Our 7-day Israel itinerary explores the clash of empire and religion in Jerusalem, dips into the West Bank, and relaxes in the cafes and beaches of Tel Aviv. By the end, we found it had left an indelible mark.


Jerusalem is a city where empires and religions have clashed for millennia and on this 7-day Israel itinerary, you’ll discover city walls, ancient tombs, defensive castles and religious shrines that bear the scars of these clashes. These are the physical hallmarks of the kings, prophets and high priests whose legacy continues to shape our lives to this day.

A few miles away lies the West Bank and the town of Bethlehem. The birthplace of a two millennia old religion is separated from Jerusalem by the West Bank Wall. A modern-day divider for an ancient struggle.

While Jerusalem is a rich historical tapestry, Tel Aviv is a modern Mediterranean city with trendy cafes and an alluring beach vibe. It’s hipster-powered dining, the poster boy of vegan eating, and its modern art are the envy of the middle east.

Of all the countries we have visited, and we have been to many, our 7-day Israel itinerary left the most indelible mark.


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7-DAY ISRAEL ITINERARY OVERVIEW

3 DAYS / Politics, power and religion in historic Jerusalem

1 DAY / West Bank and Bethlehem

2 DAYS / Relaxing on the beaches and cafés of Tel Aviv


WHY GO TO ISRAEL?

Walking in the footsteps of the most influential people in history

Learning about the origins and politics of the world’s great religions

Exploring the clash of empires through a single city

Understanding the modern challenge for Palestinians and Jews

Relaxing in Mediterranean cafes, bars and beaches

Exploring some of the finest modern art in the Middle East

Jerusalem to Tel Aviv: from empires & religion to cool cafes & beaches

DAY 1 / DISCOVERING JEWISH HISTORY IN JERUSALEM

Jerusalem is a living breathing museum of Jewish history. Today we explore the sites of Jerusalem that tell the story of the Jews, their arrival and development of the city.

08:00 / Start at Mount Zion and head to the Tomb of David, believed to be the resting place of King David, it’s one of the most revered Jewish sites in Jerusalem. After witnessing the energetic sex-segmented praying, head to Cenacle – the room of the Last Supper – which can be reached from the courtyard just outside the Tomb of David.

09:15 / Head east to collect the City of David and stop off at the feat of engineering that is the Tunnel of Hezekiah. 11:00 / Walk to the Jerusalem Archaeological Park where you can learn the fascinating history of Herod’s expansion of the Temple Mount and its incorporation into the city.

12:30 / Next, soak up the fascinating atmosphere at the Western Wall, watching the observant pray along the 2nd most holy Jewish site in Jerusalem. Stop for lunch at Between the Arches to enjoy some well-constructed Israeli food.

13:30 (12:30 in winter) / Head to the Temple Mount (take your passport) to see the spectacular Dome of the Rock. Muslims can gain access from any of the entrances, but non-Muslims must go through the entrance by the Western Wall.

14:15 / After exploring the Temple Mount head up to the Citadel: Tower of David. This citadel was originally built by Herod and now contains a museum. This museum takes you through the history of Jerusalem and helps to pull together many of the sights you have seen so far today.

16:00 / Exit through the Jaffa Gate, and head south to explore more of the ancient city walls before re-entering through the Zion Gate and wandering through the Jewish Quarter. Locate ‘Broad Wall’ a remnant of the city walls built around 700 BCE.

19:00 / Have dinner at Chakra, for some simple but excellent Israeli cooking to end the first day of your 7-day Israel itinerary.


Tomb of David / Sun – Thu: 8:00 – 21:00, Fri: 9:00 – 20:00 / Price: Free / Location: here

City of David / Sun – Thu: 8:00 – 17:00 (winter) 8:00 – 19:00 (summer); Fri: 8:00 – 14:00 / Price: NIS 30 / LocationMa’alot Ir David St, Jerusalem

Jerusalem Archaeological Park / Sun – Thu: 8:00 – 17:00; Fri: 8:00 – 14:00 / Price: NIS 30 / LocationMa’alot ha-Rav Shlomo Goren St, Jerusalem

Temple Mount / Mon – Thu: 7:30 – 10:30 and 12:30 – 13:30 (winter); Mon – Thu: 8:30 – 11:30 and 13:30 – 14:30 (summer) / Price: Free

Citadel: Tower of David / Sat – Thu: 9:00 – 16:00; Fri: 9:00 – 14:00 / Price: NIS 40 / Location: here

DAY 2 / SCATTERING OF CHRISTIAN SITES IN JERUSALEM

On day 2 of the 7-day Israel itinerary explore the stories of the Christian New Testament, follow the footsteps of Christ and learn why the buildings and churches in Jerusalem are a far cry from the Roman Catholic memorials and structures in the west.

