What Are The Most Important Religious Sites In Jerusalem?

Religious Sites in Jerusalem

Visiting Religious Sites in Jerusalem

Jerusalem, Israel

Jerusalem is one of the oldest & holiest cities in the world, home to important religious sites for Muslims, Jews, and Christians. These are some of the most sacred sites.

All three of the world’s major monotheistic faiths consider Jerusalem sacred, and the city is full of fascinating holy sites to visit. You don’t have to be religious to appreciate the city’s tumultuous past & cultural significance either.

I spent a few days exploring the Old City, which has been fought over for centuries — you can still see bullet holes scaring the city’s stone gates.

Jerusalem is a magnet for both conflict & spiritual inspiration.

In no particular order, here are the 3 most important religious sites in Jerusalem, including tips for visiting and intriguing history about them.

Top Religious Sites In Jerusalem

Jerusalem Religious Sites

Dome of the Rock

Al-Aqsa Mosque Jerusalem

Al-Aqsa Mosque

The Temple Mount (Haram al-Sharif)

The Temple Mount is a massive plaza of stone in the South East corner of Jerusalem’s Old City surrounded by date palms and cypress trees. Arguably the most holy place in the city, it has major significance to all 3 religions (Islam, Judaism, and Christianity).

It’s thought to be Mount Moriah, where Abraham offered to sacrifice his son Isaac to God. Today on the Temple Mount complex you’ll find 2 important Islamic structures, the Dome of The Rock & the Al-Aqsa Mosque.

For Jews, the Temple Mount was the location of the First Temple, built by King Solomon in 957 BC to house the Ark of the Covenant (which held the Ten Commandments) in a special room called “The Holy of Holies”. It’s the most sacred site in Judaism, and the Foundation Stone under the dome is where Earth was first created.

For Muslims, Haram al-Sharif (Noble Sanctuary) is the 3rd holiest site in Islam after Mecca & Medina in Saudi Arabia. The rock under the dome is where the Prophet Muhammad left Earth to visit heaven on a winged horse during his Night Journey in the 7th Century. It was also the direction of Islamic prayer before God allowed Muhammad to pray towards Mecca instead.

For Christians, the Temple Mount is significant because the Jewish temple located here was where Jesus prayed daily & later preached with his disciples.

Temple Mount Jerusalem

Temple Mount Complex

Al-Aqsa Mosque Jerusalem

A Peek Inside Al-Aqsa

Tips For Visiting

The Temple Mount is a controversial & culturally significant place. Israel took control of the Old City in 1967, but Muslims continue to manage the site. However armed Israeli soldiers patrol inside. It’s a regular flashpoint for protests & violence between Jews & Arabs.

Tourists can usually visit the Temple Mount, but there are restrictions. The entrance for non-Muslims is at Mughrabi Bridge (an enclosed wooden ramp) near the Western Wall. It’s a religious site, so modest dress is required. You must pass a security checkpoint with metal detectors, and certain religious artifacts are not allowed in (Bibles, crosses, Star of David, etc.)

Tourists can walk around the plaza taking photos, but are currently not allowed inside the Dome of the Rock or the Al-Aqsa Mosque after a fire was set inside the mosque by a Christian extremist many years ago.

However you can peek inside Al-Aqsa from a window on the side of the building. Jews can visit the Temple Mount, but they can’t pray openly. When I was there, Jews were guarded by armed Israeli soldiers and greeted with chants of Allahu Akbar (God is Great) from groups of praying Muslims nearby. There is definitely tension in the air, but it didn’t feel overly dangerous.

Temple Mount Hours

  • Closed to non-Muslims on Fridays & Saturdays
  • Open 7:30am – 11am and 1:30pm – 2:30pm
  • Sometimes closed due to tensions between Jews & Arabs
The Western Wall Jerusalem

The Western (Wailing) Wall

Men Praying Jerusalem

Jewish Men Praying at the Wall

The Western (Wailing) Wall

The Western Wall is an ancient stone retaining wall built for the 2nd Temple that surrounds the whole Temple Mount plaza. Also called the Wailing Wall, it’s believed to be the closest spot to Solomon’s original temple and the Holy of Holies (or Gate of Heaven), the place where Jewish prayer is directed.

For Muslims, the Western Wall is known as the Buraq Wall, where the Prophet Muhammed tied his winged horse Buraq.

Prayer notes are frequently left between crevices of the huge 2 – 8 ton stones, Bar Mitzvahs are held here, and you’ll find people praying 24 hours a day. There’s a separate women’s prayer area off to the right side. Only a small section of the Western Wall is visible, the rest extends underground.

The Western Wall was captured by Jordan during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War and Jews were restricted from visiting for 19 years. However it was recaptured by Israel during the 1967 Six-Day War, with the Israeli military bulldozing all the Arab homes in front of it.

Prayer Notes Jerusalem

Prayer Notes Stuck in Cracks

Orthodox Jews Jerusalem

Orthodox Prayer Group

Tips For Visiting

Visitors to the Western Wall are expected to wear a kippa (skull cap) freely provided at the entrance, and dress modestly as if they were visiting a synagog. As with the Temple Mount, there is a security checkpoint with metal detectors. Cameras & electronic devices are not allowed on Saturdays, the Jewish sabbath.

Jewish custom is to backup as you leave the wall, but this isn’t mandatory. There are cool underground tunnels which allow you to see much more of the structure, the entrance is at the left corner of the visible wall.

