West Jerusalem, the area to the west of the Old City, where the new city has been built recently, is home to a number of interesting places including Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust Memorial. the Israel Museum, and the Knesset (Israeli parliament building.) More on the museums page.
Jerusalem’s newest trendy area is the Old Train Station Compound. On the city’s outskirts, this area has recently been transformed with a fashionable selection of restaurants, and bars, alongside a courtyard hosting cultural events. This is also fast becoming THE place to go for nightlife in Jerusalem.
Also worth a visit is Emek Refaim, Jerusalem’s Sheinkin Street, and it isn’t far off. With Templar Period buildings, housing chic boutiques, and trendy cafes, this is well worth a visit.
Undiscovered Jerusalem - City of Gold
Because Jerusalem is built over so many layers of civilization, the city has countless known, as well as yet-to-be-discovered tourist attractions literally at the front door of every resident of the capital.
The same could probably be said about the rest of Israel. But even forgetting about those antiquities which have thus far not been unearthed, most of us regularly walk or drive past places that are filled with historical or other interest without even realizing what they have to offer.
During the summer, Jerusalem’s Beit Avi Chai, working together with the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel, launched a series of inner-city walking tours that were held on Fridays, primarily for weekend visitors from other parts of the country, but also for locals driven by curiosity.
You can read the remainder of this article at Jerusalem Post. Apologies for the lack of images in this article – with these neighborhoods being so far of the tourist trail, and photographers trail for that – its proved hard to find anything – we’ll try and take some to illustrate it when we are nearby.
Emek Refaim Street and Jerusalem's German Colony
Emek Refaim Street is the heart of Jerusalem’s German Colony the city’s most fashionable neighborhood, just a few minutes from the heart of downtown modern and ancient Jerusalem.
The street represents a segment of Jerusalem culture and society – modern in nature within an ultimately historic and religious city, and is lined with restaurants, cafes, and boutique stores within the German Templar style buildings characterizing the area. A unique neighborhood in a unique city.
The German Colony, HaMoshava HaGermanit in Hebrew, was established in the second half of the 19th century by members of the German Temple Society. One of many colonies across the land of Israel, the Jerusalem neighborhood is characterized by mansions built in Ottoman, Bauhaus, and Templar styles and now often divided into expensive apartments.
Emek Refaim Street is probably the trendiest street in the whole of Jerusalem – an oasis of modern and almost Tel Aviv-esque culture among conservative Jerusalem. The street is lined with fashionable boutiques and cafes, and there is even a cinema in the back in one of the restaurants just off the street. The street regularly closes to traffic and hosts events, ranging from book fairs to markets.
The neighborhood and Emek Refaim are a great place to visit, to stroll through the streets, to stop in the cafes and have a coffee, and experience life here.
Machane Yehuda Market
The Machane Yehuda Market, or shuk, is the largest market in Jerusalem with over 250 vendors selling everything from fruit and vegetables to specialty foods, and clothing to Judaica. The market is the main ‘traditional’ marketplace of Jerusalem contrasting with the supermarkets that are found across this city, just as any other advanced city. Machane Yehuda is, however, an experience for a tourist of a traditional Middle Eastern style shuk, a fascinating array of sounds, sights, and smells.
The Machane Yehuda Market is set between Aggripas and Jaffa Streets, with two main aisles and then many further small walkways once inside. It is a maze and myriad of sights, sounds, and smells, an intense sensory experience and memorable life experience! Just a ten minute walk from the center of Jerusalem, the market is a fascinating place to stroll whether you are interested just in observing the magnificent sculpted displays of spices, mouthwatering array of foods, and stunning energy of the place, or if you want to get involved in real-market buying, negotiating and tasting!
The shuk is open every day apart from Shabbat, and is particularly busy on Thursdays and Friday mornings with shoppers preparing for the Sabbath. If you are particularly interested, it is possible to take a walking tour followed by a cookery class every week – read more about the Machane Yehuda Market tours.
Old City of Jerusalem
The Old City of Jerusalem is one of the most intense places on Earth! At the heart of the Jewish, Islamic, and Christian religions, this walled one kilometer area in the center of Jerusalem is beyond words and cannot be missed. The Old City is home to the Western Wall (aka Wailing Wall and in Hebrew Kotel). This is the last remaining wall of what was the Jewish Temple, and is today the holiest site in the world for Jews.
Above the Western Wall lies the Dome of the Rock important for Muslims as the site where the prophet Muhammad is said to have risen to heaven.
And, just a few minutes walk away, lies the Church of the Sepulcher, where some believe Jesus was crucified and buried.
One of the best ways to experience the Old City is with a tour. Consider joining the Half-Day Old City Tour or the Jerusalem Day Tour to get a fully guided experience.
