalem. It is on the way to Beth Zeta Valley. In the Christian Bible, there is an account of such a place that was reported to have been near the Sheep Gate, and was encircled by five grand colonnades. The water is considered to have healing properties.

There is no conclusive proof that this is the pool talked about in the Gospel, but many still find this place to be sacred none the less. Its existence is only mentioned in the recorded writing of John.

The existence of this place was found in the 19th Century. Archaeologists found the remains of the pool here, which coincidentally matched the description of the body of water from the New Testament. The description describes it to a tee.

The tranquil place is a must visit for those who hold the belief that this is the pool of healing water mentioned in the Bible. Even outside this belief, the location is full of archaeological richness. At least from a Biblical standpoint, the ground has been described in enough detail that modern science was able to find it by that description.
Garden of Gethsemane

5) Garden of Gethsemane (must see)

The Garden of Gethsemane lies at the bottom of the Mount of Olives. The name means “oil press” and most certainly refers to the fact that this area was used to press olive oil in the time of Jesus. It is now walled, but it is still a lovely place to visit and perhaps pray.

The Church of All Nations was built here in 1924. This house of worship is also known as the Basilica of the Agony. Two other holy places have also occupied this spot. One was a Byzantine-style building built in the fourth century and destroyed around 750. The Crusaders built a chapel on the spot in the 12 century which also was demolished.

The Garden of Gethsemane still has olive trees on the grounds. Although there is some dispute about exactly how old they are, there may be some on the grounds that were around during the time of Jesus. There is some evidence that the original plants were destroyed by fighting and in an effort to destroy this very religious place, but the general consensus is that some of the roots did survive.

Olive trees have a long life span, so it is not an outrageous thought that some of them shaded the grounds then, just as they do today. These plants grow wider instead of taller, so the very wide ones are the oldest. They still produce fruit and are harvested in late September or early October. As you leave, you might want to offer the gatekeeper a few shekels for a stroll through the private garden.

This beautiful Garden is where Jesus and the disciples came to pray. He was said to have prayed so reverently at one time that he sweat blood. He most likely entered the city on Palm Sunday, by going through this place, through the gate that has long since been walled up. This is also the location of the famous betrayal by Judas Iscariot.

Make sure you cover up (shoulders covered and shorts come below your knees, etc.) or you will be refused entry.
Church of St. Mary Magdalene

6) Church of St. Mary Magdalene

The Church of St. Mary Magdalene is a beautiful Russian Orthodox house of worship in Jerusalem. It is located on the Mount of Olives, in the Garden of Gethsemane, and was built in 1886 under the direction of Tsar Alexander III. He built the church to honor his mother, and dedicated it to Mary Magdalene.

The church is built in classic 17th century Russian style and has seven onion domes that are gilded. They are quite impressive. The building is easily visible from points around Jerusalem; however, it really deserves a stop while visiting the city. Inside the church are several murals that depict the life of Mary Magdalene. Also in the church is an icon of the Mother of God. There have been miracle healings attributed to this place.

The Church of St. Mary Magdalene is the resting place for Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna of Russia who was martyred along with another nun during the Russian Revolution in 1917. Also buried here is Princess Alice of Battenberg who was also known as Princess Andrew of Greece. She was responsible for harboring Jews when the Nazis occupied her country, in order to help keep them alive. She is also the mother of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.
Temple Mount

7) Temple Mount (must see)

The Temple Mount is one of the most sacred spots in all Jerusalem, and perhaps the world. Three major world faiths lay claim to the holy place. In Hebrew, it is called (Har haBáyit) or Noble Sanctuary. In Arabic, it is called (Haram esh-Sharif).

From a topographical standpoint, this place is an elevated plateau that is located in the oldest part of the city. From a political perspective, this holy place is governed by the Supreme Muslim Religious Council.

For the Christian and Jewish communities, this place is sacred because it used to be the site for the Temple of Jerusalem. It is also reported to be the place where Jesus will return to earth in the apocalyptic texts of the Bible, to start the kingdom of God on earth once more.

The Muslim faith considers this place important because the Prophet Muhammad reportedly made a journey to heaven from this same location. This is recorded in the Qur’an.

This sacred piece of ground has also been the mythical locations of the binding of Isaac, where the presence of Yahweh came to rest, and even the place where Adam was formed from the proverbial dust of the ground. So, as you can see, this is a special piece of earth, to say the least. You may want to research the mythos of the Temple Mount further before visiting.

It is probably best to get an experienced guide for your trip to the Temple Mount. He/she will know everything about the opening hours and access.
You can access through the wooden bridge on the Western Wall plaza. There is a strict security check at the entrance, so don't forget your passport.
Whatever you do, come early while others are still sleeping, as this is one of the places in the world worth visiting in a completely serene and relaxed atmosphere.
al-Aqsa Mosque

8) al-Aqsa Mosque (must see)

The name translates as "the Distant Mosque". This is the third most holy site in Islam and the holiest Mosque in Jerusalem. It is located on the Temple Mount or Hara mesh-Sharif, which means Noble Sanctuary. It is not certain, but this may be the site of the first mosque built in Jerusalem, which was erected in 638. It was destroyed by two different earthquakes. It has been rebuilt several different times over the millennium, due to natural disasters and man-made attacks.

