The top five spots for people watching in JerusalemJerusalem's denizens and visitors are known to spend hours on end doing nothing more than sitting in front of a store or restaurant, with a coffee, beer or hookah in hand, bantering and watching the world go by.
Jerusalem's denizens and visitors are known to spend hours on end doing nothing more than sitting in front of a store or restaurant, with a coffee, beer or hookah in hand, bantering and watching the world go by. Fortunately, Jerusalem has a number of great spots for enjoying the scenery and people watching, a favorite pastime for any picturesque or eclectically populated city. But with so many people from so many different places constantly out and about in the plazas, landmarks and thoroughfares of the Holy City, people watching here is arguably more fascinating here than anywhere else. Read on for GoJerusalem.com's selections of the best spots in town for people watching.
Downtown and the Ben Yehuda pedestrian mall
The center of the tourist scene and the heart of the city center, the Ben Yehuda pedestrian mall, a large area of Jerusalem stone-tiled roads lined with shops, restaurants and more, is the place to see and be seen. From buskers to crazy Hasidim using the street to play music and dance to, there's almost never a dull moment on the street, which is also a favorite among Jerusalem's many English language-friendly yeshiva and seminary students. The epicenter of that whole scene is fro-yo joint Katzefet, at the first intersection up from Zion Square, which offers not only some decent frozen yogurt, but outdoor tables for front-row views of all the action.
Also getting an honorable mention is nearby Shlomtzion Hamalka Street, which fills up with the city's gelled-up skinnier Jersey Shore look-alike crews (lovingly called arsim and frehot), along with plenty of university-enrolled hipper-than-thou types on Thursday nights. Drawn by a mashup of fancy restaurants, hip bars and trendy waffle spots (for when you need something to soak up that alcohol), this set has made the street ground zero for the city's nightlife scene.
Just up the road from Ben Yehuda is another pedestrian area with a bit more of a funky vibe, Little Bezalel. Bordering on the groovy Nachalot neighborhood, Little Bezalel boasts a number of off-the-beaten-path clothing and art boutiques and cafes. Plus, every Friday the area gets highly active with the Bezalel Arts Fair (pictured), full of crafts, wares and music that is quickly turning the pocket of blocks into Jerusalem's version of Tel Aviv's Nachalat Binyamin.
Even if you don't plan on buying anything, it's a great place to browse and meet with friends, or make new ones, especially on weekday afternoons, when the art students are out and about, going about their serious for-art's-sake business.
For a more mainstream experience shopping, or observing the shoppers, the Malcha Mall, a sprawling indoor shopping center with pretty much every locally available major fashion chain and more, also earns our vote. The mall is almost always teeming with activity and offers a number of decent dining options as well - plus there is often some festival or carnival going on there for kids and adults. Salt-of-the-earth Jerusaemite families can be fun to watch here.
If there is one place where outdoor dining reigns supreme it is Emek Refaim, in the German Colony, a strip of trendy upper-shelf restaurants, top-notch cafes, chain restaurants and low-key falafel stands. Despite the narrow sidewalks, almost every restaurant offers a section for eating outside, and even if you're not hungry, pedestrian cruising and looking out for friends has become a favorite activity, especially among the city's English speakers.
Right at the nexus of it all is Caffit, an unpretentious cafe, where you can grab a late brunch on Fridays and watch Jerusalem's bourgeois weekenders enjoying themselves.
Steps of the Holy Sepulchre
Deep inside the Old City's Christian Quarter is one of Christendom's holiest sites, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. While the church welcomes visitors all week long, on Sunday mornings, things get serious, as thousands flock for Mass at 6:30 in the summer and 5:30 in the winter. The steps in front of the church make for a people watching treat, as monks and priests commingle with camera-toting, matching-hatted tourists and Old City denizens of all types.
To get to or from the Holy Sepulcher, one invariably passes through the Arab market, a bustling relic of old Jerusalem which earns an honorable mention. The shopkeepers are always willing to talk (especially if you look interested in buying something) and may even invite you to sit down and have coffee or a pull of the hookah. On your way out of the Old City, pass the busy plaza outside of Damascus Gate, the center of eastern Jerusalem's commerce, where load-bearing donkeys jostle with shoppers among the various stalls and businesses. The terracing of the plaza here makes for comfortable amphitheater-like seating, the gate itself serving as a sort of stage.
The Tayelet offers great views of two things: scenery and people. The walkway-oriented park along the crest of a mountain in southeastern Jerusalem, officially called the Haas Promenade, offers an unparalleled vista of the Old City, the new city and the desert all the way down to the Dead Sea. Families and singles from the nearby residential neighborhoods have made the Tayelet a favorite spot for strolling or relaxing on Shabbat, and the area also fills up with the tour groups that have made the park one of the must-see stops in Jerusalem. Grab a spot in the shade of a cyprus tree and enjoy the show.
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