Jerusalem

Israel’s capital lies at the intersection of the world’s three Abrahamic and monotheistic religions - Christianity, Judaism and Islam. While historically this collision has been just that, today followers of the different faiths live together relatively harmoniously. Ancient evidence of the city’s significance abounds in the form of ancient temples, churches, mosques and the Old City.

From the airport there is limited public transport to Jerusalem, unless you take the hour-long 485 bus from the airport to Jerusalem Central Bus Station. To save time and stress, download the Gett or Uber apps to call a cab and pay by card.

Upon arrival at Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv, most nationalities will receive a blue, paper card instead of a passport stamp. Do not lose this card for the duration of your visit, as passport control will need it upon departure. Security at Ben Gurion is also very high. Arrive three hours before an outbound flight.

We found we needed two days in Jerusalem to do everything we wanted.

We did not have time to go, but heard from friends that the Yad Vashem Holocaust World Holocaust Remembrance Center is excellent and a powerful visit.

Jerusalem is one hour from the northern shores of the Dead Sea and two hours from Masada National Park, the site of King Herod’s dramatic, cliff-top palace fortress and where the Romans surrounded the final vestiges of the Jewish Rebellion. Do both in a day trip or stay overnight at one of the Dead Sea resorts in Ein Bokek.

EAT

Focaccia Bar Go for wine and apps or stay for dinner. Excellent food in a beautiful, light-filled building.

Jahnun Bar With two locations in the city, including one in Mahane Yehuda market, this casual eatery serves up sandwich wraps made of the fluffiest, flakiest, pan-fried bread called malawach. Brought to Israeli by Yemeni immigrants, you will not soon forget this delicious pastry.

Machneyuda Perhaps the best restaurant in Israel. Book well in advance and do not miss this.

DRINK

BeerBazaar Fun spot in Mahane Yehuda market featuring Israeli craft beers.

Birman Local dive off of Ben Yehuda Street with live music.

Mahane Yehuda Market Most nights, except on Shabbat, the market comes alive with row after row of tiny bars and shisha lounges, DJs and young people spilling into the corridors.

PLAY

Ben Yehuda Street and Nahalat Shiv’a Trendy shopping areas.

Mount of Olives Views of the city are spectacular but it’s quite a walk from the Old City and the sites are not as clustered. Consider taking the bus or a cab, or hiring a driver.

Mount Zion South of the Jewish Quarter, this area contains King David’s Tomb and the site of The Last Supper.

Old City Split into quarters aligned with the different faiths, the Old City contains some of the holiest places for Christians, Jews and Muslims. These sites include the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (believed to contain Jesus’ tomb), the Western Wall (all that remains of the holy Jewish Second Temple), and the Temple Mount and Dome of the Rock (the third most sacred site for Muslims). Spend hours in the souks, walking the rampart walls and exploring the different gates. If heading to the Old City from the west enter the Christian Quarter through Jaffa Gate. Exiting from the Muslim Quarter’s Damascus Gate places you in East Jerusalem.

STAY

Staying west of the Old City, around Mahane Yehuda market and Ben Yehuda Street, provides access to nightlife, shopping and restaurants and is a 15 minute walk to the Old City.

For the budget-minded, take a look at Agripas Boutique Hotel. It is an older property and basic, but clean and the location is unbeatable.

Tel Aviv

This vibrant, beach city on the eastern Mediterranean is Israel’s economic and cultural hub. Tel Aviv is more secular and laid-back than Jerusalem, and a wonderful place to spend a few days soaking in the sun, art and truly incredible food.

There is limited public transport in Tel Aviv. To save time and stress, download the Gett or Uber apps to call a cab and pay by card.

Upon arrival at Ben Gurion Tel Aviv Airport, most nationalities will receive a blue, paper card instead of a passport stamp. Do not lose this card for the duration of your visit, as passport control will need it upon departure. Security at Ben Gurion is also very high. Arrive three hours before an outbound flight.

EAT

Dr. Shakshuka This humble place is somewhat of an institution in Old Town Jaffa. It will be busy but worth it.

North Abraxass Amazing, simple Israeli fare made from the best ingredients. Do not miss dinner here and book well in advance.

Tolaat (תולעת ספרים - מזא"ה) Cute, cozy cafe in a book shop housed within a lovely old mansion. Good for breakfast or lunch.

DRINK

Beit Hapsanter Chic, PYT lounge-bar with live music. The name means “Piano House”.

Faruk BaSuk Fun bar and restaurant in the Jaffa Flea Market with live music in the late afternoon.

Haminzar The local-est local. Don’t miss.

Israel Wine Tours Israel is one of the oldest wine-making regions of the world, thanks to the Greeks and Romans during pre-biblical times. We spent a day in the Judean Hills with Barak Yitzhaki of Israel Wine Tours. We tried different, interesting wines in a unique corner of the country and received a healthy history lesson.

Salon Berlin Hip and relaxed dive bar. Food is excellent and happy hour two for one drinks until 10:30pm.

PLAY

Bauhaus architecture This 1930s modernist architecture movement left its legacy all over Tel Aviv. Today the “White City” is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site. The Poli House Hotel at the corner of Allenby and Nahalot Binyamin Streets is one example.

Jaffa Flea Market Antiques, boutiques and souvenir shopping.

Old City Jaffa The remnants of the ancient port city that seeded Tel Aviv. Today it’s winding alleyways are filled with art galleries, restaurants and craft shops.

Old Train Station Nice place for a quiet walk before heading to the beaches.

Shabazi Street The lifespring of the trendy Neve Tzedek neighborhood, Shabazi is lined with boutiques and cafes. Go for jewelry shopping.

Tevl Aviv beaches They’re beautiful and nice any time of year. We enjoyed a few hours at Aviv Beach’s Surf Club bar.

STAY

The Nachalat Binyamin neighborhood has excellent nightlife, food and shopping all nearby, and is an easy walk to the southern beaches, Neve Tzedek and Jaffa. We enjoyed the artsy, boutique hotel Hotel 75.