This ancient city is considered one of the oldest in the world. Jerusalem is the holiest city on earth because the top 3 world religions of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam originate from its streets. The holy city is located in the Judean mountains between the Mediterranean and Dead seas.
How to get there
Jerusalem is about a 16-hour flight with layovers and transitions from the west coast of the US. Israel has two international airports that are located in the north just outside of Tel Aviv city. Most people coming internationally will fly into Ben Gurion Airport. Below is a list of ways to get into Jerusalem City.
Getting From Ben Gurion Airport to Jerusalem
A shared taxi is probably the best option with luggage or for a tired traveler who wants to get to your lodging quickly. You can get in a local taxi and once it fills up they go into the city. The shared taxi costs around $18 USD. This is more expensive than the bus but faster and more reliable. The ride to the city is only 40 minutes, however, you will take each passenger to their address and it could be over an hour waiting for others to be dropped off.
You can hail a taxi at the official taxicab stand outside the airport or call your own taxi company with your phone if you have a travel sim. The stand prices will be guaranteed and prevent you from being scammed. A taxi can only take 4 passengers. The cost to/from Jerusalem should be around 180 shekels. This could be more if there is lots of luggage or more than two passengers. If the cab driver gives a cost much higher than this definitely negotiate because you are being scammed. Or find a new driver.
Private pre-arranged transfer
This is one of the most expensive and practical options to get into the city. You can pre-arrange a private driver to pick you up at the airport and drive you into the city. The price is per person for up to 7 adults. The cost is $26 per person, and the arrangements can be made here.
You can take a shuttle from your terminal to the Airport El Al Junction. This is where you can catch the Egged green bus 947 that leaves around every 20 minutes. This bus goes to the Jerusalem Central Bus Station. The bus service starts at 6:17 am and ends at 10:12pm. This route takes around 1 hr and 10 minutes. Local city bus stops once inside the city only cost 6.6 shekels each way/per person. You can find a helpful bus map of the city of Jersualem here.
You can plan trips by the bus to other towns and cities on their site here.L
This is a newer option. It takes twice as long as the bus and you also have to change trains in Tel-Aviv not making it the easiest process after a long flight. The train leaves every 2 hours. You must get off at the Tel Aviv HaHagana station. Stay there and wait for the train to Jerusalem. Don’t get off at the first train in Jerusalem (the zoo). Wait on the train until Jerusalem Train Station (Malha). From here you will still need to get a cab from the edge of town into the city. The trip takes 1.5-3 hours. The train information and tickets can be found here.
Jerusalem City Transportation
The main way most people see this city is to pay to be a part of a tour group. However, there are much cheaper options to get around the city and see different sites. It may take more work and time to figure out, but the locals will help you on your way. The bus and light rail are the two cheapest and most convenient options to get around the city. The best city map to help you in the very walkable old city of Jerusalem you can find here.
The one bus company in the city is called Egged. Most of the busses you will see are green. The busses are centered around the Jerusalem Central Bus Station. I have all the public bus information above.
The train runs on a north and south route through the city center. The trains run every few minutes. This is the cheapest, fastest, and most convenient way to get around the city. The rail costs the same as the public bus. Tourists buy a Rav Kav card and it must be filled by a machine at the station before getting on. The train starts at Bayit Vegan (Mt. Herzl and the Theodore Herzl Museum). The train goes north along Herzl boulevard over the Calatrava Bridge of Strings. This then hits the central bus station and continues to Jaffa Street. The track goes along the Old City walls, new gate, Damascus gate and on north. To get to the old city get off at Saffra Square and take a 10-minute walk to the Jaffa gate. There is a great map of the light rail here. Or download and see the free app for public transit in Jerusalem.
Rav Kav card Tickets
A single-ride is valid on the train and/or buses for 90 minutes from the moment you swipe your ticket on the train. Within those 90 minutes, you can transfer to or from a bus on the same fare. A single-ride paper ticket is good for only one ride and you cannot transfer. On the machines you can pay by cash or credit card.
Taxi/ Rental Cars
These are the other last options that are available but much more expensive and inconvenient. Specifically Jerusalem is a walking city. The Old City is only walkable and doesn’t have car access. The walking is prime in this area and easy and safe. Unless you are going far outside the city, a rental car is unnecessary. There are lots of taxis on the street you can hail.
ATTENTION: Jerusalem Bus and Light Rail on Shabbat
The Jerusalem bus and light rail system stop for Shabbat on Friday afternoon (bus 30 minutes before sundown, light rail a few hours before), and starts again after sunset on Saturday night (likewise, buses start about 30 minutes later, light rail a few hours later). During Shabbat, there is no public transportation in Jerusalem.
Things to do
Explore Jerusalem’s Old City & market
The old walled in city is the most magical historical site in Israel. Walking through the cobblestone streets of the ancient city will surround you with endless narrow passages filled with shops and vendors. Everywhere you look they will be selling scarves, fabric, jewelry, spices and all kinds of food and clothing. This was my favorite part of exploring the city. The city is cool to see at the day and quieter at night. The old city is where all the best shopping is in the city. This is located between the Jewish and Muslim quarters of the city.
