*A series of guides on shooting Street Photography in cities around the world. Find the best spots to shoot, things to capture, street walks, street tips, safety concerns, and more for cities around the world. I have personally researched, explored and shot Street Photography in every city that I create a guide for. So you can be ready to capture the streets as soon as you step outside with your camera!
It doesn’t get more famous than Jerusalem. This Holy City brings visitors and pilgrimages from all over the world. The “Old City” is what you see in photos, where you have different quarters devoted to the Jewish, Christian and Muslim religions. With so much history and spiritual atmosphere, it almost doesn’t seem real. By population, Jerusalem is also the largest city in Israel, though, meaning there is much more to the city outside the Old City’s walls. With more to explore and a variety of religious influence, history, and a mix of the old and new in a city this size, Jerusalem is a full experience and truly a city unlike any other.
So here’s a Street Photography guide so you can be ready to capture all that Jerusalem has to offer before you even arrive!
- Quarters/Muslim Quarter
- Western Wall
- Mea Shearim
- Jaffa Road/Davidka Square/Machane Yehudah Market
Top 5 Street Spots:
There’s more to the city of Jerusalem, but The Old City is what everyone pictures. One of the oldest and most famous “old cities” in the world, this walled area is unlike any other. It’s packed with so many historic sites that have been around since biblical times that it’s a full experience just exploring the streets here.
The Old City is very compact and filled with plenty to see, but it’s not really that big. If you keep moving, you could easily explore it all in an hour. Luckily, all the interest will keep you moving slowly. Furthermore, the Old City is divided into four quarters, Jewish, Christian, Muslim and Armenian. Obviously, you can see and feel the different influences from the churches, mosques and synagogues, but you can also feel different character in the atmosphere and people.
The hordes of tourists affect the atmosphere too, making the narrow cobblestone streets constantly packed. You’ll also find the streets lined with souvenir shops and markets. While this does take away some from the authentic feeling, it still can’t compete with the thousands of years of history written on everything you see. With the market life, especially in the Muslim Quarter, you can imagine the streets have been packed like this long before tourism.
Each quarter brings something, although, the Armenian contains the least interest, in my opinion. In the Jewish Quarter, the Western Wall dominates the interest, while the rest can be somewhat quiet. The Muslim Quarter has the most market life, along its maze of streets, and the Christian Quarter brings the famous Church of the Holy Sepulchre, among endless other churches.
2. Mea Shearim
When I mentioned the strong religious influence isn’t only felt inside the walls, Mea Shearim is a shining example. In my opinion, it’s the most interesting area for street photography in the whole city, even more so than the Old City. For one, it’s not touristy so you can really feel the authenticity. Two, it’s one of the most unique neighborhood immersions you can experience anywhere. And three, it’s extremely photogenic and filled with character.
Mea She’arim is one of the oldest Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem. It actually has a somewhat of an old Eastern European vibe due to its population of mostly Hasidic Jews. Since they reject modern secular culture, it also feels back in time and very separate from the rest of city. You completely feel the change as soon as enter the neighborhood. They adhere to very strict Jewish law here so everyone follows the most traditional dress code. The place is so interesting that it’s hard to leave for street photography, which is why I know many Tel Aviv street photographers that regularly make the trip out to Jerusalem just to visit Mea Shearim. It’s a special place.
One more thing I’ll add is I’ve read online that it’s not a welcoming place, but I didn’t find that to be true at all. My only guess is these people went on Saturday (Shabbat), when no electrical devices are allowed to be used on this day, which includes your camera, of course. But outside of that day, I didn’t find any pushback for photos and was even asked multiple times if I’m getting good photos. You’re more likely to get bad looks for dressing too casual than carrying a camera from my experience.
While the Old City is filled with narrow alleys and markets to explore for street photography, some of the most interesting areas for photography are the churches. It doesn’t get more famous than the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where Jesus was crucified and laid to rest. This of course bring crowds of visitors daily so there’s always groups of people throughout the church and in the square outside. It’s not like your normal church, as it’s large and spans multiple areas. So, I’d advise exploring it inside with your camera. The architecture, artwork, candles, rooms and atmosphere combined with all the people can create some interesting scenes. Outside on the walled the square you can get some good light coming down too for more photography.
