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Those who imagine Jerusalem as a sleepy town with little in the way of nightlife need only stop on Rehov Shlomzion Hamalka on a Thursday or Friday night. That's when this small strip near Zion Square is awash with young bar hoppers.
Arguably Jerusalem's most frequented drinking area for the past two years, Shlomzion Hamalka includes more than a dozen restaurants, bars, pubs and restaurant/bars in which most anyone can find an establishment that caters to his or her socioeconomic profile.
However, anyone venturing out to this compound should come on foot or via public transportation (on Thursday night), unless they don't mind circling the area to snag a parking spot. The area suffers from a dearth of legal parking, making it less accessible and less attractive to some.
A somewhat overly laid-back Irish pub - without too much of the "Irish." The establishment can also pass for a hole-in-the-wall sports bar - the type that attracts tourists, American yeshiva students and "lost" religious. Shlomzion Hamalka 18. 0575-456645
Since opening a few years ago, Chakra has established itself as one of the more "in" resto-bars in Jerusalem. Its mini-bar on the first floor usually gets crowded with stylish singles, while the tables dressed in fancy white tablecloths seat couples, families and groups seeking a proper meal in a romantic, albeit cramped, environment. Shlomzion Hamalka 18. (02) 625-2733
Over six years old, Diez is a Shlomzion Hamalka veteran. It probably set the example back then with a rich menu and a stylish, romantic atmosphere. However, these days the decor looks a little worn, as if Diez used to be a hot spot but now lacks a competitive edge over some of the more updated resto-bars. Shlomzion Hamalka 1. (02) 624-3601
Located off Shlomzion Hamalka, Galo is a pretty plain, dark pick-up spot with a large rectangular bar and a tiny dance area. On Tuesday nights, however, guest DJs spin cool electro to give the place an underground flair. Open every night except Sunday; weekends play mostly freestyle. Koresh 7. 0506-875141.
The only karaoke bar in Jerusalem - emphasis on "bar." Heaven consists of one rectangular bar and a small singing area, so that brave performers can easily belt it out with the cordless mike. Unfortunately, the karaoke repertoire carries mostly Hebrew songs, making it less appealing for Anglo karaoke-lovers. Shlomzion Hamalka 7. 0523-105803
Named after its French-trained chef and owner Jack Dayan, Jacksi is a French gourmet restaurant by day and a darker resto-bar by night. While the decor is simple but potentially sexy, the emphasis seems to be on the pricy meat, chicken and seafood dishes, and that's a good thing because the place doesn't seem to get too busy for nightcaps. Shlomzion Hamalka 1. (02) 622-2527.
Don't let the name mislead you. Master Bar is a little too ordinary to be the master of bars on the Shlomzion compound, although it also calls itself the Jerusalem School for Bartending. The vibe is laid back, simple, and relatively quiet, and the crowd is on the whole normal and 23+. Shlomzion Hamalka 15.
Despite its Irish chandeliers, O'Connell has trouble looking like a real Irish joint, given its classic Ottomon-era curved ceilings; but its laid-back, happy-go-lucky atmosphere and hefty beer and whiskey menu rival most updated Irish pubs. And - get this - this pub has a certificate of kashrut, making it a popular option among religious beer lovers and Jewish tourists. Rehov Ben Shetach 3. (02) 623-2232.
Upon stepping into Open, the word "cool" comes to mind, and that's partly the fault of the blue fish aquariums and the changing illumination over the bar. Open has been, well, open for more than three years, competing with the best resto-bars in the area but offering the added value of live performances by various bands (Monday), Israeli artists (Tuesday), and freestyle DJs the rest of the time. Shlomzion Hamalka 17. (02) 622-2622.
Probably the trendiest and most stylish resto-bar on the strip, with just the right mix of sexy lighting, artsy decor, mood music, friendly bartenders, pretty people and an invested fusion menu. Shlomzion Hamalka 3. (02) 625-1666.
Entrance to Rey - a massive, windy megabar, one of the largest in Jerusalem - is controlled by gruff security guards and a large steel door. While selection at the entrance comes across as strict, Rey is often filled with all sorts of Jerusalemites, countering its would-be aura of exclusivity and 24+ age minimum. On most nights, Rey has a distinctive atmosphere: sleazy masked as stylish. Rehov Koresh 7. 0522-863654
The best words to describe Shlomtzi Bar are "wild" and "massive" or, better yet, massively wild. On any given Thursday night, its two megabars and leathered-up lounge areas (there is even a bed near the entrance) are packed with a whole range of folk looking to get drunk, loosened and hooked up. Shlomzion Hamalka 18. (02) 625-4994
Sira is a bohemian, hippie-ish dance bar that made its home two years ago in a century-old structure that doesn't seem to have undergone any serious renovation. But Sira doesn't need any fancy lighting or sophisticated decor; the point is to keep it simple and groovy. If you listen carefully, you can probably hear echoes of "peace and love" through the DJ's beats. (And while you probably couldn't tell, the floors have been remodeled.) Rehov Ben Sira 4 (02) 624-2298
A Spanish-inspired tapas bar spread over two floors with an eclectic, changing menu. Rehov Shlomzion 15. (02) 624-6938
A loud, popular pick-up bar with a bustling, blatantly sexual atmosphere. Rehov Ben Sira 18. (02) 624-6076.