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Jerusalem, Jerusalem

Israel's insider take:

Considering that it's more than 2,000 years old, Jerusalem has been ripe for a mini-makeover—at least in its modern, Western half. And at long last, it is getting one. The city's most striking newcomer, and now its tallest structure—the Chords Bridge, by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava—is at its entry point. Created in 2008 as part of Jerusalem's still-in-development light-rail system, the birdlike, cantilevered bridge soars nearly 400 feet above pine-covered hills and is evocative of the harp its name evokes, the favorite instrument of Jerusalem's Biblical-era founder King David. Fifteen minutes further on is the new Mamilla project, a mixed-use hotel, residential, and retail quarter just outside the Old City. Its centerpiece, the Mamilla Hotel, with interiors by Italian architect Piero Lissoni, opened in summer 2009. July 2010 will see the debut of the newly renovated Israel Museum, home of the famed Dead Sea Scrolls, which is undergoing a $100 million head-to-toe renovation. American architect James Carpenter is creating a series of terraced, glass-walled pavilions that both conform to the natural topography of the museum's site and reflect the building's original, abstract, ancient Greek aesthetic.

Still, modern developments can steal little of the tourist thunder from Jerusalem's Old City. Whether religious pilgrim, history buff, or just plain sightseer, any visitor to Jerusalem experiences the stirring sense that the past is alive here—and watches with fascination as the future is determined. Not only did three of the world's great religions—Judaism, Islam, and Christianity—originate here, but they are still redefining themselves within Jerusalem's walls. To take in almost 3,000 years of history, start at the Tower of David, built in the second century B.C. and used in turn by Jews, Muslims, Christians, and Ottomans. Walk past Roman ruins in the Jewish Quarter, then head out to the Western Wall (also called the Wailing Wall or, in Hebrew, Kotel), the only remnant of Solomon's Second Temple and Judaism's most holy place. Bring a note to place in its crevices, and consider visiting on Saturday night to bid farewell to the Sabbath with thousands of worshippers. Nearby, the Wohl Archaeological Museum displays excavations that date from the time of Jesus (1 Hakaraim St.; 972-2-628-3448). As long as you're neither claustrophobic nor afraid of the dark, you can feel like Indiana Jones on a tour through excavated Hezekiah's Tunnel (972-2-626-2341;; reservations essential). Visit the jam-packed stalls of the Muslim Quarter to shop for sweets and souvenirs. The quarter is also home to the Via Dolorosa, the path Jesus took to his crucifixion, and the gold-capped Dome of the Rock, Jerusalem's most iconic site, built in the seventh century on the site where Muhammed ascended to heaven. Here—and at all religious sites—avoid wearing shorts or short skirts.

Information may have changed since the date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.