Open House Jerusalem Offers Glimpse at Old and New of Ancient City

As Open House Worldwide continues to roll through some of the most dramatic cities on the planet (everywhere from Dublin to Athens to New York), one of its 31 locations not to be missed is Open House Jerusalem. Founded in 2007, Open House Jerusalem literally open a window to let in some light on the often cloistered atmosphere of the ancient city.

This year’s showcase catalog of local historical monuments, homes and public buildings includes some of the city’s most intriguing locations. Who hasn’t walked down the streets of Jerusalem and thought to themselves: “I wonder what’s in that building?”

Open House Jerusalem is a chance to find out.

The tours for Open House Jerusalem are increasingly popular, particularly among locals, and take place this year from October 22-24. That’s a Thursday through a Saturday. The start of the workweek in Jerusalem is on Sunday, so Open House Jerusalem is mostly on the weekend. For those not familiar with the rhythm of the very religious city, the weekend in Jerusalem means less vehicular traffic. There is also no public transportation and fewer taxis (at a higher rate) from sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday.

American Colony Hotel via Wikimedia Commons by Magister.
American Colony Hotel via Wikimedia Commons by Magister.

Aside that one small complication, some of the tours for Open House Jerusalem have limited capacity and fill up quickly. All tours are free, but some require registration in advance, which begins on Friday, October 16. About 100 sites are covered, so it is possible to find more than enough to entertain and fascinate even if a first choice is unavailable.

The Open House Jerusalem website describes experiencing the collection tours as something akin to time travel:

“As a holy city to three religions and one of the oldest urban environments, Jerusalem offers a fascinating and unique Open House experience that can take you back and forth in time and launch you on a multiple century time warp in only 2 days.”

Jerusalem’s urban architecture reflects its role as home to about 1 million people and with a history that spans thousands of years.  The Open House Jerusalem tours only go back to the 19th century, but feature some of the most modern architecture the city has to offer.

Some highlights from the 2015 Open House Jerusalem catalog include the neighborhoods of the German, Greek, and French Colonies, Baka, the Old City, East Jerusalem, City Center, and more. While tours in the neighborhoods afford glimpses into private homes and a wide variety of architectural styles, the Old City’s ancient offerings of massive buildings are always a huge draw.

The “Preservation Issues in the Old City” guided tour will lead people through the various problems that the Israel Antiquities Authority faced when working on projects in the area near Mount Zion and Jaffa Gate. There is also a discussion with an architectural firm planning for the Arab population in East Jerusalem, and tours of various well-known buildings in the area including the iconic American Colony Hotel, the Rockefeller Museum and more.

Subscriptions for the Open House Jerusalem email list are available by contacting


Tours to Bethlehem and Jericho

If you are in Israel or the West Bank and want to get to Bethlehem or Jericho for a day trip, paying for a guided tour is highly advised, rather than trying to figure it out for yourself.

Here are a couple of reputable tour guide companies that can help you:

Bein Harim Tourism Services Ltd.
Languages: English, Spanish, French, German, Russian
Customized and group tours

10 Hazerem Street in Tel Aviv

Half day tours to Bethlehem, some in combination with Jerusalem or Jericho
Price range from US $70-148 (most expensive includes return to the airport)

Al-Quds Tours
Arabic and English
Group Tours

Jerusalem Old City

Specialized tours (with educational/”alternative” component) to Jericho and Bethlehem
contact for prices

Shepherds Tours & Travel
Arabic, Italian, Danish, Norwegian, English, Spanish, French, Swedish, and German
Pilgrimages and organized tours

Offices in Jerusalem and Jordan+972-2-28-4121 in Jerusalem

Tours catered to Christian pilgrims, group and private
contact for more information

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