Jerusalem Old City self-guided walking tour

Jerusalem Old City Walking Tour

Our Self-Guided Walking Tour in the Old City of Jerusalem will take you to narrow picturesque alleys, famous sites, and interesting, lesser-known historical landmarks.

Walk Metrics
Walk Description
Distance3 Km
Duration3-5 Hours
Start PointJaffa Gate
End PointDung Gate

MAIN LANDMARKS ON THS TOUR

CHRISTIAN QUARTER:

JEWISH QUARTER:

WALKING TOUR MAP

Jerusalem Old City Walking Tour Map
CLICK MAP TO ENLARGE

Navigate with GPS

SPICE UP YOUR WALKING TOUR WITH A BITE CARD
food tour Tour

  • Taste authentic local food in the market stalls along your walking tour:
  • Fresh local Hummus.
  • Authentic Halva.
  • And many more tasty bites

LOGISTICS

The tour is not circular. It starts at the Jaffa Gate and ends at the Dung Gate near the Western Wall. Both locations are well served by public transportation, and it is the recommended way to make the tour.

If you prefer to arrive by car, you can park at the nearby Mamila Parking. At the end of the tour Return by bus, or walk back about 10-15 minutes.

OVERVIEW

The old city of Jerusalem is roughly a square of 1 Kilometer by 1 Kilometer surrounded by the city walls. It is hard to imagine it today, but Until around 1850, this area was the entire city of Jerusalem. Only in the 2nd half of the 19th-century residents started to move gradually outside the city walls.

The Ottomans built the current walls and most of the buildings that exist today during the 16th century. However, these “modern” structures are built above ancient foundations. The streets we walk in today are about 2-4 meters above the Roman city and about 4-8 meters above the first-temple period city. The Old City is divide into the Muslim, Christian, Armenian and Jewish Quarters. This division evolved gradually, and the current designations that are common nowadays were introduced only in the 19th century.

Armenian Quarter: The Quarter is surrounded by its own walls and forms a private enclosed area of the Armenian Monastery. It is the smallest Quarter, with a population of about 3,000.

Muslim Quarter: It is the largest one with a population of about 30,000. It is mostly an impoverished and densely populated residential neighborhood with less historic buildings and tourist attractions. However, part of the Via Dolorosa (Way of the Cross) passes through it, and the Western Wall Tunnel (Highly recommended visit) passes under it.

Jerusalem Christian QuarterChristian Quarter: The Christian Quarter is built around the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, which is the heart of the Quarter, and 40 churches and monasteries surround it. The Quarter is not characterized by residential buildings (these are located at the northeastern end near the Nablus Gate), but rather by a large number of religious and educational institutions. In the 19th century, the Christian Quarter underwent a building revolution following the desire of European countries to increase their influence in the region. The European powers and the various churches competed on the acquisition of land and prominent representation in the Holy City. This characterizes the Quarter until today with separate compounds such as the Ethiopian Church, Latin Patriarchy, Franciscan Monastery, and the Patriarchate of the Greek Orthodox. Another European influence that distinguishes it from the other quarters is its red tile roofs.

Jewish Quarter in 1937 before the destruction
Jewish Quarter in 1937

Jewish Quarter: Its origin is from the same period as the rest of the old city. However, in 1948, when the Jordanians occupied the eastern part of Jerusalem, they demolished and burned down most of the house and 58 synagogues, including the 700-year-old Hurva synagogue that was destroyed and desecrated. The Quarter stayed in this state for 19 years, until the IDF liberated Jerusalem in 1967. Shortly afterward, Israel started to restore the Jewish Quarter. Because most of the buildings are new (After 1967), the area looks “White” compared to the other parts of the old city. The restoration project presented a rare opportunity for archeological excavations. Thanks to that, today, we can visit parts of ancient Jerusalem under the current modern streets.

Our tour focuses on the Christain and Jewish Quarters. In the Christain quarter, we will visit famous landmarks. However, in between, we will walk in small streets, visit hidden courtyards, unique shops, and fantastic viewpoints of the old city. In the Jewish Quarter, we will explore the 2,000 years old remains of ancient Jerusalem, hidden underneath the modern streets.

OLD CITY SELF-GUIDED WALKING TOUR

CHIRISTAIN QUARTER SECTION MAP

Jerusalem Christian Quarter Walking Tour Map
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Latin Patriarchate, Old City, Jerusalem
Courtesy A. Gracer /  Creative Commons

Latin Patriarchate:
Admission: Free.
Opening Hours: Monday-Friday, 08:00-14:00
Location: St. Peter street.
Direction: Just after you enter the city through Jaffa gate, Turn left to the Latin Patriarchate Street and walk until the intersection with St. Peter Street.

