The city of Bethlehem and its surroundings have been the backdrop to a host of religious historical moments. According to the Gospels, the city of Bethlehem is the birthplace of Jesus, making it one of the most religiously significant and sacred sites in all of Christianity.
Rachel's tomb, an important Jewish historical site, is located right outside the city.
Today, Bethlehem is home to a large Christian community, one of the oldest in the world, with a Palestinian Christian minority living in the surrounding villages of Beit Sahour and Beit Jala.
Many tourists come to Bethlehem as part of their trip to Israel, taking a day trip or tour group from Jerusalem, making visits to must see holy sites for several hours and experiencing an afternoon of the city's historic atmosphere before returning to Jerusalem in the evening.
This is a convenient option since access to the city can be complicated by restrictions on traveling in the West Bank and border security measures.
Visitors may be subject to Israeli roadblocks and checkpoints on their way and should check the security situation before departure.
Bring travel documents, plan for possible delays and avoid traveling at night.
Service taxis and buses depart Jerusalem periodically during the day from near the Damascus gate to the crossing point from Jerusalem to Bethlehem, and taxis are available once entering the city.
For visitors who want to spend more time in the city, Bethlehem has more than 30 hotels to choose from.
Many of the must see sites in this sacred city are clustered around busy Manger Square. Pilgrims flock especially to the Church - Basilica - of the Nativity, which rests over a grotto, or cave, called the Holy Crypt that is considered to be the birthplace of Jesus. It is also the oldest church in the world that has been continuously used.
Adjoining the Basilica, St. Catherine's Church, built in 1881, hosts beautiful wood carvings and several crypt rooms and tombs commemorating different saints and stories from Christianity.
Both churches hold mass at different times throughout the day, and Catholic midnight mass at St. Catherine's Church is a Christmas tradition, broadcast to a worldwide audience every year.
During Christmas, Bethlehem lights up in celebrations and activities to commemorate the birth of Christ in the location where it happened. This is the busiest time of year to visit Bethlehem, with pilgrim processions taking over the city.
While sites may be a bit crowded and hotel reservations required well in advance, many find visiting Bethlehem during the Christmas season is a moving and unmatchable experience.