The Old City: Ultimate Guide to the Quarters of Jerusalem Abraham Home

The Old City: Ultimate Guide to the Quarters of Jerusalem

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The Old City of Jerusalem is arguably one of the most exciting, historical, and controversial places in the world. For thousands of years, Jerusalem has been the epicenter of religious events, and the city has been conquered and ruled by many different groups of people. Today, the Old City is divided into quarters, and these quarters of Jerusalem represent the different religious and ethnic groups that have lived in the walled-in city for centuries.

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The four quarters of Jerusalem are the Armenian Quarter, Christian Quarter, Jewish Quarter and the Muslim Quarter. Walking through the Old City is like walking through thousands of years of human history, and each quarter has different sites, restaurants, architecture, and history to explore.

Visiting the Old City of Jerusalem is something every traveler in Israel should do, and there is an incredible amount to see and to do. Here’s your ultimate guide to visiting the four quarters of Jerusalem.

Armenian Quarter

The smallest of the quarters of Jerusalem, the Armenian Quarter is the only section of the Old City not dedicated to a religion. Armenians have had a significant presence in Jerusalem for about 1,500 years, after Armenia converted to Christianity as a state religion. A significant influx of Armenians happened around 1915, when many Armenians fled Turkey during the war between Armenia and Turkey, and arrived in Jerusalem.

Despite this being the smallest of the quarters, there is plenty to see and do here. St. James Cathedral is the main church in this area, and it dates back to the Crusaders. There is also St. Mark’s Chapel, which is one of the oldest churches in Jerusalem.

In the Armenian Quarter, you’ll see beautiful cobblestone streets, and ceramic art in a significant type of style that is associated with Armenian culture. There are also several places to eat traditional Armenian food, such as Bulghourji and Armenian Orthodox.

During the holiday season, be sure to visit the Armenian Quarter of the Old City for some festive celebrations. Armenians in Jerusalem follow the Julian calendar, and both Christmas and New Year’s are celebrated on different dates than in the other quarters.

You can reach the Armenian Quarter by entering through the Jaffa Gate or Zion Gate.

quarters of Jerusalem

Christian Quarter

Up next on our list of the quarters of Jerusalem is the Christian Quarter. Christians have deep ties to the Old City of Jerusalem, and there are dozens of significant sites located in this part of the city. The main site? The Church of the Holy Sepulchre. This church is believed to have been built over the places where Jesus was crucified and buried, and it dates back to at least the year 336 CE. Various Christian groups control different parts of the church, and there are countless things to see in the church itself, including the Edicule, or the shrine that encloses the tomb of Jesus.

In the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, many pilgrims walk a pathway called the Via Dolorosa, which represents the path that Christians believe Jesus actually walked on the way to his crucifixion. You can walk this pathway to see many of the significant sites in the church.

This is one of the most-visited quarters of Jerusalem, and you can also go to other sites significant in Christianity, such as the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer, Saint Saviour Monastery, and St. Abraham Monastery. And if you like outdoor markets, you’re in for a treat. This quarter is home to the Muristan Market, which is near the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. It is colorful and bright, and there are plenty of shops and restaurants here.

As you might expect, Christmas is a special affair in the Old City of Jerusalem, particularly in the Christian Quarter. There are Christmas markets, decorations, trees, and Midnight Mass at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. If you happen to be visiting Israel during the holiday season, Abraham Tours offers experiences for Christmas in the Old City. Please visit our tours page for updates.

You can reach the Christian Quarter by entering through the Jaffa Gate or New Gate.

quarters of Jerusalem

Jewish Quarter

No trip to the quarters of Jerusalem would be complete without visiting the Jewish Quarter. The Jewish Quarter in the Old City is home to the most significant holy site in Judaism, the Western Wall (or Kotel in Hebrew). This wall is the last remaining portion of what is called the Second Jewish Temple, which was destroyed by the Romans in the year 70 CE. Today, the piece of wall that remains and the plaza around it is visited by Jews from around the world, who pray at the wall and leave notes in its cracks. While visiting the Western Wall, you should also be sure to visit the Western Wall tunnels, which are under the wall itself, and which you can only visit by joining a tour.

