October 25th, 2018

In the city center, just a 15-minute walk from the cobblestoned alleys of the Old City of Jerusalem, trendy restaurants and boutiques — even coffee bars that double as late night performance venues — have blossomed, their youthful, often tattooed clientele a curious juxtaposition to the religious pilgrims roaming the city. A burgeoning tech scene — there are upward of 500 start ups in the city — has fueled the metamorphosis. So have art schools with about 2500 students combined, many of whom are staying local thanks to city and nonprofit spaces supporting arts-minded entrepreneurs. And for people-watching, it’s hard to beat Machane Yehuda Market, also in City Center. The iconic 19th century open-air market for spices, meat, flowers and produce has transformed at sundown into a lively nightlife scene with frequent D.J. events in recent years. In this sprawling labyrinth, artisan beer halls, tapas and falafel stands and upscale eateries open their graffiti-adorned garage-style doors to welcome the city’s multi-culti cool kids.

Villa Brown Jerusalem

In a city of big box hotels, this Ottoman-era villa turned 24-room boutique hotel opened in May 2017 and is manna to travelers drawn to intimate, tastefully-designed lodging. A rooftop terrace, a bougainvillea draped garden and cozy subterranean wine cave fashioned from an ancient cistern add to the charm of this stylish property.

Ha-Nevi’im St 54, brownhotels.com/villa

GATSBY Jerusalem

In true speakeasy fashion, this stylish 1920s-inspired cocktail bar is as swanky as it is hard-to-find, behind an unmarked door in a nondescript strip of shops. Theatrical takes on classics like the Gatsby Sazerac involves a fiery torching of a vintage coupe glass are the boîte’s calling card.

Hillel Street, 18. facebook.com/GatsbyJerusalem


Eight years ago, when Miri Ashur Zuta opened this gem box of a shop, an edgy fashion boutique in conservative Jerusalem seemed an oxymoron. Yet, this boutique has thrived, with its sleek, made-in-Israel apparel a beacon for locals and visitors on the hunt for standout style.

2 Bezalel Street;.facebook.com/SofiaDesignersGallery/

Hamiffal at Lorenzo House Cultural Center

With ever changing installations in the elevator, within toilet stalls, dangling from rafters and woven throughout the rosemary scented garden, a crumbling 19th century mansion has been recast (through funding by the Jerusalem Foundation) as Hamiffal, or, “the factory.” At this art collective and creative platform, visitors can view -and purchase- artwork by local artists, partake in events that range from concerts (classical and electro-romantic to Hasidic rap and overnight DJ sleepovers) and film screenings to second-hand fashion pop up shops. Or, they can simply hang out under the fantastically frescoed ceilings with a snack from the on site cafe.

Ha-Ma’aravim Street 3, hamiffal.com/underconstruction/


For a meal that is as much a party as dining experience, this 9-year-old restaurant inside the Machane Yehuda Market, helmed by acclaimed chefs Assaf Granit, Yossi Elad and Uri Navon, embodies the boisterous spirit and flavors of contemporary Jerusalem. As dishes arrive —- fattoush salad with Bryndza cheese, mini open faced corned beef sandwiches topped with chipotle aioli, beef marrow tartare served directly on the diner’s fist — Arabic funk blares. Shots of Arak, the anise-scented Middle Eastern spirit, are distributed (free of charge), and impromptu dancing erupts when waitstaff gives a signal by banging loud on kitchen pots.

Beit Ya’akov St 10; machneyuda.co.il/homepage

This link originally appeared in The New York Times