Stay – Capitals are always more expensive compared to the rest of the country. For backpacker I definitely recommend the Abraham hostel in Jerusalem. For +/- twenty dollars per night you can arrange a place to sleep, and for Israel that is really cheap.
If you prefer more privacy, you better book a private / double room. These will cost you about $75, but easily will cost you over $130 per night.
For luxurious stays you are expected to pay a lot more, because there are not many hotels with stars in Jerusalem. A four- or five-star hotel starts at $450 per night, but you of course get an amazing service in return.
A complete list of places in this holy city can be found on this page or via Trivago.
Eat – In Jerusalem there are both budget as fine dining options. Tasty and cheap food is offered in the many small restaurants. Falafel, shawarma and hummus is the cheapest option you’ll find. For 15-25 shekels you can eat plenty of good food and be completely stuffed.
In a restaurant you’ll pay a little more. On average $17 per person, but that all depends on what you want to spend.
Remember that it is Sabbath from Friday to Saturday in Jerusalem! A lot of restaurants close! But you need not despair, because in the Armenian and Muslim Area there are many places that still offer delicious, authentic dishes.
Transportation – Jerusalem is quite vast, but not so that you could not do it on foot. The most interesting sights and monuments are grouped very close together.
The tram runs quite regularly (not on Shabbat!) And will cost you a little more than one euro (price list) for a single journey per passenger.
Do you want to get an overview of the old city (The mount of olives viewpoint)? Then you are obliged to take a taxi. This will cost you between 150 and 200 shekels. Quite pricey so try to do it together with some other people.
Drink tap water – Most of the year it is very hot in Jerusalem. Therefore I recommend that you drink a lot! A bottle of water can easily cost three dolalrs and that adds up in the end. Save your bottles and refill them each time when you get back to your hotel! The tap water is perfectly drinkable in Israel.
Rent outside the historic center – Of course it’s fun to stay within the city walls of Jerusalem, but the price within the historic walls also increases dramatically! Most hotels or accommodations are never more than twenty minutes away from the old part of the city.
Haggling at souvenir shops – All souvenir shops in Jerusalem can give you a much better price if you show excellent haggling skills. In most shops you will find the same things, so if you can’t make the owner drop his prices, just go on to the next store.
Local cuisine – Fast food is not cheap in Jerusalem. A kosher McDonalds meal may well be a great item for your bucket list to do, but you’ll need to pay more than $20 for it… For a tasty falafel, shawarma or hummus you only pay $5 to $6 and they taste much better (and healthier!).
Avoid holidays – Accommodation and even restaurants are more expensive during the major Jewish holidays. Easter, Sukkot and the High Holy Days. If you are in Jerusalem during these periods, book outside of Jerusalem (or other cities).
Western Wall – One of the most famous sights in Jerusalem is undoubtedly the western wall. Maybe this doesn’t immediately ring a bell, as for non-Jews it is better known as the Wailing Wall.
This part of the wall is the only remnant that still remained upright after the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans.
This wall is important not only for Jews but also for Muslims.
I definitely recommend to visit the wall on Friday night, when the Sabbath begin. Hundreds of Jews flock to the square where the wall is located, and at the early evening a huge religious festival starts and only grows bigger and bigger.
Dome of the Rock – On the other side of the west wall you’ll find one of the oldest Islamic buildings in the world. The Dome of the Rock is a beautiful monument best known for its gorgeous golden dome. This is in fact not a mosque but a memorial. Besides this building is one of the holiest mosques in the world: the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
As a non-Muslim you can enter neither of them, but fortunately you are allowed to see the outside of this gorgeous monument. The visiting hours are limited however, so plan well in advance.
The dome is open to non-Muslims from Sunday to Thursday from 07:00 am to 11:00 am and again from 13:30 pm until 14:30 pm.
Mount of Olives – On the Mount of Olives, a lot of biblical events took place. For many pilgrims, this hill is well worth a visit since it only lies a few hundred meters from Jerusalem. Here you’ll also find the ‘Jerusalem viewpoint’. From here you get a magnificent view over the walled city of Jerusalem.
