On your first day in the Holy City, you may just want to settle in and figure out everything there is to explore. For an amazing place to lose yourself in for hours and truly absorb the local atmosphere, check out Jerusalem’s bustling Machneyuda Market and encounter an incredible variety of people who live in the city and make it as uniquely diverse as it is. Don’t miss out on Azura for a traditional Israeli home-cooked meal, The King of Halva for halva shopping and souvenirs, Teller Bakery and many more vendors, not to mention, the famous Machneyuda restaurant, which you should definitely book weeks in advance. Take time to wander through the winding alleys outside the market, dine in one (or more) of the local establishments and consider taking in some of the city’s hustle and bustle by participating in a local cooking class – you won’t regret it.
A trip to Israel, and Jerusalem in particular, could not be complete without a visit to its magnificent holy sites. First, keep in mind that the Old City of Jerusalem is divided into four quarters; the Jewish, Armenian, Christian and Muslim Quarters – and you want to visit them all. Not to worry, the quarters are all adjacent to one another and are easy to stroll through, however, there are many one-day tours you could consider taking to see everything to can in the best way. Before embarking on this historically enriching experience, make sure you are dressed modestly, as some of these sites have a strict dress code. Visit the historic Western Wall and don’t miss out on touring its tunnels. Within walking distance, you will find the Dome of The Rock – note that only Muslims are allowed into Al-Aqsa Mosque. And a short walk from there is where you will find the Holy Sepulchre, where it is believed Jesus was crucified, and last but not least, walk and shop the Oriental market, which connects the Old City’s quarters. To finish up the day with a more casual vibe, check out Menza for some great cocktails, wine and contemporary, bistro-style dishes.
Mount Herzl is home to a number of sites, which are important to Jewish and Israeli cultures. Named after the founder of Zionism, Theodor Herzl, the mountain is where former prime ministers and presidents of the state are also laid to rest, as well as many of Israel’s fallen soldiers, as it is the largest military cemetery in the country. A new remembrance hall was recently opened in the compound and is definitely worth a visit both for its interesting history and incredible architecture. Another interesting spot in the mountain is the Yad Vashem Museum, the World Holocaust Remembrance Centre, which not only tells the story of the Jewish people during the Holocaust but also keeps their memory alive, not to mention, it is home to amazing architecture, as well. After a long day of loaded history and culture, opt to unwind at Machneyuda Market’s nighttime bars, where you can drink craft beer and local wine along with some of the city’s coolest people.
It doesn’t matter where it falls in your itinerary, Shabbat is something you can’t ignore when in Jerusalem. First, notice most things will be closed, so you better plan in advance. Secondly, keep in mind that the tranquillity of Shabbat is a truly unique experience that you can relate to and enjoy even without the religion aspect – after all, who doesn’t want some time off to relax? If you have a hotel breakfast, you’re good to go, but if not, opt for Cafe Kadosh, Menza or Talbiye, which offer some of the best brunches in the city. After a relaxing, filling and perhaps, boozy breakfast, stroll through the city’s main urban garden, Gan Sacker, to the Israel Museum, one of the best attractions open on a Saturday in the city, and immerse yourself in one of the country’s best collections of historical, as well as contemporary art. The museum is located near the Israel Knesset, which may be closed to visitors on Saturdays, but can surely be admired from the outside.
If you haven’t noticed by now, Jerusalem’s mountainous topography and landscape make it a beautiful place to hike in, take pictures of and look out on. Tour the picturesque neighbourhood of Ein Karem, located on the outskirts of the city; indulge in some delicious hummus at Abu Gosh Restaurant, where the record for the biggest bowl of hummus in the world was broken (four tons of hummus!); sample local wines at one of the region’s top boutique wineries and look out on the magnificent Jerusalem scenery from one of the two observation decks located on Mount Scopus, which offer completely different views.