Israel Birthright Trip
Credit: Melanie Lieberman

By the time I arrived in Jerusalem, the final stop on my 10-day tour of Israel, everything I carried with me bore the distinct reddish hue of the Negev desert. That is how Israel is: it clings to you, no matter how many times you bleach your sneakers.

Despite recent turbulence, Jerusalem never felt unsafe: its people were endlessly warm and eager to share their city. It is not merely rugged desert, or the site of spiritual discovery. Jerusalem is a blossoming international destination with upmarket appeal, as well.

Eat + Drink

Jerusalem is home to a newly minted cuisine developed by globetrotting chefs; a fusion of flavors and techniques that is simultaneously modern and classic Israeli.

Visit Mahane Yehuda market for fresh-pressed juice from Uzi Eli, known locally as the Citron Man, on HaEgoz Street. For only 99 sheckles, you can sample treats from multiple vendors (pistachio-crusted halva; falafel) while hearing their personal stories about life in Israel.

With its biblical-themed menu, diners at The Eucalyptus enjoy indigenous ingredient-driven dishes. Try one of the tasting menus, such as the King of David Feast, or order a la carte. Favorite items include fire-roasted eggplant with aged pomegranate syrup and the upside down maklubah; a saffron-scented rice dish with chicken, vegetables, and Jordanian salad.

Locals love Hannah’s Restaurant, a casual cafeteria occupying a former Petrol station, for its Moroccan-inspired Israeli cuisine. Don’t miss the housemade couscous when it’s on the menu.

See + Do

When in Jerusalem, take travel editor Pauline Frommer’s tip and head to the Austrian Hospice for unparalleled views of the city. Ask to be taken up to the roof for postcard-worthy snapshots of sites including the Dome of the Rock and the Mount of Olives.

Start at the bottom of Ben-Yehuda Street, at Zion Square, for the city’s best shopping, sports bars, and cafés. End your night at an al fresco bar with a shooter of anis Arak. Order it on the rocks and watch the colorless Middle Eastern apertif turn milky white.

Pass an afternoon at Yad Vashem, the Holocaust History Museum. Stroll through Moshe Safdie’s dramatic, irregular prism, a warped triangle that narrows before bursting from the western slope of Mount Herzl. Linger in the Hall of Names. This memorial reflects portraits and biographies of 2 million identified Holocaust victims in a deep, water-filled basin in the bedrock. The portraits and biographies represent less than a third of those who perished.

Write a miniature wish and tuck it into the Western Wall, in the Old City. This holy site is surrounded by synagogues, mosques, and churches: a beacon of coexistence. In the Davidson Center, an exhibit chronicling the excavation of the Temple Mount, see a fragment of clay engraved with cuneiform. It’s considered the oldest writing in the city’s 5,000-year history.


The arrival of the Waldorf Astoria last spring marked Jerusalem’s debut as a luxury destination. The restored, Golden Era-building features a retractable glass ceiling in the atrium, two European restaurants, and 226 opulently-appointed guest rooms with iPads for private concierge services.

Extensive renovations, now in the final stages, have revived interest in The Inbal Hotel. Not to be missed? A dip in the city’s only year-round outdoor pool, with its heated, retractable dome. The Inbal also recently launched day and night bicycle tours of Jerusalem.

Since 1930, the King David Hotel has been accommodating everyone from international royals to American sports stars (Prince Charles; Elizabeth Taylor; Mohammed Ali). Book a room with views into the Old City, or sip local wine from the northern Golan Heights on the outdoor terrace.

Melanie Lieberman is a T+L contributor. You can follow her on twitter at @LittleWordBites.