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The top five views of Jerusalem's Old City

by michael October 24 2015
Best of Jerusalem
Jerusalem from Mount Scopus
Jerusalem of gold, and of copper and of light

The rabbis of the Talmud wrote it, and every guidebook and tour operator repeats it: "Ten measures of beauty descended on the world; nine were taken by Jerusalem." Trite, perhaps. Immodest, certainly. Untrue? Well... not really. No matter what ill-advised (or painfully ironic) contemporary architectural claptrap the government flings skyward, the modest beauty of the olive-studded, elaborately terraced Judean mountains and the quiet grandeur of the ruins of glorious pasts remain unsullied. But even those aforementioned guidebooks and tour operators might not tell you where to go for the city's most spectacular vistas. That's what we're for. So get ready for Jerusalemite's definitive list of the best views of Jerusalem's Old City:

Haas PromenadeHaas Promenade
This is a vantage point so well-known that every person (or at least every cabbie and tour guide) in Jerusalem refers to it simply as "HaTayelet" ("The Promenade"). This is where every first-time visitor - from synagogue tour groups saying Shehecheyanu (the blessing over meriting to have achived benchmark experiences) to prayerful Christian Zionists and peace activists - comes to get a sense of Jerusalem in all her grandeur. The heart of the view is the distant glimmer of the Dome of the Rock and the entirety of the Old City's walls, but there's not much you can't see from the Haas Promenade. The sections of the Haas Promenade park that are highest in altitude and closest to the road and parking lot can sometimes bustle with tourists and families out on scenic constitutionals, so if you're looking for an opportunity for quiet contemplation, you might want to venture down into the terraced and beautifully landscaped lower sections (although this is not necessarily advisable after dark).

Mount Scopus TayeletMt. Scopus Promenade
This is Jerusalem's other major tayelet, and a much quieter one than the Haas. The lookout point hugs the ridge of the upper slopes on Mount Scopus, directly below the Hebrew University campus at its peak, leading ultimately to the Arab neighborhood of A-Tur atop the Mount of Olives. Fittingly, the promenade offers an Old City view similar to that of its more crowded competition, but from the opposite direction. This is the view that gave Mount Scopus (Har HaTzofim, "Lookouts' Mountain") its name; from here, the legions of Titus camped and planned their siege of Jerusalem during the Great Jewish Revolt in 70 CE. When you visit, try to avoid similar plans.

Austrian HospiceThe Austrian Hospice
It's all about the advantage of height with this Jerusalem view. While the Old City is the star of many a vantage point, the Austrian Hospice offers the best view of the most ancient section of Jerusalem from within. Perched high above the bustle, you can peer down into the winding alleys of the Christian and Muslim Quarters, and take in everything from the countless steeples and minarets to the not-so-distant Dome of the Rock. And when you're done, pop inside the cafe downstairs for some serious dessert options.



Mount of OlivesMount of Olives
None other than Jesus himself famously scoped out Jerusalem from atop the headstone-strewn Mount of Olives, so there's plenty of historical precedent for Jerusalemites enjoying the view. Take the steep hike up to the top of the world's oldest and most densely-populated Jewish cemetery and behold an incredible panorama stretching from desert to Gehinnom to the Temple Mount to Mount Scopus. And try to ignore the pushy guys selling postcards and camel rides.



The Old City Wall's RampartsThe Ramparts Walk
What better method could there be to finding the best Old City vistas than circling its perimeter at roof-level? At the paltry entrance fee of 14 NIS for adults and 7 NIS for children, the Ramparts Walk allows adventurous visitors to explore the Old City's various highlights, including the Arab market, the Lion's Gate plaza, the Church of the Dormition and residential clusters of the Armenian and Muslim Quarters. The ramparts allowed 16th-century Ottoman defenders of the city to peek out behind various specially designed nooks and counter-attack Jerusalem conquerer wannabes, so role playing fun for the entire family is also afoot here.

