Buried temples, traditional cultures, and vibrant cuisine make Jerusalem one of Israel’s most fascinating places, but it’s also a great starting point for visiting other sites. With three days in Jerusalem, you can cover the Israeli capital’s highlights and then swim in the Dead Sea, visit ancient cities, or check out desert scenery. Here’s how to plan.
Day 1: Begin Where It All Started
Kick off your first day in the city with a tour that covers key Old City Jerusalem landmarks, from the Western Wall to the Dome of the Rock. Visiting with a guide is a good way to understand cultural practices that may need some interpretation. After a break for lunch, go underground to explore an even older section of Jerusalem. Touring the City of David, an active archaeological site, gives you a glimpse of discoveries from thousands of years ago. Alternatively, explore Old City neighborhoods, following narrow streets into each of the four traditional quarters: Armenian, Jewish, Muslim, and Christian.
Day 2: Go Beyond the Walls
Begin your second day with a delicious introduction to local culture. Head to Mahane Yehuda market for a tasting tour, with stops for strong coffee and sweet treats. Alternatively, take a food tour in one of Jerusalem’s neighborhoods, linking up a series of family-owned shops, restaurants, and cafés as you learn about life in the city. In the afternoon, brush up on everything from contemporary artwork to archaeology at the Israel Museum, or visit the Yad Vashem Holocaust Remembrance Center to see personal artifacts and exhibits. Book your admission and tours in advance online to save time.
Day 3: Day-Trip Destinations
Whether you’re most interested in ancient history, desert landscapes, or culture, Jerusalem is just a day trip away from some of Israel’s top attractions. Nazareth, Bethlehem, and Galilee are rich with Biblical sites, or you can head to the West Bank to learn about Palestinian communities. Trails and a cable car lead to the mountaintop archaeological site of Masada, and even the Jordanian site of Petra is within range. If you’re ready for desert scenery and relaxation, Dead Sea beaches are ideal for an afternoon of floating in the salty water; many tours feature access to private beaches. Combination tours allow you to sample a little bit of everything and be back in Jerusalem in time for dinner.