Jerusalem was my first place to explore in Israel and I’m glad of that. It’s much easier to navigate than huge Tel Aviv and has a smaller town vibe making it a place you can ease into Israel.
Visiting Jerusalem Israel
For me there wasn’t much to ease into. A guide asked what I thought of some of the more run down areas and I said they look great to me, after all I live in India where the idea of run down is a lot different unfortunately. I also have traveled in Jordan which has similar terrain and food. Seeing different cultures mingle is the norm in India where people are Sikh, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu and more.
In Jerusalem I did expect mostly Orthodox Jews, and it is a more Orthodox city than Tel Aviv, but actually it was much more of a mix than I thought and most Orthodox Jews I saw were in the Old Town. People dressed how they pleased.
You might notice small things like the McDonalds (yes, I had one!) was kosher here meaning that the dairy and meat can’t be mixed (no cheeseburgers for you) and it is okay’ed by a Jewish Rabbi. I was told that in Tel Aviv this isn’t the case and you can have non-kosher restaurants, even the chain ones.
So as a whole, Jerusalem is a holy city and the vibe is a little more Orthodox, but really only in the Old Town do you need to think about how you dress. The nightlife here is booming and in the last 10 years bars have popped up all over. The people here LOVE to party and it seems like at all times an Israeli was putting a beer, shot, or glass of wine in my hand.
photo via Matanya Tausig
As for neighborhoods, we stayed in the Downtown Triangle, which was full of life with cafes, bars, and shops all around. It is just 10 minutes walking from the Mahane Yehuda Market. This market sells fruit and veg, bread, and snacks in the day but at night-time comes alive when the stalls pull down their metal gates (which are covered in graffiti) and the bars start blasting music. It’s the perfect place to bar hop and have dinner.
This area has lots of little shops but I did find the clothes here very expensive and not top quality (think overpriced Charlotte Russe). Bit of a shame because Israelis have the cutest clothes, so I obviously wasn’t finding the best shops here.
For style, they dress very laid back. I didn’t see girls out with heels on and little dress, but more like tennis shoes, boots, skinny jeans, flowy or crop tops, and hippy dresses. Most of the guys have very long curly hair with highlights in it from the sun and also dress super laid back. It’s definitely a hipster vibe all over this country.
Although Israeli food is delicious, you can eat anything here and we ended up at a delicious pizza place on our second night out. We were meant to eat at the famous Yudale restaurant but it was packed.
There is a tapas bar across the restaurant which was really lively. I never had a bad meal in Israel so I imagine you could pop in anywhere and you’d be happy. Most places had lots of locals in them so you know it’s good.
So other than eat and drink what is there to do in Jerusalem?
Seeing the Old Town.
This is the historical bit of Jerusalem and hosts all of the major attractions including the Church of the Holy Sepulchre where Jesus was crucified, put in a tomb, and later arose. I am going to share about this in another post because there is a lot to show and tell.
Where to stay when visiting Jerusalem Israel
I’ll share where I stayed and a couple other options you can consider based on budget. I stayed at the Herbet Samuel Hotel. It’s more boutique, middle-range, and about $150 per night. This is right on the “Downtown Triangle” and the ideal location for where to stay in Jerusalem.
We did go to the Abraham Hostel for rooftop beers and to meet up for our day’s tour to the Old Town. It was packed with backpackers and even families. They do have private rooms. This hostel is one of the top 10 in the world (recently voted by hostelworld) and a great place to mingle and explore the city while staying on a budget.
photo via Matanya Tausig
If you want to splurge out, the Mamilla Hotel is a super luxurious boutique option that goes for about $450 a night.
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I was in Israel hosted by Vibe Israel, a non-profit, non political company. Thanks Vibe!