And that isn't all, of course. Honorable mentions go to the Kollek-initiated terraced sidewalks of Yemin Moshe; to anywhere in Ein Kerem for the unparalled Jerusalem hills vistas; to the Goldman Promenade at Armon HaNetziv; and to the roof of the Harry S. Truman building on Hebrew University's Mount Scopus campus for a stunning panorama of Old City, new city and vacant desert (see if a Hebrew U friend will take you). 

Photo of Jerusalem at sunset from Mount Scopus courtesy of mockstar from Flickr under a Creative Commons License; photo from the Haas Promenade courtesy of moomoobloo from Flickr under a Creative Commons License; photo from the Mount Scopus Promenade courtesy of MiKix by Mirella from Flickr under a Creative Commons License; photo from the Austrian Hospice's roof courtesy of delayed gratification from Flickr under a Creative Commons License; photo from the Mount of Olives courtesy of Ladyhawke from Flickr under a Creative Commons License; photo of the Ramparts by Ben Jacobson for Jerusalemite.

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Jerusalem art: it's eeeeeeeeevil

by michael May 09 2014
ArtBridge of StringsCity planning

Hey, remember that "concerned Jerusalem citizens' group" Lemallah (population: one dedicated hombre) that, well, according to itself, stopped the construction of a philanthropist-funded aesthetics-defying eyesore of a public sculpture over Zion Square downtown?

Of course you do.

Well, it turns out that in the wake of that stunning victory against the forces that may or may not be, that "concerned Jerusalem citizens' group" has kept up the fight for a purer, better Jerusalem the only way it (he) knows how: by continuing to hit the pipe really, really hard.

You see, Lemallah-guy, intoxicated with power and powder, has determined that many of the public art installations across the city are the sinister works of Jew-hating Freemasons with a secret and evil agenda.

No, really, everyone in the city government is a Freemason (possibly also an Illuminatus, with a smattering of Knights Templar):

The best is the abstract sculpture deemed "an anal cavity for your child to play in." Clearly he has it confused with the Rav Chen "movie theater." Other amusing conclusions call out Zion Square's hidden Satanic design and the uncircumcised phallus-head of the horse in Horse Park (actually, he sort of has a glans point about that).

Click here to read more and see our photo illustrations of Lemallah's arguments.

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Formula One race cars tear through Jerusalem streets

by ben June 20 2013
SportsMunicipal newsThings to do


Jerusalem dwellers were treated to a taste of F1 auto racing when drivers and vehicles from the Ferrari and Marussia teams put on an invigorating motorsport showcase this past Thursday and Friday on a 2.8-kilometer route that traversed the Old Train Station fairgrounds, the Old City Walls and King David Street.

Team Ferrari's three-time Grand Prix champ Giancarlo Fisichella zoomed past rows of bleachers set up around the Mamilla neighborhood at 240 kilometers per hour, and the crowd, hailing from all walks of life, went wild. Some 160,000 people are said to have checked out the action in person over the course of these two days. In addition to Fisichella, Marussia driver Rodolfo Gonzalez and 2012 World Superbike victor Massimiliano "the Roman Emperor" Biaggi also participated. Massimiliano's freestyle motorcycle stunt routene provided major thrills.

"It’s great to have the chance to drive a Formula One car on the streets of a city that is as fascinating and full of history as Jerusalem,” said Fisichella at the Formula One Jerusalem Peace Road Show's press conference launch event.

Driving for sport is in its infancy in Israel, having only become legal as of 2011. An estimated 100 Israelis are licensed to drive in this context.

The Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA), Formula One's governing body, has been aggressively expanding its reach to new territories in recent decades. While many locales are now enjoying new additions to the Grand Prix competitoon circuit, showcases like the one in Jerusalem are rare, as non-Grand Prix FIA events usually take the form of demonstration rallies in closed spaces.

Photo of a 2009 Ferarri Formula 1 automobile outside the Jaffa Gate courtesy of The Israel Project from Flickr under a Creative Commons license.