The Old City of Jerusalem is divided into four quarters; The Jewish Quarter, The Armenian Quarter, The Christian Quarter, and The Muslim Quarter. The walled city is entered by one of seven entry gates, although the busiest for tourists is the Jaffa Gate next to which is the Tower of David Museum, providing the history of Jerusalem within the Old City Walls. Each quarter has its own unique atmosphere and observations, sites and smells, and experiences.
In the Jewish Quarter, for instance, the narrow alleyways are lined by the homes of Ultra-Orthodox (Haredi) Jewish families, and Yeshivas (schools for Torah study). Walking and observing the residents of the Jewish quarter rush about on their daily life, whether teenage students in the Yeshivas who are often here from around the world for extended periods of time, children as they walk with school between lessons, or the men, as they rush around between places of worship, and the Western Wall. The houses of the Old City, and the Jewish quarter in particular, are for good reason, hotly contested real estate, and command spectacular prices when they rarely trade hands.
The Jewish Quarter’s narrow alleyways open up as you reach the Western Wall Plaza and the wall itself. At times of Jewish festival the wall can be crowded, and observing the tourists brushing alongside daily prayers here is an interesting site. Anybody can go up to the wall, although men and women have separate areas, and men should cover their heads (there are paper kuppels available), and women wear modest clothing. It is customary to place a small prayer on a piece of paper within a crack on the wall. Amazingly the vast Western Wall represents just a tiny percentage of this elevation of the Temple, and the Western Wall Tunnels accessed via the plaza, allow visitors to see even more of the wall underground. Also interestingly, within the Muslim Quarter is whats known as the Little Western Wall where the wall is once again exposed and visible. This is argued to be holier than the iconic section of wall because it is closer to the ‘Holy of Holies’ – the holiest part of the Temple.
The Muslim Quarter is a huge contrast to the Jewish Quarter its streets are busier, more crowded, with vendors, especially within the famous Shuk selling all varieties of products. In contrast to the other quarters where shops are generally selling religious or tourist-appealing products, here the Shuk is literally an ancient shopping mall in the 21st century where one can practicing their bartering skills and buy almost anything imaginable. As in the Jewish Quarter, and the rest of the Old City, tourists wondering the streets of the Muslim Quarter find it hard to imagine how the locals go about their everyday business so normally in what is such an intense and looked upon place. Kids play in the street, and men sit out in cafes smoking nargila (hookah or shisha).
The Dome of the Rock sits above the Western Wall Plaza and whilst non-Muslims are not allowed to enter the building itself, tourists are able to tour the compound and nearby Al-Aqsa Mosque.
Moving into the Christian Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem, there is yet another change. Home to about 40 holy sites to Christians, in the streets here you will see priests and pilgrims from around the world. This quarter was constructed around the Church of the Holy Sepulchre where Jesus is said to have been crucified and buried. Within this hot patch of real estate, even the Church is divided, with different parts controlled by different Christian sects, meaning that there are often disputes over maintenance and some parts are in poor condition.
The smallest quarter of the Old City is the Armenian Quarter. This area is home to some 2,500 Armenians, an ancient community who have resided here for over 2,000 years.
For a great overview of the Old City, walk along the Ramparts Walk – along the walls of the Old City.
Yemin Moshe, Jerusalem
Yemin Moshe is a beautiful neighborhood of Jerusalem constructed of quaint stone buildings and built in the 1890’s by Moses Montefiore in response to overcrowding within the walls of the Old City. The first set of houses were known as Mishkenot Shaananim, which were the first Jewish properties to be built outside the Old City. The neighborhood was expanded dramatically, and its landmark, the Montefiore Windmill was built with the intention of being a source of income for the residents. Today, the neighborhoods quaint alleyways are a popular place to stroll and explore.
Mishkenot Sha'ananim or Mishkenot Shaananim was the first Jewish neighborhood to be built outside the Old City of Jerusalem. Built directly across from Mount Zion, above the Sultan’s Pool, Mishkenot consisted of two long buildings. The upper building was designed to be the commercial and community center – housing a hospital for the poor of the city in light of a cholera epidemic, as well as two synagogues, workshops and a bakery. The lower building contained 28 one-and-a-half room apartments. The neighborhood wasn’t especially popular as it was perceived to be dangerous, however, the impact it has had on future development of Jerusalem and the establishment of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital is unmeasurable.
Mishkenot Shaananim has been extensively renovated. Today, the upper building houses the Jerusalem Music Center, whilst the lower building is used to house guests of the Jerusalem Municipality.
