Things to do in Israel: Attractions and places to visit

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It is not without reason that Israel is already described in the Bible as the land in which milk and honey flow. At the crossroads between the three continents of Asia, Europe and Africa, this fascinating country is home to an incredible variety of cultural and religious treasures.

Despite its small size, parts of Israel are considered “holy land” for the three world religions Christianity, youth and Islam. But even away from the important pilgrimage sites, Israel has a wide range of attractions to offer. It is therefore advisable to experience the beauty and diversity of this region as part of a round trip.

Below we present you the most exciting tours, the most beautiful attractions and the best sights in Israel.

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1. Jerusalem – the city of world religions

The centre of Jerusalem is very lively: an abundance of restaurants, bars and beautiful buildings make a longer stay in the city very pleasant. Especially recommended are walks through the numerous shopping streets or the colorful Mahane Yehuda market.

Nevertheless, the Old Town of Jerusalem is considered the most important sight and boiling point of cultures. Behind the massive walls and the labyrinth of narrow streets, Christians, Muslims, Jews and Armenians live in their own neighbourhoods. The compulsory programme includes a visit to the Wailing Wall and the associated tunnel system, a guided tour of the David Citadel and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

2. Swimming in the Dead Sea

A swim in the Dead Sea is undoubtedly one of the absolute peculiarities of an Israel journey. The high salt content of up to 33% gives you so much buoyancy that you can almost float weightlessly on the water. The funny snapshots and souvenir photos, in which tourists cross their legs and read a daily newspaper in the middle of the water, are also taken at the Dead Sea in Israel

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Even if it is certainly not healthy to swallow the water, the Dead Sea is said to have many healing effects. The minerals in water and mud are particularly beneficial for joints and skin. Some resorts have consequently dedicated themselves entirely to wellness and spa, offering mud cures, among other things. By the way, the Dead Sea is not really a sea, but the deepest lake on earth!

3. Bethlehem – the birthplace of Jesus

Already under the Roman Emperor Constantine, the Church of the Nativity was built at the place where Jesus is said to have been born. It is thus one of the oldest buildings from the early days of Christianity and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2002. You enter via the humility gate, which is so small that it cannot be passed upright by adults.

From here you enter the altar room, which is strictly divided according to denominations. Other sights include the Birth Grotto, where the birthplace of Jesus is marked with a star. In addition to these sacral buildings, the historic old town is also worth a visit. Bethlehem is officially located on Palestinian territory, but can be explored without problems by tourists due to a special agreement.

4. Eilat – Bathing fun and diving in the Red Sea

The southernmost city of Israel, Eilat, lies on the mild coast of the Red Sea and has developed into a true holiday retreat in recent decades. The city is modern and colourful, there is a long promenade with regular markets and live music. A large number of upscale restaurants have also made Eilat a name in culinary terms – seafood is particularly popular here!

But the Red Sea is even more exciting under water. The large coral gardens in front of Eilat are among the most exciting diving areas in the world and impress with their enormous biodiversity. The nature reserve Coral Beach is only one of the many hotspots, also the Caves and the sunken Satil wreck offer unique dive sites. If you want to slowly approach the underwater world, you can of course take a snorkeling trip!

5. Desert Negev – the big fascinating nothing

Actually, you do the Negev desert wrong when you call it a big “nothing”. The area of more than 12,000 square kilometers takes up more than half of Israel’s total land area and hides rugged mountain ridges and craters, but also the secrets of the former incense road. It has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

Although the desert Negev is to be regarded at first sight as hostile to life, finally there is almost no water, highly specialized animal species are to be found here with some luck. Even Arab wolves, ibexes and hyenas have been photographed in Negev. Besides a desert tour by jeep (or on a camel) an excursion into the big Ramon crater is worthwhile.

6. Haifa and the hanging gardens

Haifa is the third largest city in Israel and stretches from the slopes of Mount Carmel to the Mediterranean coast. Enjoy a breathtaking view from Stella Maris with the lighthouse and the historic Carmelite monastery. In good weather you can see from here up to the Lebanese border. If you are interested in street art, take a walk through Wadi Nisnas.

The most important sight of Haifa, however, is the hanging gardens of Baha’i, which extend over 19 picturesque terraces on the northern slope of Mount Carmel. The breathtaking gardens have been laid out around the shrine and are majestically overlooking the bay of Haifa. In addition to the Bahai gardens, a walk along the beach promenade is also worthwhile. You will find great restaurants on Ben-Gurion and Moriah Avenue.

7. Holocaust Memorial Yad Vashem

Somewhat outside Jerusalem, Yad Vashem, a central memorial to Israel, was opened in 1953. It was built in memory of millions of murdered Jews during the Second World War and is one of the most important sights in Israel. Visitors are informed here in great detail about the history of the Holocaust, and an audio guide is especially recommended, which is also available in German.

Several memorials have been erected on the outside area. A freight wagon, in which Jews were once brought to concentration camps, commemorates the terrible crimes of that time. Meanwhile, the trees on the “Boulevard of the Righteous of Peoples” symbolize the many people who actively helped, protected or righteous Jews at that time. Very famous representatives are Oskar and Emilie Schindler, known from the movie “Schindler’s List”.

8. Masada fortress

The cable car takes you up about 400 metres to the mountain fortress of Masada above the Dead Sea. It was built in the 1st century BC by King Herod to protect his winter palace from enemies. Masada is also legendary as a historical place of resistance of the Jewish Zealots in the war against the Romans. Only after three years of bitter struggle did more than 900 Jewish fighters commit collective suicide.

If you are a good walker, you should take the snake trail instead of the cable car (about an hour’s ascent) and enjoy Masada at sunrise before the large groups arrive. Since 2001, the Masada, long forgotten, has been part of the UNESCO World Cultural and Natural Heritage of Humanity. In addition to the fortress and the Roman siege works, important excavation sites can also be found in the national park today.

9. Tel Aviv – liberal, colourful and modern

If you want to experience Mediterranean city flair in Israel, you cannot miss the liberal and colourful Tel Aviv. Like no other, the city stands for change and progress in the country. Great beaches, beautiful architecture, hip bars and restaurants as well as a vibrant nightlife are just a few of the many special features of Tel Aviv.

Characteristic is the “White City” in the centre, here many buildings were erected in Bauhaus style and can still be admired today. UNESCO also declared this important monument a World Heritage Site. Experience the oldest part of the city, Neve Tzedek, which has become an important artists’ quarter. You can get an impression of the many culinary influences at the popular Carmel market in Tel Aviv.

10. Jaffa – an old harbour town blossoms out

Jaffa (Yafo) has officially been part of Tel Aviv since 1950, but the former port city has developed its own unique charm and identity. Once known as the “Gateway to Israel”, Jaffa has now become an interesting retreat for artists and hipsters. The harbour, one of the oldest in the world, can still be admired today and is, so to speak, the landmark of the district.

Other sights in Jaffa include the Church of St. Peter, the most striking building, and the Simon House, where according to tradition Apostle Peter had his vision for Christian missionary work. But it can also be quite unreligious: in its labyrinth of small alleys, Jaffa offers courtyards with galleries and studios in which handcrafted works of art and jewellery can be purchased. And even nightclubs and bars have long had cult status.

More things to do and activities for your Israel holiday

Best time to visit Israel

We recommend the following months as best time to travel for exploring the attractions and acivities of Israel:

March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October, and November

You can find more information about the weather, including all climate data, on our climate page for Israel.

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