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Jerusalem gets free science lessons in pajamas

by ben March 17 2013
NewsCity planningPop cultureThings to doThis week in Jerusalem

Under the framework of the "Science to the People" initiative (official website in Hebrew only), a Ministry of Science, Technology and Space-managed series of fun events targeting everyday Israelis for National Science Day, plebes were recently invited to storm the ivory tower.

Last week's edu-tainment included a talk on science and art over coffee and cake at the Israel Museum, a Hebrew University campus pub presentation on economics, and a series of home lectures called "Professors in Slippers," which saw thought leaders giving over their musings on tactonic plate moments, the emotional experience, public transport and pension scheme sustainability.

And it was all for free. Check it out.

Video by Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

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The top five underground performance spaces in Jerusalem

by michael February 12 2013
Best of JerusalemArtMusicThings to do
Uganda in Jerusalem
You'd never recognize Weird Al since the haircut

Much is made of the youth exodus plaguing Jerusalem, a cascade of bright young people squeezed out every year by skyrocketing rents, poor municipal management and sometime intolerance by more conservative sectors of the population, but were a Jerusalem visitor to situate themselves in the slice of downtown between the HaNeviim Street and Hillel Street, they would find a youth culture more culturally vibrant, artistically engaged and politically aware than any in a city three times the size of Jerusalem. What Jerusalem's underground community lacks in numbers, it makes up for in enthusiasm and the sort of civic pride peculiar to groups who buck the dominant culture. The pierced, tattooed Anarchist Against the Wall radical, the heretically-inclined but still devoutly faithful ultra-Orthodox Jew, the Russian-born lady electro DJ and the Palestinian drag queen may not fit the stereotype of a Jerusalem resident, but the city is theirs too - and they would be the first to tell you so.

So where can you meet the ambassadors of the Other Jerusalem? Let Jerusalemite show you the way with our list of the top five underground performance spaces in Jerusalem.

The British government once floated the idea of establishing the Jewish state in Uganda rather than politically volatile Ottoman Palestine. It came to naught, but a century or so later Uganda established itself in the Jewish state...or at least a hip cafe/bar/record store/comics shop called Uganda did. Located on a downtown side street near the fortress-like headquarters of the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel and the shuttered Russian Compound, Uganda is ground zero for Jerusalem's young, secular and radical crowd, a cozy space where disaffected local youth and earnest foreign activists alike can gather to discuss art and politics, flip through local zines and comics, sample and purchase the latest in European underground electronica and hear Jerusalem's best indie DJs, all while nursing a bottle of Taybeh (the Palestinian beer). Performances by both DJs and bands take place almost nightly, although you'll have to make your entertainment choices carefully, because come nightfall the urban secular demographic is split by...

...Jerusalem's other underground watering hole and incubator for local avant-garde and independent talent. Sira is the successor to D1, AKA Diwan, a bar in the same extremely dark, somewhat grotty and most decidedly seedy nook off of Ben Sira Street. D1 in its heyday served as the de facto headquarters of young Jerusalemites dissatisfied with the status quo, whether Jewish, Arab or otherwise, and huge crowds gathered nightly to share pints, shots of whiskey and not-so-well-concealed hashish joints while dancing to (or aloofly appreciating) local bands and DJs - some of whom (like Hadag Nachash's Shaanan Street, former D1 bartender) went on to big things. Sira continues that noble tradition to the letter. From punk to reggae to electronica to hip-hop, local talent lights up the tiny floor every night, and you never know if the guy rapping might turn out to be the next Rebel Sun (another Sira success). Hunting down the performance schedule might take some work, though: Sira is so thoroughly underground that their schedule is distributed solely in postcard form. But the club will have to scramble a little harder for fresh DJ talent due to...

