Jerusalem has been a continuously inhabited city for thousands of years, fought over and ruled by many empires throughout history, so it stands to reason that there would be many layers to the city.
There are a few places in and around the Old City where visitors can go underground to get a glimpse of what life was like in ancient times.
Book ahead for this 90-minute walk that will take you down many levels below the piece of the Western Wall, the last remnant of the Temple, that is visible today.
As you descend into the tunnel that starts at the northern side of the Western Wall plaza, the incredible feat of engineering started by King Herod back in 37 BCE will unveil itself before your eyes. Take a good look at the massive stones that make up the lower levels of the Temple mount.
Your guide will take you on a walk along the entire length of the western wall, down about 14 levels of stones from what is visible above ground today. Along the way, you’ll encounter discoveries from several periods of ancient history, including a Hasmonean-era aqueduct and Roman-era stones. Emerge into the Via Dolorosa and explore Jerusalem of 2012 at ground level.
Not too far away from the tunnels, in the Jewish Quarter, is the Burnt House–the remains of a Second Temple-era home belonging to the Katros family–a well-to-do family whose members served as High Priests in the Temple. According to archeologists, the house was burned at the time when the Romans destroyed the Temple in 70 A.D. Today, visitors walk down from street level to the remains of the house, which has been covered by the lively Jewish Quarter. There’s an interesting 20-minute holograph presentation in English that will fill you in on the events that led up to the pillage of Jerusalem. Afterwards, be sure to look around the rooms to see the restored remains that were found there when the Jewish Quarter was excavated in the 1970s.