Western Wall Hours

  • Open 24 hours a day, every day
  • Tunnels are open Sunday – Thursday, 7am – Afternoon
Tomb of Jesus in Jerusalem

The Aedicule (Tomb of Jesus)

Church of the Holy Sepulchre Jerusalem

Church of the Holy Sepulchre

Church Of The Holy Sepulchre

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre marks the spot where Jesus was crucified, buried and resurrected. It’s one of Christianity’s most important religious sites. There are a few significant things to see in the church.

The Stone of Anointing is found at the entrance, where Jesus was anointed before burial. Up the stairs to the right is Calvary, the hill where Jesus was crucified. Beneath the crucifixion altar is a hole said to be where his cross was raised.

Under the main rotunda you’ll find the Aedicule, an enclosed chapel built over the tomb of Jesus. It also holds the Angel Stone, a fragment of the round stone door used to close the tomb.

Armed crusaders visited the church as pilgrims during the First Crusades, leaving behind graffiti carved into the walls that still remains. Today the church is shared & maintained by different denominations of Christian monks — occasionally physical fights & arguments break out between them.

The key to the church is actually looked after by a Muslim family as it has been tradition for centuries.

Crucifixion Altar Jerusalem

Calvary & the Crucifixion Altar

Jewish Tomb Jerusalem

Possible Rock Tomb of Joseph of Arimathea

Tips For Visiting

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is a very busy place. It’s the end point of the Via Dolorosa with 4 stations of the cross located here. Much smaller than the other important religious sites in Jerusalem, it can be completely packed with tourists.

Unlike the others though, there are no checkpoints or metal detectors.

If you want to get the best photos, arrive early when they open at 5am. Yeah, I know it’s early, but you’ll have the church pretty much to yourself. Later in the day there will be a huge line of people waiting to visit the Aedicule. As with other holy sites on the list, dress modestly.

Church of Holy Sepulchre Hours

Jerusalem The City Of Peace

The word Jerusalem means “City of Peace” in Hebrew. But peace has never been easy here. The holiest city in the world has been fought over for thousands of years while also attracting millions of faithful pilgrims from all backgrounds. It’s a special place with fascinating historic, religious, and archeological sites to see. ★

More Information

Location: Jerusalem, Israel [Map] Accommodation: Abraham Hostel Jerusalem
Useful Tips: If you want to see all 3 religious sites in one day without crowds, my recommendation is to visit Church of the Holy Sepulchre first at 5am, the Temple Mount at 7:30am, finishing with the Western Wall (it doesn’t close). Or if you prefer a guided tour, check out Tourist Israel.
Recommended Guidebook: Lonely Planet Israel & Palestine
Suggested Reading: The Lemon Tree

READ NEXT: Hiking On Israel’s National Trail

Have you ever visited Israel’s religious sites?

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers.

26 Comments

  1. Hi Mathew,

    I have always been in quest to know why Jerusalem is important to Christians, Jews and Muslims. Your article gave such a clarity and I am clear now how the religious monuments are related with each other. I was reading about all of it in bits and pieces over the Internet. Your article completed my picture of Jerusalem.

    Keep it up.

  2. Nicely done! Really helps me understand more about the cultural significance and the background information of these religious sites. way bettered explained than the way my teacher explained it!!!

    1. Yes very helpful Matt And tour right jerusalem is one of the oldest city’s in the world so you are correct history is oozing out of the walls very well said

  3. Excellent unbiased article as someone else stated above! I, too, wish to visit one day in my life. I just wish it wasn’t so dangerous for Americans who only wish to travel in appreciation for other cultures and religions.:/

    1. First, I appreciate the non-biased article, Matthew. Rachel, it isn’t dangerous for Americans. I highly suggest you take a trip and see with your own eyes. I suggest you visit both Jerusalem and the West Bank. You will see for yourself and begin to question the propaganda you may have heard & consider the sources of your information. Dont always believe what you think. It is a worthwhile pilgrimage for people of any faith.

    2. Sitting in Jerusalem at Citadel hostel, minutes away from all 3 holy places. Not very religious Muslim from USA, but feel proud that God gave me opportunity to visit such a great place.
      I would recommend to all to see this place and not to be scared watching news. People are so good and welcoming.
      Thanks and God bless you.

      1. Thank you for this. I too a native New Yorker will be traveling to Israel for the first time and I am very comforted by reading your post Ali and this wonderful blog by Matthew! God Bless and safe travels always!

  4. The walls look so fascinating! Jerusalem is one country that is full of magic and mystic. I agree it’s not just for religious people. And it’s amazing to see that these centuries old buildings are still so well-maintained. I am totally in awe of it.

  5. This information is super helpful because sometimes it can be difficult to understand the religious and cultural signifance of a place before you visit and therefore act and dress accordingly.
    I myself am 100% not religious but I’d love to visit these places just for the historical significance. It would be a super amazing feeling a bet!

    1. For sure Britt, the history is just ooozing out of the walls here. So many people have fought over or prayed at these sacred sites through the years, seeing them in person is quite a powerful experience even if you’re not religious. You can feel the historical significance in the air.

  6. This is a excellent and comprehensive guide, Matt! I’m glad to see an unbiased portrayal of Israel with a focus on its religious sites which I’m really interested in. I haven’t visited Israel yet, but it’s on my immediate wishlist so your post is great inspiration!

    1. Politics can be interesting, but sometimes it’s nice to leave them out. Especially when that’s all anyone ever talks about regarding certain locations — like Israel. There is a lot more to this country than just its politics.

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