This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

Jerusalem is a city of deep passions. It is home to several of the holiest places in Western religion: the Western Wall, Al-Aqsa Mosque, Dome of the Rock and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. It is also a city where neighborhoods of Arabs and Jews sit beside one another — not always peacefully.

But look in the right places and you will find more than just the sites argued about in headlines and history books. Places like the central market, hidden tunnels and swimming holes beloved by locals reveal a modern society buzzing in an ancient city.

1. A Walking Class in Comparative Religion

The Old City is a maze of neighborhoods lined with vendors selling everything from knickknacks to fine art. Plan a route that lets you visit the Western Wall, the Dome of the Rock and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher all in one day. Fortify yourself with coffee at the Austrian Hospice, a pilgrim guesthouse since 1863, and a plate of the Palestinian dessert knafeh at Jaffar Sweets. Pro tip: Wear shoes with good traction; the well-worn streets are slippery.

Pro-tip: wear shoes with good traction! Photo by Boris Katsman / Getty Images
Image courtesy of Boris Katsman / Getty Images.

2. A City Divided

Get a better understanding of where boundaries lie at the Haas Promenade. See where Arab and Jewish neighborhoods separate by spotting the water tanks on rooftops. The white ones are Jewish, the black Arab. At night, look for the green lights that illuminate mosques in Arab areas. For more insight, head to the Museum on the Seam.

3.The Market Is the Place

Nowhere in Jerusalem gives you a better sense of what life in this city is really like than a visit to the central market, Machane Yehuda. The bustling spot is a mix of long-standing produce vendors and stylish, young restaurateurs and bar owners. If you only have time for one meal, make a reservation at the restaurant Machneyuda, which bases its menu on what’s available in the market and feels like a raucous party.

Make a reservation at Machneyuda. Photo courtesy Machneyuda
Image courtesy of Machneyuda.

4. Get Out of Town for a Bowl

Jerusalem is a city that takes its hummus very seriously. On Saturdays, when much of the city shuts down for the Jewish sabbath, locals head to the nearby town of Abu Ghosh for a tahini-laced fix.

5. Yes, You Do Want to Visit This Leper Home 

Once a center for Hansen’s disease (aka leprosy), the Hansen House in the upscale neighborhood of Talbiya is now an art gallery with rotating installations, and home to a charming cafe, Ofaimme. With goat cheeses from the owner’s sustainable farm in the desert, Ofaimme serves one of the best Israeli breakfasts in town.

6. Go Underground

Famed Israeli poet Yehuda Amichai once compared Jerusalem to Atlantis, a trove of sunken treasures. Dive under the streets and you’ll find the remnants of an ancient water system at the Siloam (or Hezekiah’s) Tunnel and a pathway some scholars believe King David walked on at the Western Wall Tunnels. Both offer a break from the city’s intense sun.

Check out the ancient water system at the Siloam Tunnel. Photo by
Check out the ancient water system at the Siloam Tunnel. Photo by kuarmungadd / Getty Images

7. Seek and Find These Neighborhoods

Head down the stairs next to the city’s iconic windmill to explore the small gardens and Instagram-ready homes of Yemin Moshe. Or, escape into the labyrinth of streets in Nachlaot, a bohemian area near Machane Yehuda that is home to the Barbur Gallery. Pack a picnic of hummus, fresh pita and halva from the market and find a bench.

8. Boutique Row

Ignore anyone who tells you all of the best shopping in Israel is in Tel Aviv. Jerusalem’s designer scene is small but mighty. Head to the Schatz and Bezalel midrachovs (pedestrian streets) with your credit card. Catch the Bezalel artist fair on Fridays.

9. Secret Gardens

After the chaos of the city, Jerusalem’s gardens offer respite. The Garden Tomb, which some believe is the site of Jesus’ resurrection, is close to the Old City and often filled with the sounds of pilgrims singing. Farther afield, there’s the garden of Gethsemane with its ancient olive trees, and across town by the Knesset lies the Wohl Rose Garden and the tiny but tranquil Jerusalem Bird Observatory.

The beautiful garden of Gethsemane with its ancient olive trees. Photo by Alexandr Tkachuk / Getty Images
The beautiful garden of Gethsemane with its ancient olive trees. Photo by Alexandr Tkachuk / Getty Images

10. Down at the Swimming Hole

Locals beat the heat at several watering holes from fresh springs near town. Rent a bike (Jerusalem has a series of bike paths) and head toward the renovated Ein Lavan to earn the right to cool off in a spot few tourists reach.

Featured photo by suprunvitaly / Getty Images.

The Platinum Card® from American Express

The American Express Platinum card has some of the best perks out there: cardholders enjoy the best domestic lounge access (Delta SkyClubs, Centurion Lounges, and Priority Pass), a $200 annual airline fee credit as well as up to $200 in Uber credits, and mid-tier elite status at SPG, Marriott, and Hilton. Combined with the 60,000 point welcome offer -- worth $1,140 based on TPG's valuations -- this card is a no-brainer for frequent travelers. Here are 5 reasons you should consider this card, as well as how you can figure out if the $550 annual fee makes sense for you.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases in your first 3 months.
  • Enjoy Uber VIP status and free rides in the U.S. up to $15 each month, plus a bonus $20 in December. That can be up to $200 in annual Uber savings.
  • 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel.
  • 5X Membership Rewards points on prepaid hotels booked on
  • Enjoy access to the Global Lounge Collection, the only credit card airport lounge access program that includes proprietary lounge locations around the world.
  • Receive complimentary benefits with an average total value of $550 with Fine Hotels & Resorts. Learn More.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit, up to $200 per calendar year in baggage fees and more at one qualifying airline.
  • Get up to $100 in statement credits annually for purchases at Saks Fifth Avenue on your Platinum Card®. Enrollment required.
  • $550 annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Intro APR on Purchases
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Balance Transfer Fee
See Terms
Recommended Credit
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.