Jerusalem’s city center has loads of bars. The best are in the Mahane Yehuda Market area and in the vicinity of Zion Sq, on Rivlin, Ben Shatah, Helene HaMalka and Dorot Rishonim streets. East Jerusalem bars tend to be inside hotels, while the Old City is almost as dry as the Negev. You need some kind of manual in order to know what you can and can’t do in the old city of Jerusalem, but when you know, nobody can’t stop you having fun in a safe way.
One time a group hired me for a ‘Drinking & Nightlife tour’ (ten years ago)! That was my first and my last time I do something like that. My body (or head) can’t handle alcohol, and after a while I get even sick of the smell of alcohol. So don’t expect me to go along with the party makers and don’t call me for such tour, please.
- Amigo Emil (02-628 8090; Aqabat al-Khanqah St, Christian Quarter; 11am-9.30pm Mon-Sat, Map)
We can’t in good conscience recommend the food here, but the Palestinian owner Costandi is one of the nicest chaps you’re ever likely to encounter. A former banker, he opted for a career move and decided to open a restaurant in this 400-year-old former workshop owned by his family. It’s an atmospheric place to enjoy a beer or cappuccino. Also Costandi is a good friend and his coffee is amazing!
- Cafe Rimon Himo (Damascus Gate, Muslim Quarter; h7am-10pm, Map)
Sitting on this cafe’s small terrace and watching the action around Damascus Gate is an enjoyable way to spend an hour or so. The owner doesn’t seem to mind if you order a drink from him but grab a man’aish from a nearby baker to snack on (you’ll pay for the privilege, though, as he charges in euros).
- Versavee (www.versavee.com; Jaffa Gate; breakfast 36-38NIS, sandwiches 28-42NIS, salads 26-50NIS, Map)
Located in a courtyard next to the Hotel East New Imperial, this place is notable for its convenient location next to Jaffa Gate and for the fact that it serves alcohol. It’s a decent option for breakfast, a light lunch or a drink. The limonata (18NIS) is delicious.
- Uganda (02-623 6087; http://ugandajlm.com/; 4 Aristobulos St; hnoon-late Sun-Fri, 2pm-late Sat, Map)
DJ sets, live gigs, exhibitions by local artists and political discussions are but some of the elements that make this alternative bar special. Named after the country once suggested as a location for the Jewish state, it doubles as a comics and record store, serves Palestinian beer (Taybeh), has comfortable seating and is a great place to spend a night. This place is closed! Maybe it might reopen. When you plan to come, call before!
- Sira (050 486 489; 1 Ben Shatakh St; 5pm-late, Map)
This tiny bar off Ben Sira St is smoky, dark, crowded and loud. There’s a mini dance floor, the DJs have eclectic tastes and the beer flows fast and well into the night. It also goes by its old name, Diwan.
- Cassette Bar (1 Horkanos St; h8pm-5am Sat-Thu, 2pm-6am Fri, Map)
Accessed from the street (look for the metal door covered with old cassette tapes) or through the rear of the Record Bar next door, this pint-sized bar is a longstanding hipster haunt. The crowd drinks well into the night, serenaded by alternative tracks. Upstairs is Videopub (1st fl, 1 Horkanus St; h8pm-4am Mon-Thu & Sat-Sun, from 10pm Fri), a popular gay bar. Members of the local LGBT community flock to this tiny space to drink and dance (Thursday and Saturday are particularly busy).
- Record Bar (7 Helene Hamalka St; h4.30pm-3am or later, Map)
Here’s the lowdown: Record Bar regulars start their night sitting at the outdoor tables, enjoying two drinks for the price of one (4.30pm to 9pm) and sizing up the other drinkers, working out who they’re going to hit on when they kick on to the nearby Cassette Bar, Videopub or Radio Bar.
- Radio Bar (5 Helene HaMalka St; 8pm-late, Map)
Home to the Voice of Free Jerusalem, an independent internet radio station, this dive bar is part of the Record/Cassette/Video bar operation and has a similarly loyal following. Patrons enjoy having a drink and a chat while listening to the station and watching the broadcasts.
- Cafelix (www.cafelix.de; 20 Haetz Ha’em St, Mahane Yehuda Market; h7am-10pm Sun-Thu, to noon Fri, Map)
Jerusalem’s only branch of the specialty coffee-roasting operation from Tel Aviv takes its craft seriously – there’s cold drip and espresso versions on offer, and the baristas love nothing more than having a chat about the origin of the beans they’re using. Perch at one of the benches while you sip and watch the market trade.
I bring full tours here to see the whole show and to taste the coffee. Just like what you can see in Seattle many times.