The center of the Catholic Church is located in the Vatican state in Rome. The Pope’s representative in Jerusalem is known as the “Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem“, and his job is to safeguard the interests of the Catholic Church in the Holy Land. The first appointment of a Latin patriarch in the Land of Israel was in 1099 AD. But when the Crusaders were expelled from the land, the Latin Patriarchate also ceased to exist. In the mid-19th century, the Catholic Church noticed the weakness of the Ottomans and renewed its representation in Jerusalem after more than 550 years. Giuseppe Valerga was the first Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem in modern times. He wanted to show the wealth and splendor of the Catholic Church also in Jerusalem. The result is a large cathedral paved with marble, decorated with dozens of sculptures and filled with countless paintings. In 1872, Vallerga inaugurated the Cathedral, which is still one of the most impressive in Israel.

Armenian Ceramics Center:
Admission: Free.
Opening Hours: Monday-Saturday, 09:30-19:00
Location: New Gate street.
Direction: From the Latin Patriarchate, turn left and walk along St. Peter Street. You are now deeper into the Christain Quarter. The street gets narrower, makes several turns, and changes its name several times. Keep following it, and shortly after the Knights Palace Hotel, you reach the Sandrouni Armenian Ceramic Center.

Armenian pottery started to develop in the 11th century. However, Armenian ceramics reached unprecedented levels of finesse and originality during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, when many Armenian families operated workshops in Turkey, and contributed to decorating palaces and mansions. Armenian traditional ceramic artists arrived at Jerusalem in 1919 to help replace the centuries-old glazed tiles decorating the Dome of the Rock. The task was never completed, but the tradition rooted in Jerusalem. Jerusalem is now the only place in the world where traditional Armenian pottery is still preserved. The Sandrouni workshop is one of the finest spots to explore and buy original Armenian handmade pottery. (Watch out for the many imitations on display in the market streets!)

Monastery of Saint Saviour, Christian Quarter, Jerusalem
Courtesy EtanJ. Tal. / Creative Commons

Saint Saviors Convent:
Admission: Free.
Opening Hours: Monday-Saturday, 08:00-17:00
Location: St Francis street.
Direction: Exit the ceramic shop and Walk down on Ahim Street about 100 meters and turn left to St. Francis street. After a few meters, you will see the entrance to the convent on your left.

Saint Savoirs is the headquarter of the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land (Custodia Terræ Sanctæ). Saint Francis founded the order in 1209. Its mission is to guard “the grace of the Holy Places” of the Holy Land and the rest of the Middle East, as well as pilgrims visiting them, on behalf of the Catholic Church. Their presence in Jerusalem is traced back to 1217. The original building built in 1559 with the aid of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent. However, the current Church and Convent were constructed in 1885 with funding provided by the Austro-Hungarian Emperor Franz Joseph during his visit to Jerusalem in 1869. The compound houses today also a Catholic school, printing press, and an organ workshop. In 2017 Pope Francis renewed the mandate to “Preserve the Holy Places of Christianity in the Holy Land” in commemoration of the 800th anniversary of Franciscan presence. In addition to the historical importance, the impressive Basilica hall (30 X 12 meters), is well worth a visit.

Ethiopian church Christian quarter JerusalemEthiopian Patriarchate:
Admission: Small contribution expected.
Opening Hours: Daily, 09:00-16:00
Location: Haminzar Haetiopi street.
Direction: Exit the convent, turn left, and Walk about 100 meters. Turn left again to the Shliikhim street. This is a narrow and winding alley typical to the old city. After 200 meters, turn right to the Haminzar Haetiopi street, and after a few minutes, the church will be on your left.

WHAT ARE ETHIOPIANS DOING IN JERUSALEM?
According to the Ethiopian tradition, there is an ancient bond between the Ethiopian people and the Land of Israel. It dates back to  Queen Makeda (Queen of Sheba) and King Solomon. The queen who visited Solomon in Jerusalem became pregnant, and their son, Menilek, was the father of the imperial dynasty of Ethiopia. Centuries later, the first Ethiopian Christian was also baptized in the Land of Israel (On the way between Gaza and Jerusalem). The event is described in detail in Acts 8:27-38 So he started out, and on his way he met an Ethiopian….Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him. Ethiopian presence in Jerusalem dates back to the 4th century. The history of Ethiopian presence in Jerusalem is very complicated. You can learn more about it here.