Some of that rebuilding is still evident today. The Crusaders, Fatimids, Mamluks, and Ayyubids added beautiful arches and other buildings to the Mosque. Unfortunately, most of these have been lost over the centuries, either by conquests or single acts of destruction. In 1959, King Abdullah of Jordan was assassinated in the south end of the building. Bullet holes still remain in the stonework there, and a small memorial has been installed at the site.

Despite all this tragedy, some beautiful elements are still to be found here. The south end houses a Mihrab that Saladin decorated. It is a niche that points to the direction of Mecca. Lovely mosaics have survived around the central aisle arch and in the dome. The Crusader chapel or the Mihrab of Zacharia contains a stunning rose window. The Double Gate houses the original entrance to the Temple Mount. The pillars have been reconstructed, but the columns are true to the originals built by King Herod.

Although most of the interior of the Mosque is from the 20th century, it is still a beautiful place to visit. There are seven aisles in the Mosque and over 120 stained-glass windows. There are also 45 columns supporting the inside of the building and 33 of these are made of white marble. Beneath the place, there are steps that lead to the al-Aqsa Qadima or Ancient al-Aqsa. This area is not generally open to the public.

Unfortunately, non-Muslims are not allowed to enter inside the building without a guide. However, one can still enjoy the outside architecture for a few minutes as part of a visit to the Dome of the Rock.
Dormition Abbey

9) Dormition Abbey (must see)

Dormition Abbey is built upon the site that traditionally is thought to be where the Blessed Virgin Mary died. It was constructed in the early 1900s as a German Benedictine Abbey on top of Mount Zion, just outside of the city walls at the Zion Gate. It sits atop a Byzantine church that lay in ruins called Hagia-Maria-Scion and sometimes the abbey is known by that name.

The Byzantine Church was built by Christians several hundred years after the death of Jesus. It was destroyed, and several centuries later the Crusaders rebuilt the structure. It was again destroyed and remained in ruins until the land was bought by Kaiser Wilhelm II, who commissioned the building. The Abbey also includes a beautiful large round sanctuary and a large bell tower. The top of the place has a rooster on the weather vane to symbolize Peter’s denial of Jesus. This place is called Dormitio Beatae Mariae Virginis or Holy Sleep of the Virgin Mary. It was damaged during the 1948 war and was restored again after the 6-day war. The name Dormition is an old word that means “falling asleep” or death and the resurrection to heaven.

The inside of the church are six alcoves or small chapels that have incredible mosaic work depicting the life of Mary and Jesus. There is a crypt in the lower level that holds the sculpture of the Blessed Virgin Mary’s deathbed. Visitors can light candles at this location. Chapels and alters have been donated from around the world and make the tour of the church just breathtaking.

It is free to get in the Dormition Abbey. Hours vary, so check before going.

Make sure to use their 3-shekel bathroom to see the ruins they have there with an explanation!
Also, the attached coffee shop is a real haven in the maze complex of the Old City.
St. Peter's Church in Gallicantu

10) St. Peter's Church in Gallicantu (must see)

The Church of St. Peter in Gallincantu is named for the famous disciple’s rejection of Jesus Christ, as told in Mark 14:30. The term “Gallincantu” is Latin for cock-crow. This place is located outside the Old City of Jerusalem on the eastern slope of Mount Zion. It was originally the site of a Byzantine shrine that was built in 457. It was sadly destroyed, and a chapel was then built on the site by the Crusaders in 1102. That rebuild was destroyed, and in 1931, the Church was rebuilt as it stands today. Fittingly, a rooster is on one of the roof peaks. There is some thought that the High Priest Caiaphas may have had his palace here.

The church is in a beautiful spot and the landscape drops off sharply toward the Kidron Valley. Make sure to allow extra time just to wander the grounds and enjoy the spectacular view. You can also find the ruins of many centuries worth of buildings that have been erected in this spot in Jerusalem. In fact, the north side of the building has a model set up to show what the city might have looked like during the Byzantine era. There are a set of steps that may be the original passageway between the upper and lower city. Sculptures and reliefs are around the grounds too that depict scenes from the life of Jesus Christ and also the denial by Peter.

The inside of the church is beautiful with several mosaics and paintings. There is a lower level that also has a chapel and a series of caves. Evidence exists that these were once part of a Byzantine shrine. Traditionally, it is thought to be where Jesus was held after His arrest. However, these types of cavernous structures were normal in the houses of the period. So while he may have been held here, it is not certain.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Sat: 8:30am-5pm
Free entry
Sight description based on wikipedia

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