Discover the hidden gems of Jerusalem’s Old City
With its narrow alleyways and enclosed courtyards, the Old City of Jerusalem is a treasure trove of delightful surprises. Take the time to discover some of these fascinating spots on your trip to Israel.
Just off the Via Dolorosa, at the junction of El-Wad Street, is an oasis belonging to the Roman Catholic Church called the Austrian Hospice. This is a rest stop and hostel for weary pilgrims, where you can relax in the sprawling garden with a cup of coffee and an authentic apple strudel. The climb to the rooftop is definitely worth the effort. From here, you'll enjoy a spectacular view of the Christian and Muslim Quarters, the Dome of the Rock and the Mount of Olives.
The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is a popular destination for pilgrims and tourists, but not many people know about the entrance to the Ethiopian Monastery subtly tucked away on the right side of the church’s courtyard. The monastery, called Deir es-Sultan, is in partial ruin, which reflects the poverty of the Ethiopian church. The wooden screen inside the chapel has the words “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews” inscribed in Ge’ez, the Ethiopian ecclesiastical language.
The courtyard of the Holy Sepulchre also has the entrance to an adventurous walk over the rooftops of the Christian Quarter. Don’t forget to bring along a camera for distinctive shots of the Old City from the top. Children will love running over the domed roofs and peeking through vents in order to see the streets below, including the bustling Arab souk (market).
The Little Western Wall is the section of the Western Wall (Kotel) that's closest to the Temple Mount. It is not as commonly visited as the main plaza, and you may have to look a little to find it. It is located near the Iron Gate and reached through a narrow alleyway in the Muslim Quarter. Only a small section of the wall has been exposed, as the rest is hidden behind buildings constructed during the Mamluk and Ottoman periods. It’s usually pretty quiet at the wall here, and one can easily imagine the elders of Jerusalem coming to the wall at midnight to recite Kabbalistic prayers.
To get the most out of your visit to the Holy Land, ask your guide to take you to some of these lesser-known gems of Jerusalem's Old City. There are plenty more surprises here, too, so you might also want to consider dedicating a half day to wandering the alleyways and seeing what you discover yourself.