Also in the Jewish Quarter, there is King David’s Tomb, which is believed to be the burial site of King David from biblical times. While exploring the streets of the Jewish Quarter you’ll also find many synagogues, including the famed Hurva Synagogue, as well as many yeshivas (places of Jewish study), and the Cardo, which was the main street during ancient Roman times, and is now once again a functioning market.

Visiting the Jewish Quarter during Jewish Holidays is always a special affair, and there are many holidays on the Jewish calendar you can keep an eye out for. It’s also important to note that these holidays are all celebrated differently, and might provide you with a different experience in the Old City. During Purim you’ll probably find people celebrating in the streets, while during Passover more people might be in prayer at the Western Wall. Hanukkah is known for a special sweet treat called Sufganiyot (which are similar to donuts), so keep an eye out for them if you visit around this time.

You can reach the Jewish Quarter by entering through Zion Gate.

quarters of Jerusalem

Muslim Quarter

The largest of the quarters of Jerusalem is the Muslim Quarter, which is located in the northeast of the Old City. It’s most significant features are the Dome of the Rock, and the Al-Aqsa Mosque. The Dome of the Rock is a glistening gold structure that is the oldest existing Islamic monument in the world, and it’s an iconic view on the Jerusalem skyline. The adjacent Al-Aqsa Mosque is considered by Muslims to be the place where the Prophet Mohammed had his encounter with God, and is a very holy site in the religion.

The area of these two sites is called the Temple Mount. While all visitors are able to tour the outside area and take in the views, non-Muslims are not allowed to enter inside the Dome of the Rock, and in general, visitors are only allowed during certain times. For example, the entire complex is closed to visitors on Fridays & Saturdays, and also during Ramadan and various Muslim Holidays.

This quarter of the Old City is also home to a vibrant market (or shuk). It’s located in both the Muslim and Christian Quarters, and features a maze of alleys lined with shops selling everything from spices to scarves. This is a great place to buy souvenirs or get something delicious to eat.

Visiting the Muslim Quarter during Muslim holidays is always a special experience, particularly around Ramadan. Abraham Tours is offering a special tour during Ramadan, and you can find more information on our tours website.

You can reach the Muslim Quarter by entering through three gates: the Damascus Gate, Herod’s Gate, and Lions’ Gate.

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Things to Know About the Quarters of Jerusalem

As you can see, the quarters of Jerusalem are distinct and vibrant, and have plenty to see and do. Because of the religious significance and the layout of the city, there are some things you should keep in mind when you plan your visit:

  • Dress: In order to access religious sites, both men and women typically need to dress “modestly.” This means that generally speaking, shoulders need to be covered, and shorts or short skirts shouldn’t be worn.
  • Temple Mount: In the Muslim Quarter, in order to enter the Temple Mount, you’ll need to show your passport. You’ll also not be permitted entry if you’re wearing things with religious imagery (such as a cross necklace). Christian and Jewish prayer is also not allowed while visiting this area.
  • Walking: This is definitely a walking city, so be sure to wear good shoes, wear a hat and sunscreen, and bring water with you. Also be mindful that in the rain, the beautiful Jerusalem stone can become slippery.
  • Tours: While it is possible to visit most sites on your own, going on a tour will help ensure you see all of the incredible sites the quarters of Jerusalem have to offer. Abraham Tours offers a Holy City tour which takes you to many of the sites holy to Jews, Muslims, and Christians such as the Western Wall, Temple Mount, Dome of the Rock, Al Aqsa Mosque, and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. For those interested in the political complexities of Jerusalem, we also offer a Dual Narrative tour, which is presented by one Jewish Israeli and one Palestinian guide in tandem.

quarters of Jerusalem

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