Above the hustle and bustle, a stroll along the top of Jerusalem’s Old City walls means a flip of perspective; like seeing things from the inside out. That goes for everything from the markets to the communal church gardens, the old battlements and the city’s history as a fortress, as well as the back side of the Israeli police headquarters, all smushed into one square kilometre.
The first choice to make is whether you’ll walk the ramparts to the north or to the south, since each offers something new.
To the north is Damascus Gate, the entry to the Old City and the heart of commercial activity. You can people watch for hours from a perch above (this is, incidentally, where the military has recently begun to station itself when things heat up…). This path runs all the way round to Lion’s gate, meaning you get a long gaze at the back side of the ‘front end’ of the city, including a look over most of the residential areas and views into the many little cul-de-sacs and back streets that you wouldn’t otherwise know existed.
To the south is all of the Church properties, views into the Armenian quarter and areas of the Old City that you never even imagined existed (how is there so much green space in a place that feels so crowded?!), not to mention stunning views of the hills to the south.
Here’s what I mean:
To the north:
The ramparts themselves are quite a charming walk round, going from leafy green to vertiginous slopes with rather lovely views of the valleys to the East.
And you get peaks into school grounds and always a pretty impressive view of the Golden Dome.
To the south there are also some pretty fancy panoramas to behold. Starting on the lower side of Yaffa gate you get a back door view into much of the administrative side of the Old City. Like the back of the police HQ and the Armenian church garden (guess which one is which?)
The southern rampart is, all in all, the quieter option, with lots of chances to stop and check out the inner workings of the Old City. From school kids playing in the yard to old tower dungeons (ok, I only liked to pretend it was a dungeon, you’d have to ask a proper historian), to seeing regular folk go about their quiet days beyond the commercial zone of the central corridors.
To get to the ramparts, head toward Yaffa gate, the ticket office (yes, sorry, you have to pay into the Israel antiquities coffers to gain access, or, alternatively, head to Bab Hatta where the new playground is and find the fence posts that have been bent to the side… ask one of the kids playing, they’ll show you) and cough up your 15-20 nis, and pick your destination!