Jerusalem’s Historical Sites
There is no denying that Jerusalem has a long history dating back to ancient times. Archaeologists discovered artifacts, including stone tools and gemstones and homes going as far back as 7,000 years. Another archeological excavation uncovered a 10,000-year-old home and other buildings, along with tools in the Judean lowlands.
Top Sites to Visit in Jerusalem
When visiting Jerusalem, plan ahead as there are numerous historical sites to be seen, explored, and experienced.
Old City – Western Wall
When visiting the Old City, one of the most well-known and visited historical sites is the Western Wall, which is the only remaining part of the Second Temple and is considered the holiest of sites. The Western Wall was one of four supporting walls surrounding the temple an estimated 2,000 years ago. The original length and height of the surrounding walls is estimated at 98-feet high and 1,640-feet long.
Mount of Olives
For visitors interested in a long hike, the Mount of Olives is worth it. The site has been a burial site for more than 3,000 years with over 150,000 graves, including biblical kings. It is also noted it is where Jesus taught his disciples and where he stood as he wept for Jerusalem.
Tower of David
Also known as the Citadel, the entrance to the Tower of David is near the Jaffa Gate, which leads into the Old City. The Tower is a must-see as it is another of Jerusalem’s most ancient historical sites. Currently, there are guided tours plus night shows with projections illuminated on the tower walls depicting Jerusalem’s history.
If your travel time to Jerusalem is limited and you can’t visit as many sites as you would like to, plan visits to the city’s museums that contain large exhibits and collections of artifacts unearthed by archaeologists.
Rockefeller Archaeologic Museum
A visit to the eastern portion of Jerusalem brings visitors to the Rockefeller Museum of Archaeology. The museum, built between 1930 and 1935, is a fine example or architecture featuring domes, arches, vaults, and details from European fortresses. It houses rare objects and artifacts along with themed displays covering many periods in history.
Historical Churches in Jerusalem
Church of the Holy Sepulchre
Dating to the 4th century, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is in the Old City within the Christian quarter. The church was originally built in 330 AD by Helena, Emperor Constantine’s mother. The church was built to commemorate the hill where Jesus was crucified and his tomb.
Capernaum is considered one of the most sacred Christian sites in Israel. During excavations, archaeologists discovered two synagogues, one atop the other, had resided on the site. Today, visitors can sit on ancient stone benches and walk through the same streets Jesus walked. Capernaum is situated along the Sea of Galilee on the northern shore.
The Via Dolorosa is the path Jesus took accompanied by Roman soldiers leading him to his crucifixion. Along the route there are 14 Stations of the Cross that depict, through carvings or pictures, portraying the events from the moment Jesus was condemned by Pontius Pilate to his placement in the sepulcher.
Pool of Siloam
In 2004, archaeologists were contacted to check a construction area near the Temple Mount in the southern portion of the City of David. Upon excavation, two ancient stone steps were revealed that were identified as part of a monumental pool. The steps date to the Second Temple period. It is believed the waters of the pool were used for ritual bathing. The pool is known as the place where Jesus healed a blind man. Visitors can access the Pool of Siloam via Warren’s Shaft. The shaft leads to the tunnel and then to the pool.
Hidden Gems in Jerusalem
The Siebenberg House
In 1970, Theo Siebenberg bought a home that turned out to have been built on a site rich in history going back 3,000 years. The Siebenbergs decided to do some digging of their own, wanting to find if there was a link from ancient times to today. Excavations over many years by archaeologists revealed the home had links to the time of King David and the first and second temple eras. Excavated items include assorted glass, coins, pottery, weapons, mosaics, and remains of buildings, ritual baths, a burial vault, cisterns, and an aqueduct.
In 1834, The Kishle was a military compound. It also served as a prison and as a police station. The site has an interesting and long-standing history discovered by archaeologists. During excavations, evidence was found from numerous periods depicting Jerusalem’s history. Findings included fortifications used during the First Temple by King Hezekiah and remnants of Herod’s Palace. When visiting the Tower of David Museum, visitors can sign up for a tour.
The Italian Synagogue
An interesting piece of history surrounds the synagogue and its story, which began in the 16th century in Conegliano Veneto in Italy. The synagogue was a place of worship for the Jewish community until the outbreak of World War I. The synagogue was used until the end of World War II when, due to a significant decrease in the Jewish community, the synagogue was abandoned. When the war ended, the interior of the synagogue was relocated to Jerusalem in 1952. The site for the synagogue was an old compound in Jerusalem. The compound originally housed a Catholic chapel built in 1886. Italian artists were used in the restoration of the synagogue’s interior. Today, the Italian Synagogue also includes the Museum of Italian Jewish Art and is open to the public.
Step back to the Second Temple period when visiting Jason’s Tomb. The ancient tomb, where Jason, who was a high priest, has inscriptions of his name on the tomb’s walls, was discovered in 1956 by accident when a new building was under construction on the site. When visiting the Rehavia neighborhood, the mixture of modern and ancient architecture is a perfect example that Jerusalem’s interesting and intriguing history is all around.
Walk the same steps as the ancient residents did when traversing the 51 steps to Helena’s Well. At the Coptic Monastery near the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, a tiny entrance leads to the 51 stairs to the well, surrounded by medieval halls plus a reservoir to hold water. The well was named St. Helena after Emperor Constantine the Great’s mother. The story goes that water from the well was used to build the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Access to the entrance, steps, and well is allowed when permission is granted by the resident priest.
Little Western Wall
The lesser-known Little Western Wall, located inside the Muslim Quarter, is a continuation of the larger Western Wall. It is situated near the Iron Gate leading to the Temple Mount. Much of the Western Wall in the quarter is covered by homes built in the 13th century. The portion of the Little Western Wall is the only part that can be seen among the ancient homes. It is considered by some to be an even holier site than the Western Wall. Like the Western Wall where notes and prayers are left between the stones, The Little West Wall also allows messages by worshipers.