Getting to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv

Jerusalem is a must-visit destination for anyone planning a trip to Israel. Millions of tourists and pilgrims from all over the world come to Jerusalem every year to get a sense of its spiritual history and visit the numerous famous religious sites located in it. The old city alleys are home for mosques, synagogues and churches side by side with colorful markets, archaeological sites, and numerous traditional eateries. The new city of Jerusalem is a vibrant and modern metropolis but yet different than any other city in the world. 

Nevertheless, when it comes to reserving accommodation many tourists find Tel Aviv more appealing with its sandy beaches and vivid nightlife. As Israel is relatively small and the two cities are only an hour apart, it makes sense to be staying in Tel Aviv and then getting from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem for a day of sightseeing. The only question is how to get from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in order to have the best Jerusalem day trip. 

Keep reading for some useful information and tips that could save you time and efforts. As a bonus there is also a suggested customizable itinerary to help you plan the best Jerusalem tour from Tel Aviv.

old jerusalem wall

Which Option is the Best?

The possibilities for getting to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv range from using public transportation like buses and trains (relatively cheap but quite limiting) to contacting tour operators who offer Jerusalem day tours from Tel Aviv (could be both pricey and limiting). You'll probably want to check every box on the list of famous spots, take the nicest photos, eat some excellent Hummus and generally get the most out of your day in the holy city before heading back to Tel Aviv. Traffic always plays a major role as well as lines and opening hours at different sites. All things considered, planning a Jerusalem day tour from Tel Aviv means that you need to be very time-efficient in order to cover as many points of interest as possible. So what is really the best way to travel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, get around it effectively and have the most enjoyable day trip after all? Well, the answer is simple: A private driver service for a day.

jerusalem market

It works as simply as this: you get picked up at a location of your choice by an experienced professional driver who drives you to Jerusalem safely and comfortably in a spacious vehicle. Larger vans can also be arranged upon request in advance. The recommended itinerary can be tailor-made to your needs and interests. Luckily most of the major sites in Jerusalem are self-explanatory for the average traveler, meaning they do not require a tiresome guide to get the full experience. This also means more freedom for you to travel at your own pace, soak up the atmosphere, stay at each place for as long as you desire and even add additional stops as long as time allows. This way of traveling gives you the best accessibility, the most liberty and the indispensible knowledge of your driver who knows the city as if it was the palm of his hand.

jerusalem old city

A Few Heads-Ups Worth Knowing

Before we get into specifics in terms of site recommendations and itineraries, there are a few important things that need to be noted when planning a day trip in Jerusalem:

  • Jerusalem is a crowded and busy metropolis consisting of many contrastive distinct areas, some of which have very limited access for vehicles if at all, particularly in the old city.
  • The majority of important religious landmarks in Jerusalem are located within walking distance inside or around the old city. As a result of that a day tour to Jerusalem involves quite a bit of walking. Remember to take a pair of good walking shoes, a wide brimmed hat, sunscreen and high spirits.
  • The western parts of the city suffer greatly from traffic congestions due to never-ending road maintenance and construction works for the new lines of the light train. This may be of importance for those interested in visiting sites located in the western parts of the city as they may take time to reach on weekdays.

jerusalem light train

  • As mentioned before, most sites in Jerusalem do not require a human guide. You can benefit from doing some reading before (or during) the day by using a guide book or even your phone and you will be able to enjoy your day tour of Jerusalem just as much.
  • Jerusalem offers many exciting attractions to its visitors. It is practically impossible to reach and cover all of them within a short visit. For example, art and archeology lovers can easily spend a whole day at The Israel Museum in Jerusalem alone. The Museum of Yad-Vashem, Israel's official memorial to the victims of the Holocaust, is another place where visitors can spend anywhere between a few hours to a whole day. Hence the following proposed itinerary aims to focus on the most popular must-see highlights that you just cannot afford to miss in Jerusalem.
  • Since Jerusalem is sacred to Christians, Jews and Muslims, the following itinerary consists of sites and landmarks of all religions as they are all located close to each other within easy reach. You can obviously choose which ones to skip or to focus on, namely it is 100% customizable based on your interests and requests.