09:00 / Take a taxi to Mount of Olives and go to the Chapel of the Ascension, the spot where the faithful believe Jesus ascended into heaven. A footprint in the stone slab in the chapel supposedly marks the footstep of Christ. Walk down from the Mount of Olives visiting the small church where Jesus first taught the Lord’s Prayer, and the tombs of the prophets Haggai, Malachi and Zachariah.

11:00 / Near the bottom of the hill, stop in at the Garden of Gethsemane, then at the Tomb of the Virgin Mary a dark dingy tomb telling a story of different Christian sects.

12:00 / Next, head to the Golden Gate, sealed by Muslims to stop the upcoming Messiah from gaining access to the Temple, and enter the old city through Lion’s Gate.

12:30 / Go to the Church of St. Anne, the best-preserved Crusader church in Jerusalem and home of the Virgin Mary’s parents, her birthplace, and the starting point for the Stations of the Cross. There are 14 stations in total, the first 9 around the Via Dolorosa and the final 5 in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. There are little signs for each station, but you’ll need a map and keen eyes.

13:30 / After the third station grab lunch at Abu Shukri before heading to the Church of St. Alexander Nevsky. It supposedly contains the gate through which Jesus carried the cross out of the city.

15:00 / Next the Church of the Holy Sepulchre stands on the sight Jesus was crucified and contains the final 5 stations of the cross. It is the highlight of any 7-day Israel itinerary and is jointly owned by Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox and Armenian Apostolic denominations. The result is a mishmash of designs slowly decaying in a magnificently atmospheric building.

19:00 / Have dinner at Nafoura 100m inside Jaffa Gate.


Dome of the Ascension / 8:00 – 18:00 (summer); 08:00 – 14:30 (winter) / Price: Free / Tips: Ring bell for entrance / Location: here

Garden of Gethsemane / Church: 8:00 – 12:00, 14:00-18:00 (17:00 Oct-Mar); Grotto: 8.30-12:00, 14.30-17:00 (15.40pm Sun & Thu) / Price: Free / Location: here

Tomb of the Virgin Mary / 5:00 (6:00 Oct-Mar)-12:00, 14.30–17:00 / Price: Free / Location: here

Church of St Anne / 8:00 – 12:00 & 14:00-18:00 (Apr-Sep); 8:00-12:00 & 14:00-17:00 (Oct-Mar) / Price: Free / Location: here

Church of the Holy Sepulchre / Sun: 05:00 – 20:00; Mon – Sat: 05:00 – 21:00 (Oct-Mar); Everyday: 04:00 – 19:00 (Apr-Sep) / Price: Free / Location: here

DAY 3 / MUSLIM QUARTER & FASCINATING ISRAEL MUSEUM

09:00 / Start today just inside the Jaffa gate at the tombs of the two Mamluk architects that were beheaded by Sultan Suleiman for failing to include the old City of David within the rebuilt city walls. Head up the city walls and walk along the ramparts offering great views over the city before dropping back into the Muslim quarter at the Damascus Gate.

10:30 / Potter around the atmospheric Muslim quarter checking out Souq Al Qattanin and the Mamluk architecture along Baba al Sisia street. Grab a tea at Café Rimon Himo about 100m inside the Damascus Gate before exiting the city.

11:30 / Outside the Damascus Gate and in East Jerusalem, stop at Zedekiah’s cave where this King of Judaea hid from the Babylonians as they lay siege to the city. Next head to the Garden Tomb, a tranquil but unassuming spot with an alternate claim as the location of Calvary, before grabbing a cab or train to Mahane Yehuda Market for good coffee, a great tasty lunch and excellent people watching.

14:15 / Take a taxi to the Israel Museum, a vital stop on your 7-day Israel itinerary, providing insight into Israel’s ancient past. Join the English speaking tour at 3 pm. It covers the Shrine of the Book, which holds the very carefully preserved Isaiah Scroll (the most intact section of the Dead Sea Scrolls) and the impressive model of the Second Temple affords you a bird’s eye view history of the development Jerusalem.


