This is a small Walking tour you can do you self easily. I advise you to print this page or at least the maps. Some people (like my kids) will run this walking tour within a hour, others need at least two hours (like me with groups). If you want a guide, I’m available for you and it’s a good idea to take a look at my guide-page. The costs to hire me is $100 for a half day, or $150 for a full day.
The Old City of Jerusalem may occupy a relatively small area geographically, but its compactness and uneven topography make it a frequently confusing place to explore. One good way to gain an overview is to take to the ramparts and view the crush of alleys, domes and towers from the top of the walls that enclose them. Visitors can walk along two sections of wall: from Jaffa Gate clockwise to St Stephen’s Gate, and from Jaffa Gate anti-clockwise to the Dung Gate. The section between St Stephen’s Gate and the Dung Gate is closed to the public. Many steep flights of steps mean that this is not a walk for the elderly or infirm.
This is a very good idea, especially when you plan to stay in Jerusalem multiple days. First a strategical tour, then you dive into the old city and see things close. If you take Wim the Guide with you, he will take care that you see everything from a ‘birds eye’ and have many outings along the routes on an near the walls.
Clockwise from Jaffa Gate Jerusalem’s walls were built in the first half of the 16th
century (in part on the line of earlier walls) on the order of the Ottoman sultan Suleyman the Magnificent. They are pierced by eight gates, of which seven remain in use. Until as recently as 1870, the gates were all closed from sunset to sunrise.
There is a separate admission fee for each of the two sections of wall. Stopping-off points: There are several small cafés on Omar ibn el-Khattab Square, just inside the Jaffa Gate. Otherwise, when you descend at St Stephen’s Gate, walk west along the Via Dolorosa and then left onto El-Wad Road for Abu Shukri, which serves the best humus in town.
Start the walk by climbing the steps that are immediately inside the Jaffa Gate 1, to your left as you enter the Old City. After paying admission, you pass through a gate and ascend a steep flight of steps leading to the top of the gatehouse.
Heading north brings you to the first of some 35 watchtowers that punctuate the circuit of the walls. This one has a raised platform which allows walkers to step up for a view of the large new shopping and office development that is currently taking shape outside the city walls. Looking into the Old City, you will see the backs of buildings belonging to the Latin Patriarchate, the center of Roman Catholicism in Jerusalem.
A short distance on and you’ll notice that the third watchtower along has been reinforced with side walls; this was done by the Jordanians when they were in occupation of the Old City between 1948 and 1967, and Jerusalem was divided between Arabs and Jews.
The reason for that was that the Arabs and Jews were shooting at each other and the Jordanians were in the middle of it. They got so sick of it, hence the side walls.
After skirting around three sides of a crescent topped dome, the ramparts pass over New Gate 2. This was added in 1889 to allow pilgrims in the compounds outside the walls direct access to the Christian Quarter.
From here the ramparts drop, following the slope of the land. Notice the profusion
of aerials and satellite dishes inside the walls, evidence of the large number of people who continue to live in the Old City. At a certain point the level of the rooftops falls below that of the ramparts, affording a fine view of the golden Dome of the Rock.
The ramparts now climb over Damascus Gate 3, the grandest of all the Old City gates. From up here you can survey the vaulted roof over the gate’s defensive dogleg entrance tunnel and the crowds on El-Wad Road.
Continuing east, you will encounter a rapid succession of towers, because attacks on Jerusalem have traditionally always come from the north, where the approach is flattest (the approaches to the east, south and west are protected by deep valleys).
It was the north wall, just east of the next gate, Herod’s Gate 4, that the Crusader army breached on 15 July 1099 to capture Jerusalem from the Muslims. Look outwards from the gate and you are facing down Salah ed-Din Street, the main
street of Arab East Jerusalem.
At Storks’ Tower 5, with its views to the northeast of the Hebrew University’s Mount Scopus campus, the wall swings through 90° to run due south. From the
ramparts here, you overlook the tombs that fill the Kidron Valley below and the slopes of the Mount of Olives.
The walk ends at St Stephen’s Gate 6, where you descend to street level. The beginning of the Via Dolorosa is just ahead, which, if followed, will lead back towards the Jaffa Gate area. Energy permitting, you can then embark on another short ramparts walk.
Anti-clockwise from Jaffa Gate
The access to this section of the ramparts is from outside the city walls, just south of the Citadel 7. The initial stretch southwards is like a trench, with a high stone wall on either side of the walkway. This arrangement was fashioned by the Jordanian army between 1948 and 1967. Occasional vantage points allow you to look out across the Hinnom Valley below to the red rooftops of the early Jewish settlement of Mishkenot Shaananim and the cliff-like bulk of the King David Hotel. At the southwestern corner you have a good view of Sultan’s Pool, an ancient
reservoir, now dry and used as an outdoor concert venue.
As the ramparts run east, they pass close by the Church of the Dormition before passing over the Zion Gate 8. The gate is riddled with bullet holes from the fighting in 1948, although, of course, you can’t see this from above.
The final stretch affords wonderful views of the Arab village of Silwan, before the rampart walk ends on Batei Makhase Street, which you can follow down to the Dung Gate 9. This is the smallest of the city gates, despite being widened for cars by the Jordanians. The name indicates that what is now the main access to the Western Wall was probably once the site of a refuse tip.