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Jerusalem is of fundamental spiritual importance to one third of humanity, sacred to Jews, Christians and Muslims alike: three faiths based on a common creed that now vies for mutually exclusive claims to the same city. A visit to Jerusalem can be an intense experience, yet it is one that should not be missed. Even the most ardent non-believer will become enthralled by its unique atmosphere. Not only is the first sight of the Dome of the Rock far better in reality than in the imagination, but the chaotic, crowded streets of the Old City retain a timeless exoticism despite the passage of many centuries of pilgrims and tourists. Layered beneath the city are remains of civilisations stretching back 3000 years, which can be explored via tunnels or at countless archaeological sites. Should the pervasive air of history and religion get too intense, there are nightly cultural activities as well as a fine bar and dining scene in both East and West Jerusalem.
A visit to Jerusalem could start with a wander around the walled Old City (or even a circuit of the walls themselves), taking in the Citadel, which has been the city’s stronghold for 2000 years and now tells the story of Jerusalem in a magnificent museum. Follow hordes of pilgrims along the Via Dolorosa, the traditional route along which Jesus carried his cross on the way to his Crucifixion. It passes through both the Muslim and Christian quarters of the city before arriving at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Built upon the traditional site of the Crucifixion and Resurrection, this is the most important site in Christendom.Read more
The fascinating Temple Mount/Haramal-Sharif area is the architectural and visual focus of Jerusalem, but also one of the most contested pieces of real estate on earth. The mount was the site of the First and Second Jewish Temple, and, though there are no standing remains of the Temple itself, Jews still visit the Western (Wailing) Wall to mourn its destruction. Since the 7th century AD the mount has been the third most important place of pilgrimage within the Islamic world. The central Islamic buildings stand on the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount itself and include al-Aqsa Mosque and the stunningly beautiful Dome of the Rock.
Beyond the Old City, head to the Mount of Olives for its views and important Christian sites. A visit to the Holocaust museum (Yad Vashem) or the Israel Museum to see the Dead Sea Scrolls is also recommended.