Jerusalem is a city of change, and growth, and opportunity, while retaining its heritage and culture for the wider world to see and experience. There were many aspects that were almost contradictory to other aspects that the city kept me on my toes: at one minute, I could be ensconced in religious history and in the next, learning new things and new beliefs as the city evolves.
You will have no problem finding a hotel in Jerusalem, it’s just that few will be cheap. The Brown Hotel Group is an up-and-coming boutique brand in Jerusalem that offers unique and boutique accommodations throughout the city. I chose the Villa Brown Moshava (https://brownhotels.com/moshava), a gorgeously converted villa in the German Colony of the city. I booked a Superior Room but was upgraded to a Superior Room with balcony which was the perfect way to begin my day with a Nespresso coffee, or to end the day with a cocktail at night.
If I only had one night in Jerusalem, you would find me Chakra Restaurant (http://www.chakra-rest.com/en/). Located close to the Old Town and the Mamilla neighborhood, this outstanding and gorgeous restaurant is not to be missed! Offering both outdoor dining, as well as indoor, the service was divine, the design hauntingly gorgeous, and the food seriously top notch! If you know me, you know I don’t like polenta or risotto – it’s a texture thing – but I had both at Chakra and have not stop raving about them and wishing I could return for more, that’s how wonderful they were. Oh, and the cocktails – deserved after a long day of exploring and hiking – were out of this world!
A very close second – and the reason why I would ensure that I never have just one night in Jerusalem – is The Eucalyptus (https://www.the-eucalyptus.com/), located in the artists colony just outside the Old Town walls near the Jaffa gate. Outdoor dining was must and the food sublime and well considered. What also endears me to this restaurant is that one, they offered to make just about anything vegetarian (including the fish falafels that they made as artichoke falafels!), but also that the chef came out and personally spoke to every table that evening, asking where everyone was from and thoughts on the food.
You cannot come to Jerusalem without exploring inside the Old Town walls: the Western Wall, the Dome of the Rock, and the various quarters and souks. But Jerusalem is more than that and was such a joy to experience.
But if you only want to do one tour while you are in Jerusalem, please make it the tunnel tour. I was skeptical to be honest, but to see the Western Wall from the inside, and below, and within is unlike anything you are likely to experience. And if you have a good guide, it will be even that much better.
For the adventurous, pay the overpriced fee to walk the rampart walls. Starting just inside the Jaffa gate, the walk along the top of the wall can take a couple of hours and offers stunning views down on the city and outside of the Old Town. There are no bathrooms up there, and if the sun is shining bright, there’s no respite, but I would still recommend it.
A food tour should definitely be on your agenda and the Machane Yehuda Market is not to be missed. The market is huge and can be insanely busy and crowded on Thursdays and Fridays before the Sabbath as well as Sundays, so a guide to help you orient yourself and understand where to go and what to seek out can be very helpful.
And lastly, and for the truly adventurous, a trip to Bethlehem in the West Bank is unlike anything you will ever have the chance to experience. I would only recommend doing a certified tour as the uprising between Israel and Palestine remains rather contentious, even if Bethlehem is largely overlooked in this regard: better to be safe and not sorry.
Bethlehem is only about 15km away from Jerusalem but the checkpoints in and out will be many, and you may be required to show your passport. But to see the Church of the Nativity and the birthplace of Christ, , as well as his manger, is literally a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. And as an added bonus, to see Banksy’s 2003 work “The Flower Thrower”, “Flower Bomber”, “Rage”, or “Love is in the Air” is incredible.