Walking Tour: Mt Zion
- Start Zion Gate
- End Church & Monastery of the Dormition
- Length 1km; two hours
Several important events are said to have occurred at this hill, the highest point in ancient Jerusalem, just south of the Armenian Quarter of the Old City.
Zion Gate makes sense as a starting point; it's easy to find and there's some shade. Almost directly across the street is Malki Tsedek St; follow it for around 100m downhill and you come to the parking lot (on your right and usually filled with loads of tour buses) and the entrance to the Church of St Peter in Gallicantu. Built on the foundations of previous Byzantine and Crusader churches, the exterior of this 1930s structure is less impressive than the views of the Palestinian village of Silwan. Inside, there are some unusual stained-glass windows and the exposed foundations and mosaics of earlier churches, including where three Byzantine-era crosses were found.
Retrace your steps back up Malki Tsedek St and turn left on Kativat Yerushalayim St (aka Ma'ale HaShalom St) and follow it down to the Catholic cemetery near the bottom of Mt Zion. Here you'll find the grave of Oskar Schindler, an Austrian industrialist who saved more than 1200 Jewish lives during the Holocaust; it's easy to recognise as it's covered in small stones (a Jewish custom signifying respect).
Make your way back uphill towards Zion Gate, passing the parking lot again (this time on your left) and into the courtyard of the Franciscan Monastery. Pass an arch and stairway and follow signage to King David's Tomb, a rather unprepossessing space, for a biblical figure at least. It's to the right of a functioning prayer hall and covered in velvet.
Accessed via the nearby staircase and directly above, in a classic case of Jerusalem's layered history, is the Room of the Last Supper – at least that's what Christian tradition holds; historical evidence suggests otherwise. The vaulted chamber is usually filled with pilgrims.
Back down the stairs and to the front of the building, take a short walk down Har Tsiyon St to the entrance of the Romanesque-style Church & Monastery of the Dormition, where it's said the Virgin Mary died. The crypt is down the stairs to the left after entering. Various chapels on the ground floor are dedicated to saints.