In attempting a journey along the Via Dolorosa (or the Stations of the Cross, as Catholics describe it), it is important to get your priorities in order. Depending on the nature of your visit, a stroll along the route that Jesus is believed to have trudged laden with his cross to the place of his crucifixion is best undertaken in a variety of ways, and at different times.
If you’re chiefly interested in observing the architecture, culture, and general hustle and bustle of the Old City of Jerusalem, virtually any time during business hours will do. Just be aware that the streets are clogged with sightseers, pilgrims, monks, nuns, and local residents hoping to capitalize on the monetary benefits of the tourist trade.
The more observant will want to choose carefully, as it can be difficult to focus on rites, rituals, and prayers while simultaneously fighting your way through the throngs of people and protecting your valuables. Friday afternoons are a good time to make the trek. An orderly procession led by Franciscans sets out from the Pilgrim’s Reception Center near the Lion’s Gate weekly at 3 p.m. Following along can make for a more peaceful experience.
As you might expect, there are a variety of guided tours available for tourists interested in soaking up as much detail as possible. These range from the straight forward group tour led by enterprising locals to exciting day trips originating out of Tel Aviv that include visits to Jerusalem, Bethlehem, the Dead Sea, and elsewhere. Choose this path if you really want to make the journey stress-free and don’t mind spending the money or being with a group.