Smoking in the Holy City: the Best Hookah Bars in Jerusalem

Hookah smoking is popular in the Middle East
Hookah smoking is popular in the Middle East | © Tom Carpenter / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Maya Margit Hajdu
9 February 2017

Smoking hookah is a centuries-old social activity in the Middle East, and Jerusalem offers some of the best bars and lounges to sit back, relax and enjoy a flavoured smoke.

Sometimes referred to as shisha, but more commonly known as nargila throughout Israel, tobacco water pipes are a traditional part of Middle Eastern culture. As you walk down the scenic streets of Jerusalem, people of all ages can be seen puffing away on hookahs in between sips of coffee, tea or alcoholic drinks. Several cafés and bars across Jerusalem serve a variety of flavours to be enjoyed with food and drink. Here are the finest spots for sociable smoking in the city.

Wildcat Bar

Bar, Restaurant, Cocktails, Beer, Wine, Snacks, Fast Food
Map View

Hidden within a stone building in the heart of Jerusalem’s Downtown Triangle is the Wildcat Bar. A sleek, modern space that hosts themed parties and has beer pong and a Sony PlayStation, the Wildcat offers an assortment of hookah flavours to go with its well-stocked (and reasonably priced) drinks menu. Rental cost of one hookah pipe is cheap, and popular flavours include carob, watermelon, apple and tomato. The bar also has an inexpensive selection of pub fare on offer, including pizza, chicken fingers and fries. Open every night until 4am, this bar attracts a young crowd, but remember to bring your ID, because patrons must be 21 or older.

Barbari Market Bar

Bar, Cocktail Bar, Kosher, Israeli, Cocktails, Beer, Wine
Map View

A pub, restaurant and hookah lounge rolled into one, the Barbari Market Bar is located in the heart of the bustling Mahane Yehuda Market, Jerusalem’s main foodie attraction. With regular deals on beers, cocktails and chasers, the Barbari offers inexpensive hookah pipes which vary in flavour depending on the day’s availability. With a kosher food menu that includes dishes like schnitzel sandwiches, onion rings and smoked meat, the Barbari has become a popular local hangout for smokers and sports fans alike. It is closed on Friday nights for the Jewish Sabbath.

Gent Kitchen and Bar

Bar, Restaurant, Mediterranean, Cocktails, Wine, Beer, $$$
Map View

The Gent Kitchen and Bar is a comfortable and affordable hookah lounge designed for people watching in the Holy City. Open every day from 4pm, this resto-pub and smoking venue is located on one of Jerusalem’s most popular areas, Yosef Rivlin street. Hookahs are on the pricier side here, but the venue offers the option of an electronic or regular pipe. The electronic hookah is available only in apple, and the regular hookah pipe offers more fruit flavours including apple, grape and melon. The Gent Kitchen also offers an excellent selection of moderately priced dishes, including beef carpaccio and salmon fillets alongside creative cocktails and other alcoholic drinks. Open until the early hours of the morning, Gent Kitchen and Bar offers a buy-one-get-one-free food special from 1am and is open on the Sabbath.

Al-Mihbash Restaurant and Café

Bar, Restaurant, Middle Eastern
Map View

A stone’s throw from the Damascus Gate on East Jerusalem’s Nablus Road is Al Mihbash Restaurant and Café. This warm and welcoming café is housed in a beautiful Ottoman-era stone building and offers indoor and outdoor seating. Al Mihbash is a gathering place for Palestinians and tourists alike, making it the ideal place from which to begin a foray into the life and culture of East Jerusalem. Enjoy a selection of hookahs at very affordable prices and sample some of the delicious Palestinian dishes on offer, from kebabs to mujaddara (lentil rice). On Friday nights there are live oud (lute) performances, making Al Mihbash the perfect place for those who want the full Middle Eastern shisha experience.

Coffee Bean Café at Legacy Hotel

Bar, Cafe, Hotel Restaurant, Coffee, Sushi, Dessert
Map View

Popular among locals, the Coffee Bean is located in the front yard of the upscale Legacy Hotel in East Jerusalem, not far from the Damascus Gate and all the main tourist attractions in the Old City. The café features large flat-screen televisions and a wide selection of hookah flavours including lemon-mint, apple, blueberry, watermelon-mint and bubblegum, in addition to an outdoor patio. Keep in mind that the Coffee Bean is often busy, as locals go there to celebrate birthdays and other special events. The café also serves light meals and desserts, such as apple pie, and is open from 10am to 11pm each day.

This is an updated version of a story created by Jasmine Esulin.

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