When you hear of Jerusalem, you think of this ancient city filled with history, religious monuments and geo-political divide. On birthright, you see it form those angles so coming back, I wanted to experience a different type of Jerusalem and see what else the city had to offer. It exceeded what I was hoping, especially with the food, and I'd absolutely recommend a few days in one of the oldest cities of the world for anyone coming to Israel. Here are some recommendations:
Where to Stay:
|The most famous site in Jerusalem|
- Mamilia Hotel: A bit of a newer hotel, this is where Samantha and I ended up staying. It's modern luxury and is in the center of town with about a five minute walk to the the old city. It also has a great rooftop bar which is perfect for a drink after exploring for a few hours.
|View of the Old City from the rooftop bar at the Mamilia Hotel|
- The King David: This is the probably the most recognizable hotel in all of Jerusalem and has been around for decades housing celebrities and politicians alike going all the way back to Winston Churchill. I quickly stopped in here and it doesn't seem like you can go wrong with staying here although it may be a bit stuffy for a few people's tastes.
What to Do:
- Food Tour in Machane Yehuda: So far, this has been the highlight. We did a 2.5 hour tour in the Machane Yehuda market where we not only were able to see different parts of the market and learn about Jerusalem, but we ate different types of delicious food from places we never would have had we been on our own. Our favorite was a Georgian dish called Khacapuri. If you are going to be in Jerusalem (or Tel Aviv), check out Delicious Israel and ask for Ruthie.
|Mounds of Baklava in Machane Yehuda|
- Old City: Walking within the walls of the Old City is something you have to experience given it's over 2,500 years old. It's very touristy given a lot of the main attractions are contained inside but you should still walk around the narrow streets getting heckled by the shop vendors.
|Walls of the Old City|
- Walk Around the City Center: The city center of Jerusalem is about a 10 - 15 minute walk from the Old City and is made up a few different streets that are great to walk on. Ben Yehuda is a pedestrian only street that has a few shops that are perfect for gifts (we stopped in King David's Treasures) but also take a stroll on King George and Jaffa Street.
|Streets of the City Center|
- Religious Monuments: No stop to Jerusalem is complete without visiting it's famed religious sites. Samantha and I have been to Israel on Birthright so have seen a lot of this before but we still made a quick visit to the Western Wall.
|Man praying at the Western Wall|
What to Eat:
- Chakra: We ate here on our first night and everything we had left us with our jaws dropped. The top dishes were the mushroom rissotto, glazed salmon and calamari. Be sure to also get one of their local Israeli wines.
- Machenyuda: What's known to be one of Israel's best restaurants certainly lived up to the hype. Located by the market, it's a small hip locale where you can watch the chefs cook up the food as you sip on their home brewed beer. We opted for the tasting menu which I would highly recommend but make sure you go hungry.
|Samantha and I eating our tasting of desserts at Machenyuda|
- Marzipan Bakery: Outside of the Machane Yehuda market is the Marizpan Bakery which is a must-do on everyone's Jerusalem list. They have all types of pastries but there rugelach is the type of dessert you will be dreaming about for weeks afterwards (hence why we bought a box of 18). Wait the 10 minutes for them to come out of the oven, it's worth it.
- Sea Dolphin: If you find yourself in Jerusalem on a Saturday, there may not be a ton of options given Shabbat. Sea Dolphin was one of the few cafes we found open that had fresh fish and delicious mezze.
|Rachel, Samantha and I at the Sea Dolphin|
- Kadosh Cafe: If you don't want to eat your breakfast in your hotel, this cafe is a perfect place for a beautiful spring morning. There's a Parisian feel with their outdoor seating and flakey croissants - also great iced coffee.
|Another great thing to do is come back to Machane Yehuda at night as it turns into a great spot for nightlife|
and all of the vendors doors are spray painted like this.