Jerusalem above and below

Jerusalem is one of those cities that keep on surprising, and during the month leading up to Rosh Hashana, it becomes the City That Never Sleeps. Here are some fascinating must-sees from a nighttime tour above and below ground.

Jerusalem is a vibrant, exciting city any time of year. Still, there’s a special vibe to the Holy City during Selichot; the special forgiveness prayers held every night for 40 days before Kippur. We’ve joined a nighttime tour above and below ground, culminating around midnight at the Western Wall, and came out enthralled with just how much the city has to offer. Here are some must-see attractions.

Phasael Tower

The Tower of David Museum and Night Spectacular Sound and Light Show are well-known attractions not to be missed, not to mention kids would love the zipline and ropes activity park 15 meters above the ground.

However, this time we started the tour around sunset on top of the Phasael Tower, the northeast tower of the Citadel of Jerusalem, named after Herod’s brother. The tower is situated by Jaffa Gate, and the panoramic view from the top is simply gorgeous.

Panorama of Jerusalem
The view from Phasael Tower. Photo: Inga Michaeli

The Ramparts Walk

The southern route of the Ramparts Walk just splendid day or night. The walk passes over the Armenian and Jewish Quarters, allowing for a bird’s eye view of the Tower of David, King David Hotel, the City of David, and the Dormition. You can purchase tickets for an independent tour or join a myriad of guided specialized tours.

For guided tours, check out the websites I’ve linked below. Just don’t forget to wear comfy walking shoes; those stairs and ancient cobblestones are difficult to negotiate.

Jerusalem Pilgrim Road

Next, we crossed the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan, and went underground to an excavation site not yet open to the public, and walked the 2000-year-old pavement of a stepped street built during the governorship of Pontius Pilate, a late Roman period pilgrimage road that connected the Pool of Siloam to Temple Mount.

Then, through a small door that led us straight into a rather claustrophobic but fascinating short walk through the drain tunnel of that ancient road, where we joined a section of the Western Wall lying hidden from sight. This part of the tour is open to the public, on a tour called From the City of David to the Western Wall, where the ancient city of Jerusalem comes to life under and above ground.

Midnight at the Western Wall

Last but not least, just after midnight, we came to the Western Wall to join the throngs waiting for the Shofar (musical horn) to blast and open the Gates of Heaven for the Selichot, those penitential poems and prayers recited in the days leading up to the High Holidays. They start just after midnight and last till dawn, they are open for all, and if you are of a religious persuasion, they will definitely move you to the core.

Selichot in Jerusalem
People gathering for Selichot at the Western Wall. Photo: Inga Michaeli

Where to stay in Jerusalem

Here are three great options for you to choose from, depending on your budget and personal preference:

Inbal Hotel is a venerable 5-star hotel that went through a massive refurbishment a couple of years ago.

Brown JLM is a relatively new boutique hotel right in the heart of the city, very close to the Mamilla Mall and Jaffa Gate.

Mr. Agrippa by TLV2Go is an apartment complex right next to the Mahne Yehuda market.

The writer was a guest of ITravelJerusaelm; Dana Haftzadi, who knows Jerusalem by heart; and Avidov Bernstein, who specializes in guided tours of Jerusalem.


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