The Ultimate Guide to Visiting the Western Wall in Jerusalem
The Western Wall, (Wailing Wall or Kotel), stands as one of the most iconic and revered sites in the world. Located in Jerusalem’s Old City, this ancient limestone wall is the last remaining remnant of the four supporting walls that surrounded the Second Temple on Temple Mount. The Temple was destroyed in 70AD, and only this wall remains. As such, it is a site of profound religious and historical significance for Jews worldwide.
Since the destruction of the Temple, the Western Wall has been a source of inspiration and a site that keeps the memory of the Temple alive. The Kotel is always included in tours of Jerusalem and should be seen whether you are a pilgrim, a history enthusiast, or a curious traveler. Here is all you need to know before visiting the Western Wall.
Open Hours: 24/7
Location: The Western Wall is within the Old City of Jerusalem. The closest gate to the wall is the Dung Gate and from there it is just a few meters away.
Facilities: There is a parking lot near the Kotel but it is rare to find a parking space in this area. If you have to come by car then try finding a parking spot by the Zion Gate, and walk from there. Otherwise, use public transport. In the Western Wall Plaza there are public toilets.
Time Required for a visit: 15 minutes to 1 hour depending on how much time you wish to spend there. :
Wall Dimensions: 488-meters long, 40-meters high. There are 28 rows of stones above ground, and most of the massive stones are from the original Temple. The wall extends below ground level and part of it has been excavated and can be seen in the Western Wall Tunnels.
The Western Wall faces a large plaza where you’ll see people standing around, taking photos, chatting, or just looking at the wall. As you come closer to the wall you’ll see that the wall is divided into two sections, one for women and one for men. In the past there has been a small section set aside for mixed-gender, egalitarian prayer. But this section (called Ezrat Israel) is often closed. Approach the wall on the appropriate side, and walk straight up the wall. There are a few chairs where you can sit, or you can go directly to the wall and touch it. Then, if you have a piece of paper and a pen on you you can write a prayer note, and place it in the crevices of the wall. Most of the religious Jews visiting the wall will be praying, but there are also plenty of non-religious Jews, and gentiles who come to touch and see the wall. When you leave the area close to the Kotel it is customary to take a few steps backward, before turning your back on the wall.
When visiting the Western Wall, it is important to dress respectfully, as it is a place of worship and deep spiritual significance. The dress code is relatively straightforward, both men and women should dress modestly. Women are expected to cover their shoulders and not show cleavage. Either wear a skirt or dress that covers the knees, or you can wear long pants. Don’t visit the Western Wall in shorts or short skirts. Men should avoid wearing sleeveless shirts and shorts. It is customary for men to wear a kippah (skullcap) while at the Western Wall. If you do not have one, they are often available for visitors to use at the entrance. Women can cover their heads but many do not.
Maintain a respectful and quiet demeanor while at the Western Wall. This is a place of prayer and reflection for many, so it’s essential to be considerate of those who are engaged in worship. You can take photos, but don’t get in anyone’s face, and try to do it discreetly without disturbing anyone who is praying. Eating in the area immediately in front of the Western Wall is not allowed.
While the Western Wall is open to visitors throughout the year, there are certain times when the experience can be especially meaningful or unique. If you visit on Sabbath (Friday evening and Saturday until sundown) you will see locals coming to the Kotel for the Shabbat prayer services. This is a moving experience, with families gathered to welcome the day of rest. Arrive before sundown on Friday to witness the lively Kabbalat Shabbat prayers.
Similarly, on Jewish holidays like Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Passover, and Sukkot there are special services at the Western Wall. These times offer a unique opportunity to immerse yourself in the rich traditions and fervent atmosphere.
On Mondays and Thursdays you can often see families at the Western Wall celebrating their child’s Bar or Bat Mitzvahs: The Bar or Bat Mitzvah ceremony at the Western Wall is a touching experience and is often accompanied by music.
Jerusalem Day is celebrated in late May or early June, and commemorates the reunification of Jerusalem in 1967. The Western Wall Plaza hosts various events and celebrations on this day.
To deepen your understanding of the Western Wall’s historical significance, don’t miss the chance to explore the Western Wall Tunnels. These underground passageways offer a fascinating journey through time. The tunnels reveal the foundations of the Second Temple, including massive stone blocks, ancient streets, and ritual baths, providing insights into daily life during the time of the Temple. Visitors can walk alongside the Western Wall’s massive stones below ground level, coming closer to the holiest part of the site.
To fully appreciate the significance of the Western Wall Tunnels, it’s advisable to join a guided tour. Knowledgeable guides share historical and archaeological insights, making the experience even more enriching. The entrance to the Western Wall Tunnels is from the Western Wall Plaza, and tickets should be booked in advance online.
When discussing Jerusalem’s top attractions the Western Wall is usually among the top three. It really should not be missed, no matter what religion you are. A visit to the Western Wall in Jerusalem is a profound and memorable experience and will leave an indelible mark on your heart and soul.