While this more famous church here is great, the next door Ethiopian church is probably my favorite. You’ll find a doorway to it in the right corner on the same square. So, just walk in, check it out inside, and then walk up the stairs where you’ll come outside to a large open area on top. Many times, you’ll find friendly Ethiopians who moved here to the church too, which adds even more to the atmosphere. All in total, you can find over 50 churches in the Old City, many covering a range of countries, from Russian to Greek. It gives you a lot to check out and capture so to help out, here’s a list and description of them all.
4. Western Wall
The Western Wall is the western support wall of the Temple Mount in the Old City and has become the most religious site in the world for Jewish people. People from all over travel here to pray at the wall, either spoken or written down and placed in the cracks of the wall. Many locals come here daily to pray too, as there’s also an attached Torah Library for reading and prayer. No matter your religion, visiting the Western Wall is a unique experience. Seeing the large white wall with people praying against the front is a sight to see. At different times, it can get pretty crowded too, with crowds of people praying. Unless it’s holiday or Shabbat, people don’t mind photos here, either. So for street photography, it’s a must to check out. You’re bound to capture something you wouldn’t anywhere else in the world.
5. Jaffa Road/Davidka Square/Machane Yehudah Market
The most popular street to walk outside of the walls in the “New City” is Jaffa Road. This long, mostly pedestrian street takes you through the center of the city west to east, from downtown Jerusalem to the Old City. Lined with shopping, restaurants and other businesses, you’ll always find people here. No cars are allowed, either, so it’s a top spot for pedestrian activity and makes a good walk for street photography. It also takes you near other popular areas like Davidka Square and Machane Yehudah Market, a main bazaar in Jerusalem to go with your camera. Connecting to the Old City, it’s the best way to walk there for non-stop photo opportunities and it can get even livelier in the evening/night.
Sample Street Walk:
For a full day of Street Photography, covering some of the best spots, you can follow this sample street walk for Jerusalem:
- Start your morning exploring around the Old City (1), getting out to Machane Yehudah Market (5) before can be a good idea too
- See what you can capture around the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (3) and Ethiopian church
- Then walk the winding alleys and market life of the Muslim Quarter (1)
- Afterwards, see what’s happening at the Western Wall (4)
- When you’ve spent enough hours walking in the Old City, step outside of the walls and head to Mea Shearim for a different scene
- Finish your day of street photography walking along Jaffa Road (5)
3 Things to Capture in Jerusalem:
1. Different Religions
Since this is considered the holiest city in the world, where you even have divisions by religion within the walls, it comes as no surprise that the mix of religions is what stands out the most when here. I’d imagine no city in the wold has more religious sites per square meter than here. Everywhere you walk and look, you’re surrounded with different religious influence. This feeling is made even stronger by the people, many in their religion’s garments. And then you have the crowds of visitors coming to experience their life long dream of visiting the Holy Land. Some even carrying a large wooden cross following the path of Jesus. The intensity of religions, spirituality and faith in Jerusalem is something that needs to be experienced, it can’t really be described. No matter your personal beliefs, it’s a constant feeling when exploring the city with your camera. And while this intensity is packed into the Old City, much of it still spills outside the walls. Religion is a powerful subject to capture in photography and in Jerusalem you have a variety of it like no other place in the world.
2. Jewish Orthidox culture
While you see a mix of religions here up close and personal, it’s the Jewish Orthodox culture that provides the most unique experience, in my opinion. I’ve been to other cities where I’ve experienced the other major religions and cultures to the degree you do here, but not when it comes to Ultra-Orthodox Judaism. This is especially true in Mea Shearim. There’s a lot to learn, experience and capture here when it comes to the religion and lifestyle that most will not have seen in person before. Many local Tel Aviv photographers visit here often for that reason. For street photography, you won’t find anything else quite like it. And walking Mea Shearim’s streets and interacting will definitely stay in my memory.
