old city of jerusalem

Old City of Jerusalem

The Old City of Jerusalem is about one square kilometer in size. The city wall from the 16th century was built by the Ottoman ruler Sultan Süleyman I (also called the Great or the Magnificent) from 1532 to 1542 on Byzantine and Roman foundations. It encloses almost the entire area. However, Mount Zion with the Dormition Church is outside the city walls. It is also counted as part of the old city. After the victory in 1516 – the Ottoman army led by Sultan Selim I (1470 – 1520) defeated the Egyptian Mamluks in Syria – the city rose.

Jerusalem became the administrative seat of an Ottoman sanjak (government district). The first decades of Ottoman rule. Especially the reign of Sultan Süleyman I – which brought a significant boom to Jerusalem. After that, Jerusalem fell into inevitable insignificance because neither did the Ottomans. Nor the Western West showed any interest in preserving the Holy Places.

The best of the Old City of Jerusalem

The Old City of Jerusalem’s must-see monuments is located in the Old City. Beyond the historic city walls, there are the Wailing Wall, the  Mount of Olives, the Holy Sepulcher, the Via Dolorosa, and many other attractions.  

Visiting the Old City of Jerusalem is the best way to discover the city’s charm, both monumentally and culturally. The contrasts between the neighborhoods and the city’s multiculturalism can be felt in every street of the Old City, where Muslims, Jews, Christian pilgrims, and tourists from all over the world converge.

Who was Sultan Suleyman I?

Sultan Süleyman I – an Ottoman ruler – was the builder of the city wall in Jerusalem, or the wall was built during his tenure. Süleyman was born on November 6, 1494, in Trabzon (today Turkey – Black Sea coast) and died on September 6, 1566, at the siege of Szigetvár (Hungary). He is also called the Great or the Magnificent in the history books because he made a name for himself as the builder of many art-historically significant buildings, palaces, mosques, and other structures.

Suleyman I is considered the most famous ruler of the Ottomans. During his tenure, buildings such as the Süleymaniye, named after him, were built. An important mosque in Istanbul. Other works include the Prince’s Mosque (1548), the Mihrimah Mosque (1556), and the Rustem Pasha Mosque (1561).

The Old City of Jerusalem during the First World War

On December 9, 1917, the Ottoman governor of the city surrendered Jerusalem to the British. Without a fight on the orders of the Ottoman forces’ command, they wanted to prevent fighting in and around the town so as not to damage the historical sites. General Edmund Allenby entered the city that day. After the First World War, Jerusalem came under the League of Nations Mandate for Palestine (from 1920). And became the seat of the High Commissioner and the mandate administration. When the Israeli War of Independence broke out in 1948. Large parts of the old town were destroyed and subsequently occupied by Jordan or annexed in 1950.

For the next 19 years, the Old City was part of Jordanian-controlled East Jerusalem. During this time, the old town was sealed off to the west, and the old western town gates were walled up. It fell into disrepair over the following years, particularly the Jewish Quarter. During the Six-Day War in 1967, the Old City was conquered by Israeli troops. And the Jerusalem city government was expanded to include East Jerusalem and the Old City. Since then, many buildings have been renovated or rebuilt throughout the old town. The Jerusalem Law of 1980 defines the entire city as a unit and as the ” indivisible capital of Israel, “which does not coincide with the interests of the Palestinians.

What to see in the Old Town

Although walking around the Old City of Jerusalem is an attraction in itself. Its streets are home to many of the monuments that have given it the nickname “Holy City.” The Dome of the Rock, the Holy Sepulcher. And the Wailing Wall is just one example of a monument to visit within Jerusalem’s walls.

Another great attraction of the Old Town is the gateways, each with a particular story. Furthermore, the contrast of cultures in the Holy City is more palpable than ever in the four quarters of the Old City. Each with a different color, aroma, and sound.

The Old City is also the best place to eat in Jerusalem. The most authentic restaurants are in its streets, dotted with stalls selling fresh products and ingredients typical of Israeli cuisine.

old city of jerusalem

Representation of the Old City of Jerusalem

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Since 1981, the old town and the city walls have been under UNESCO protection as a World Heritage Site. Due to the particular political situation and the unclear political status of Jerusalem. It was put on the Red List of World Heritage in Danger in 1982. The World Heritage Committee sees it as its particular task to monitor. And also to support the old town’s development and its monuments’ preservation.

 In 2007, it had to intervene as a mediator in the dispute over reconstructing a ramp built next to the Wailing Wall. At the Dung Gate leading to the old town. This was damaged at the end of 2004 after heavy rains. The excavations carried out by the Israel Municipality to examine the site for repairs led to sharp protests from the Arab Waqf, which claims sole authority for the administration of the Old City of Jerusalem. 


Behind the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem are incredible monuments, religion, and passionate history. Strolling through the Old City means feeling the frantic heartbeat of Jerusalem. One of the most significant advantages of Jerusalem is that it concentrates almost all of its attractions in an area of ​​1 square kilometer. It is protected by walls, namely the Old City of Jerusalem. This small monumental space exudes history, faith, and art in equal measure.

Entering the Old City of Jerusalem means traveling back in time, going back over 3000 years. And feeling the contrasts of the Holy City, latent in every corner. For millennia, four-quarters of the Old City represented the entire urban area of ​​Jerusalem. Which did not extend until the 1860s.

As Jerusalem gained importance throughout the Middle East, Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent decided to protect the city’s perimeter with the walls we see today, erected in 1538. However, the Old City of Jerusalem was the subject of several international conflicts in the 19th century. Today it is the most beautiful area of ​​Jerusalem, a safe place. And an essential visit to discover the most authentic side of the Holy City.