A tour of Jerusalem for museum buffs
New York has Museum Mile, Los Angeles has Museum Row and London has Museum Lane. Although Jerusalem's "Museum Center" boasts a relatively high concentration of top-draw institutions, many more museums are spread all over the city, so that you never know when you might bump into one while wandering around.
The city's many collections get to play a starring role a few times throughout the year, namely Hamshushalaim (when many have extra late hours, although Ben Stiller-style hijinks are not part of the deal) and on free museum day every spring (when admission to them is as gratis as the name implies).
Jerusalem's eclectic museums range from the Holocaust memorial at Yad Vashem and the Theodor Herzl homage on the western edge of the city to the Shai Agnon House across town in Talpiot.
A neighborhood dedicated to museums
The grandmama of all museums in Jerusalem, though, is the Israel Museum, which features gargantuan collections of art, antiquities and gaggles of visitors, of which you should be one. The museum, newly reopened after a massive multi-year renovation, is home to the Dead Sea Scrolls, and the country's largest collection of archaeological finds from around the region. It also boasts an enormous model of Jerusalem from the Second Temple period, an art garden, and several rotating collections or art and other goodies, including lectures by curators on a weekly basis.
If that's not enough, visitors can hop over to the Ticho House annex, which features cutting edge art in what once was one of the city center's finest residences. Unlike stuffier museums, on many Wednesday nights, the Ticho House hosts a concert, with the first glass of wine on the house and 20% off a meal at the solid Little Jerusalem restaurant.
Likewise situated in the Museum Center district, Jerusalem's most hands-on institution, the Bloomfield Science Museum, offers an ongoing rotation of mostly kid-friendly exhibits. Beyond being the home to Einstein's legacy and the Hebrew University's top-notch science departments (cherry tomatoes, anyone?), Jerusalem is to most people primarily a left brain city.
But Bloomfield turns that idea on its head, with offerings like their current set on everything you ever wanted to know about water. They also have live shows for the kiddies and dabble in electricity, gravity and all sorts of other fun science-y stuff.
Between the gates
The Tower of David Museum, one of the city's most recognizable landmarks, right inside the Jaffa Gate, in housed inside an old Ottoman citadel. Inside, visitors are taken through the ages of the oft-conquered Holy city, all the way back to, you guessed, it, the time of King David. Plus, lasers and lights - at the museum's Night Spectacular laser light show. If that's not enough edutainment, on many spring and summer Friday mornings, the Tower of David hosts a concert in its courtyard, followed by a themed tour of the Old City.
Admission to any of the museum's shows will get you into their permanent and rotating exhibits, with morning guided tours included in a number of languages (Hebrew on Mondays and Wednesdays at 10:30, and summer Fridays at 10:30; English on Sundays through Thursdays at 11:00, and summer Fridays at 11:00; French on Tuesdays at 11:00).
From there, it's just a short hop into the Jewish Quarter to check out the Burnt House, which uses the technology of today to illuminate life in the Old City when it wasn't as old.
Several more Old City institutions offer additional glimpses into this iconic, historic and holy section of town. At the Old Yishuv Court Museum, learn about the Old City's Jewish communities that thrived under Ottoman and British rule before being driven out by the Jordanians in 1948.
Between the Western Wall area and the Dung Gate is the Jerusalem Archeological Park, where Second Temple structures like the Southern Wall access stairs and the remains of Robinson's Arch still stand. First Temple-era artifacts can be seen at the Ariel Center. And adjacent to the tunnels beneath the Western Wall is the Chain of Generations Center, a museum that fuses some 150 tons of shining glass art by Jeremy Langford with thousands of years of Jewish history to tell the story of a nation.
Outside the walls and downtown
Outside the Old City is the progressive Museum on the Seam, with its provocative and topical art.
Over in Katamon, the Museum for Islamic Art's collection of Middle Eastern artifacts fits right in with the city's East-meets-West ethos. Despite the name, the museum does branch out to include an exhibit on Ottoman tapestries and one of the world's finest timepiece collections.
And in the center of town, the old Bezalel Academy building houses what is today the Artists House. The Rabbi Kook Museum, covering the late great Zionist Rabbi, is adjacent to the psychedelic canvases of the Museum of Psalms, both on Rabbi Kook Street - also home to the Ticho House.
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