This walking tour in Jerusalem takes 2 hours. Really. If you attempt this tour at your own, print out the maps in this tour at least. If you take Wim the guide with you, then this tour will not take 2 hours, but much longer. But then you see much more then what’s mentioned in this walking tour, not to forget the home made lemonades, ice creams, cakes, sweets, extra ordinary shopping, cheap and amazing clothes and antiques, strange people, amazing buildings, peeking in a typical Jerusalem household and in their apartments, etc.
The heart of West Jerusalem, centered on Jaffa Road, was largely developed during the years of the British Mandate (1917–1948). So, while it is nowhere near as ancient as the Old City, it does carry a weight of recent history related to the founding of the Jewish state of Israel. Aside from the scattering of historic buildings and monuments, this is also the heart of the modern city, with pedestrianized streets of cafés, restaurants and shops, cultural centers and busy markets. It is a highly rewarding area to explore.
TIPS FOR WALKERS
Starting point: Jaffa Road. Length: 2 miles (3 km).
Best time to walk: Any time, but avoid Friday afternoon and Saturday, when everything is closed.
Stopping-off points: In addition to the places mentioned in the walk, there are dozens of food stalls around Mahane Yehuda Market, including some selling “meorav Yerushalmi”, literally “Jerusalem meats”, a mix of chopped livers, kidneys, hearts and beef, fried and served in pockets of bread. At the end of the walk, there are two good cafés at the junction of Heleni Ha-Malka and Jaffa Road, and many more cafés and restaurants in Nakhalat Shiva, which is just across Jaffa Road.
Until Tel Aviv got its own port in the 1930s, Jews arriving in Palestine would disembark at Jaffa, entering Jerusalem on the Jaffa Road. It ran right up to the Old City and the correspondingly named Jaffa Gate.
The road now ends just short of the city walls, which is where this walk begins, at the rounded façade of the Former Barclays Bank 1 (look for the “BB” in the iron window grilles). The building was on the line that divided Arabs and Jews between 1948 and 1967 and still bears the scars left by bullets.
Walk west, past two British Mandate-era post boxes, and almost immediately you come to palm-filled Safra Square, forecourt to the New City Hall 2, also home
to the main tourist information office.
Cross to the left hand side of the road at the next junction to pass Feingold House 3, built in 1895, with its series of arched shop fronts and one arched entrance to a passageway containing the fine bar-restaurant Barood. Look back to spot the winged lion on top of the Generali Building, trademark of the Italian insurance company that once had its offices here.
Continue along Jaffa Road, taking the next left into Rivlin Street and Nakhalat Shiva 4. This is one of the oldest parts of the modern city (founded 1869) but also one of the liveliest. Its attractive two-story buildings are home to trendy eateries and late-night bars. At the bottom of Rivlin turn right, then head up Salomon to Jaffa Square, the traditional gathering point for protests and demonstrations.
‘Running’ west from here, Ben Yehuda Street 5 is one of the city’s main shopping streets. Take the third right into Ben Hillel, cross over main King George V Street
and you will be standing in front of Felafel & Shwarma King, which makes supposedly the best felafels in the city.
Continue west along Agrippas Street 6, passing on the right a passage that leads to top restaurant Arcadia. This has traditionally been a poor area with cheap rents that have proved attractive to recent immigrants, hence all the signs in Cyrillic. Agrippas is also the southern boundary of Mahane Yehuda Market 7, the city’s colorful prime source of fresh produce, from fruit and vegetables to fish and meat.
Don’t forget, when you enter the market, that you need to return here to continue the tour. And the market is rather large and it’s very easy to get lost here.
Enter the market and gauge at everything. If salesmen are insistent and try to sell you a carpet or vase or some strange bottle of what-ever, please be and stay polite and continue to walk while smiling. Those people are trying to make a living, don’t forget that. Anyway, this market is amazing and between the stalls (and many times behind the stalls too) you can find little shops selling amazing things without being a tourist trap. Here I bought the last time my leather bag for NIS 25. Super cheap!
When you are finished with this market, return where you came from to continue the tour.
Exit the market back onto Jaffa Road, now returning east. Pass by a building on
your right that has a doorway flanked by two lions on pillars – the former residence
of the British Consul, 1863–90 – before arriving at a major junction marked by a small monument of a mortar on a plinth; this is a Davidka 8, a weapon that played a large role in the 1948 War.
Ask Wim the Guide for the details, because that’s what he likes and he knows a lot of the battles and fights once happened here. It’s an amazing story with love, drama, heroism, and of course drama.
The Hebrew om inscription is from the Old Testament
Book of Isaiah and reads, “For I will defend this city to save it”.
Fork left at the monument, follow historic Ha-Neviim Street 9, which during the 19th century was one of Jerusalem’s main avenues. It is lined by some notable buildings, including at No. 64 a fine house once occupied by the English Victorian painter William Holman Hunt and, at No. 58, Thabor House, designed and once occupied by the German Conrad Schick, one of the city’s foremost early architects.
Just past Thabor House, a pretty, high-walled lane on the left leads to the Ethiopian
Church 10, a modest basilica with an interior painted in nursery blues and pinks, and filled with glittery, golden icons and smoky incense.
Return to Ha-Neviim and cross over to head south down Ha-Rav Kook Street looking for the signs for Ticho House 11 . This is an historic Arab residence that has been turned into a lively cultural center hosting art exhibitions and regular jazz, folk and classical recitals; it also has a pleasant garden terrace.
Returning to Ha-Neviim, take the next right and walk straight over the roundabout;
the end point of the walk is visible ahead in the form of the three Muscovite styled
domes of the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity 12.
Consecrated in 1872, the church was built to cater to Russian pilgrims, who at the time far outnumbered pilgrims from any other country. Please visit the Holy Trinity, because this Russian Orthodox Cathedral is amazing and beautiful. Ask Wim the Guide for the details, because there is a fantastic story behind the church and when it was being built. Also loads of (Russian) history here.
From here, it’s just a short step back to Jaffa Road and the start of the walk.
Traditionally, Wim the Guide is taking a break by sitting somewhere outside and drink his coffee and smokes his cigar before going to the next tour or home. You can join him if you want and try to get as much as possible info for your next trip.