The historic and religious city of Jerusalem is packed with highly engaging sites and landmarks that never cease to attract visitors, pilgrims, students, experts, and scholars from all over the world regardless of religion or race. If you’re visiting the Holy City for the first time, you will be delightfully surprised that all of these landmarks and tourist spots are found in one place — the walled Old City of Jerusalem.
The Old City is the heart and soul of Jerusalem. A city united has always been the cry for Jerusalem since its people are so diverse in many ways, most particularly in matters regarding faith. Jerusalem is the spiritual birthplace of Judaism, Islam and Christianity, and today it is safe to say that the Old City is the three religions’ spiritual home. They exist in beautiful harmony, and so do the people.
Jerusalem’s Old City is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site. It is impossible not to give special citation to a city with 220 historic landmarks. The most magnificent monument within the walled city is the Dome of the Rock. If there is one thing you have got to see while in Jerusalem, it is this. But spotting this beautiful shrine is not hard to do since it is visible from any point in the city.
Located within the Muslim Quarter inside the Old City, the Dome of the Rock is Islam’s oldest and most revered shrine. It contains the oldest surviving mihrab or niche that points to the direction of Mecca. Built around 690 as a shrine for Muslim pilgrims, the dome stands on a rock that is highly important for Muslims, Christians and Jews alike; the rock on which Abraham attempted to offer his own son Isaac as sacrifice to God.
While in the Muslim Quarter, you will also get to see other important landmarks such as the Temple Mount, Al-Aqsa Mosque, Islamic Museum, Gold Market, and other ancient structures such as bathhouses, caravanserais and hospices. Interestingly, the Via Dolorosa or the way of the Cross begins within the Muslim Quarter. This means Christian pilgrims begin their journey to Golgotha from the Muslim side of the Old City.
Moving on to the Christian Quarter, the most important structure to visit is the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, pertaining to where Christ was buried. On the southern side of the church altar, you can also see what people believe is Golgotha or the actual place where Christ was crucified. Also found inside the church are the Stone of Anointing, Angel’s Stone, Chapel of the Nailing of the Cross and Chapel of Adam.
While inside the Christian Quarter, you might also want to see the Monastery of St. Anne, the Austrian Hospice, and the old arch where Pontius Pilate ordered Jesus’ sentence.
Meanwhile, the Jewish Quarter is home to more than 2,000 Jews who insisted on living in Jerusalem through the centuries despite repeated exiles. This part of the walled city represents the hope, faith, tenacity and rebirth of the Jewish people. Not surprisingly, the most important landmark here is a site of rebuilding and ruins: the Western Wall of what was Jerusalem’s magnificent Second Temple built by King Herod. This massive structure is Judaism’s holiest site.
The fourth and smallest quarter within the Old City of Jerusalem is the Armenian Quarter. About 500 Armenians live here and they don’t exactly consider their living area as a tourist attraction. This means there may not be enough reasons for you to come check out this part of the walled city.