A Day in Historic Jerusalem

What to do and where to go in Historic Jerusalem By: By Janice Mucalov
Old City // © 2010 Janice Mucalov
Old City // © 2010 Janice Mucalov

The American Colony Hotel

Built around a 19th-century Ottoman pasha’s palace, the American Colony Hotel is an elegant boutique hotel with stone archways, Oriental carpets and classic furnishings. Over the years, it has welcomed such dignitaries and celebrities as Sir Winston Churchill, Lawrence of Arabia, Joan Baez and Richard Gere. Its 86 rooms and suites are housed in three separate buildings, each with its own garden. Our Pasha Classic room was delightfully atmospheric, with white stone walls, high ceilings, dark wood window shutters and a round beaten copper coffee table flanked by two leather armchairs. Modern amenities include free wireless Internet and flat-screen televisions. In warmer weather, breakfast and dinner can be enjoyed outside in the tranquil courtyard garden complete with a bubbling fountain. A lovely heated pool is open from May to October, and the English language bookshop is famous for its great selection.

American Colony Hotel

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As one of the oldest cities in the world and the capital of Israel, Jerusalem boasts a knock-your-socks-off collection of historical monuments. The walled Old City is full of churches, synagogues and mosques of enormous religious significance to Christians, Jews and Muslims. Even non-history buffs are enthralled by the city — from its vibrant souks selling spices and pashminas to its melting pot of Middle Eastern restaurants and bars. Here’s how to make the most of a full day in this fascinating city. (Note that many tourist sites are closed on Saturdays.)

9 a.m.
Mount of Olives

Mount of Olives // © 2010 Janice Mucalov

Mount of Olives // © 2010 Janice Mucalov

Drive to the Mount of Olives and get your bearings. The mountain offers stunning views of the Old City — the most notable landmark is the glittering golden globe of the 7th-century mosque built on the Dome of the Rock, where Mohammed is said to have ascended into heaven on a white winged horse. Tombstones in the Jewish cemetery covering much of the mountain’s western and southern slopes also catch the eye. Then wander down to the foot of the mountain and walk among gnarled 2,000-year-old olive trees in the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus prayed the night of his arrest.


10:30 a.m.
Old City



Surrounded by a high stone wall over two miles long, the Old City is divided into four distinctly different neighborhoods: the Christian Quarter, Jewish Quarter, Muslim Quarter and Armenian Quarter. Enter through the Jaffa Gate in the Christian Quarter and make your way through the labyrinth of narrow limestone alleys to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where devout weeping tourists kiss the site of Christ’s tomb. Bargain for rugs, jewelry and souvenirs at the colorful market, also found in the Christian Quarter. In the Jewish Quarter,
a must-see site is the Western or ‘Wailing’ Wall, the holiest place for Jews. Here, visitors will see orthodox men wearing long coats and black top hats over their ringlet sideburns praying on one side; on the adjacent side, women in long skirts slip tiny written prayers between the massive stones. Then follow the cobblestone Via Dolorosa — the final path Jesus walked, carrying his cross, to his crucifixion — to the Muslim Quarter. Look for the huge Damascus Gate and admire the arch below, built by the Roman Emperor Hadrian in 135 A.D. And don’t worry about getting lost at any point — that’s part of the fun (plus, the whole Old City covers only 0.35 square miles).


1:30 p.m.
Lunch on the Run
For a quick lunch, you can’t do any better than Abu Shukri, a small food stall in the Muslim Quarter that is famous for its delicious hummus and freshly fried falafels.

2:30 p.m.
Israel Museum

Israel Museum // © 2010 James Emery

Israel Museum // © 2010 James Emery

Take a taxi to the Israel Museum. Currently undergoing an extensive $80 million renovation, the museum is set to fully reopen in July. However, you can still see the Dead Sea Scrolls, the oldest biblical manuscripts in the world, housed in the Shrine of the Book. The building’s onion-shaped roof was designed to resemble the lids of the jars in which a Bedouin shepherd found the scrolls in 1947. Also check out the Judaica Wing (reopening in July), which showcases Hanukkah lamps, silver Torah ornaments, costumes and other artifacts from Jewish communities around the world.


7:30 p.m.
Evening on the Town

Nahalat Shiv’a // © 2010 Magister

Nahalat Shiv’a // © 2010 Magister


When dusk falls, head to the trendy pedestrian promenade of Nahalat Shiva for drinks and dinner. Tucked among beautiful old stone houses, galleries and boutiques is a lively profusion of sidewalk restaurants, bars and cafes. You’re sure to find one to your liking to kick back and relax after your busy day in
historic Jerusalem.