Jerusaem’s Ramparts Walk
A walk along Jerusalem’s Old City Ramparts is an exciting and unique way to explore Jerusalem. It goes along some of Jerusalem’s best historical landmakrs, and offes incredible panoramas along the way.
History of Jerusalem Walls and the Ramparts
The Current walls of Jerusalem’s old city were formed by the command of Suleiman “The Magnificent” in the early 16th century. Engulfing the ancient town, the walls are about 3 miles long, and included seven gates. After the British conquest of the Holy Land, a restoration project of the walls cleaned and restored parts of the walls and formed a “green belt” in front of them. This municipal policy is followed to this day. In 1948, parts of the city’s walls were used as Jordanian posts. After the Six-Day War of 1967, the posts and walls were cleaned, and the ramparts were opened to the public.
Hiking Along the Ramparts
The starting point for the ramparts is a bit hidden, right behind Jaffa Gate. Yet, ascending the steep medieval stairway, the views in all directions are overwhelming!
Two separate hikes are available along the Ramparts—one route heads south, towards the Armenian Quarter and the Jewish Quarter. At first, you pass by the Tower of David Museum and above the Kishle Excavations. The ramparts provide a rare upper view of the citadel and its moat, as well as the local police station established in Ottoman times. Next, the courtyard of an Armenian theological seminary appears. Behind it is the massive dome of Saint James Cathedral and the Church of the Archangels. The views to the west are also quite rewarding. Through the stone crenellation, western Jerusalem unfolded, presenting luxury hotels are spread among 19th-century neighborhoods. In the distance, the iconic windmill of Mishkenot Shananim marks the first Jewish settlement outside the city walls. Beneath it is the “Sultan’s pool,” more known today for its summer concerts.
Zion Gate and Mount Zion
As the city walls curve to the east, the path takes you right above Zion Gate. Beneath this gate, fierce battles took place between the Jordanians and the Israelis in 1948. Bullet holes can still be traced in the wall in this area. Outside the gate, several landmarks demonstrate the sanctity of Mount Zion. Most dominant is the unfinished Armenian Church and Dormition Abbey. By local Christian tradition, this is where Mary fell asleep, and the event of the Pentecost took place. The rampart walk continues next to the Jewish Quarter, ending at the Dung gate. You can continue to the Western Wall or the City of David from here.
The Northern Route
The other route also starts at Jaffa gate and heads north. It provides excellent views of the residential part of the Christian Quarter and later of the Muslim Quarter. Especially impressive are the panoramas from the top of Damascus Gate, where there is also an exit. If you continue the hike, the wall circles around the old city passes above Zedekiah’s cave, Herod’s gate, opposite Rockefeller Museum, and ends at the Lions Gate. You can continue to the Garden of Gethsemane from here or enter the old city and join the Via Dolorosa.
The total length of both walks are about 2 miles. Comfortable shoes are recommended as the stone pavement is not always even. A few plaques provide minimal explanations along the way. A tour guide is recommended to fully appreciate all the landmarks and historical buildings along the hike.
The hike along the ramparts can be combined in a day tour of Jerusalem.