An epicentre of Judaism, Islam and Christianity, Jerusalem is steeped in spirituality and ancient history. It's also a vibrant mix of cultures, where European-style pavement cafés sit side by side with bustling Arabic souks. With an old town that dates back four millennia and a new town studded with cool bars and cafés, there's tons to discover in this varied city.
Hostels in Jerusalem often reflect the fact that this is one of the world's oldest cities. You'll really feel its history staying at a Jerusalem hostel in a 700-year-old building, with original bare stone walls and vaulted ceilings to set the scene. Even many of the hostels in newer buildings feel historic – with the added benefit of modern features like elevators. Most provide Wi-Fi and free breakfast, and kosher options come as standard. You'll also find Jerusalem hostels with roof terraces where you can sit and gaze out over the gilded domes of the city skyline.
The four quarters of Jerusalem's old city are packed with iconic religious sites as well as small hidden gems. For a break from the sightseeing buzz, head for Downtown West Jerusalem. Home to the Machane Yehuda market, it's one of the liveliest neighbourhoods. The winding alleys are decorated with colourful street art and lined with live music venues and hole-in-the-wall restaurants. Nearby is atmospheric Nachlaot, once a religious enclave and now a cultural hangout popular with artists, musicians and long-term travellers.
When it comes to sightseeing, Temple Mount is the historic religious centre of the city. It's free to get in, but it's worth arriving early to avoid the queues. Inside you'll see around a hundred different structures, some dating back to Biblical times. Just outside is the Western Wall, built by King Herod over two millennia ago. To get your head around the age of the city, head to the Museum of the History of Jerusalem in the 2000-year-old Tower of David.
The closest airport to Jerusalem is Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv. There's an hourly shuttle bus that runs 24 hours a day – every day apart from on Shabbat (Saturday) – and takes around an hour. In the city, you can get around easily using the new light rail system, which runs from the south-western suburbs to the north-eastern corner, passing along Jaffa Road and near Old Damascus Gate.