Looking to book a minibreak with a difference for 2019? Well look no further! Set to be one of the hottest up-and-coming tourist destinations on this year’s radar is Jerusalem, which boasts an incredibly rich 4000-year history paired with a modern way of life from its food scene to its nightlife. Jerusalem is an intriguing mix of old and new – and at around five hours flying time from the UK, it’s perfect for a long weekend away. When HELLO! Online was invited out to the city to experience all it has to offer, we didn’t hesitate in saying yes…
Raring to go? Good! We’d highly recommend booking onto a Ramparts Walk - a bit of a hidden gem in terms of tourist activities, but well worth seeking out. From high above the walled city you’ll get a sense of the beauty, history and layout of the Old City as a whole – not to mention plenty of Instagram opportunities, all for £3 per adult. Total bargain. If you’re more of a thrill-seeker then book onto a Segway tour of Jerusalem instead, and whizz past sites - including the famous Old City ramparts – from the comfort of your own two-wheeled ‘vehicle’. So much fun! zu-zu.co.il/index-en.html
For any newbies to the city, handily, there are information trucks dotted here and there where you can connect to WiFi (it will automatically direct you to the homepage of the specific area you’re in) while you have a beer or an ice cream. Meanwhile, chat to the staff who are armed with plenty of leaflets in different languages and all the tourist information you could shake a stick at. Jerusalem is often in the news for all the wrong reasons – but its keen to shake that off, show its open to visitors, and welcome them with open arms. These trucks are proof of that, and offer a wealth of info on your chosen minibreak destination, too. So keep your eyes peeled!
You probably passed it on your Segway trip without a second glance, but it’s well worth revisiting - but this time stepping inside King David’s Hotel, the most internationally renowned hotel in the city and a rarity in Jerusalem in that it has an outdoor pool and gardens.
The Duke of Cambridge visited last year, and there’s Hollywood Walk of Fame-style floor plaques bearing the signatures of some of the celebrity and royal guests including Catherine Zeta Jones and Michael Douglas in the lobby – as well as the ‘Table of Peace’ on which the peace accord with Jordan was signed in 1994. While away a lazy lunch on the outdoor terrace, rounded off with delicious, thirst-quenching fruit platters and peppermint tea.
For dinner grab some street food en route to the Tower of David Night Spectacular Sound & Light Show. You can’t go far wrong with a pitta – this is the one I bought, loaded with chicken, red cabbage and hummus. Yum.
Spectacular is the key word to describe the show. For best effect see if you can grab a seat on the upper level, then soak up the ambiance as images projected onto the walls of the Citadel’s courtyard remains, accompanied by spine-tingling orchestral music, conjure up the stories of the Roman conquest, Muhammad, the Crusades and more. You’ll get a moving and very real sense of the staggering 4000-year history of Jerusalem to round off your first day in the city. https://www.tod.org.il/en/the-night-spectacular/. Adult admission : £12/ Children Admission £9
You’re going to spend this morning on a guided tour of the bustling Mahane Yehuda Market before heading to a Tali Friedman Cooking Class to learn how to prepare the healthy, fresh and colourful food from the market that embodies the beating heart of Jerusalem. The city has been through major changes in the past five years and nowhere is that more apparent than here – a melting pot of cultures working side by side and in harmony, epitomising peaceful coexistence.
On the shopping side of things this place is great – not only because of the amazing wares on sale (spices! Fruits!) but because every single stall accepts debit and credit cards, meaning there’s no faffing about with shekels. We stocked up on caramelised coconut (highly recommend, we brought three boxes back to the UK with us), dried mango and dates. We also took part in a cheese and wine tasting session and saw how tahina is made from sesame seeds imported from Ethiopia and ground with stones in the traditional way. Fascinating.
Next stop the cookery class, which is fun, informative and engaging – helped along by the music and the occasional shot of Arak (like Ouzo, but different…). We were each given a course to concentrate on and, as someone with a definite sweet tooth, I lucked out in preparing the dessert; caramelised apple fingers in filo pastry. Ta da! This was how it turned out…
Other members of the group made roasted aubergine with seasbass ceciche, shallots, chopped chilli and mango, we had an amazing meat course… naturally, when it’s all been whipped up, the staff clear the table and then serve up the meal you’ve just prepared. A wonderful experience. Visit http://haatelie.com/en/
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Take it easy this afternoon. There’s a thriving beer brewing scene in Israel so make the most of it with a beer tasting session. Sit on wooden stools clustered together on the pavement outside Biratenu – dubbed a paradise for beer lovers - as you sample drinks from Tel Aviv, Eliat and Jerusalem itself; the beer brewed here comes with a black, white and pink label and it’s called Herzl Beer…
Give it a whirl! Craft beers arrived in the country 13 years ago and although Jerusalem is wine country, it’s cottoned onto this trend – and if it’s your scene, this is the place for you. You may now need a nap back at the hotel before dinner… To book an activity in Biratenu you need to email as their website is in Hebrew. firstname.lastname@example.org
(Photo: David Delgado)
You can’t still be hungry after all that delicious food and drink! But if you are, head to Notre Dame Cheese and Wine Restaurant, which boasts one of the best selections of imported cheese and wine in the city. The best thing about this place, housed in a converted church flanked by towering palm trees, is that the delicious food comes with a side helping of some of the best views in the city. It gets busy, so book ahead if you can. notredamecenter.org/
Although there are plenty of modern offerings in Jerusalem, it would be unthinkable to come here without exploring the Old City and some of the most sacred and majestic sights on Earth. It’s impossible to cover all bases in a day; to mention just a few of the awe-inspiring places here there’s the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, built on the spot where Jesus is believed to have been crucified, the Western Wall – one of the most holy sites in the Jewish faith – and Temple Mount, the third holiest site for Muslims.
To make the most of your time, and to make sure you check off the most noteworthy points of interest in each of the quarters of the Old City – Armenian, Christian, Jewish and Muslim - book a guide. The history is mind-blowing. And if you’re keen for more, and you have time, hail a cab to visit the Israel Museum – ranked among the world’s leading art and archaeology museums - which houses the Dead Sea Scrolls. imj.org.il/en#page-2
It’s your last night – treat yourself! The Mamilla Hotel’s panoramic rooftop restaurant is super chic; think wicker tables and chairs with comfy neon lounge cushions that blend in with the foliage-lined terrace - and a rather spectacular cocktail menu. Order off menu if you wish – we asked for a fruity concoction and it didn’t disappoint; we went in for a second round shortly afterwards. (Watch out – if you visit on Shabbat you will only be able to order cold food as the kitchen will be closed, so time your visit accordingly.) Arrive in time to watch the sun go down over the Old City walls as you feast on mouth wateringly-good grilled meat and fish with salads and toast your visit to one of the most fascinating cities in the world. mamillahotel.com/
Where to stay:
Stay at Villa Brown, a boutique hotel housed in an impressive 19th century villa that’s been restored to include a lavish rooftop spa, a garden café and a ‘cave bar’ in the basement. The rooms feel decadent, kitted out in red velvets and sumptuous fabrics, and the staff are lovely - but if you’re booked onto a morning tour with a specific start time note that the breakfasts can take as much as an hour to arrive. They’re well worth it when they do – but factor in enough time to enjoy it and not feel rushed.
How to get there:
Wizz Air operates daily flights from Luton to Tel Aviv, with fares starting from £74.99 (One way including all taxes and non-optional charges). Flights can be booked at wizzair.com. For more information about Jerusalem visit itraveljerusalem.com.