The City of David is actually more ancient than the Old City of Jerusalem and has nearly a million visitor to the City of David National Park every year.
Only a short walk from the Western Wall, the location of the ancient city is the most important archaeological site in Israel.
The City of David was created by King David began over 3,000 years ago, when he left the city of Hebron for the small hilltop city Jerusalem. Once there, he established it as the unified capital of the tribes of Israel.
Years later, David’s son, King Solomon, built the First Temple next to the City of David on top of Mount Moriah, also known as the Temple Mount.
Today, the City of David has some of the most exciting archaeological finds of the ancient world and is the location of the largest number of archaeological expeditions.
The City of David gives its visitors a rare opportunity to experience ancient Jerusalem.
The national park surrounds the Old City of Jerusalem. The main area that has been arranged for visitors is the City of David, on the south side of the Old City near the Dung Gate.
Check out the National Parks and Nature Reserves page for the City of David for hours and entrance fees.
The upper observation point
This observation point is at the entrance to the City of David, looking out over the Kidron Stream, the Silwan neighborhood, the slopes of the Mount of Olives, the southern wall excavations, and the Mount of Offense.
In the south, the view is closed off by the Armon Hanatsiv ridge. From here, visitors can see that the City of David extension is surrounded on all sides by hills, as it says in Psalm 125: “As the mountains surround Jerusalem”.
Hezekiah’s Tunnel is a long and winding tunnel, carved out in order to bring water from the Gihon Spring in the Kidron Valley outside the city walls into the Pool of Siloam within the walls of the City of David.
When Jerusalem was preparing defenses against the approaching Assyrian army in the 8th century B.C.E., King Hezekiah decided to protect the water source by diverting its flow deep into the city with an impressive tunnel system.
“It was Hezekiah who stopped up the spring of water of Upper Gihon, leading it downward west of the City of David; Hezekiah prospered in all that he did.” (II Chronicles 32:30)
This engineering feat was accomplished by digging a 1,750-foot (533 meter) tunnel into the mountain. An ancient stone carving found near the entrance describes the incredible operation.
Today, trekking through Hezekiah’s Tunnel in knee-high water and learning about its history is a popular attraction for Israeli’s and tourists alike.
Pool of Siloam
The Pool of Siloam is an ancient rock-cut pool where the Gihon Spring flows into the city of David.
Today, the water flows into a rectangular pool from the Byzantine period, but in the past it flowed into a larger pool that has been only partially uncovered in recent excavations.
Warren’s Shaft is an ancient vertical shaft, 30 meters in height, named after the British researcher Charles Warren who discovered it in 1867.
For a long time, researchers assumed that the shaft was part of the ancient water system that gave the Canaanite residents of the city of Jebus access to the Gihon Spring in times of siege.
However, since the 1995 excavations, the accepted assumption is that the shaft was only made during the period of the Kingdom of Judah, and that the Canaanites drew water from a large pool excavated in the rock within the city’s fortification walls.
The central water drainage channel
From towards the end of the Second Temple period this channel gathered water and drained it from the area of the Western Wall, southwards, passing the Shiloah Pool and flowing outside the city.
The channel also served as a place of refuge for the Jews who rebelled against the Romans. Numerous artifacts that tell the story of Jerusalem and its destruction where found within the channel.
In recent years it has been cleaned, and today visitors can walk along its length to return from the Pool of Siloam to the entrance to the city of David (and even continue to the Davidson Center, for an additional fee).
The excavation area on the eastern slopes of the City of David, which was first excavated by the British archaeologist Kathleen Kenyon in the 1960s, and later by archaeologist Yig’al Shilo.
Magnificent buildings from the First Temple period were found in this area, apparently part of the government complex of that time.
The main building in this complex is called the House of Ahiel (after a clay shard with the name Ahiel found in the building).
The Gihon Spring
The underlying factor in the development of ancient Jerusalem was the Gihon Spring, one of the largest and most abundant springs of the central mountain ridge.
Thanks to this spring, there was human settlement here already in prehistoric times, which grew and increased from the Canaanite period and on.
King Solomon was anointed by the waters of this spring, as it says in I Kings 1:38-39: “so they went down and had Solomon ride on King David’s mule and brought him to Gihon; there Zadok the priest took the horn of oil from the tent and anointed Solomon. Then they blew the trumpet, and all the people said, ‘Long live King Solomon!’ ”
The Gihon Spring fortifications
In recent archaeological excavations a vast system of fortifications the Canaanite period in 18th century BCE was uncovered.
It encompassed the Gihon Spring and protecting it against enemies, with a huge tower built of enormous rocks.
Jerusalem’s ancient city walls
Within the area of the park, sections of Jerusalem’s city walls from different periods can be seen. This includes walls from the Canaanite period and from the time of the Kingdom of Judah.
The Ophel excavations
The Ophel excavations is an area extends over the southern side of the Temple Mount, to the north of the city of David.
Ancient stairs have been uncovered there for pilgrims to the Temple Mount in front of the Hulda Gates and a system of fortifications from the First Temple period.
Access to the site is through the Davidson Center Archaeology Park, and involves a separate entry fee.
What Else to See
Other sites in the area of the Jerusalem Walls National Park are the Valley of Hinnom, the historic Yemin Moshe and Mishkenot Sha’ananim neighborhoods, and more.
The walls themselves and the Old City Walls promenade are not included in the area of the national park.