Tour Israel: Cool summer nights in Jerusalem

As one of the most ancient cities in the world, Jerusalem has an extremely rich history and is home to a number of diverse communities, making it a must-visit destination.

(photo credit: MEITAL SHARABI)

Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, and as such attracts visitors from all over the world. However, this unique city is often underappreciated by Israelis, and that is a huge shame because spending time in Jerusalem can be an extraordinary experience.

As one of the most ancient cities in the world, Jerusalem has an extremely rich history and is home to a number of diverse communities who assign to it great spiritual significance, making it a must-visit destination.

When you enter Jerusalem’s Old City, with its narrow, winding passages and ancient stones, you are immediately thrust back in time. And there’s almost nothing more exciting than suddenly looking up to see the Western Wall looming before you, connecting you to your Jewish ancestors who stood before these same stones many centuries ago. For Christians and Muslims as well, the city holds within it so much religious significance.

As you walk through the markets in any of the four quarters of the Old City – the Jewish Quarter, the Muslim Quarter, the Christian Quarter, and the Armenian Quarter – you can stop and taste samples of Mediterranean cuisine, purchase handmade crafts, and engage in conversation with welcoming shop owners. There are many interesting areas in the modern city of Jerusalem, too, such as the artistic Ein Kerem neighborhood and the popular Mahaneh Yehuda outdoor market.

Rooftop Patio at the Prima Royale Hotel

Now that the hot summer days are upon us, finding refuge in the refreshingly cool, dry summer nights of Jerusalem is one of the best ways to survive the heat. The Prima Royale Hotel recently opened its new Rooftop Patio, where guests can gaze out over the city while they enjoy hip alcoholic beverages, Middle Eastern food, pop music, and the capital’s fresh night air.

 BREAKFAST, PRIMA Royale style. (credit: AYA BEN-EZRI)
BREAKFAST, PRIMA Royale style. (credit: AYA BEN-EZRI)

Some of the dishes served on the rooftop include rice-filled vine leaves with labaneh and olive oil; burekas; beigaleh with sour cream and hardboiled eggs; lupini; and broad beans. The Prima Royale Rooftop Patio is open Sunday through Thursday from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.

The hotel is located on a quiet street in the Talbiyeh neighborhood called Mendele Mocher Sfarim, which is surrounded by other streets that are named after famous Jerusalem artists. Hotel guests can can visit the famous Moses Montefiore Windmill in Mishkenot She’ananim or take a culinary tour of the Mahaneh Yehuda market.

Mahaneh Yehuda

Located in the heart of the city, and near Jerusalem’s central bus and train stations, the popular shuk is a bustling hub of sights, sounds, scents and savors. The market is filled with stalls, from which owners call out the prices of their wares, such as fresh fruits, vegetables, spices, pastries, and local delicacies.

But the shuk is not just a place for shopping; it’s also a cultural and social meeting point. At night, the market stalls are transformed into a lively collection of trendy bars and restaurants. Spending time at the Mahaneh Yehuda market is a great way to experience the vibrant spirit of Jerusalem.

If you decide not to join a guided culinary tasting tour of the market, here’s a list of my top five favorite restaurants in Mahaneh Yehuda that you can sample on your own.

  1. Patata: The main focus at this small eatery is Spanish-style stuffed potatoes, known as patatas de feria. They come with a host of toppings, such as sour cream, grated cheese, sauces, green olives, corn, garlic sauce, and caramelized onion. For owner Miriam Ben Zaken, who is 21, it was a dream to bring to Mahaneh Yehuda her favorite dish from her childhood in Spain. Location: 21 Hashaked Street
  2. Meat Time: Four years ago, Gilad Stern and David Eliyahu opened Meat Time, where they offer entrecote skewers, Jerusalem mixed grill, pargit (chicken) skewers, and kebabs, alongside 15 types of salads. The two quickly realized that Israelis love to have carbs with their meat, so the restaurant also offers burekas, sandwiches, and hamburgers, including a portobello mushroom burger for vegetarians. Location: 2 Ha’armonim Street
  3. Craft Pizza: Five years ago, David Kaplan opened the New York-style Craft Pizza, which made the Top 50 PMQ Pizza Magazine list, the guide to the best pizzerias in the world. Kaplan makes his pizza dough from a sourdough starter that rests between 48 to 72 hours before being made into a pizza. Toppings include all the standards, plus smoked beetroot and sweet potato marinaded in soy sauce. Location: 12 Hatapu’ah Street
  4. Kaboom: Last summer, Liran Ayalon began looking for a storage unit near his business, Cookie Cream, which he found right away. In the end, however, he decided to use the new space to open Kaboom, where he makes 13 flavors of Krembo cookies, such as mocha, caramel, cappuccino, blueberry, raspberry, chocolate strawberry, and passion fruit. Location: 2 Ha’eshkol Street
  5. Halati: Tair Moshe and her husband, Imri, grew up in traditional Moroccan homes, where they ate hot meat on fresh challah rolls for lunch every Friday. They felt that there was no reason people shouldn’t be able to enjoy sandwiches made with fresh slices of challah all week long, so they opened Halati, which is famous for its chicken schnitzel sandwich with eggplant and matbuha made according to a recipe handed down from Tair’s grandmother. Other toppings include garlic confit, pickled lemons, chimichurri, tahini, and spicy pepper. Another one of the most popular sandwiches is the pulled beef asado. Location: 9 Ha’egoz Street

Another tour offered by the Prima Royale Hotel is a visit to the Moses Montefiore Windmill in Mishkenot She’ananim, which is a five-minute walk from the hotel. This charming and iconic Jerusalem landmark, built in the 19th century, originally functioned as a flour mill. It was restored in 2012.

Currently, the Windmill Project, which gathers together a selected group of vine growers and vineyard owners, offers wine tastings inside the Windmill courtyard. What could be more enjoyable than sipping a glass of fine Israeli wine while gazing out over the Old City?

Translated by Hannah Hochner.