What to see in Israel: a magical melting pot of cultures and religions

What to see in Israel: a magical melting pot of cultures and religions

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10 November

When I booked tickets for Tel Aviv, my only thought was “Finally!”. Israel has always been on my bucket list, and I was fascinated by its mix of history, religions and cultures.

After all the books I had pored over at school, I thought I had a notion of what I was dealing with and was already super excited. Instead, I got there and found everything more incredible than I could ever imagine!

Every corner has been the scene of something that might have changed the course of humanity, every tree is witness to events that are unfortunately incomprehensible even today and every flavour is a perfect combination of countless cuisines, which all being from the Mediterranean, make you feel somewhat irreparably at home.

The impression is you’re standing in a history or geography book that has come to life in the open sky. In a few miles, you go from the sea to the lakes, from the mountains to the desert and none of these disappoints the expectations. It is undoubtedly a journey where you get ready to discover, walk and eat like crazy!

Let’s discover together what we should see in Israel!

Tel Aviv

“We pray In Jerusalem, Tel Aviv is for fun and we work in Haifa”. That is the synthesis of Israel according to the Israelis! So could we not start our list of things to see in Israel from Tel Aviv? Oh no, we couldn’t do it.

Tel Aviv is a “young” town from all points of view. It is a little because before the 1920s it did not exist, and a little because the cultural scene, high-tech companies and the long beach make it a place for young people or simply those who feel young! The full name is Tel Aviv-Gaffa, the ancient village on the sea (Jaffa) that has been incorporated and is in all respects the historical part of the city.

Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2003, it is a place that certainly deserves a few days to be visited and appreciated. Here’s my must-see list of places to visit in Tel Aviv:

  • Old Jaffa – You can get to Jaffa along the promenade, by walking or renting a bike. The walk is gorgeous and scenic. The centre of the old city is full of antique shops, art galleries and Flea Market stalls. Go shopping. Eat in one of the many typical restaurants. Take photographs of the alleys, historic buildings, and the old port.
A view of Old jaffa, one of the best places to see in Isreal
Old jaffa
  • Sea-front – Depending on the seasons, Tel Aviv’s sea is accordingly active. However, the sure thing is that young people and surfers are always present! I went between Christmas and New Year and even then I found pleasant days to spend lying in the sun. The beach is spacious with fine sands and there are many establishments where you can sit and enjoy the sea.
  • The “Neve Tzedek” Neighbourhood – This Jewish quarter was the first to be built outside Jaffa. Today, it presents itself as an agglomeration of low houses, designer shops, boutiques and markets. Accompanied by trendy restaurants and bars. It is one of the most characteristic and even the most popular neighbourhoods in the city. Its name means “oasis of justice” and like almost all neighbourhoods, it has its own beach, i.e. “Banana beach”.
  • Bauhaus district and the Tel Aviv Museum of Art – Separating Tel Aviv from art is almost impossible! Famous for its Bauhaus houses built between the 1920s and 1940s, it is also home to a Museum of Art that houses not only local artists but also paintings by Picasso, Klimt and other works from the period of abstract and surrealism. The museum’s structure is itself very interesting from an architectural point of view.

What to see in Jerusalem

After experiencing the cosmopolitan Tel Aviv, it’s time to head to Jerusalem. It is only about fifty kilometres away, you can get there by car or by purchasing a local bus ticket. Probably, if I were forced to finish the list of things to see in Israel, I would say Jerusalem. Its importance and history make it the single unmissable thing on this list, even though Israel is full of wonders.

The old town is divided into 4 districts: Christian, Muslim, Armenian and Jewish. As you may have guessed, they reflect the religions and ethnicities that populate the city. The Israeli saying that we mentioned in the introduction foretold the importance of spirituality in this city, right? It is no coincidence that we are referring to a sacred city for the three principal monotheistic religions in the world: Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

The religiosity and history of Jerusalem are among the very first things to see in Israel. In fact, the city still has the ancient walls and gates that are still the main access roads today.

There are still countless things to see in Jerusalem, the list is long and is contingent on your interests. These are the unmissable ones in my opinion:

Inside the walls

  • Holy Sepulchre. This church, which is so immersed and perfectly set among the buildings today, was not even inside the city at the time of Jesus. The tomb was where the dead were buried, so it was located outside the walls. On its structure and history, you can find numerous references online. I want to provide you with a couple of curiosities.
    • The church is a symbol of Christianity and as such over the centuries has seen many disputes, for this reason, its keys are kept by a Muslim family that has handed down this delicate task from generation to generation since 1192.
    • If before entering you notice a wooden ladder resting on one of the windows, it’s not because they are doing maintenance or cleaning. That ladder has been there since 1852 and is the symbol of the balance reached between the Christian communities. No monk has ever moved it for fear of reprisals. It has become an integral part and a significant example from which to draw inspiration.
    • Wailing Wall – This wall, also called the “Western Wall”, is the sacred place of Judaism. It was the boundary wall of the Temple of Jerusalem, erected around Mount Moriah (Temple Mount). It is 500m long but only 57m are visible. In the cracks in the wall of this part of the wall, Jews who go to pray put up prayer cards. You can visit the lower part of the wall and the old town through underground tunnels.
Picture of the Wailing Wall, one of the most visited places in Israel
Wailing Wall
  • Dome of the Rock. On the other side of the wall of weeping was the Temple of Jerusalem. It was erected on Mount Moriah where an esplanade was made (hence the name “Mosque esplanade”). On this very piece of land stands the Dome of the Rock which is one of the sacred places to Islam, where the Foundation Stone is preserved. The mosque was built in 687. It is covered both inside and outside with tiles with geometric designs and in the upper part with gold sheets!
  • Via Dolorosa. This is a real street. It starts near the lion’s gate and ends at the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre. It is the path (outside the city at the time) that Jesus walked, today it is dotted with chapels that correspond to the stations of the Way of the Cross. This street now passes through the Muslim district of the city. Every Friday afternoon, the Christian pilgrims walk the Way of the Cross. It is evocative to see them walking the road between the souk stalls. These stalls seem, at least apparently, very different from the scenarios we are used to.