Old City Market Souvenirs
- Jewelry (Hebrew names, phrases) Sigal F is a beautiful artisan!
- Hebrew rings
- Hebrew bracelets
- Hebrew necklaces
- Textiles/fabric with beaded touches
- Dead sea spa/health products/cosmetics
- Olive oil/olive wood carvings (crosses)
- Armenian pottery: plates, cups, other
- Clay oil lamps
- Bedouin woven rugs and cushions
- Israeli ceramics
Walk the City Walls (The Ramparts Walk)
This is a must do while you are in Jerusalem city. The views of the city indoors and outdoors are beautiful. It is the best place to get a view of the city. The entry fee is minimal for one of the best attractions in Jerusalem. The entrance to walk on the walls is shown on the map below just outside the Old City.
Hours: Sun – Thurs, Sat 9:00 – 16:00; Fri 9:00 – 14:00.
Admission: 16 shekel adults, 8 shekels children.
Camel Rides/Desert Camping
Riding a camel in the middle east is a bucket list for sure. The camel rides are definitely a tourist attraction but a must if you have never had the experience before. There are some great tours that partner the camel ride with touring the Bedouin lands and people in Israel for a great day trip. There are several camel ranches more in the desert that can be visited.
Float in the Dead Sea & get a dead sea mud spa day
Take a Boat Tour of the Sea of Galilee
Take a Holy Lands Biblical Tour
Jerusalem is a holy city filled with history and a common place for spiritual pilgrimage for Christians, Jews, and Muslims. There are so many beautiful sites and architecture to behold. For a full holy land tour, bucket list read here. Read a 9 day Holy Land itinerary here.
Tourist Israel: Holy Land Tours
This is one of the best deal on a group tour in Israel. The 9-day option of the biblical sites they have is the one shown below as an example. The staff is very knowledgable and professional. You can see more about their tours and book here.
Cost: $1350 USD/person
- guided tour
- hotel pickup included
- accommodation included
- breakfast included
- entrance fees included
- 9 days
- There is a comprehensive list of all festivals and events in the city updated here.
What to eat
Israel has delicious food and I didn’t try anything I didn’t like. There are lots of vegetables, chickpeas, and yogurt. They have a lot of salads and the food is very fresh and pretty healthy. There is a list of traditional foods and dishes to try below.
- Shawarma- Lamb, chicken, turkey, or beef is roasted on a spit and shaved onto a plate or into wraps.
- Hummus- Israeli hummus is served warm, with a topping of olive oil, chickpeas, warm pita and crunchy onion.
- Falafel- fried chickpea balls
- Israeli salads
- Challah bread
- Mutabak (pastry dough pocket with cheese or fruit and nuts)
- Masabacha (Chickpeaks mixed with Tahini, olive oil, herbs and spices)
- Kanafeh- a Middle Eastern cheese pastry drizzled in sweet syrup.
- Shakshuka- eggs baked in tomato sauce, this is a staple of Israeli breakfast.
- Halva- Made from tehina and sugar, halva is a dense confection sold in slabs that come in flavors like vanilla, coffee, and peanutty Bamba.
- Pomegranite juice
Tala Hummus and Falafel
This place is top Trip Advisor rated and known for its hummus, falafel, and shawarma. The hours are listed as always open but you can find their information here.
They have a smaller menu with mainly delicious shawarma and falafel pitas. But they make up for the lack of meal choices with a huge topping bar for the sandwiches. Their website and menu can be found here.
Hours: 8am-11pm Sunday-Thursday, 8am-3pm Friday, 8pm-1am Sunday
Hachapuria Mahane Yehuda Market
Some of the best Kanaffe in the city!
Hours: 10am-10pm Sunday-Wednesday, 10am-11pm Thursday, 10am-2pm Friday
Ben Sira Hummus
This is the best pita and hummus in the city and is one of the top-rated, with excellence awards, on Trip Advisor. It’s a great budget restaurant in Jerusalem.
Cost: 17-25 shekels
Hours: 8 am-12am Sunday-Wednesday, 9am-2am Thursday, 10am-2pm Friday
Where to stay
The best place to stay in Jerusalem is definitely within walking distance of the Old City. This will make seeing the city much easier with public transport.
Jaffa Gate Hostel
- private room
- private room $80, $27 dorm room
- free walking tour
- cool stone-walled rooms that make you feel like you are in a different world
- Book here
The Post House
- $45/night dorm
- free breakfast
- bar cafe
- party hostel
- Book here
- $114 private
- rated best couple hostel with private rooms
- free breakfast
- Book here
New Swedish Hostel
- $38 private room, $14 dorm
- the cheapest hostel in jerusalem for budget travellers
- late check out
- Book here
- $30-$34 6-10 people dorms
- free breakfast
- free city tour
- free event nights
- good for solo travelers looking to meet people
- Book here
Stay Inn Hostel
- $29 USD dorm
- outdoor terrace and hangout space
- modern artsy space that is top rated in 2018 as the best hostel overall in Jerusalem
- Book here