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A photo of a building in jerusalem
A photo of a building in jerusalem
Photo by Prisha Dev

Things To Know Before Travelling To The Most Holy City In The World

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Toronto MU chapter.

From its historical sites to its flavourful foods and vibrant markets, Jerusalem is, hands down, one of the most culturally dense places I have been to so far. Every day brought on a new level of excitement and heat (I mean that in the most literal sense; it was a whopping 38 degrees Celsius when I went in August). 

Although I went on this trip for more business than pleasure, if you ever have plans to travel here to visit family or for other reasons, there are definitely a lot of things you should keep in mind. 

Considering Jerusalem is at the core of a very politically charged environment, it’s necessary to be observant and educated to make the most out of your visit. 


Before diving into all the activities and sites that are available for your exploration, it’s always good to be informed of key travelling points. This includes how to dress, where to shop, ways to respect the culture and not stand out like a tourist. 

As Jerusalem is one of the world’s most religious cities, respecting others’ cultures and practices will keep the land’s integrity and make the experience more memorable.

Dress code 

When in doubt, dress modestly. 

In most of the Old City, you’ll want to wear clothing that covers your chest and midriff. You can dress a bit more freely if you like, but there is a chance you’ll get more unwanted attention. However, when visiting religious sites, you will not be allowed to enter without proper attire, so make sure you have your knees, shoulders, chest and midriff all covered up. 

When visiting the Al-Aqsa Mosque, you’ll also want your arms and ankles covered, including your hair, if you’re a woman. 

The easiest way to be prepared is to always carry a shawl with you. I kept one in my purse, and it saved my life on many occasions. Due to the extreme heat in the summer, I recommend long, flowy dresses and pants in light colours. 

Also, I cannot stress the importance of bringing comfortable shoes as the Old City has many up-hill steps, stoned floors and rigged narrow pathways.


The Old City in Jerusalem is divided into four quarters: Muslim, Jewish, Christian and Armenian. This means that you have the chance to try different foods in multiple environments.

Photo of kinafe dessert
Original photo by Prisha Dev

From street food to fancy restaurants, there are places here to satisfy all budgets and appetites. 

For example, the Armenian quarter had some of the best kebabs and salads I have ever tried, all under $18 CAD. Tucked away in one of the alleys was a quaint Palestinian-owned restaurant where I was served a huge spread of hummus, pita, salads and meats. This was my first meal here in Jerusalem’s Old City and was one I didn’t forget.

With people bringing recipes from other countries in the Middle East, the Muslim quarter was a boiling pot for some incredible dishes. Some of these included falafel, shawarma and authentic knafeh (a mouth-watering cheesy dessert). 

The trip would obviously not be complete without visiting the Jewish quarter as well and trying traditional Jewish foods, like challah. This quarter also had lots of vegetarian, vegan and kosher-friendly meals.

The Christian quarter also surprised me with many cafes, Italian restaurants and even French bakeries. The Austrian Pilgrim Hospice is a must-visit where you have to order their special “whipped iced cafe.” 

Aside from the individual quarters, the Old City is scattered with many food markets. The variety of spice shops, tea shops and pastry shops will go on endlessly. A great way to make sure you make the most out of the culinary experience is by booking a food tour. 

Some great markets to check out are the Mahane Yehudah market on the outskirts of Jerusalem and the Arab Souk market in the Muslim and Christian quarters. Some highlighted items to try are baklava, fresh fruit and sabich (an Iraqi Jewish wrap with fried eggplant).


The Old City is filled with shops of all kinds. From clothing and jewelry to home decor, there is a lot to see. In fact, the whole city seemed like one big market to me. You can explore many of the shops while also enjoying the historical ruins, artifacts and religious landmarks. 

The shops are relatively cheap and offer materials of good quality. This is also a great place to test your bargaining skills. Most items can be bargained down to 50% of their original price. Many store owners will mark up the prices if they know you’re not a local.

Cultural Norms & Safety

The locals are quite friendly, especially those in hospitality, such as shop owners and restaurants. Don’t be afraid to ask for directions or any other simple questions, as most people speak English.

However, be careful and observant at all times. Pickpocketing is a common issue in Jerusalem, so make sure to leave all bags zipped properly and have them tucked under your arm in very crowded places. 

Also, it’s best to be extra cautious of your surroundings as parts of the Old City are not shy of controversy and flare-ups. On my first day there, I saw an altercation occur in one of the quarters, and it was definitely a wake-up call that I was not home anymore. Military presence in the area can often raise mixed feelings for visitors, either shocking or unsettling, especially if you are not used to the sight of machine guns. Note that taking pictures of the soldiers is not allowed, and you could be asked to delete the pictures if caught.

Historical Sites

As Jerusalem is a world-renowned pilgrimage for Muslims, Christians and Jewish people, the city is always busy. With many important religious sites, the city receives an average of over 2.5 million tourists every year. 

Jerusalem holds significant importance to the three religions for its history in the Quran, Torah and Holy Bible. 

It is said that Jesus Christ was brought occasionally as a child, preached to the poor in his adult life, crucified at the end of his life, and resurrected by God. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, The Temple Mount and Via Dolorosa Street all represent the supposed path Jesus took on the way to his crucifixion. 

The city also holds significance in Islam for the Al-Aqsa Mosque, where it’s said Prophet Mohammed rose to heaven. 

The Western Wall is another important pilgrimage point for Jews, as it is the last remnant of the original retaining wall from the original First and Second Temples of Jerusalem. 

For the most part, these sites will take your breath away and bring you peace and a sense of surrealism. 

However, practice extra caution at the religious sites, as the occupation of Palestine has left main heritage sites vulnerable to terrorist attacks, riots and fights

Overall, the city of Jerusalem has a lot to offer. The sites, food and people will definitely hold a place in your heart, and the memories you make will last a lifetime.

Prisha Dev

Toronto MU '25

Prisha is a journalism student who loves writing, travelling, sports, fashion and of course coffee!! She has written for numerous publications varying on many topics. Check out her Instagram for more content @prishadev