An open-air synagogue where worshippers recite prayers, Israel’s historic Western Wall (Wailing Wall) is where travelers come to kiss pale gold stones the color of the Negev desert and to stuff paper prayers between the stones. The beating heart of the Old City of Jerusalem, this is a must-see sacred site in the Jewish Quarter.
The Western Wall—also known as the Kotel—is the holiest site in Jerusalem due to its status as the last remnant of the Second Temple built by Herod in 19 BC. Today it forms one side of Temple Mount, and this section of the wall rises 187 feet (57 meters) up. The Western Wall is divided into two areas—there’s a small southern section for women and a much larger northern area for men. If you don’t feel comfortable joining in on the action at the wall, it’s backed by a large, sloping plaza where you can stand back and just take in the scene.
The site is commonly visited on half- and full-day Jerusalem sightseeing tours departing from Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Many tours also visit Bethlehem, the Dome of the Rock, or the Dead Sea.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Dress modestly while you’re here—a good general rule is to be covered from the shoulders to below the knee.
- Don’t worry if you don’t have a headscarf or kippah head covering for your visit; these can be borrowed at the entrance.
- You’ll find a security checkpoint before you reach the wall; it typically takes a few minutes to get through this safety measure.
- You don’t have to be Jewish to pay your respects at the wall—it’s open to any person of any faith.
- During Shabbat, photography isn’t allowed, and at other times, it’s best to exercise sensitivity when pointing your lens.
How to Get There
The Western Wall plaza forms the heart of Jerusalem’s Old City. Dung Gate is the nearest access point by taxi and intercity bus 1 or 2.
When to Get There
The large crowds that gather here can really add to the atmosphere, but if you’d rather have peace and quiet, try visiting early in the morning or in the late evening on a weekday. Bar mitzvahs are often held during Shabbat, or on Monday or Thursday mornings, and those times can be busy with celebrating families, too. The same goes for Jewish holidays.
The Western Wall Tunnel
The Western Wall Tunnel is an underground tunnel beneath the buildings of the Old City of Jerusalem. There have been many Herodian discoveries (plus the uncovering of a Hasmonean Aqueduct) since excavations began in the 19th century and again after the Six-Day War in 1967. Join a Western Wall Tunnel tour to see this slice of Jerusalem history.