Jerusalem Rampart Walls Walk / Sat – Thurs: 9:00 – 16:00; Fri: 9:00 – 14:00 / Price: NIS 16 / LocationPaul Emile Botta St 5

Zedekiah’s Cave / Sep-May: 9:00 – 16:00 pm (Sun-Thu); Jun – Aug: 9:00 – 17:00 (Sat-Thu); Closed Friday / Price: NIS 15 / Location: here

Machane Yehuda Market / Sun-Thu: 8:00 – 19:00; Fri: 8:00 – 15:00 / Tip: Tours and cooking workshops can be ordered here / LocationAgripas St 90, Jerusalem

Israel Museum / Sat, Sun, Mon, Wed, Thu: 10:00 – 17:00; Tue: 16:00 – 21:00; Fri: 10:00 – 14:00 / Price: NIS 54 / LocationDerech Ruppin, Jerusalem

DAY 4 / WEST BANK & BETHLEHEM

Spend the fourth day of your 7-day Israel itinerary on an organized tour to Bethlehem. Although you can access the West Bank on your own, given the complicated logistics of crossing the border, it’s easier to do it on a tour.

Most tours take you through the West Bank barrier and explore Banksy’s art and hotel, before heading to the Shepherd’s Field church, where “shepherds kept watch over their flocks” and angels announced Christ’s birth. There’s not much here, but it’s a good viewpoint for spying the dividing wall rolling over the hills of the promised land.

Next they stop at the Milk Grotto Chapel, where Mary and Joseph rested on their way to Egypt and a drop of Mary’s milk turned the church white, before heading into the centre of Bethlehem.

Manger square is backed by the Church of the Nativity. It’s the longest-running church in the world, built in 326 BCE shortly after Constantine converted the Roman Empire to Christianity. A 14-point star proudly marks the spot of Jesus’ birth. The church is administered jointly by Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Armenian Apostolic and Syriac Orthodox Church authorities with the Palestinian police often called in to settle brawls. If you need a further reminder that you’re not in Rome, head next door to St. Catherine’s Church. This new and polished Roman church is a far cry from the poorer – but far more atmospheric – Church of the Nativity.


Shepherd’s Field Church / 8:00 – 18:00 Mon-Sat; 8:00 – 11:45 & 14:00-17:30 Sun (summer); 8:00 – 17:00 Mon-Sat; 8:00 – 11:45 & 12:00-16:30 Sun (summer) / LocationBeit Sahour. Beit Sahour

Chapel of the Milk Grotto / 8:00 – 12:00, 14:00 – 18:00 (summer); 08:00 – 12:00, 14:00 – 17:00 (winter) / Price: Free / Location: Milk Grotto St, Bethlehem

Church of the Nativity / 6:30 – 19:30 (summer); 5:30 – 18:00 (winter) / Price: Free / Note: The Grotto of Nativity is closed on Sunday mornings / Location: here

St Catherine’s Church / 6:00 – 19:00 (summer); 5:30 – 18:00 (winter) / Price: Free

DAY 5 / CHANGE OF PACE IN TEL AVIV

This morning head to Yad Veshem Holocaust Museum on the outskirts of Jerusalem. A reminder of why Israel was formed in the first place. The begin the second leg of your 7-day Israel itinerary and take a taxi or bus to Tel Aviv, a place with a cool local feel and plenty of things to do.

Spend what’s left of the afternoon exploring the Yemenite quarter and around the triangle of Sheinken street / King George Street / Allenby Street. The charming but run-down streets showcase the relaxed vibe of the city and make sure you try some of the pastries.

Head to the vibrant Carmel Market. It’s open every day of the week, except Shabbat (Saturday), and sells mostly food. On Tuesdays and Fridays, the market hosts several independent vendors who off-load unique crafts, art and jewellery to locals and travellers alike. Grab a beer at a stall and watch the world go by.


Yad Veshem Holocaust Museum / Sun-Wed: 8:30 – 17:00; Thu: 8:30 – 20:00; Fri: 8:30 – 14:00. Closed Sundays / Price: Free / Location: here

Carmel Market / Sun – Fri: early until about 19:00 / Tip: Vendors offer very good deals late in the day / LocationHaCarmel St, Tel Aviv-Yafo

DAY 6 / BEACH FRONT WALK TO JAFFA PORT

Take a morning stroll along the seafront to Jaffa Port, which has been in use for over for over 7,000 years, predating Muslims, Christians and Jews. Jaffa has a weekend neighbourhood feel, no matter what day it is. There is a flea market packed with various quirky stalls selling books, vinyl, antiques, delicious pastries and contemporary art. Try a juice from a local vendor and one of the many excellent brunch spots.

After brunch check out the area before relaxing on one of the best beaches in Tel Aviv. Spend the evening in Neve Tzedek, the first Jewish neighbourhood outside of the old port city of Jaffa. It’s oriental architectural style, narrow streets and boutiques give it a cool vibe. Try Dallal on Shabazi Street for dinner. Both have an innovative menu that’s ideal for sharing, set in a beautiful designer space. Finish with a drink at one of the many bars in the area.


