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Ben Yahuda Promenade Jeruslaem | © Noam Chen/GoIsrael
Ben Yahuda Promenade Jeruslaem | © Noam Chen/GoIsrael
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8 Non-Touristy Things to Do in Jerusalem

Picture of Lior Kantor
Updated: 4 December 2017
One of the best destinations in the world for religious, historic and cultural sightseeing, Jerusalem is also a great place to visit for its diverse culinary options, art, architectural landmarks and even its underground nightlife scene. Check out the things locals do when hanging out in Jerusalem, including where to eat, drink and shop.

Eat at Machneyuda Restaurant

Just across from its namesake market, Machneyuda restaurant is the first restaurant by celebrity chef Assaf Granit, who later opened Meditterenean restaurants in both London and Paris. This restaurant is one of the best in the city, and probably in the whole country. One of the most unique things about Machneyuda is its atmosphere, noise and happy people. This is a place to come taste new things, indulge in a good glass of wine and have shots with, well, everyone!

Visit the Israel Museum

The Israel Museum, situated on a hill in the Givat Ram neighbourhood, is visited by over 825,000 people annually, who come to see the museum’s variety of archaeological, historical and art collections, as well as its temporary contemporary exhibitions. Permanent pieces on display include works by masters like Rembrandt, Pablo Picasso, Auguste Rodin, as well as more recent works by Robert Indiana, Anish Kapoor, James Turrell and Micha Ullman. This is one the country’s best art and culture institutions, appealing to tourists and locals alike.

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Jerusalem Israel Museum | Ana Paula Hirama/WikiCommons

Hit Machane Yehuda market at night

One of Israeli’s favourite Jerusalem attraction, the Machane Yehuda market, boasts a huge variety of fresh produce, pastries and traditional Jewish and Arab foods to enjoy immediately or to take home for the weekend. The market gets very crowded and touristy on Friday mornings and actual grocery shopping becomes almost very difficult. During the evening on weekends, however, when all the stands are closed, that’s when the magic happens. Dozens of tucked-away bars open up in this Jerusalem market, music and lights turn on everywhere and Jerusalem’s young hip crowd starts filling up the market’s alleyways.

Ride the light rail

Opened in 2010, the Jerusalem Light Rail currently has just one line in operation, with 23 stations across Jerusalem, from Mount Herzl to Pisgat Ze’ev. The red line, although designed as a means of transportation, is a nice experience in and of itself, passing through Jerusalem’s vibrant Jaffa Street and Santiago Calatrava’s Chords Bridge, which was designed to hold the rail. The light rail operates Sunday through Thursday and is unavailable during the Shabbat or Jewish holidays.

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Jerusalem Light Rail | Claude villetaneuse/WikiCommons

Eat just off of Machneyuda market

When in Jerusalem, you have to visit a traditional home cooked meal restaurant, offering huge pots on burning gas stoves containing hearty dishes from Israeli-Arab home kitchens. The market stalls, however renowned, are usually filled with tourists and offer more delicate versions of the dishes at a higher price. Walk around the alleys surrounding the market to discover local establishments and opt for some Kubbah, couscous, stuffed vegetables and more, at one of these gas stove establishments. Here, you’ll discover the traditional family cooking of Arab-Israeli families and meet plenty of locals who come to dine or take food home for the weekend.

Watch a concert at Zappa

Zappa is a chain of concert venues with locations in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Herzliya, Haifa, Barkan Winery concerts, Amphi-Shuni ‘Live Park’, as well as a music and event production company. Zappa concert halls are some of Israel’s top live performance clubs, having hosted both Israeli and international musicians and performers on its stages. One thing that is unique to Zappa clubs – besides the stage and standing floor – is that the venues offer table seating with a full menu, so you can eat while waiting for performers to go on stage. In addition, there is also a well-equipped bar, which is there to ensure you enjoy the concert with a delicious cocktail in hand.

Visit a nearby winery

The valley surrounding the Jerusalem mountains are where some of Israel’s best wines are made. Check out Domaine Du Castel, Flam, Tzuba or Sea Horse wineries to find out how Israeli wines are made and enjoy the magnificent views of the Judea mountains. The shops at these wineries are usually open every day but Saturday, but it’s best to call in advance and make sure they can arrange a tour around the winery and a tasting – you’ll be surprised at how great Israeli wine is.

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Exploring Wineries | Kym Ellis/Unsplash

Stop by Abu Gosh

About a 10-minute drive from Jerusalem, the Israel-Arab village of Abu Gosh in the Jerusalem Hills is the undisputed hummus capital of Israel, and some would dare say, the world. Israelis drive from far away to indulge in a plate of Abu Gosh hummus, salads, pitas, grilled meat, and of course, desserts. The town is particularly busy on Saturdays as many restaurants in Jerusalem close for Shabbat. So come to one of the town’s 15 famed restaurants early to grab your spot. This is a perfect way to dine on the way to or from Jerusalem or after a day of leisure in the Jerusalem Hills. Just prepare yourself – after such a big plate of hummus, you will need a nap!