3. Old & New
At over 800,000 people, Jerusalem isn’t only the Old City. There’s much more to it continually expanding outside of the walls over the years. While much if it is still very old, it feels much newer and more modern compared to the Old City. They’re completely different atmospheres and you’ll find a more urban downtown city vibe in the New City. The most popular street to walk is Jaffa Road, which takes you through the center of the city west to east, from downtown Jerusalem to the Old City.
While the Old City is intensely packed with character, history and spirituality, you can take a break from all the tourism out in the New City and capture a completely different atmosphere for street photography.
What To Do For a Street Photography Break?:
Eat Some Hummus and Take it all in
Jerusalem has some good hole in the wall spots for authentic Hummus, including in the Old City. It makes for a nice and affordable street photography break. Also, with so much to experience in a city as unique as Jerusalem, sometimes it’s good to take a break and let it all in.
Street Safety Score: 7
*As always, no place is completely safe! So when I talk about safety, I’m speaking in general comparison to other places. Always take precaution, be smart, observe your surroundings and trust your instincts anywhere you go!
I’ve never felt unsafe, but that’s not what the locals might tell you. The truth is, it’s no secret there’s a lot of tension here and things have happened. While I met some locals that don’t photography here anymore, I met many others that still do. Just watch your surroundings, looks and feel the areas out. I never had a problem, but trust your instincts depending where you venture.
People’s Reaction Score: 7
While not as photo friendly as Tel Aviv, it’s still pretty easy for street photography in Jerusalem. Some of the more conservative areas might not want to be photographed, but you should be able to get a feel for it pretty quickly. The biggest thing in Jerusalem is to know what day it is. If it’s a holiday, photos aren’t really allowed, but any other day and you shouldn’t have too many problems. I’d just be a little more observant than usual here.
Be ready for the holidays/Saturdays
I wrote this for Tel Aviv too, but it affects street photography more here. Every Saturday, Shabbat closes much of the city down. Stores, shops, restaurants and markets close before sunset on Friday and leave the city very different through Saturday. Public transportation is also shut down and the streets become more quiet. Cameras are also prohibited on Shabbat and holidays. So while public photography in Tel Aviv is more allowed in most places on Shabbat, it can offend locals in Jerusalem. It’s definitely something to keep in mind if visiting here for street photography, while also being prepared in general. The city life will not be as active and if you get hungry, you might have some trouble finding a place to eat.
Wear respectful clothing in Mea Shearim
Walking in Mea Shearim, you’ll see signs talking about acceptable clothing. Here, it’s not only when entering a place of prayer, it’s outside too. Some areas will have strict guidelines for entering, but in general you want to wear conservative clothing. Even if no one says anything, residents are sensitive to it and might feel disrespected. It won’t help you blend in for street photography, either. For guidelines, you want to wear long sleeve shirts, pants or dresses that cover your legs, loose fit clothing and generally speaking, cover your skin below the neck.
For some more inspiration, you can check out this Phoblographer article on local photographer Igal Gofman and look through the Jerusalem work from the many Tel Aviv photographers mentioned in the inspiration section of my guide to that city. Also, you can always check out 33 of my photos taken in Jerusalem.
Jerusalem is a city you need to experience. Descriptions can’t do it justice. The spiritual atmosphere, history and mix of religions seen and felt wherever you walk make it a city like no other. At almost one million people, inside and outside the walls of the Old City, it also provides more variety of character to explore and photograph than you might expect. All under the golden sun.
I hope this guide can give you an idea of the city from a street photographer’s perspective and maybe even help you prepare to experience Jerusalem yourself. So grab your camera and capture all that Jerusalem has to offer for Street Photography!
If you still have any questions about shooting in Jerusalem, feel free to comment below or email me!
(I want to make these guides as valuable as possible for all of you so add any ideas on improvements, including addition requests, in the comment section!)