Jamie Webster, a member of the On the Beach team, recently visited Israel to learn more about the cities of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Find out more in our beginner’s guide to Jerusalem…
Jerusalem is full of surprises. Exhilarating yet spiritual. Ancient and contemporary. Orthodox whilst diverse.
After three amazing nights in Tel Aviv, we headed just ninety minutes inland to Jerusalem. Apart from brief glimpses through the car window our first real sight of Jerusalem was from high upon the Temple of Olives looking back across the city. It’s a jaw dropping panoramic. Laid out before you is thousands of years of history and some of the most significant religious sites in Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
Heading into the old city is a day I’ll never forget, strolling between the Western Wall (sacred to Judaism), the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (a Christian pilgrimage site) and the Dome of the Rock (a 7th-century Islamic shrine with a gold dome). All the while passing through the bustling alleys lined with cafes, fruit stalls and bazaars.
All the shop owners we encountered were friendly and to my surprise, I even managed to successfully barter for a few items. I quickly became rather accomplished at not appearing too keen or pretending not have the correct money. After one successful transaction the owner proudly showed us his treasure trove of a back room festooned with genuine antiquities – a real Aladdin’s cave.
Just a few steps out of the Old City brings you down into the Mamilla open-air shopping mall. The cool air drifting out of the upmarket shops is a welcome treat and if you prefer shopping among brands you recognise; this is the place for you.
Eating out in Machane Yehudah Market is great fun. We opted to pre-purchase an innovative ‘bite-card’ online. Collect your ‘bite-card’ from the little tobacco shop deep inside and your adventure begins. The card has six tear off vouchers attached and a map of the market on the back showing where you can exchange them for food and drinks. Follow your own path around this fascinating place whilst soaking up the atmosphere and enjoy delicious treats along the way.
The Arthur Hotel is perfectly located among the pedestrian heart of Jerusalem’s endless café’s, bars and restaurants. This charming, peaceful and traditional place is a welcome retreat from the busy city life outside. It’s situated just a short walk from the Old City and on the way you can even ‘tinkle the ivories’ of world’s first outdoor concrete piano on Yafo Street.
We recommend: Arthur Hotel
Jerusalem buzzes with life in the evening and it felt like the entire city was out in the many cafes, ice cream parlours, restaurants and bars. Work off your dinner with a stroll through the many colourful neon lit back streets.
My only regret when leaving Jerusalem was that we did not stay for longer. Two whole days was great but a further night in this vibrant city would have been even better. Still, we can always go back. It’s been there thousands of years after all!
Part one: Beginner’s guide to Tel Aviv