holy sepulchre jerusalem

A Suggested Itinerary

  • Depart Tel Aviv as early as possible to minimize delays caused by traffic and get ahead of other tourists.
  • Walk into the old city of Jerusalem through Jaffa Gate located on the west side of the wall.
  • Park underneath the modern Mamilla avenue shopping mall opposite the Tower of David.

via dolorosa sign

  • Enjoy the colors and sounds of the bustling Arab markets in the old city.
  • Proceed to the Jewish quarter and enter the wide open area in front of the western wall (Ha-Kotel). This is the last remnant of the ancient retaining wall built by King Herod the Great to surround the Temple Mount.

the western wall jerusalem

Several attractions are optional at this point:

  • The Western Wall Tunnel tour which reveals the remainder of the Western Wall hidden underground is optional at this point. Tours take about an hour and are wheelchair accessible but must be reserved in advance.
  • The Davidson Center Archaeological Park and Indoor Museum located just south of the Western Wall, is another great option. It allows visitors to go on a self-guided fascinating journey and admire the powerful construction during the ancient glorious days of Jerusalem. Tours take about an hour and must be reserved in advance.

jerusalem old city excavation

  • Occasionally when Temple Mount is open for visitors provided there is no unrest, it is possible to climb the wooden ramp to the Magharibah Gate, and enter the Temple Mount complex. It houses the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest site in Islam. Exiting the complex is through the chain gate leading to the Muslim quarter.

dome of the rock jerusalem

  • Still in the Jewish quarter only below the surface level is the ancient Herodian Quarter. Explore the homes of the rich leaders of Jerusalem during the days of Herod the Great two thousand years ago and The Cardo – a shop-lined stone-paved street between Damascus Gate & Zion Gate, dating to the Roman era.
  • Exit the old city through Zion Gate to visit King David's Tomb located on mount Zion just outside the old city walls.
  • Climb the stairs to the upper floor of the site to see the Cenacle or "Upper Room". This is believed to be the place where Jesus held the Last Supper with the apostles.

Jesus last supper

  • Walk along the old city walls back to the starting point at Mamilla avenue shopping mall. This venue can be a good spot for shopping and lunch.
  • Drive to the lookout points on mount scopus and mount of olives in northeast Jerusalem to enjoy the magnificent view of the Old and New cities to the west. This location is only accessible during quiet periods.

mount of olives Jerusalem

If Time Permits You May Also Consider 

  • Gethsemane –  It is where Jesus Christ underwent the agony in the garden and was arrested before his crucifixion. This site of great importance in Christianity consists of several olive groves and the Grotto of Gethsemane next to the impressive Church of All Nations.
  • Church of Mary Magdalene - a Russian orthodox church with beautiful golden cupolas is one of the most spectacular Christian structures in Jerusalem.  
  • Tomb of the virgin – This beautiful cave with many oil lamps and religious icons just opposite Gethsemane is believed to be the burial site of the Virgin Mary.

Mary magdalene church jerusalem

A Few Last Remarks  

  • This day trip itinerary typically takes a few hours to complete, depending on the amount of time spent at each site and takes into account stops for lunch, shopping, restrooms and so on. 
  • Remember that the drive from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem during rush hour in the morning and the way back from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv in the evening can take longer than expected due to busy traffic.

jerusalem road sign

What About Bethlehem?

  • Bethlehem is located about 10 kilometers south of Jerusalem within the territory of the Palestinian authority. Israeli citizens are not allowed into Bethlehem but tourists are free to cross the checkpoint and enter Bethlehem without any restrictions or visas. 
  • During quiet periods tourists can catch a local Palestinian taxi from Jerusalem and cross the checkpoint to visit the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. Remember to be extremely cautious and adhere to security warnings.
  • Rachel's Tomb, located at the northern entrance to Bethlehem, next to the checkpoint, is open to visitors from the israeli side and can be reached from Jerusalem by bus or by taxi.  

What About the Dead Sea?

  • Instead of returning to Tel Aviv it is possible to conclude the day at the Dead Sea if you book accommodation there. However, adding the Dead Sea to this itinerary and then driving back all the way to Tel Aviv on the same day is not recommended, yet possible.

Click here to read Dead Sea tips and recommendations

Click here to contact me for the best taxi service in Israel

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