Yemin Moshe is an extension of Mishkenot Shaananim also built by Moses Montefiore (and named for him). It contains properties larger than Mishkenot Shaananim but still fairly modest in nature. These beautiful stone buildings were home to 900 people by 1920, and its position directly across from the Old City’s Walls have made it iconic and historically important (it was a frontier during and after Israel’s War of Independence in 1948). Following Israel’s re-capture of Jerusalem in 1967, Yemin Moshe was extensively restored with the properties bought by artisans and private individuals dedicated to maintaining the neighborhood’s unique character.
The best way to explore Yemin Moshe is to stroll around the narrow cobbled streets – you cannot drive. It is just a short walk from the Old City as well as the main city center, and German Colony. Yemin Moshe is one of the most interesting places to visit in Jerusalem.
The Montefiore Windmill is the iconic landmark of Yemin Moshe. The original windmill was constructed by Montefiore with the intention of providing a source of income for residents of the neighborhood. In reality, this never came to fruition due to a lack of wind, however nonetheless this unique structure which is highly visible from around Jerusalem, is somewhat of a landmark.
Jewish Quarter, Jerusalem
The Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City is one of the four quarters of the walled city. The quarter is home to around 2,000 people and covers about 0.1 square kilometers. It is also the location of many tens of synagogues and yeshivas (places of the study of Jewish texts) and has been almost continually home to Jews since the century 8 BCE. Today, the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem is a fascinating place to explore with museums, synagogues, and of course, the Western Wall its main attractions. As well as these, however, just walking through the alleyways and watching the religious inhabitants go about their daily lives is just as fascinating.
The Western Wall
The Western Wall (in Hebrew the Kotel) is the number one attraction of the Jewish Quarter and probably the whole of the Old City of Jerusalem. The holiest site in Judaism, this iconic wall is actually the last remaining wall of the courtyard which surrounded Second Temple towards where Jews around the world face to pray. Dating from the Herodian period Jews from around the world come to the wall to pray. You don’t have to be Jewish to go up to the Western Wall – you just need to be dressed modestly and have your head covered if you’re a man (there are skullcaps available at the entrance). One traditional act which is undertaken at the Western Wall is placing a prayer written on a small note in a crack in the wall (in case you aren’t actually able to visit the Western Wall in person, there is a free service allowing you to send your prayers to Jerusalem).
The iconic image of the Western Wall with the large plaza in front is actually just a portion of the remnants of the wall – with much more continuing underground in the Western Wall tunnels (which can be visited by joining a tour) and the Small Western Wall which is above ground in the Muslim Quarter.
The Hurva Synagogue is one of the crown jewels of the Jewish Quarter in Jerusalem. Originally constructed in the 18th century, it was destroyed only a few years later, remaining an empty ruin for over 140 years (this was when it was given the name ‘Hurva’ which means ruin). It was re-built in 1864 and named officially the Beis Yaakov Synagogue (but informally still referred to as the Hurva) and became the main Ashkenazi synagogue for Jerusalem (Ashkenazim are Jews who descend from medieval communities in Central and Eastern Europe). The reconstructed Hurva Synagogue stood until 1948 when it was destroyed by the Arab Legion. Plans to reconstruct the Hurva Synagogue began when Israel re-gained control of the Jewish Quarter in 1967, however it wasn’t until 2000 when the construction began.
The new Hurva Synagogue was completed in 2010 and is a truly incredible gem of the Old City. It’s vast dome makes the synagogue totally unique and a truly impressive place to visit. Visiting the Hurva Synagogue must take place either as part of a tour, or by joining the group tour which leave throughout the day.
The Cardo in Jerusalem was the main thoroughfare of the city from Roman times. Starting at the Damascus Gate (in the Muslim Quarter) and running right across the city to the Zion Gate (in the Jewish Quarter). The section of Cardo in the Jewish Quarter actually dates from Byzantine times and has been beautifully excavated and restored, with the original shops now functioning as gift shops and cafes. It is a fascinating place to stroll.
The Herodian Quarter – Wohl Museum of Archaeology
The Herodian Quarter – The Wohl Museum of Archeology is a fascinating underground museum in which visitors descend to the street level of the Herodian era. The museum features a six-house compound which would have been occupied by aristocratic families and families of Temple Priests (Cohenim). Set on the slope of the hill which descends to the Temple Mount all of these homes would have featured uninterrupted views across to the Temple, and from underneath the current street level of the Old City, you can get a great idea of what life might have been like in the era of the Second Temple in Jerusalem.
The Burnt House
The Burnt House is an interesting exhibition which is also set beneath the streets of Jerusalem, in the basement of the home of the Katros family who lived here 2,000 years ago. The home tells the story of the burning of Jerusalem by the Romans in the first century, and an interesting audio-visual show brings the story to life for visitors. It provides another interesting insight into what life in Jerusalem was like 2,000 years ago.
