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Destroyed and rebuilt over thousands of years, Jerusalem's spiritual magnetism endures. With interlacing histories, clashing cultures and constant reinvention, the city is an intense, multisensory experience.

The Old City

Jerusalem's Old City is a spiritual lightning rod, sacred to Jews, Muslims and Christians. Wide-eyed with awe, pilgrims flood into the walled city to worship at locations linked to the very foundation of their faith. Church bells, Islamic calls to prayer and the shofar (Jewish ram's horn) electrify the air with a beguiling, if not harmonious, melody, and fragrances of incense, coffee and candle smoke drift through the thrumming souqs (markets). Muslim, Christian, Jewish and Armenian quarters each add their own spice, but this diversity grew from millennia of bloody sieges and transfers of power, leaving still visible deep wounds.

Diversity & Divisions

Thousands of years of political, territorial, ethnic and religious conflict have scarred Jerusalem. One result of this historic, and ongoing, turbulence is Jerusalem's demographic smorgasbord of immigrants from around the world. Dozens of nationalities are represented, each adding their own spirituality, culture and cuisine to Jerusalem's rich mix, while secular and religious battle lines continue to be drawn and redrawn. The uncertain status of East Jerusalem creates the most painful divisions. Though clashes (sometimes violent) continue, many Palestinians still hope for a future in which East Jerusalem is the capital of a Palestinian state.

Contemporary City

Even as Jerusalem hurtles towards the future, the past informs its present. Downtown's modern buildings are encased in rosy Jerusalem stone, the same colour palette as the Old City. Experimental performing arts centres are housed in 19th-century buildings. Ever-growing ultra-Orthodox neighbourhoods can be found moments away from million-dollar condominiums, while old-school fruit and vegetable sellers sit next to craft beer and coffee stalls in Mahane Yehuda Market. Meanwhile in East Jerusalem, the future is debated in bookshops, cafes and confronting art galleries.

Subterranean Sights

Layers of history continue to be unearthed in Jerusalem, a city where ancient worlds are tantalisingly close. Guides lead groups beneath the Western Wall, and candlelit church crypts hold treasured shrines. At the City of David, visitors are ushered through watery passageways and past active dig sites. Hardly a month goes by without a significant discovery being made in and around the Old City. Unsurprisingly, the city's archaeological sites are highly contentious, in particular the bitterly controversial expansion of the City of David site into Palestinian communities. In Jerusalem, history isn't a closed chapter.

Top attractions

These are our favorite local haunts, touristy spots, and hidden gems throughout Jerusalem.