Jerusalem definitely has its own rhythm–as a city that’s home to three of the world’s major religions, there are certain times of day, days of the week, seasons of the year when you’ll either want to make a point of visiting certain sites in the city, or, you’ll want to stay far away!
Here’s a list of good and bad times to visit some of Jerusalem’s important sites:
1. Be sure to get to the Mount of Olives viewpoint in front of the 7 Arches Hotel before midday. Once the sun has risen to its highest point and moved to the west of the mountain, the glare will be in your eyes and you’ll miss half of the beauty of Jerusalem laid out before you.
2. Do not attempt to visit the Tunnel Tour underneath the Western Wall during the middle days of the Passover or Sukkot holidays–those are the busiest days of the year, when the tunnels are open for free. Book your tour for the day before or after the holiday.
3. If you’re looking for a spiritual, contemplative experience at the Western Wall, avoid Monday and Thursday mornings. Those are days when the Torah is read and you’ll be faced with a multitude of loud bar-mitzvah celebrations.
4. If you love crowds, do plan on visiting the Western Wall on the morning of the second intermediate day of Passover, Sukkot and on Shavuot, when the ancient Blessing of the Priests is recited. Tens of thousands converge on the Western Wall plaza.
5. Avoid the Central Bus Station on Sunday mornings–that’s when every Army recruit who’s been home for the weekend is running to get back to his/her base. If you have to travel on a Sunday, schedule your trip for later in the day.
6. Best time to be at the Machane Yehuda shuk/market? If you’re there to actually do your own shopping–try for Sunday or Monday, or in the early evening just before the stalls close down for the night. You’ll find the least crowds and the best prices. If you just want to get a measure of the shuk and take in the local scene–get there on a Friday morning, when pre-Shabbat shopping is at its height–good luck getting a seat at any of the cafes in the market, though. Be prepared for a significant wait.
7. Best day for a stroll through the Moslem Quarter of the Old City? Avoid 11:30 a.m-1:30 p.m on Fridays–you’ll be swamped by the crowds surging in and out of the Temple Mount.
8.Only time for non-Moslems to go up on the Temple Mount is between 7:30a.m-10:30 a.m Sunday-Thursday or between noon-1:30 p.m on the same days. Only gate available for these visits is the Mughrabi Gate reached by walking just inside the Dung Gate and lining up on the ramp.
9. Best time for walking in western Jerusalem–any time on Shabbat. From sundown on Friday to 25 hours later on Saturday evening, you’ll find less than half the usual vehicle traffic in most residential neighborhoods. It’s perfectly acceptable to stroll in the street on Shabbat–the few cars will be sure to keep a wide berth.
10.If you’ve ever wondered what life was like pre-car, plan on spending Yom Kippur in Jerusalem, where the only traffic you’ll find on the streets are bikes and pedestrians. The quiet is truly awesome.