Outside the walls

  • Garden of Olives. Apart from the history and the imposing olive trees, which if they could talk would tell us many things, the Gethsemane is magnificent because it is a perfect viewpoint. It is located at the top in front of the old town on the Temple side. It exudes history and spirituality but is also a great spot to photograph the city, the boundary wall and the dome of the rock.
Dome of the rock
  • Mahane Yehuda Market. Another place outside the city and a bit off the tourist routes, is the central market of Jerusalem. Filled mainly by locals, it is an agglomeration of stalls selling fruit, vegetables, spices, flavours and the typical scents of our Mediterranean region! There are also restaurants where you can eat or drink in the evening.

I recommend finding accommodation within the walls to fully enjoy the city’s atmosphere. There are not many hotels, most are accommodations for pilgrims (fairly basic hostels that also have single/double rooms) that must be booked well in advance. In addition, to grasp the essence of the place and not neglect important notions, I suggest finding a guide or participating in the guided tours (there are many also free available).


What to see in Israel? Bethlem Of course! First of all a curiosity about this city, its name has a double meaning. In Arabic, it means “house of the flesh” and in Hebrew “house of the bread”. I can tell you that it certainly has a place on our list of must-sees in Israel. The city develops around the main square of the old city where there is also the main attraction: the basilica of the nativity. History tells us that Jesus was born in this place, and for this very reason, Constantine had a church erected here.

The building today is an Orthodox church, housing the cave of the nativity (a small crypt of 12m x 3.5m). It is a very evocative place, and given the countless tourists and pilgrims, there is always a little queue to visit the cave, once you go down look for the silver star with the Latin writing.

The road to Bethlehem is full of introspection because the city is located in the West Bank, thus beyond the wall that separates the Israeli territories from the Palestinian ones. It is not far from Jerusalem, about 10km and there is a range of organised tours that bring tourists daily.

Wall of division and messages of peace
Wall of division and messages of peace

Bethlehem is not only the Church of the Nativity, once you leave the Basilica, lose yourself in the cobbled streets of the old city and the souq. Going a little further, about 10 minutes by car, you can visit the Banksy hotel. Next to the hotel, there is a museum that was created to witness the different phases of the construction of the wall and the impact it had on the population.

Dead Sea

Being one of the most fascinating places on earth and certainly, one of the things to see in Israel, a trip to the Dead Sea is a must on this trip. In reality, it is not a sea but a salt lake in the Judean Desert. It is located 427m below sea level and this number continues to fall from year to year endangering its existence. It is very famous because its high salinity makes it impossible to put your head underwater (which you should not try to do!). Even if you do not know how to swim, no worries, you will never go deep and as we testify the many photos, you can take your book with you without fear that it will get wet!

Picture of the Dead Sea
Dead sea

Its waters have been known since Roman times for their healing qualities. They are concentrated in minerals, calcium and magnesium, that help skin diseases. Natural mud also comes from the Dead Sea (available to tourists free of charge in small barrels along the beach) which are rich in mineral salts and trace elements.


One of the most incredible places to see in israel, near the Dead Sea is the fortress of Masad. The fortress is amazing for its history and also for the splendid panorama of the Dead Sea and the valley that you can enjoy from above. Masada is an ancient fortress located at 400m altitude built at the behest of Herod in 37 BC. It has been the protagonist of one of the most exciting stories of the time. The story tells a siege of decades by the Romans and a population that fights to the death not to allow it.

You can climb on foot through the Serpent’s path or by cable car which allows you to easily bridge the difference in height of almost 300m.

View from Masada, an increadible landscape to see in Israel
View from Masada

This ancient fortress has been portrayed in many films and TV series, boastfully placing it among the things to see in Israel.

Other cities to see in Israel

An infinite number of places to visit are gathered in such a small area of land! Apart from those, we have seen so far countless other cities deserve a visit for their historical and cultural value.

  • Caesarea – is an hour’s drive from Tel Aviv along the coast. It is famous because it houses the archaeological site of the ancient Roman city of Caesarea founded by Herod. The city is also famous because it was the capital of the Roman province of Judea. Driving along this road by car you can also admire pieces of the ancient Roman aqueduct.
  • Haifa – This town of 280k inhabitants is located north along the coast, at the foot of Mount Carmel. It is located in a natural bay and is the place where the cave of the prophet Elijah and the monastery of Stella Maris is located.
  • Eilat – Israel also has its outlet on the Red Sea where the seaside town of Eilat is located. The landscape is spectacular, the mountains and the desert arrive at the foot of the sea. There are numerous tourist facilities. Even if they are located at the southern tip of the state, it is easy to organise excursions to Jerusalem or nearby Jordan.
View of Eilat from the sea
View of Eilat from the sea
WeRoad Team
Written by WeRoad Team