There’s little doubt that Jerusalem is one of the most interesting and unique cities on earth, with nowhere having more religious importance, historic richness, political significance, and demographic diversity, at least not all together. Jerusalem has hundreds of faces, and the typical tourist experience in the city is not one which presents to the visitor the small yet strong, gritty and unique secular life which exists in the city, partly thanks to the city’s 20,000 strong student community, – with arts, culture, and cuisine. Want to experience Jerusalem like an in-the-know local? Here are five top tips
1. Start with a Tour
One cannot ignore Jerusalem’s spirituality, history, and politics, and the best way to truly understand all this is to go on a tour. We have many great options. our Jerusalem Day Tour with a guide is a great choice. If you are already traveling as a group (three or more), a private Jerusalem tour can be a wonderful and intimate experience.
2. eat the Food
Food is a massive part of Middle Eastern Culture, and in Jerusalem, where the population is incredibly diverse, offers a glimpse into the cultures that have created the mixing pot which is the city today. A good start is to explore the Machane Yehuda Market, but even that, without expert knowledge, can be a little tricky. The Machane Yehuda Market Tour is the best way to get to know the local cuisine, while learning about the ingredients and spices used. You’ll have a chance to try new foods and even buy local herbs and spices to return home with. Looking to take your cooking skills to the next level while getting to know this culinary hub of Jerusalem? Join the Machane Yehuda Market Tour & Cooking Workshop.
3. Head out for the Night
Jerusalem’s nightlife is not anything to rival Tel Aviv in scale, however, the city has a small number of hardcore bars where secular locals and students totally contradict the global image of a traditional and conservative city. Bars such as the Sira (4 Ben Sira Street), an underground-ish bar with regular live music, or hip cafe-bar, Uganda, (4 Aristobulus Street) where indie comics line the walls, and Palestinian beer is sold in the fridge, are good places to begin. Alternatively, join the pub crawl every Wednesday night (70 NIS) and get a taste of the nightlife with a local guide.
4. Explore the Neighborhoods
Tourists in Jerusalem rarely venture beyond the Old City and the modern ‘City Center’, with some heading into the more exclusive (and very nice) areas such as Yemin Moshe and the German Colony. Yet cool Jerusalem doesn’t really reside there. In Rehavia, just adjacent to the City Center, you’ll find cool cafes and boutique shops which could be just a drop of Tel Aviv in Jerusalem, or in Nachlaot, just next to the Market, a previously religious neighborhood which is today becoming a popular spot for students. Walk in the streets and alleyways, drink a coffee in the neighborhood cafes, and begin to feel the insiders Jerusalem, the Jerusalem that locals know and love.
5. Ask the Locals
See a local who looks like they know about the things you’re interested in, don’t be afraid to ask them for recommendations. Jerusalem’s secular scene is small and connected. It’s also welcoming to tourists and outsiders, somehow Jerusalemites just love to prove the point that they can exist in a modern way in such a traditional place.