Nachlaot is one of Jerusalem’s most interesting areas. A cluster of neighborhoods in the center of the city, Nachlaot is characterized by its narrow, windy lanes, quaint, stone houses, and pretty, hidden-away courtyards, and was originally built in the 1870’s by Jews looking to escape the increasingly crowded and noisy Old City. In recent years, Nachlaot has grown to become one of Jerusalem’s most popular neighborhoods having been hugely gentrified over the past thirty or so years, and taking an hour or two to stroll through the streets, you can understand why.
Ein Kerem is a beautiful tranquil village and neighborhood in the west of Jerusalem. Surrounded by beautiful natural groves and the breathtaking landscape provided by the Jerusalem Hills, Ein Kerem is worlds away from the bustling center of Jerusalem which is just minutes away. The pretty houses made of local Jerusalem limestone, cobbled narrow streets, sit in the shadow of pretty churches whose bells sound down the streets. An important site for Christians as the birthplace of John the Baptist, Ein Kerem is incredibly popular with Israelis seeking to escape the city.
Many tourists choose to take a guided walking tour around Ein Kerem, although it is just as possible to do it yourself. The center of the village and location where all the walking tours begin is at the well. The breathtaking beauty, the elegant simplicity and the charm of this place are especially touching. There is grace in every fence, wall and path, and you can wander through the alleyways for hours, enjoying every moment. Modern developments have not yet reached this scenic neighborhood, and it remains a pastoral village, cut off from the bustle of the city.
Ein Kerem is a pilgrimage site for many Christian visitors, as the village is believed to be the place where Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist, miraculously became pregnant and gave birth. Tradition teaches that during her pregnancy, Elizabeth was visited by a family relative – Mary, who was also pregnant, with Jesus and for this reason the village well is now called Mary’s Well. The village around the well grew and its waters are considered holy. Many pilgrims come to drink from the well and take the holy water away with them in bottles. Today Ein Kerem has a number of active churches and monasteries.
Ein Kerem is an important gem in Israel’s tourism crown, and will capture the heart of any visitor. There are many fine restaurants for connoisseurs and quaint guest rooms offering relaxing hospitality in authentic surroundings. Artists inspired by Ein Kerem’s beauty have settled here to paint and display their works to the public. Ein Kerem is truly a place worth visiting, with many charming treasures to enjoy.
Musrara is a small neighborhood bordered by the Russian Compound, Meah Shearim and the Old City. You can come in by taking the light rail to Damascus Gate and crossing the large highway to Haneviim Street, and then turning left into Haayin Het, or by walking up Heleni Hamalka (off Jaffa Street), all the way uphill and then downhill. It is sometimes marked on city maps as ‘Morasha’.
Musrara is a unique neighborhood in Jerusalem, a fascinating microcosm of the city’s history and its various population groups. Walking through the streets, you’ll notice that every house is built differently, and houses have been joined, expanded, cut up and renewed throughout the years of its turbulent history. The municipality has tried to change the name of the neighborhood to Morasha, and you’ll see this name on official maps, but Jerusalem residents proudly continue to use its old name.
Musrara was built at the end of the nineteenth century, as an Arab aristocratic neighborhood outside the walls of the Old City. During the fighting in 1948, it was the site of many battles, and the ceasefire line was eventually drawn through the middle of the neighborhood. The side closest to Damascus Gate became Jordan, and the northern side was part of Israel (you can really feel this today as you cross the big highway which used to be no-man’s land). In the 1950s, the neighborhood was populated with immigrants from North African countries, especially Morocco and Iraq. Because of it’s proximity to the border, it was considered a dangerous neighborhood (you can still see bullet holes in some of the houses), and it become a kind of slum. In the 1970s, a protest movement called the Israeli Black Panthers formed in this neighborhood, and swept across the country. Recently, the neighborhood has experienced a revival, and is now considered one of the coolest parts of the city to live in.
In recent years, a number of artists have moved to the neighborhood, and three art schools have opened up: a religious film school called Maaleh; Musrara, an edgy photography, animation and sound school; and the School for Oriental Music, which occasionally has open concerts in the evenings, and is lovely to walk past as the musicians practice during the day. These last two are both on Ayin Het street, and there is another gallery next to them. An artists’ collective called Muslala has sprung up, and they engage in artwork in the public domain, involving longtime local residents and social activists from East and West Jerusalem.
There are a few tours of the neighborhood, including a Hummus and Art free tour (tip-based) every Saturday, and occasional Black Panthers history tours. You can also wander around alone, taking in the beautiful area by yourself.