By Noam Matas/America Israel Tours/JNS.org
A city with as much history and culture as Jerusalem compels visitors to spend quite a bit of time exploring the many sites and attractions it has to offer. But if you have only a day to spend in this exciting city, make sure you get the most you can out of your 24 hours.
Whilst we would normally recommend taking your time and enjoying the beautiful surroundings by walking from site to site, the limited-for-time visitor may prefer to take the Jerusalem City Tour bus, run by Egged. Just like the hop-on hop-off buses scattered across Europe, a City Tour day pass allows you to use the bus to get to all the main sites of the city, whilst getting on and off the bus as many times as you like.
Starting at the central bus station, the bus stops at the Machane Yehuda markets, Ammunition Hill, the City of David, Mount Zion, the Jaffa Gate, the first train station, the Haas Promenade, Yad Vashem, the Israel Museum, the Knesset, and many more popular sites.
If you are really short on time, a panoramic ticket is available, taking you on one loop of the city to see all the sites without getting off the bus.
For those that love to taste and experience the local food culture of a city, we suggest starting your day at the Machane Yehuda market. The sounds of the shouting market vendors against the bright colors of the fresh produce make this market quite unique. Make sure to stop at the market stall selling Halva for a taste of this Israeli favorite- take your pick from flavors such as pecan, espresso and chocolate!
The Haas Promenade offers one of the best views of Jerusalem. Whether you make a quick stop to take a few happy snaps or pause to take in the view (the City of David, the Temple Mount and the Dome of the Rock, the Hurva Synagogue and the Mount of Olives all sit within this picturesque view), it is definitely worth the visit.
A lunch stop and a bit of retail therapy can be enjoyed at the Mamilla outdoor mall, where most cafes offer a view to the old city and the stores include fashion chain stores as well as unique Israeli art and Jewelry shops. It is the perfect place to stop before you visit the Old City, as the path leads to the footsteps of the Jaffa gate.
After entering the Jaffa gate, head straight to the Western Wall (Kotel) and Temple Mount, the holiest site in Judaism. As the last remaining piece of the Temple, the Western wall is a sacred place for prayer and reflection. It truly is a site to be seen and an emotional experience for many. A tour through the Western Wall Tunnels is a must for every visitor. This guided tour allows you to visit the point closest to the Holy of Holies while listening to the story of ancient Jerusalem (the tunnel tour should be booked in advance).
There is still more to see in the Old City—take a walk to the Jewish Quarter, stroll through the colorful Old City Bazaar and enjoy a bit of shopping in the historic marketplace. From there, take a walk to the Jaffa Gate and visit the Tower of David, also known as the Citadel of Jerusalem. If you have time to return to the old city in the evening, you will find the perfect way to end your day by watching the Night Spectacular, a sound and light show, which illuminates the tower wall to tell the history of Jerusalem.
A full day of sightseeing is enough to make anyone hungry! Check out the recently reconstructed “Tachana Rishona” (the first train station). The complex is full of buzzing restaurants and cafes, and during the warmer months offers a night market.
By this point, you will want to head back to your hotel to rest, contemplate your day, and plan your next trip to Jerusalem so that you can truly enjoy this wonderful city to the fullest!
Noam Matas is general manager of America Israel Tours (www.americaisraeltours.com).