Jerusalem is relatively small, but dense! The best way to get some perspective is to climb to a highpoint and try to take it all in. Luckily there are plenty of places in this hilly, holy city that give you a bird’s eye view. These are just five of our favourites.
1. The Mount of Olives
This is my number one spot for wowing guests (that’s the view, above). It literally is a panorama of Jerusalem, with the ancient walled city slap-bang in the centre.
Head for the Seven Arches Hotel and you’ll be in the right vicinity. Pre-COVID-19, you’d have to vie with coach-loads of tourists for the best photo ops, but right now it’s a bit quieter.
We’d usually go around dusk as a) fewer tourists, and b) the light is almost always beautiful at this time of day.
Watch the city as it begins to glow, and see how many gleaming green mosques you can spot. It’s a magical place to be when multiple muezzins
The soft light at sunset takes the glare off the almost-white Jerusalem stone of the ancient Jewish cemetery below. There are more than 70,000 graves spilling down the Mount of Olives, towards the old city.
2. The Church of the Ascension, Augusta Victoria
This is usually my first stop for visitors who are new to Jerusalem. The complex, also on the Mount of Olives, includes a hospital, church, kindergarten and cafe.
Take a walk behind the hospital for spectacular views across the West Bank and Jordan Valley. On a clear day, you’ll see the mountains of Jordan.
And a trip up the tower of the Lutheran Church of the Ascension is a great way to get a glimpse of what the separation barrier has done to this city.
From here you can take in the 360-degree views across Jerusalem and the West Bank, and follow ‘the wall’ as it snakes its way, like an unruly river, through communities and countryside.
The entrance to the church is through the gift shop, and across the way is a cute coffee shop with a small play area for kids.
The hospital is the only specialist cancer centre in the West Bank and Gaza, and treats Palestinian patients from across the Occupied Territories.
Cost: Free to visit the compound, 5NIS to enter the church
Open: The church is accessible Monday to Saturday from 8:30am until 1pm*
3. The Austrian Hospice Rooftop, Jerusalem Old City
Hidden in plain sight on the well-worn Via Dolorosa is the Austrian Hospice.
It’s easy to breeze past the inconspicuous entrance. But a trip to the oldest Christian guest house in the walled city is well worth a detour.
Behind the huge wooden doorway is a little slice of Vienna. Literally. You can eat apple strudel or Sachertorte in the beautiful Viennese coffee shop, Cafe Triest. And the cafe’s terrace is a green oasis; the perfect escape from the cramped city streets.
For a small fee, you can head up to the Schwester Bernadette
Cost: 5NIS (or free if you are staying at the guest house)
Open: daily from 10am to 6pm*
4. The Church of the Redeemer, Jerusalem Old City
Another church tower to hike up, this time in the heart of the Old City and not far from the (usually crowded) Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
The Lutheran Church of the Redeemer is well worth a visit anyway; not least because of the tranquil courtyard and cafe. It’s another great spot to escape the bustle of the narrow streets outside.
Plus, every December it hosts possibly the best, and busiest, Christmas market in Jerusalem, complete with gluhwein and bratwurst.
But for an overview of
Take in the Temple Mount / Haram al-Sharif and the shiny Dome of the Rock; the understated grey caps of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the narrow streets of the old city.
And don’t forget to come back in December for your Christmas presents!
Cost: 15NIS for the tower & excavations under the church
Open: Monday to Saturday 10am to 5pm*
5. Tayelet Haas Promenade
This landscaped promenade in West Jerusalem gives a great overview of the east of the city, and down the steep-sided Kidron Valley towards Jordan.
You’ll see the Old City and the three distinct towers of East Jerusalem; the Hebrew University, the Lutheran Church at Augusta Victoria and the white stone tower of the Russian Orthodox convent.
The views east, across mainly Palestinian neighbourhoods, are quite different
The Trotner Park below the promenade has some buggy-friendly pathways through small groves of olive, fig and pomegranate trees. Or you can just wander the short prom for some photo ops – maybe do it now, while there are no tourists on segways!
If you think there are better views of Jerusalem, leave a comment or send me a message – I need to visit them!
*These are all regular pre-COVID-19 opening times. Things are changing, so it’s worth checking before you turn up.