The building we are about to visit is from 1890. It was built to serve as the administrative center of the community. At the heart of the complex is a small church decorated in a traditional Ethiopian style. The church floor is carpeted, and its ceiling is full of colorful illustrations featuring characters and stories from the New Testament. You can have a look at an ancient 400-year-old book with texts from the Old and a New Testament. The book is written in the Geez language (Ethiopian holy language). After the tour of the small church, go up to the roof of the building for a fantastic panorama of the old city.

El Khanqa Street:
Admission: Free
Opening Hours: Monday-Friday, 09:00-15:00 (Photo shop)
Location: El Khanqa Street.
Direction: Continue down the Haminzar Haetiopi street until a T junction with El Khanqa Street and turn left. You can visit two interesting spots along the street.

  • Residential Courtyard: Look for house number 44 on your left and enter through the small door into an internal courtyard. It is a fine example of a residential compound. In the center of the yard, there is a water well and the surrounding houses feature door lintels painted in bright blue color. Wander around and absorb the tranquil atmosphere.
  •  Elia Photo Service: Continue a few minutes further on El Khanqa street until house number 12, and you will see on your right an entrance to a small photo shop filled with historical B&W photos and unique nostalgic atmosphere.
HISTORIC PHOTOS OF JERUSALEM
The shop is owned and operated by the Armenian Kahvedjian family. The current owners are the son and grandson of Elia Kahvedjian (1908-1999). Elia was born in Turkey and arrived in Jerusalem at the age of ten as an orphan survivor of the Armenian Genocide. He ended up working as an apprentice of a Photography teacher. Elia started to document Jerusalem with his camera in the 1920s.  The shop displays and sells photographs (By Elia and other photographers) of the  Land of Israel in general and of Jerusalem in particular, from 1858 onwards. You can find pictures of the Western Wall that was then just a small plaza, a milkman riding a donkey in the alleys of the Old City, Arabs carrying water on the Temple Mount, and other scenes from old times.
Amazing panorama from the top of the tower of the church of the redeemer in JerusalemCurch of the Redeemer (Viewpoint):
Admission: 15 NIS.
Opening Hours: Monday-Saturday, 10:00-17:00
Location: Muristan street.
Direction: Exit the shop, turn right, walk a few meters until you pass a mosque, and turn left to Hanotsrim Street. The Church of the holy sepulcher will be on your left. Turn left just after the Church and then right to the Muristan Street.

The interior of the Church of the holy sepulcher and its surrounding is one of the most crowded tourist spots in Jerusalem (We do not cover it on this tour since it is very well covered elsewhere). The main reason to visit the Church of the Redeemer is the fantastic panorama of the old city from the top of its 40 meters tower. It is the best view of the old city since you are high above the street right in the middle of the old city (All other high locations are around the old city and not inside!).

The Church was built between 1893 and 1898. Its cornerstone was laid by the Prussian prince Frederick III as part of his visit to the Middle East to participate in the opening of the Suez Canal. The land was given as a gift to the Prussian heir by the Ottoman Sultan. The church was inaugurated in  1898, during the visit of the German Emperor Wilhelm II, his son, and Empress Augusta Victoria. On one of the walls of the prayer hall hangs a sign in the German language that tells of the dedication and establishment of the house. There are also archeological excavations and a museum in the church. You can find all the details on the excellent official website.

Muristan Market, Christian Quarter in the old city of JerusalemMuristan Market:
Admission: Free.
Opening Hours: 24/7.
Location: Muristan Square.
Direction: The Church of the Redeemer is located in the northeastern corner of the Muristan Market. Just after the church, take the first right and enter the Mursitan compound.

The Muristan is a complex of streets and shops that cover a square area spanning between the holy sepulcher and David Street (The main street of the old city leading to Jaffa gate). The market in the form as we know it today was established in 1903 by the Greek-Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem. At the center of the market, there is an ornamental water fountain, which was built to mark 25 years of the rule of the Ottoman sultan Abdul Hamid. The name “Muristan” comes from the Persian word for a hospital  (Bimārestān).  It originates from the fact that during the crusader period, a complex of a Church and hospital was operating here. However, the history of the area starts as early as the days of Christ. You can learn more about it at the Museum in the Church of the Redeemer. Ramble through the streets and the shops and make your way towards David street and the Jewish Quarter where the tour continues.