...the newest arrival on the underground local music scene, a nightclub devoted to the cult of the DJ. Affiliated with heavy-hitting local turntablists like Pacotek, DJ Dina, Markey Funk and Walter Einstein Frog, Bass, as its name might imply, throbs nightly with the sub-tonal thumps of electro, house, breakbeats, electronica, hip-hop, dancehall, reggae and other things that go bump in the night. A weekly dancehall and roots reggae show is a godsend (Jahsend?) for lovers of reggae in Zion, and Bass is your best bet for catching big-name local and foreign DJs spinning their booty-shaking (or hyper-minimalist) best.


Things are a little less aggressively trendy over at HaTaklit ("The Record"), a tribute to the beloved vinyl record in bar/performance space form. While nostalgia for the record may not be entirely justified, seeing as the performers and clientele of places like HaTaklit have kept the medium alive and spinning, any excuse to open a bar with plenty of beer on tap, English footie on the TV screens, record sleeves on the walls and independent performers from at home and abroad on the stage is good enough. And best of all, HaTaklit is a labor of love, founded by three local boys working in various sectors of the music industry who wanted a place where they could show off their collections and hire all their friends and favorite bands. Awwwww.

The Beit Avi Chai organization, a private foundation dedicated to fostering Jewish culture in Israel, may have a bit too much money for true indie cred, but they don't screw around when it comes to their underground music venue, Chet-7: the only underground space in Jerusalem that is literally underground (in Beit Avi Chai's parking garage, to be precise). Chet-7 scored big by getting Yerushalmi golden boy Shaanan Street of Hadag Nachash to serve as consulting curator, helping to choose promising artists (both up-and-coming and well-established) and organize shows. Chet-7 is most notable for its Saturday night concerts, affordable and intimate performances by some of Israeli music's biggest non-pop names aimed solely at the hometown crowd.

Lots of underground artists also appear at the Yellow Submarine, but as a Municipality-funded affair, its cred is suspect - even if its music, which encompasses otherwise overlooked underground musical forms like jazz, is excellent. And of course, no mention of underground venues would be complete without the late, lamented Daila, a one-time Shlomtzion landmark that served as salon, gallery and cafe for Jerusalem's proud radicals, artists, poets and weirdoes. Jerusalemite pours out this Taybeh in its memory. 

Photo of accordion antics and thumbnail photo of musicians at Uganda courtesy of ak-duck; photo of a DJ rocking Sira courtesy of dovi under a Creative Commons license; Bass photo courtesy of Bass; photo of Beit Avi Chai by Harry Rubenstein for Jerusalemite.

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Jerusalem of tunnels

by ben July 26 2011
Municipal newsCity planning

shemer tunnel jerusalemite july11.jpg

You can get there from here

This Thursday morning, the Moriah construction concern and the Jerusalem city government are scheduled to collectively host a ceremony to mark the official naming of the Mount Scopus tunnel after Israel's "first lady of song," Naomi Shemer.

Shemer, who lived from the pre-state age through the age of post-Zionism's rise (1930 to 2004), penned classic Israeli songbook anthems like "Lu Yehi" and "Al Kol Eleh."

In 1966, as the regional tensions prior to the Six Day War began to reach a fever pitch, Jerusalem Mayor Teddy Kollek personally pleaded Shemer to write an ode to the Holy City. The result, "Jerusalem of Gold," is arguably the most beloved of all Israeli folk songs.

Ultimately, "Jerusalem of Gold" is far more than a staggering piece of songwriting. It's also inspiration for horrible headline punnery ("Jerusalem of tunnels?" Oy. Remember the wince-inducing "Jerusalem of celluloid," "Jerusalem of prose," or "Jerusalem of green"?), as well as being maybe - just maybe - evidence of urban planning prophecy.

Reflecting on the Israelites' (temporary, in retrospect) longing for a reunited Jerusalem, the song even includes this couplet, which, rhyming in Hebrew, addresses the travel inefficiency disadvantages of Jordanian control over eastern Judea:

And in the tunnels in the mountain
Winds are howling
And no one descends to the Dead Sea
By way of Jericho

A few months after the song was written, among a few other changes that took place, it became possible for Shemer and friends to visit the Dead Sea via the Jerusalem-Jericho route. And in recent years, this road has become even faster, thanks to its circumventing of Jericho altogether, the addition of lanes and the digging of a tunnel which allows travelers to bypass the congestion atop Mount Scopus on the way out of town.