- Casino de Paris (Mahane Yehuda Market; hnoon-2am Sun-Thu, from 9pm Sat, Map)
During the British Mandate this building was an officers club for British soldiers. Known as the Casino de Paris, it housed a bar downstairs and a brothel on the 2nd floor. It now houses an indoor-outdoor bar serving tapas, pizza and a large range of Israeli boutique beers (we like the wonderfully named Dancing Camel, like my Fred the Camel (read this one)).
When I for the first time discovered this place, I was laughing so hard. I left Paris one day before and visited the place with the same name, except in Paris of course. Every time I arrive here or nearby I smile; what a contrast. But this place has character and history, the one in Paris hasn’t.
- Mirror Bar (www.mamillahotel.com; mezzanine, Mamilla Hotel, 11 King Solomon (Shloma HaMelekh) St; h8pm-2am Sun-Thu, from 9pm Sat, Map)
Mood lighting, comfortable seating and talented mixicologists behind the bar make this a great choice for a nightcap. The long bar with its back-lit alabaster is nearly as glam as the waitstaff (and that’s really saying something). On Wednesday a DJ spins world music. In summer the panoramic rooftop bar here is equally glamorous, but it can be hard to score a seat. Try around sunset, when the view over the Old City is lovely.
- Bass (054 460 4492; 1 HaHistadrut St; h9am-6pm Wed-Sat, Map)
The name says it all. The foundations of this dance club shake with the dull throb of the electronica, trance and house tracks spun by the city’s best DJs and the occasional foreign blow-in. There’s a weekly roots reggae show, too. Check the Facebook feed for the program. This place is currently closed, but maybe it might reopen. Call before you make any plans here.
- Bass (054 460 4492; 1 HaHistadrut St; h9am-6pm Wed-Sat, Map)
- May 5th (56 Ha’etz Ha’em, Mahane Yehuda Market; h11am-late, closed Shabbat, Map)
Run by a group of young friends who have designated 5 May as their own personal holiday, this micro bar on the market’s main thoroughfare is a convivial place for a drink or coffee. To find it, look for the ‘Danesi Caffè’ sign above the entrance.
And when you are there, ask them how it all started. If they don’t, tell them the phrase “Adele and her Derriere“. If they still don’t, ask me, I tell.
- Zabotinski (2 Shim’on Ben Shatah St; h7pm-2am Sun-Fri, 1pm-late Sat, Map)
Named after the Russian-born Zionist Ze’ev Jabotinsky (1880–1940), this pub is one of a number of popular watering holes on Shim’on Ben Shatah St. The food is forgettable, but the beer is cold and there’s plenty of street-side seating.
- Mike’s Place (054 799 1220; http://www.mikesplacebars.com; 33 Jaffa Rd; 11am-late, closed Shabbat, Map)
There’s nothing secret about Mike’s well-honed formula for success: Guinness, open-mic nights, live rock bands and sport on the big screen. At the top of the Rivlin St bar strip, it has an indoor area plus a few outdoor tables that offer excellent people-watching opportunities. You can find Mike’s Place also in Tel Aviv of course and it’s a great place to be and to meet English-speakers in the city.
- Coffeemill (02-566 1665; 23 Emek Refa’im St; h7am-midnight Sun-Thu, to 3pm Fri, Map)
Decorated with covers of the New Yorker and with wooden drawers full of an exotic array of coffee beans, this bohemian-flavored cafe is a good place for cake and a shot of caffeine.
Theater & Classical Music
Jerusalem has a rich tradition of theater and music. You can check what’s on at
http://www.itraveljerusalem.com or in the Friday edition of the Jerusalem Post.
- Book advance tickets through Bimot (02-622 2333; 8 Shamai St, Map).
- Jerusalem Center for the Performing Arts (02-560 5755; http://www.jerusalem-theatre.co.il; 20 David Marcus St, Map)
This complex includes a concert hall, theaters and a cafe. Its Sherover Theater has simultaneous English-language surtitles during certain performances. It’s home to the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra, and comedy, music, children’s theater and dance performances are also held here.
- International Convention Center (02-655 8558; http://www.iccjer.co.il; 1 Shazar Blvd, Map)
- The Jerusalem venue of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra (www.ipo.co.il).
- Zappa in the Lab (*9080; http://www.zappa-club.co.il; 28 Hebron Rd, Map)
Crafted out of a disused railway warehouse, this small live-music venue stages jazz, folk, rock and pop. It’s open most days of the week, but you need to check the website or call for upcoming events.
- Yellow Submarine (02-679 4040; http://www.yellowsubmarine.org.il; 13 HaRechavim St, Talpiot, Map)
Aiming to promote music and foster musical talent, this venue has a crowded program of live performances. Check the website for details.