JEWISH QUARTER SECTION MAP

Jerusalem Jewish Quarter Walking Tour Map
CLICK MAP TO ENLARGE
Muristan Market, Christian Quarter in the old city of JerusalemThe Cardo:
Admission: Free.
Opening Hours: Sunday-Thursday 08:00-19:00, Friday 09:00-13:00.
Location: HaYehudim Street.
Direction: Exit the market to David Street. Turn left and walk until a T junction. Turn right and walk in the Yehudim street for a few meters and look for the entrance to the underground Cardo Street.

History and structure of the Jewish Quarter
Before we begin to walk in the Cardo, it is essential to understand the history and structure of the Jewish Quarter. In 1948, when the Jordanians occupied the eastern part of Jerusalem, they demolished and burned down most of the house and the 58 synagogues. The Quarter stayed in this condition until 1967 when Israel regained control of the area. The Quarter was restored, but naturally, it looks “Modern”  compared to the rest of the old city. This situation created a rare opportunity for archeological excavations. Thanks to that, we can explore parts of ancient Jerusalem. The Quarter has two levels: the street-level (residential) area, and the underground historical area.

The Cardo was the “Main Street” of Jerusalem during the Roman period. Nowadays, it is an underground street under the new houses of the Jewish Quarter. The Northern half of the street (Where we enter), was turned into a modern shopping street with fancy boutique shops. The Southern half is a restoration of the Roman street. As we walk, we can peek through peers in the pavement down to remnants from ancient Jerusalem (700 BCE), while above us are the modern, residential houses.

Hurba Synaguge in 1940

Hurba Synagogue:
Admission: 20 NIS.
Opening Hours: Sunday-Thursday 09:00-17:00, Friday 09:00-13:00.
Location: HaYehudim Street #89.
Direction: Go up from the Cardo street, turn left, and after a few meters, you will be in front of the Synagogue.

The Hurba synagogue was built in 1864 and served as the most important Ashkenazy synagogue in the land of Israel. It became a center for religious and national revival for jews in the land of Israel. Around the synagogue, some of the most important institutions of the Ashkenazi community in Jerusalem were concentrated: Yeshiva, Court, Charity institutions and religious schools. In 1948, when the Jordanian army conquered the Jewish Quarter they demolished it with explosives. Only in 2010 (after 62 years), the synagogue was restored and reopened. The design was based on testimonials and old pictures. Most of the eastern wall is the original wall from 1864. It was not painted and therefore, creates a sharp contrast to the modern white walls. Besides visiting the impressive synagogue hall, there are interesting archeological findings from the second-temple period and Byzantine period in the basement floor. Round up the visit with an excellent 360° panorama from the balcony that encircles the dome.

Wohl archaeological museumWohl Archaeological Museum:
Admission: 20 NIS.
Opening Hours: Sunday-Thursday 09:00-17:00, Friday 09:00-13:00.
Location: 8 Hakaraim Street.
Direction: From the far right corner of the Hurba square, continue straight into Hakaraim Street.

You descend again from the street level, down to 2,000 years old history. The excavations that took place here after 1967 revealed a magnificent residential quarter from the second-temple period. The findings include mosaic floors, water wells, Mikveh, and warehouses.

Burnt House Jewish Quarter JerusalemBurnt House:
Admission: 20 NIS. (You can use the ticket from the Wohl museum)
Opening Hours: Sunday-Thursday 09:00-17:00, Friday 09:00-13:00.
Location: Tiferet Israel Street.
Direction: Continue in Hakaraim Street until a T junction. Turn right to Tiferet Israel Street.

The “burnt house” is a second-temple period residential building that was also discovered during the excavations in the Jewish Quarter. Unlike the Wohl Museum, this house was found in ruins and with fire signs. The tiny museum presents the fascinating findings discovered in the excavations. However. the remains are disappointing compared with the display in the Whol Museum. The main attraction is an Audio-Visual show. The movie describes life in Jerusalem during the months preceding the destruction of the second temple.

Jerusalem Western WallEnd of the Tour
You are now a few minutes away from the Western Wall and the temple mount. Around this area are some of the most significant tourist attractions of Jerusalem. You will have a hard choice what to do next:

  • Put a note with your wishes between the stones of the Western Wall.
  • Visit the Western Wall tunnels.
  • Visit the Temple Mount.
  • Visit the City of David.

Written by Erez Speiser

I am Erez Speiser. I live in the Galilee region in Israel. By education, I am a mechanical engineer. In 2018 I founded "Israel by Foot" to promote hiking tourism in Israel. Learn more in the About me Video. Do you want me to help you plan your hikes in Israel? Check out here. Or contact me erez@hike-israel.com