Shabbat is the holy day of the week for the Jewish people. It begins on Friday eve and ends on Saturday night, so it’s more or less Saturday. Because Israel is a Jewish democratic state, the Shabbat religious laws are implied to most businesses and public transportation. This means most public transportation does not operate on Shabbat (get ideas on how to get around during Shabbat here: There’s No Public Transportation on Shabbat) and almost all businesses are closed, including shops and restaurants.
In this post I want to focus on Shabbat in Jerusalem. The holy city is very strict regarding Shabbat laws, so a lot of places and services will be closed. But there are still some things which do operate on Shabbat. In this post I’m going to tell you about the top things you can do on Shabbat in Jerusalem + some restaurants which are open on Shabbat and aren’t too costly.
Here’s a video by Kinetic Village, which talks a bit about the Shabbat and gives some photage of Jerusalem (not necessarily during Shabbat, but I really like the photage):
Top Things to Do in Jerusalem on Shabbat:
1- Explore the Old City.
Almost all places in the Old City are open on Shabbat, including churches and the Tower of David Museum. The Jewish Quarter attractions, restaurants and shops are closed, but the Western Wall is open. Just keep in mind that it is not appropriate to take photos in the Western Wall plaza during Shabbat, as it isn’t allowed to use cameras during Shabbat according to the Jewish law. If you do take photos, people might ask you to stop (and might not). Temple Mount is also closed on Shabbat.
2- Visit One of Jerusalem’s Museums.
Some of Jerusalem’s top museums are open on Shabbat, including the Tower of David Museum and Rockefeller Museum, which are in the Old City area. Also open are the Israel Museum, Bible Lands Museum, Jerusalem Science Museum and Museum for Islamic Art, but they are a bit farther away from the city center so you will have to take a taxi or walk about 40 minutes to get to their location.
3- Enjoy the graffiti works in Machane Yehuda Market.
On Shabbat the stalls in Machane Yehuda Market are closed and that means the sheds are down. On the sheds are dozens of beautiful graffiti works made by the graffiti artist, Solomon Souza. The graffiti works show the faces of famous people (and less famous people) from the history of Israel as well as biblical scenes.
4- Take Part in a Shabbat Dinner.
One of the most amazing experiences in Israel is taking part in the Shabbat dinner, which is for Jewish people the most important meal during the week. In religious or traditional families a set of blessings are said, everyone around the table sips from the wine and the challah bread is split between the people. Many hostels offer a Shabbat dinner to their guests (at an additional price). If you want to experience a more intimate Shabbat dinner, you can join a Jewish family on this important event. There are several companies that link between travelers and families for Shabbat dinner. I recommend Shabbat of a Lifetime.
5- Visit the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo.
The Jerusalem Biblical Zoo is open during Shabbat between 10 AM to 5 PM. You can spend a nice afternoon walking along the different paths, between the different animals. Though, take into account that the zoo is far from the city center and because there’s no public transportation, you’ll need to rent a car or take a taxi.
6- Participate in a Guided Tour.
If you prefer to explore the city with a guide, you can join one of the tours offered by different companies in Jerusalem during Shabbat:
- Abraham Tours offer tours of the Old City and Mount of Olives on Shabbat as well as graffiti tours in the Machane Yehuda Market. They also offer a Jerusalem Shabbat Experience tour on Friday eve.
- Another company offering tours on Shabbat is Sandemans New Europe.
- The Jerusalem Municipality also offer tours to different places on Shabbat for a wonderful price of just 15 ILS per person!
Restaurants Open in Jerusalem on Shabbat:
(all in the city center or the Old City)
- Jahnun Bar – They serve amazing jahnun and malawachs, but you can also order shakshuka and different salads if you’d like. They’re open 24 hours a day, including Shabbat and their prices are cheap! Address: Hillel 28.
- Aroma – This is a national chain, that serves coffee, sandwiches, salads and breakfasts, that include shakshuka, of course. Most branches in Jerusalem aren’t open on Shabbat, but there’s one open on Hillel 18.
- Bolinat – A nice cafe and bar, that’s popular among the students of Jerusalem and offers great hamburgers, pastas, and salads. They also have a menu for vegans. Prices are average and it’s open every day until late, including Shabbat. Address: Dorot Rishonim 6.
- Abu Shukri Restaurant – In the Old City Muslim Quarter, Abu Shukri offers wonderful hummus together with the usual side dishes, falafel balls, french fries, pita bread and salads. This restaurant is here from the 60s and is well known amongst tourists and locals alike. Address: El Wad ha-Gai 63.
- Jafar Sweets – If you’re searching for the perfect kanafeh (an Arab dessert of a pastry soaked in sweet syrup and layered with yummy cheese), make your way to this sweet spot inside the Old City, on the way to Damascus Gate. They serve not only delicious kanafeh, but also baklavas and other Arab sweets, and have been doing so for over 60 years. They are located along Beit HaBad Street.
I’m sure there are more, but those are the ones I know and recommend. Know of any more budget restaurants open during Shabbat? Let me know in the comments or PM me on my Facebook page.
Wishing you a great Shabbat in Jerusalem!
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