Trip to Israel: Jerusalem

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This post is part of a larger trip report from my week long trip to Israel back in November 2012.! I realized that I never posted this trip report from forever ago, so here you go!

  1. Two days in Jerusalem
  2. Quick stop at the Dead Sea and Masada
  3. Exploring the North (Sea of Galilee/Golan Heights)
  4. Wandering around Tel Aviv
  5. Sheraton Tel Aviv & Other Tel Aviv Hotels
Mr. Deals and I booked a trip to Israel on a whim due to the sub $400 fares back in 2012. While Israel wasn’t on our short list of places to go at the time, we were excited to go back to Israel for a more adult experience. The last (and first time) we visited Israel was when we were 16 years old with our New Hampshire based Summer camp. We spent 5 week there with 100+ of our closest friends and while we saw every site possible, we were primarily interested with our friends and those of the opposite sex! So this time around was going to be a very different trip, one of slightly more relaxation and actually taking in the sites.
Day 1: 
Our first stop was Jerusalem. We arrived at Tel Aviv airport around 3pm and took a shared taxi to the city. It was probably a 45 minute drive and the taxi was $17/person. This was a very easy, convenient, and cheap way to get from the airport to Jerusalem. Upon arriving to our hotel, we immediately dropped our stuff and walked straight to the Western Wall. We arrived towards the end of Shabbat (end of day Saturday) so were able to see the many people praying. Afterwards, we walked around the Old City and the Mamilla Mall. Since we just flew in that day we were pretty tired and went to bed at a decent hour.
Day 2:
The next day we went to Yad Vasham, the Holocaust museum, first thing in the morning (I believe they open at 9am). There are many tours you can do to take you to Yad Vashem, but we decided to do it on our own. Most of the tours cost $25, and include transportation there and a tour of the museum. Transportation home, however, is not included. In this scenario, I prefer to do this museum at my own pace. We took a taxi to Yad Vashm – it took about 20 minutes and cost no more than $15 each way. Admission to the museum is free, but we opted to rent the audio set to which essentially takes you through a tour of the museum at your own pace. I believe the cost was about $5/headset. We probably spent about 2 1/2 hours here, but one could easily spend half a day. They have done an amazing job with this museum and you can really get a feel of what it was like during the holocaust period.
After Yad Vashem we walked over to the Mount Herzl Memorial. It was in a really beautiful park and is the burial place for many Israeli figures, such as Golda Meir. If you’d prefer public transportation I believe you can take either the train or the bus to Mount Herzl from Jerusalem and then walk over to Yad Vashem. This will save you a few bucks on the taxi, although I really didn’t look into it much.
Upon returning back to Jerusalem, we headed to the Old City where we found ourselves a free two hour two. Sandeman Tours does a free tour of the Old City which was absolutely great. The tour guides work solely on tips, where people gave anywhere between $0 to $15/person. We saw many not give anything, but we personally gave him $25 for the two of us as he was a fabulous guide. It was a great way to really understand the Old City and how the four quarters (Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Armenian) live. The history dates back 4,000 years ago so there really is so much to take in. Sandeman Tours does a few other paid tours (I believe still relatively inexpensive) if interested as well. They are 4 hours in length, however, we did not have time. If you are strapped for time (and cash) this free tour was great!
After our tour, we wandered around the Old City again on our again and then headed to Ben Yehuda street. I remember Ben Yehuda street from when I was there 14 years ago. There are many restaurants, shops, street vendors, etc. It seems as though the new Mamilla shopping mall kind of took over as the shopping center, but it is filled with much higher end shops.
Day 3:
We started off our day at the Mahane Yehud Shuk. As a holiday gift, we were treated to a “Shuk Bites” tour by Mr. Deal’s parents. Essentially it was a self paced tasting card where we visited 10 different markets and got a variety of food along the way. By the end of it, we had consumed more food than we could imagine, but it was great! You can absolutely go to the Shuk, walk around, and purchase food along the way, but this was a fun way to ensure we hit different types of markets. We had a great time at the Shuk, probably spending 3 hours or so exploring and eating!
We spent the remainder of the day getting lost in the city. That evening, we went to the “Night Spectacular Light Show” at the Tower of David. This was right outside of the Old City area and was really cool. It was about a 45 minute light show that told a story along the wall. It was pretty cool and since it was relatively inexpensive, I’d recommend going to it. We ended the night by going back to the wall for out last site in Jerusalem where we inserted our prepared notes into the wall.
Other things to do:
We were on a slower pace and didn’t run around ensuring we hit every little site, but there is so much more to see and do, it just depends on what you are looking for.
  • Mount Scopus – I went there at 16 years old and remember getting a great view of the city
  • Mount Olives – Another area to get a view of the Old City and is associated with Jesus’ last week on earth
  • Western Wall Tunnels – From my understanding, there are two tunnel tours, one where you walk through water and get one where it is dry. We didn’t do either, but probably something worth looking into. I heard if you are claustrophobic you might not like it!
  • Tower of David Museum – Museum right across from the Jaffa gate and was used for the military.