Jaffa Flea Market / Sun-Thu: 10:00 – 18:00, Fri: 10:00 – 14:00 / LocationOlei Zion St, Tel Aviv-Yafo

DAY 7 / MODERN ART AND BEACHES OF TEL AVIV

If you’re staying at the Mendeli Street Hotel (see our where to stay tips below), have breakfast at their fantastic restaurant, Mashya. If not head over there anyway. It can get busy and you may need to wait, but the massive selection of delicious breakfast salads makes it all worthwhile.

After breakfast, make your way to the Tel Aviv Museum of Art with two huge murals created especially for the museum by Lichtenstein, several masters plus a small collection donated by the Peggy Guggenheim Collection.

For the afternoon return to the beach before finding your favourite restaurant on the front for a relaxing dinner as the sun sets over the Mediterranean and a relaxing end to your 7-day Israel Itinerary.


Tel Aviv Museum of Art / Sat, Mon, Wed, Thu: 10:00 – 18:00; Tue, Thurs: 10:00 – 21:00; Fri: 10:00 – 14:00; Sun Closed / Price: NIS 50 / Location: Sderot Sha’ul HaMelech 27, Tel Aviv-Yafo

ALL THE INFORMATION YOU NEED TO PLAN YOUR OWN FASCINATING 7-DAY ISRAEL ITINERARY

We are firm believers that a little pre-planning, research, and understanding what you are looking for in a destination, will help make your travels far more successful. Here’s some further information we think you might need to plan your own 7-day Israel itinerary.

GETTING AROUND ISRAEL

International flights arrive at Ben Gurion international airport. Taxis and buses can take you into Jerusalem (45 minutes) and Tel Aviv (30 minutes).

Israel is a relatively small country. A taxi ride from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem is 1hour costing about 300 NIS. There are also plenty of buses ploughing between the two.

Jerusalem has a good tram system, but the real joy of both cities is just walking around. So take a pair of comfortable shoes and off you go.

BEST TIME TO GO TO ISRAEL

The shoulder seasons are the best time to travel to Israel. In April/May and September/October it’s warm enough to experience the café and beach culture of Tel Aviv and yet not too cold in the hills of Jerusalem.

Plan your trip to void Jerusalem on Friday and Saturday as well as during the holidays of Passover, Rosh HaShana and Sukkot when many of the religious buildings and museums are closed.

WHERE TO STAY IN ISRAEL

We recommend using Airbnb in Jerusalem which has a great selection of properties at much better prices than hotels which have increased considerably over the last couple of years. It’s a good idea to stay within walking distance of the old town, but not inside it. The old town is a ghost town at night.

In Tel Aviv, we highly recommend the Mendeli Street Hotel in Tel Aviv. It’s a modern comfortable hotel in a great location near the bars and cafés of Sheinken Street / King George Street / Allenby Streets. In addition, they do one of the best breakfasts in Tel Aviv.

BOOK MENDELI STREET

COSTS OF OUR 7-DAY ISRAEL ITINERARY

The total cost of our 7-day Israel itinerary, for two people, was Israeli Shekel 8,150. With Nov 2018 exchange rates of NIS 4.75 to the British Pound; NIS 3.7 to the US dollar; and NIS 4.20 to the Euro, this equates to:

4 day Cappadocia Itinerary
US $2,200
4 day Cappadocia Itinerary
GBP £1,700
4 day Cappadocia Itinerary
EUR €1,925

WHAT WOULD WE DO DIFFERENTLY?

With an extra day take a trip to the Dead Sea. We had already visited on a trip to Jordan so did not include in this itinerary, but you may well want to.

Jerusalem appeals to our love of history and fascination in the politics of religion. If that’s not so much for you cut 1 day from Jerusalem and chill out for an extra day on the beaches of Tel Aviv.

Finally, you may want to find time for the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum. It is a 15minute taxi ride out of town and could easily be slotted in on day 5 in the morning.

GUIDEBOOKS & READING

We used the Lonely Planet guidebook for Israel and the Palestinian Territories which contains helpful information about opening times, attractions and is generally good for restaurant recommendations.

Another great source for restaurants is Foursquare. Certainly much more reliable than Trip Advisor in searching out good food. Download the app before leaving.

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7 day Israel itinerary collecting all the fascinating historical sites. / Israel travel guide / #israel #jerusalem #telaviv

7 day Israel itinerary collecting all the fascinating historical sites. / Israel travel guide / #israel #jerusalem #telaviv

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