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Jerusalem Trip Planning Tips

Shabbat in Jerusalem: What’s Open?

Shabbat is the holy day of the week for the Jewish people. It begins on Friday eve and ends on Saturday night. So, you can call it Saturday. Because Israel is a Jewish democratic state, most businesses and public transportation follow the Shabbat religious laws. This means that most public transportation does not operate on Shabbat. Also, almost all businesses are closed, including shops and restaurants. In this post, I want to focus on Shabbat in Jerusalem. 

Get ideas on how to get around during Shabbat here:

There’s No Public Transportation on Shabbat.

The holy city of Jerusalem is strict regarding Shabbat laws, so many places and services will be closed. But there are still some things that do operate on Shabbat. Now, I’ll tell you about the top things you can do on Shabbat in Jerusalem. Also, I’ll mention some restaurants which are open on Shabbat and aren’t too expensive. 

Post last updated on 12 July 2021.

Here’s a video by Kinetic Village, which talks a bit about the Shabbat and gives some footage of Jerusalem. The footage isn’t necessarily from Shabbat, but I really like it: 

Table of Contents:

Top things to do in Jerusalem on Shabbat

Explore the Old City

Visit one of Jerusalem’s museums

Enjoy the graffiti works in Machane Yehuda Market

Take part in a Shabbat dinner

Visit the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo

Join a guided tour

Restaurants open on Shabbat in Jerusalem

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 customary to take photos in the Western Wall plaza during Shabbat because it isn’t allowed to use cameras during Shabbat. If you do take photos, people might ask you to stop (and might not). Temple Mount is also closed on Shabbat.

 

Temple Mount – 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 need to take a taxi or walk about 40 minutes to reach them. By the way, the Israel Museum offers FREE entrance for kids on Shabbat.

 

The Israel Museum – open on Shabbat

3- Enjoy the graffiti works in Machane Yehuda Market.

On Shabbat, the stalls in Machane Yehuda Market are closed. That means that the shutters are down. You’ll be able to see dozens of beautiful graffiti works made by the artist Solomon Souza. The graffiti works are painted on the shutters and show the faces of famous people – and less famous people – from Israel’s history. There are also some biblical scenes.

Just a few of the graffiti works in Machane Yehuda Market

4- Take part in a Shabbat Dinner.

One of the most amazing experiences in Israel is taking part in the Shabbat dinner. For Jewish people, this dinner is the most important meal of the week. Religious or traditional families say a set of blessings, sip from the wine and split the challah bread between all the participants. 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 for this important event. Several companies link travelers and families for Shabbat dinner. One of the leading companies is Shabbat of a Lifetime. You can also find a Shabbat experience on Eatwith

Challah bread on Shabbat

5- Visit the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo.

The Jerusalem Biblical Zoo is open during Shabbat between 10 AM to 5 PM. You can spend a pleasant afternoon walking on the different paths, between the variety of animals. Though, keep in mind that the zoo is far from the city center. That could be problematic on Shabbat because there’s no public transportation. You’ll need to rent a car or take a taxi.

Find more info on the official website of the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo.

These giraffes look grumpy… don’t they?

6- Join a guided tour.

COVID-19 Alert:

Many of the tours do not operate at this time due to the COVID-19 crisis.

Prefer exploring the city with a guide? You can join one of the tours offered by different companies in Jerusalem on Shabbat:

 

Restaurants Open in Jerusalem on Shabbat: 

(all restaurants are 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. The place is open 24 hours a day, including Shabbat, and the prices are affordable! Address: Hillel 28.
  • Aroma – This is a national chain that serves coffee, sandwiches, salads, and breakfasts. The breakfasts include shakshuka, of course. Most branches in Jerusalem are not open on Shabbat, but one is open on Hillel 18.
  • Bolinat – This is a pleasant cafe and bar, popular among the students of Jerusalem. It offers excellent hamburgers, pasta, 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. There are also 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 – Here is the place to go for a perfect kanafeh. This Arab dessert is a pastry soaked in sweet syrup and layered with yummy cheese. But besides the kanafeh, there are also delicious baklavas and other Arab sweets. They have been making sweets for over 60 years, so they know what they are doing. You’ll find their restaurant inside the Old City Muslim Quarter, on 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 on Shabbat? Let me know in the comments or PM me on my Facebook page.

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Wishing you a great Shabbat in Jerusalem!

If you liked this post or found it useful, please don’t hesitate to like, share or comment (:

Also, if you think anything is missing or have any more questions, please send me a message through my Facebook pageBackpack Israel or email me through lior@backpackisrael.com.

And if you’re planning a trip to Israel, don’t forget to check out my FREE app – Travel Israel for Android and iOS

Yours,

Lior

 

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