Hotels:

If you are looking to use your hotel points, this might not be the best city for you. When I was there in 2012, there were only two American chain hotels: 1) Ramada by Wyndham Rewards – located on the outskirts of the city and will require you to take the train places (not recommended); 2) Crowne Plaza – while located closer to the main attractions, it will still require a decent walk to get placed, it also doesn’t get the best reviews (again, probably not recommended). Today there is now a Waldorf Astoria which is in a great location but requires 80,000 points for a free night!

I threw my hotel status out the window and stayed at the Prima Royale hotel. Prima is actually an Israeli-based hotel chain and has a handful of hotels throughout Israel. This was actually a great hotel, especially for the price ($126/night)! The location was great and was probably a 10-15 minute walk to the Old City and a 10-15 minute walk to the Shuk/Ben Yehuda Street. While it was a no frills hotel, it was actually very nice, very clean, and had a nice lobby. It also has a massive Israeli-style buffet breakfast (complimentary) and free wi-fi in the lobby. It was right across the street from the Dan Panorama hotel. There is free parking as well, but there really is no reason to have a car in Jerusalem. The Prima brand also had a Prima King hotel down the street in a maybe slightly better location. I have no idea what the inside of the hotel is like, but if the reviews are good and price is the same, I’d pick it simply for the slightly better location.

If you are looking for a top-notch high end hotel, you can look into the King David, David Citadel, or Mamilla hotel, but they all run $350+/night – no where close to worth it in my opinion!

Food: 

We had falafel at least once a day and ate pretty low-key for all meals, so no specific restaurants I can recommend. The fresh pomegranate juice was also amazing so make sure not to miss it!

Overall, we really enjoyed Jerusalem! You could pack it all in and do it in one day if you wish, but there is also enough to do for a week! If you have any other recommendations, feel free to comment for other readers.

Comments

  1. Nice write-up! I have been there about a dozen times (heading back in a month for the marathon) and love it there! The falafel shop on King George street is excellent (near Ben Yahuda). They have a light rail now where Jaffa street used to be open for cars. Also, my all-time favorite place to eat there is Iwo Burger on Hillel. Fantastic burgers!
    I have a review coming up shortly on one of the Prima properties – thank you Orbitz and Visa checkout! 🙂
    For getting a lot of history and great perspective, the shop in the Old City, Shorashim, is a great place to pickup some authentic Israeli pieces and Moshe is a great person to talk to.
    If you want to see the city in an entirely different way, the marathon is the way to do it. 🙂

  2. American Colony hotel is a good one. Plus real authentic best falafel ever can only be had at Al Ikermawi on Al Zahra street, this is in east Jerusalem. The falafel in the Israeli side is a joke , a lot of Israelis go to east Jerusalem for the best falafel in town. What is special in the Israeli part of town is a sandwich of Merav, at Mahne Yehuda.

  3. I just went this past summer during the “war” and stayed at Waldorf Astoria – Brand new, beautiful, and the ebst use of HH points ever!

    80,000 points a night with 2 drinks an upgraded room and late checkout due to Gold status.

    Not sure why you don’t mention this – It is a stunning hotel which is right across from Mamilla Mall.

  4. Hi, Nice information. Coming month I have planned for a trip to Jerusalem with my family, also booked the tickets from Mantis Tourism & Attractions. I have only heard that it is Israel’s largest, most populated and most religiously diverse city. Jerusalem is a one-of-a-kind destination with an intriguing history that stretches back thousands of years, involving deep significance to the three monotheistic religions as well as a vibrant modern life. This post will help me to manage the things related to the trip such as hotels, foods etc. Thanks for it.

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