Jerusalem, Israel

Filled with spiritual weight and thousands of years of history, Jerusalem offers Royal Holiday members the opportunity to experience a place where the foundation was laid for Western and Middle Eastern cultures alike. While West Jerusalem is becoming more modern by the day, with chic restaurants and storefronts popping up along Ben-Yehuda Street every month, its Old City remains a draw for millions of tourists every year. Whether one wants to use Royal Holiday points to visit Jerusalem for spiritual purposes or just to see one of the world’s greatest historical treasures, an endlessly fascinating and moving city awaits.

Members can stay at the luxurious Leonardo Jerusalem Hotel, located just north of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and minutes from the old city walls, Jaffa Gate, and many other famous landmarks. Featuring cozy studio rooms complete with minibars and breathtaking views of the surrounding cityscape, the Leonardo also distinguishes itself through its on-site amenities. Guests can enjoy a lobby bar and restaurant, which serves up delicious cuisine from around the world, as well as a swimming pool and 24-hour room service. Royal Holiday members will have no problem seeing the rest of the city from the Leonardo. Close access to public transportation makes all of Jerusalem readily acessible.

Archaeologists and historians have found considerable evidence that suggest humans inhabited the Jerusalem area as far back as the 4th millennium BCE, although the first permanent settlements were likely established shortly after 3000 BCE. Royal Holiday members traveling to the city will find ample evidence of Jerusalem’s conflict-filled history, as the city was variously controlled by Jewish tribes, the Roman and Byzantine empires, the followers of Muhammad, and the Crusaders across the centuries. The Ottoman Empire controlled the region for 400 years before the British Mandate of Palestine was established following the Battle of Jerusalem in 1917. Royal Holiday members who travel to the city today will find a place still reckoning with a lengthy history and complicated present even as it marches forward into the future.

Most visitors will want to begin with the major holy sites. Given the surreal beauty of these landmarks, it behooves one to approach Jerusalem ecumenically. The Temple Mount, a location at the very center of the Jewish faith, offers visitors the opportunity to see the Western Wall and participate in the tradition of leaving notes in its cracks. The Church of the Holy Sepulcher sits on the site where tradition holds Golgotha was located and where Jesus was crucified. Bethlehem, the site of his birth, is a short journey away from the city. Finally, the third most important site in the Islamic world, the Dome of the Rock, as well as the Al-Aqsa Mosque, provide Royal Holiday members with the chance to see where Muslims believe Muhammad ascended to heaven.

However, Jerusalem provides many other delights beyond the spiritual realm. A walk along the Old City walls provides an astounding view of the city, although the best vistas can be found atop the Church of the Redeemer of the David Citadel’s Herodian tower. In addition to the Shrine of the Book, where the Dead Sea Scrolls are stored and displayed, the Israel Museum also includes wings devoted to the arts and archaeology, creating a comprehensive view of the region’s cultural history. Royal Holiday members who seek more modern delights will do well to go to West Jerusalem, while those who are interested in nightlife will likely want to take an evening trip to Tel Aviv, where Israel’s hypermodern present flourishes.