Ignoring the arguments of those who tend to read too much into symbolism, if there were ever a tunnel more deserving of Shemer's name, Jerusalemite defies readers to name it. There sure are loads of other options (like this one, or this one), but this tunnel has her name all over it.

Photo courtesy of the Jerusalem Municipality.

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Streetballin' in Jerusalem

by michael June 30 2011
Municipal newsSportsThings to do
Safra Square: better for basketball than government

Basketball. Long ago in the game's early days, before everyone realized they were not on the whole a very tall people, Jews were major players, significantly overrepresented on the court. And while the era of Jewish sports mastery has since passed, the Jewish state honors the Jewish heritage of basketball by reserving the sport second place in Israeli athletic affections (after soccer, of course). Maccabi Tel Aviv may be populated by nearly as many NBA castoffs as born Israelis, but they're our NBA castoffs, and we love them even if they sometimes embarrass us by losing to the Europeans.

Fortunately for basketball lovers in Israel, soon you'll have something to do other than read about which Americans and Brazilians are becoming Israelis under the Basketball Law of Return (The Law of Rebound?) - because it's time for the annual Jerusalem Streetball tournament. The tournament, which divides Safra Square into 16 basketball courts, is probably Israel's largest sports event open to any player, with teams divided by age. Public figures are getting in on the fun too, including players from the professional Israeli basketball leagues and Knesset ministers. Can those dour boys from Shas ball? Maybe you'll find out (or maybe not).

Other activities on tap include dunking contests, 3-point shootouts and showy performances by the Israel contingent of the And1 Streetball organization. Registration has already begun, so do not miss this once-a-year chance to shoot hoops with Israeli basketball's finest. You can register online at the Municipality's website, or in person at Safra Square. The tournament itself runs from 12 to 14 July.

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Traffic in Rechavia possibly headed underground

by michael May 01 2011
City planningMunicipal news


Jerusalem - even modern Jerusalem - is an old city.  Many neighborhoods date back to the horse-and-buggy era, and the street layout is, to put it gently, more "organic" than "thought-out." All of this conspires to create quite the crush of traffic in Jerusalem's more venerable neighborhoods, and with no space to build more roads (all those priceless vintage houses in the way), it seems an intractable problem.

Unless, of course, as Ha'aretz notes, you build a tunnel.

Getting from Sacher Park to Independence Park in Jerusalem today requires a slow crawl through the crowded arteries of the upscale Rehavia neighborhood. A new municipal plan, which includes a tunnel connecting the two parks, could spell an end to the heavy traffic flowing through the neighborhood's Rambam [sic] Street, which connects the city center to the government quarter and the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv highway.

The traffic in what was once a quiet garden quarter is disturbing the residents and some claim it has impeded Rehavia's development. The new plan, long in preparation by architect Nahum Meltzer, was filed yesterday at the municipality so the public can register objections or comments.

After the public comment period, the plan will be hashed over by city hall and assuming passage, will become an binding document for the next decades. The plan does not detail the tunnel but only offers it as one option to alleviate Rehavia's traffic troubles.

That's such a good idea, it's a wonder nobody seems to have thought about it before (well, except for that one under Jaffa Gate, pictured above, which has actually worked wonderfully). It's an exciting time for Jerusalem urban planning these days, what with the Bridge of Strings' walking path, the much-needed initiative for better cinemas in town, and an ambitious plan to better integrate Jerusalem's government infrastructure with the rest of the city. Now, if they could just do something about that light rail....

Photo of Jaffa Gate tunnel courtesy of EagleXDV from Flickr under a Creative Commons license.

