48 hours in Jerusalem
Every step you take in this holy city reveals an aspect of its tangled history
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Jerusalem is 50km south-east of Tel Aviv airport. Sheruts (shared taxis) shuttle to Jerusalem for 58 Israeli shekels (NIS58, about £10). Run by Nesher (00 972 2625 7227; neshertours.co.il), they take about an hour. Private taxis are about NIS300 (£50). The more scenic train ride (NIS22/ £3.70) threads through the hills to Jerusalem Malha station (2) – take a train to Tel Aviv HaHagana station and change (rail.co.il). It takes two and a quarter hours.
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At the top end, aim for West Jerusalem's Mamilla Hotel, 11 King Solomon St (00 972 2548 2222; mamillahotel.com; doubles with breakfast from US$310/£207)
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For historic charm go to East Jerusalem's American Colony, 1 Louis Vincent St (00 972 2627 9777; americancolony.com); doubles with breakfast from US$380 (£253)
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Jerusalem's crenellated walls were completed in 1541 under Suleiman the Magnificent and stand an average of 12 metres high. Pass through at Jaffa gate, knocked through by the Ottomans in 1898 to allow Kaiser Wilhelm's entourage to enter
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Once inside, head across Omar bin Al-Khattab Square, overlooked by the circular Tower of David (actually a 17th-century minaret) to the stone-flagged David Street. This is the start of Jerusalem's covered souks, stepped downhill – the further down you go, the less touristy it becomes. In the cool gloom ahead lurk alleyways given over to spices, textiles and freshly-butchered meat.
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Turn right at the bottom to walk beside the Byzantine-era Cardo into the Jewish Quarter, largely destroyed by the Jordanians in 1948 and rebuilt by Israel after 1967.
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Past Hurva Square, alleyways lead out to the 19-metre-high Western Wall (open 24 hours; free; thekotel.org), built in about 20BC to buttress the Second Temple on the platform above. Anyone may approach: men (who will be handed a skullcap) pray to the left, women to the right. Nearby, beside Dung Gate, Batei Mahse Street hugs the walls past Zion Gate and through the quiet Armenian Quarter.
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Take Christian Quarter Road to the Crusader-built Church of the Holy Sepulchre (daily 5am–8pm; free; holysepulchre.com), site of Jesus's crucifixion and resurrection and the culmination of the Via Dolorosa – the route Jesus followed while carrying the cross. It's a dim, incense-heavy place, crammed with pilgrims queuing to get into the small marble chamber at its centre holding Christ's tomb.
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Behind the church, narrow Souk Khan Al Zeit, the Muslim Quarter's main shopping street, bamboozles with commerce and activity. Let the promenading crowds carry you forwards to leave the Old City at grand Damascus Gate
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Grab a table at Abu Shukri, 63 Al Wad Road (daily 8am-4.30pm; 00 972 2627 1538) to sample some of Jerusalem's finest: hummus, served with crispy falafel balls, fresh bread and salad, for under NIS35 (£6) per head
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Across the deep Kidron Valley in East Jerusalem rises the Mount of Olives, mentioned frequently in the New Testament and dotted with landmark churches. Stroll and meditate amid wildflowers and ancient olive trees in the Garden of Gethsemane, which spreads around the 20th-century Church of All Nations (daily 8am-11.30am; again 2pm-5pm), built where Jesus received Judas's kiss of betrayal
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