I never thought I would actually visit Israel so when an opportunity came up for me to go for work, I thanked my boss, booked my flights and took a few extra days off to explore.
What I discovered truly surprised and impressed me. Not only did I feel unexpectedly safe in Jerusalem (given the current climate) but I fell in love with the beauty of the city – her limestone buildings, friendly locals and tasty food.
So what exactly did I see and do?
- First up, the absolute highlight of my trip to Israel was visiting The Dead Sea and Masada. I went on a day tour with United Tours and was absolutely blown away by the beauty and peacefulness of the region. Swimming in the Dead Sea was incredible – a once in a lifetime experience! The water feels like a warm oil bath and leaves a soft salt paste on your skin when you come out. Floating around surrounded by such stunning surroundings for surreal – an absolute must if you visit Israel.
- Do a walking tour of the Old City. It is the best way to see everything and the information and history your guide imparts is invaluable to understanding Jerusalem and its history.
- The Western Wail/The Wailing Wall is another ‘must visit’ even if you’re not religious. It is a very unique and sacred place – I felt very moved when I visited and felt comfortable enough to place a prayer in the wall.
- Wander the Old City Souk and make sure you grab yourself a freshly squeezed pomegranate juice – yum! Be sure to bargain with everyone you see. They hike up the prices as much as they can if they think you’ll buy so stick to your guns and don’t fall for it. My rule is to offer between 1/3 and 1/2 of the number they say and go up from there. Remember they won’t sell it to you unless they make a profit so it pays to stick to your guns and see how low they’ll go.
- The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is the most holy place for Christians in the world. Visiting it is a unique experience but it gets very crowded so be prepared.
- I was also lucky enough to do a Segway tour of the city which was super fun! It took me a little while to get used to riding the Segway but once I felt comfortable I couldn’t help but zoom around and take in all the sites. Watching the sunset over the city o the tour was particular lovely.
- Jerusalem’s First Station was one of my favourite spots – it’s a hub of activity where food and culture meet and was conveniently located across the road from my hotel (The Dan Boutique Hotel), which also happened to be just a short walk from the Old City. My picks for dinner at First Station are Adom and Hasdana. These are non-kosher restaurants and both served up absolutely superb meals. We dined in a huge group at both restaurants and the service and timing was impeccable. Just thinking about the food we ate makes me want to go back!
- Another stand out restaurant meal I had was at Eucalyptus – unsurprisingly one of Jerusalem’s best restaurants. The food shows of Israeli ingredients and dishes to perfection and I also happen to love the ‘Australian’ name. Beware of the cheeky chef if you go though – he may make you do a impromptu show with him.
- A few tips: Saturday is the day of the Sabbath in Jerusalem so the city tends to shut down as people spend time with their families – this is the perfect opportunity for you to head out of the city and explore the region a bit more. Also, if you plan on visiting any religious sites be sure to dress appropriately.