An ancient city in the West Bank in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Bethlehem is home to many significant religious sites, including the Church of The Nativity in Manger Square, believed by Christians to be the birthplace of Jesus.
Many visitors to Bethlehem come to experience the Church of the Nativity and Manger Square, thought to be the place where Jesus was born. The ancient structure and adjoining Franciscan Church of St. Catherine are incredible to walk through. Other sights like Rachel's tomb, the Mosque of Omar, and the Milk Grotto Chapel are fascinating to explore and Bethlehem's Old City is fun to wander through with shops, open markets, and beautiful architecture. Many guided tours include a visit to Bethlehem on their itineraries
Things to Know Before You Go
- Always carry your passport with you while traveling to the West Bank, as you’ll be asked to show it at Israeli checkpoints
- Be aware that you will be crossing borders from Israel into the Occupied Palestinian Territories; you’ll need to plan transportation ahead of time as Israeli taxis do not cross the border
- The Church of the Nativity is a religious site and visitors are expected to dress appropriately with covered arms and legs.
How to Get There
Although Bethlehem is only located only 6 miles (9 kilometers) from Jerusalem, it can be difficult to reach. The No. 21 public bus runs from Lions Gate in the Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City to Bethlehem frequently throughout the day. Visitors can also drive if they reserve a car from a Palestinian rental service (Israeli car companies do not insure cars that go to the West Bank). There are also private shuttles, private taxi services, and guided tours which include trips to Bethlehem.
When to Get There
Bethlehem is a popular destination year round, but many pilgrims and visitors like to visit Bethlehem around Christmas when Manger Square is beautifully strung with lights.
Soloman’s Pools are legendary reservoirs located in southern Bethlehem on the road to Hebron. The three pools are said to have been built by King Solomon in the 1st or 2nd century to provide water to Jerusalem. In the 17th century a castle called Qal’at al Burak or citadel of the pools was built to protect the pools and today the castle is home to what is possibly the world’s largest collection of Palestinian culture and history.