If you, like me, wonder why there are so many pebbles and stones on the graves in the Jewish cemetery; they act as a substitute for flowers.
Holy Sepulchre Church – The Holy Sepulchre Church (sometimes called the Church of Resurrection) is one of the main churches of Christianity. According to the Christians, this church was built on the spot where Jesus Christ was crucified and buried. Meanwhile, there have already been built many new churches on this place, but the one that is standing here now, has been there since the twelfth century.
Inside the church you’ll see a lot of pilgrims and you’ll need to wait in line for a long time if you want to check out one of the most sacred monuments or objects in Christianity.
Other religious sites and places of interest Jerusalem – Summing up all religious sites would be a bit boring, but there are many other recommendations that you should see while in Jerusalem.
The Via Dolorosa is a part of the road where Jesus made his journey to then be nailed to the cross. The garden tomb is a monument where it is thought that Jesus was resurrected from, but also in the chapel of the ascension you’ll find a stone which claims the same. The Church of the Visitation, Mount Zion and many others places are quite interesting as well.
Dead Sea – Jerusalem is very close to the Dead Sea. This salt lake covers an area of more than a thousand square kilometers but shrinks every year.
On Earth, this is the lowest point since it lies 429 meters below sea level. Once you plunged through the muddy beach, you can dive into the salt water without ever fearing of drowning. Due to the high concentration of salt (more than 30%!) you’ll float like a leaf that has just fallen on the surface of the water.
Remember to cover yourself with the mud of the Dead Sea. It contains a lot of minerals and crystals that are supposed to be very good for your body.
Massada – Not very far from the Dead Sea, you’ll find the mythical Masada. After the Romans took over Jerusalem, this was the last Jewish settlement that survived. This place is located on top of a giant hill in the middle of the desert. The inhabitants of Masada did not want to end up as slaves and martyrs and therefore decided to commit mass suicide and not fall in hands of the Romans. You can climb Massada on foot through the snake path or via a specially built cable car for an extra fee.
Ein Gedi – Ein Gedi is easy to visit together with Massada because they lay so close together. Ein Gedi is a large nature reserve where you’ll see many fresh waterfalls and if you’re lucky a lot of Israeli wildlife. The climb is incredibly tiring, but the view you get from here is breathtaking.
Nightlife – Personally, I didn’t expect it, but Jerusalem is an excellent place to explore the nightlife. During the weekend you can go outside the old city, and visit one of the many fancy restaurants or clubs and bars that are opened until the early hours. Most of these party places can be found around the Talpiot area.
Taking pictures during Shabbat (Jewish quarter) – During Shabbat (Friday afternoon to Saturday afternoon) you should definitely visit the Wailing Wall. Hundreds of Jews will will celebrate their religion next to this sacred monument. As a tourist, you of course want to make some pictures of these festivities, but that is actually prohibited. A lot of Jews turn a blind eye, but there are also plenty of them that get very angry and sometimes even take the phones out off your hands if you don’t stop taking pictures.
Respect their religion and use your phone or camera as little as possible while in the Jewish quarter.
Accommodation within the ramparts – Staying within the walls is much more expensive than elsewhere, but in some cases there’s even an evening clock so that you can’t go explore the city anymore after a specific hour. A jewish curfew, you could say.
Taking religious items to the Dome of the Rock – The beautiful Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosque are free to visit for non-Jews, but it is expected that you that you don’t take any religious symbols with you. Before you enter this square you will be checked thoroughly.
No conservative clothing – Some temples, mosques, synagogues and churches can not be accessed if you’re not wearing modest clothing. In most cases, knees and shoulders should be covered.
Public transport during the Sabbath – During Shabbat many shops and restaurants close. The same applies to public transport. From Friday afternoon to Saturday afternoon there are no more trams and buses. Taxis still drive around, but they charge an extra.