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Beating the summer heat

by michael July 23 2010
WeatherFoodThings to do
Hot weather
It's brutal out there - just ask this dude

It's almost August in Jerusalem. This can mean any number of things - watermelon season is in full swing at the shuk, the Beer Festival is coming to town - but for many of us in Jerusalem, one thing will be most noticeable: It is really, really hot. Sure, the relative height of the Judean Hills and the occasional mountain breeze means that during the hot months Jerusalem residents suffer less than their compatriots in the Levantine bayou that is summertime Tel Aviv - but when it's 90 degrees and there hasn't been a cloud in the sky since March and the desert sun is glaring fiercely off the glowing white Jerusalem stone, the difference can seem at times to be mostly academic.

Jerusalemite doesn't want you to melt out there. Jerusalemite wants you to have only good feelings about Jerusalem - not a parched mouth, sunstroke and an unnecessary intimacy with local medical care. So here's some information about keeping yourself in the cool and out of the Hadassah emergency room.

  • If your skin is any lighter than the fuul on your hummus (not a scientific gauge), and you're going to be outside for awhile, put on some sunscreen. If your skin turns to bacon, you may run into trouble with some locals who have issues with that particular meat.
  • Wear a hat. Hats are spiffy, and they keep your head from sucking in an undue amount of sun.
  • Keep hydrated. This is damned important. It's easy to forget just how quickly the baking sun of the Middle East can deplete your body's vital water supply. Always carry a big 1.5 liter bottle of water (only 6 NIS usually) for everyone in your party if you're going to be walking around outside for any significant length of time.
  • Many stores, restaurants and hotels are air-conditioned. Take advantage of this fact. Step inside. Have a smoothie. Cool down. Take life slow. For what should you hurry?
  • If you're staying in an apartment without air conditioning (yes, these still exist), keep these key Hebrew words in mind: kivunei avir. It means "directions of air [flow]," and refers to a central concept in better Jerusalem construction. Unlike apartments in cooler countries which limit their windows to one wall and heat up like a pizza oven during summer, Israeli apartments almost always have windows on at least two sides to facilitate air flow and exchange. Open these windows. Put a fan in front of one. Feel sweet relief.
  • Eat an ice cream cone. You are in Jerusalem, and you deserve it.

Stay cool out there, peoples.

Image courtesy of noneck from Flickr under a Creative Commons license.

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Matza hits the big time for Jerusalem

by ben March 25 2010
HolidaysFoodMunicipal newsNewsReligionThings to do


With just four days to go until the big holiday, Passover fever is sweeping Jerusalem, hard-core.

Preparations are underway for an extremely festive week, when Jerusalemites will be celebrating the Exodus in style, complete with loads of cultural offerings, an arts-and-crafts street fair, and even a festival showcasing the city's most impressive English-language performance ensembles.

But first, we need to burn our chametz and bake our matza (click through to check out awesome videos).

Speaking of baking matza, pictured above is the honorable Mayor Nir Barkat, posing with a world record-setting largest piece of matza ever. The oversized cracker measures over 3 meters in diameter and weighs in at 60 kilo. It was made by a team of 40 people, two of whom wore rappelling gear to be able to reach the edges while hanging from above. Try hiding that afikoman.

The matza went on display at Safra Square today, as part of a pre-holiday "toast" (nyuk) for City Hall's employees. Barkat is posing with Aryeh Goldberg, one of the owners of the Irenstein Matza factory, which spearheaded the baking, and Racheli Ivenboim, the CEO of the Meir Panim NGO, whose headquarters plans on displaying the matza to the general public through the end of the holiday.

Of course, this is hardly the first world record set in Jerusalem. In recent months, we've witnessed the unfurling of the world's largest flag, the grilling of the world's largest serving of meurav Yerushalmi, and the whipping of the world's largest plate of hummus. The jury is still out, though, on which of the four world record-breaking events is least nightmare-inducing.

Happy Passover, lovers of Jerusalem, from the Jerusalemite team.

Photo courtesy of Yossi Mor for the Municipality of Jerusalem.

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