Oct 02, 2017 Jerusalem in 3 days with kids
We spent 5 days in Jerusalem, Israel. With my children ages 6, 4, and 1. Jerusalem is broken up into 4 quarters; Armenian, Christian, Jewish, and Muslim Quarter. You could easily see everything in the city in a day. It would be a full day with a lot of walking so I am breaking it up into a more relaxed schedule for those traveling with kids. The city has signs once inside that help direct you towards major holy sights within the winding city. If I were to compress our time into a 3 day trip here is my recommendations and tips for the area.
Feel free to watch our Vlog of the trip here
*You’ve never experienced airport security until you have left Israel. Definitely get there 3 to 4 hours before your plane departs because their security check in process is very thorough which takes some time especially with children.
If you plan on visiting any of the religious sights – which I recommend you do – there is a dress code. To see the Western Wall and the Church of the Holy Sepluchre women must wear knee length skirts and have covered shoulders. The first day I didn’t know about the covered shoulders, so as I walked in to see the Wailing Wall I was given a lovely city sponsored cape to wear. I lovingly called it the cape of shame. After that I went out into the market and bought myself one of the thousands of scarves for sale. Men need to have covered shoulders and knee length shorts too. To see the Dome of the Rock women must have shoulders covered and skirts/pants to their ankles. Men should wear pants and a shirt.
The city is not very handicap accessible therefore strollers are no easy task. I recommend wearing a baby carrier and leaving the stroller at home. If you want to bring a stroller I recommend going through Jaffa gate into the Jewish quarter. If you follow the road you can make it into the Arab quarter without encountering any stairs.
Itinerary: Garden Tomb, Walk through Damascus Gate into the Arab Quarter of Jerusalem, Church of the Holy Seplulchre
What is it: It is believed by some Protestant Christians to be the garden where Jesus of Nazareth was buried and rose from the dead.
Admission: Free of charge – It is closed on Sunday
Recommended Duration: 30-60 minutes. A lot of tour groups go through here.
Damascus Gate to Arab Quarter of Jerusalem
What is it: The gate that takes you into the Arab Quarter of Jerusalem. Is a short walk down the street from the Garden Tomb. It is definitely the most lively and active of the quarters. It is a bartering zone so feel free to haggle for anything you buy. It is fun to walk the shops, eat food, and take in the diversity of the area.
Recommended Duration: 2-3 hours
Church of the Holy Sepulchre
What is it: A church located in the Christian Quarter. The church contains, according to traditions, the two holiest sites in Christianity: the site where Jesus of Nazareth was crucified, and Jesus’s empty tomb, where he is said to have been buried and resurrected. It is a little confusing because the Garden Tomb is a different sight that believes it is the location of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. It just depends what your personal beliefs and feelings are.
Admission: Free however once inside there can be long lines to see the tomb
Recommended Duration: 1 hour
Itinerary: Jaffa Gate to Jewish Quarter, Wailing Wall, and Dome of the Rock, Siloam Tunnel
Jaffa Gate to Jewish Quarter
What is it: Enter the Jaffa gate to a radically different part of the city. It is much calmer and quieter here. You can go in the temple of David or a Synagog. In a Synogog men are downstairs and women go upstairs. This quarter also overlaps with the Armenian quarter so we meandered through both sections shopping, eating, and going in a few churches.
Recommended Duration: 2-3 hours
What is it: According to the Bible it is the sight of the Temple Mount. A holy building that was built and destroyed and all that remains is this ancient limestone wall. The Wall is the holiest place where Jews are permitted to pray and it is really unique to see how they pray at the wall, what they wear, and their respect for the area. It is great for people watching! The wall is divided into a men and women’s section. I didn’t know this and when I went there I started to walk right up to the wall when a few men started yelling at me and Alexandra in Hebrew. One came up and planted himself in my path speaking frantically in Hebrew. Thankfully a group of English speaking Jews came up and explained, “This is the men’s side. You must go to the other side for women. We are glad you are here and hope you enjoy your stay.” Men must wear a yarmulke if they are to go up to the wall. They will provide one if you don’t have one. Women must have covered shoulders and knees.
Admission: Free and open at all times to the public. You will have to go through metal detectors to enter
Recommended Duration: 1 hour
Dome of the Rock
What is it: An Islamic shrine located just above the Wailing Wall. You walk up a wooden ramp that is off to the right of the Wall to access the area. The significance for Muslims is their belief that the Prophet Muhammad ascended to Heaven from the rock at the center of the structure. Jews also believe it is the site of Abraham’s attempt to sacrifice his son. Women need to have shoulders covered and pants/skirts to the ankles. When Derek and I first walked in we were holding hands and where promptly yelled at. The man told us,”This is a Holy Sight so there is no touching allowed between men and women.” Just so you know, because we didn’t.
Admission: Free. There are only certain times non muslims are able to enter. There is a morning and afternoon openings. I recommend going in the afternoon because we experienced a much shorter line than our Nanny who went in the morning.
Recommended Duration: 30 minutes to 1 hour
What is it: Also, known as Hezekia’s Tunnel, is a water tunnel that was carved underneath the City of David and you can now walk through it! There is a dry path or the waterway path. We did the waterway path and it was great! The water came up to mid thigh on my 5’2″ frame and it is in no way unbearably cold. Trust me I hate cold water. You walk through clean running water for around .33 miles (533 Meters). The kids loved it!
Tips: Bring a flash light or use your phone light. Without it it’s pitch black.
Don’t go if you are at all claustrophobic
Babies are only allowed if they are in a baby carrier.
Admission: The last ticket entrance to Hezekiah’s Tunnel is sold one hour before closing time. Adults 28 shekels ($8). Children (5-18) 14 shekels ($4).
Recommended Duration: It took us 45 minutes. So, just depends how quickly you want to walk through it.
Itinerary; Drive out to the Dead Sea
What is it: It is a Salt Lake. With Israel on the West bank and Jordan on the East bank. It is Earth’s lowest elevation on land. The best thing about it is you literally float! I don’t mean you float in it like how you float on your back in a swimming pool. I mean you walk in and lift your legs up and you’re floating! Because the lake has such a high salinity level (a lot of salt) it makes anything in it very buoyant. The downside to the salt? It tastes worse than anything you can imagine and if you have a cut or freshly shaved legs (like I did) it is going to sting. The boys enjoyed it but I made them wear goggles so they wouldn’t get it in their eyes. I didn’t let Wren get in and I wouldn’t recommend putting a child under 4 or 5 in the water due to the salt. The water temperature is extremely comfortable – think of it like a giant salty bath tub. The Lake is receding at an alarming rate and unless they build a pipeline to channel water into it it will eventually be gone.
Admission: Free if you use a public beach area – minus parking which is a very reasonable hourly rate. We went to the public beach Ein Bokek. It had showers, bathrooms, sand, and restaurants. I know that there are also resorts that you can go to for a price. We didn’t do this but I am sure they are nice as well.
Recommended Duration: Half day to full day