Jerusalem ain’t no Tel Aviv, but I suspect the city is more surprising than you’d first think! Here’s a periodically updated list of my favorite things to do in Jerusalem.
- Western Wall — one of Jerusalem’s most famous tourist sites. It’s a great plaza to sit and soak up the history/religion/strange-awesome-power
- Zion Square — used to love sitting around here. The pedestrian walkway usually has some sort of buskers or people hawking things so it makes for a nice mix of interesting characters.
- Pedestrian mall outside Jaffa Gate — Jaffa Gate in and of itself is an interesting place. Tourism office is located right there so there’s lot of people selling bagels and street food, not to mention the people dressed up as ancient Romans selling tours. But the pedestrian mall just outside the Old City is a comfortable place for a walk—especially if you get tired of the brown and winding alleys in the Old City.
- Mount of Olives — It’s a great scenic overview onto the Dome of the Rock and the Old City of Jerusalem. You can walk up through the Jewish cemetery on the side of the hill as well, if you’re into that. It’s also a great place for a political overview of Jerusalem—many political tours stop here to explain a bit about the complex nature of Jerusalem.
Cool bars & nightlife
- Mike’s Place — There’s the one in Tel Aviv right on the beach, and this one in J’lem has been open for a year now. Usually live music and a decent burger. Popular with Americans.
- Hakatze — Every Monday night at 11pm it’s gay/LGBT night with a popular drag show (video!)
- Uganda — Probably Jerusalem’s most trendy/hipster bar IMO. Amazing music, place is decorated with old records. Awesome vibe. People are usually spilling out onto the streets. 4 Aristobolus Street – website
- Stardust — pretty cool bar with a nice atmosphere
Food & Cafes
- Tmol Shilshom — FAVORITE! Love this place. Part bookstore, part cafe, part hipster hang-out. It’s near all the main touristy stuff, but through a back courtyard and up a metal staircase it can be a bit challenging to find. Like a clam oasis in the chaos that is touristic Jerusalem. Love the food, too!
- Holy Bagels — Right near the Jerusalem bus station, I used to grab a quick bagel here on my way in and out of the city. Very American-style bagels :)
- Falafel stand at Damascus Gate – this old stand in the Old Town, just near the Damascus Gate is SO YUMMY. And super cheap. It’s hard to miss as it’s right near the beginning of the market.
- Humus Ben Sira — Really enjoyed this tiny place for their hummus. On a side street and usually crowded.
- Zuni — A bit of a fancier restaurant than I usually visit, but their food was delicious.
- Austrian Hospice — this place is a hostel/hotel (I never stayed there, though) but they have a great courtyard and cafe. It’s inside the Old City, maybe a 5 minute walk from the Western Wall. They serve some delicious apple strudel and Viennese style coffee!
A note about politics
I’m no stranger to controversy but I did want to add this to my hipster travel guide to Jerusalem… This city is an incredible, fascinating place with a very long and complex history. There are many nonprofits, NGOs and independent organizations that delve into the politics of Jerusalem today. Many of these even offer tours or informational guides to tourists.
I’d suggest looking them up if you really want to learn about Jerusalem. Sure, you can show up in the city and spend a few days seeing all the holy sites but Jerusalem deserves a bit more attention than just a cursory look. Learn about the city’s current political situation from both Israelis and Palestinians.. Interested in more about the politics of visiting Israel? Read my entry, “Should you visit Israel?“
Have something to add? Let me know!