With so much to see and do in Jerusalem, one can easily be overcome. To make the most of your visit to the Holy City, follow my travel bible.
1. Plan to spend several days in Jerusalem. On Day One, wander without a map and without an agenda. It is only by navigating the maze that is the Old City that you will learn how to get around.
2. If you want to access the Temple Mount, and are not a Muslim, visiting times vary (but are usually restricted to three hours in the morning and one in the afternoon). The site is closed to visitors on Fridays and Saturdays. Non-Muslims are not allowed in the Dome of the Rock (see photo) nor the Al Aqsa Mosque. The main security entrance to the Western Wall is also the main entry point for non-Muslim Temple Mount visitors. The line for the Temple Mount is on the far right-hand side of the sidewalk. As the line moves slowly, get there at least 30 minutes early.
3. The only time to see the interior of the 12th-century Church of St. James in the Armenian Quarter is at 3 PM daily, when religious services are held.
4. Try to time your visit to Jerusalem so that you are there at the start of Shabbat. The Jewish Sabbath starts at sundown on Friday night. And that's when the Western Wall is transformed. Thousands of worshipers come to celebrate, commune, and pray. Do note, if you do come to the Western Wall area on the Sabbath (between sundown Friday night and sundown Saturday night), you are not allowed to take photographs.
5. If you can’t visit during Shabbat, go for a Monday or a Thursday. Those are the days reserved for Bar and Bat Mitzvahs at the Western Wall. So again, you have a hub of religious activity and fervor.
7. Go down below and explore the tunnels under the Western Wall Plaza. A 90-minute tunnel tour reveals hidden layers of history, including large blocks of the Western Wall. Advance reservations are required, but they can be made the same day.
8. There are several hostels that were originally designed to lodge pilgrims to the Holy City. Today, whether you are a religious pilgrim or merely a curious one, you can stay for a song at places like the Lutheran Guesthouse; the Austrian Hospice (complete with a café serving Viennese treats); and the low-budget Armenian Hostel (located smack dab on the Via Dolorosa). Or choose from two dozen other Christian guesthouses.
9. Like any crowded city, if you look like a tourist, you will be a target for hawkers and potential “lovers” (particularly if you are a Western female). I find that walking purposely, dressing modestly, and using abrupt, dismissive but polite no thank yous in the native language fend off most unwanted advances.