Top things to do in Jerusalem this winterAlright, we'll be the first to admit it. Jerusalem's often chilly and often damp winters don't exactly exude the same obvious charm as the city's sultry summers or gloriously temperate, holiday-filled autumns.
But even if you'd balk at a stroll down the Haas Promenade or a day of football in Gan Sacher during a rainy winter day, there's plenty to see and do during a Jerusalem winter. And when the sun does shine, as it has all day long for pretty much the entire fall and winter so far, being out and about in Jerusalem is a pleasure all year long.
The three-weekend Hamshushalayim festival of upped cultural offerings, the winter solstice holiday celebrations of the city's many religious and secular factions, the heart of the local academic year, the throngs of international tourists filling the streets, and many more timely and timeless factors and activities have the potential to keep us entertained and enlightened all winter long.
So go ahead and embrace a Holy City winter. As always, we're standing by, ready to help with another voluminous list of things to do during the season.
Chanukah is here, of course. Get into the spirit with a nighttime stroll of Nachlaot during one of the latter nights of the holiday, when windows and alleyways will be lit up the lights of hundreds of fully-loaded chanukiyot (pictured). Read more about Chanukah in Jerusalem here.
Of course, the Chanukah festivities aren't limited to candles and doughnuts. The city municipality as well as museums and cultural institutions around town are ever ready with a slew of family-friendly Chanukah activities on the docket.
Tu Bishvat, the New Year for trees (yes, there is one), usually rings in a can't-miss series of events for green-thumbers at the Botanical Gardens as well as Machane Yehudah and other locations.
Christians in town over the Christian holiday should enjoy the unique experience of Christmas services in one of Jerusalem's landmark churches.
After services, take a stroll through the Christian Quarter and check out how native Christians deck the halls with (ersatz) boughs of holly (pictured).
Israelis call New Years Eve "Sylvester," and they like to celebrate it with all-night dance parties in the mega-clubs of the Talpiot neighborhood and City Center. Join them! Just follow the sound of the throbbing bass.
Annual Events and Festivals:
For three weekends in November-December, the yearly Hamshushalayim festival revs up again. There's far, far too much going on to list in this article, so check out our main Hamshushalayim page and find something fun to do – more information for the upcoming festival will be added as it becomes available.
Sha'on Horef ("Winter Noize") is a series of wintery cultural events in the streets of Jerusalem's city center which takes place on Mondays in February. The lineup of events includes music, dance, street theater, video art, cooking workshops, parties, artist masterclasses, exhibitions and more! Thousands of people participate each week and transform the streets of Jerusalem into a vibrant cultural space.
Nothing beats thumbing your nose at a cold winter's day curled up in a blanket with a good book. And for good books, you need the Jerusalem Book Fair, held annually each winter.
Attractions, Activities, Tours and hiking
Spend a day at one of Jerusalem’s many museums – indoors and heated. Choose from the Bloomfield Science Museum (great for kids!), The Museum of Italian Jewish Art (in the city center), the Museum of Islamic Art, the Menachem Begin Heritage Museum, and so many more. With the crowds at a low ebb during the off season, now's the time.
We love Jerusalem, but maybe this winter you want to venture further afield. Descend into the desert or head up the coast with our top five day trips from Jerusalem.
The Night Spectacular at the Tower of David Museum is one Jerusalem’s most popular attractions, and active throughout the winter months as well, as long as it’s not raining. Read more and book tickets online here.
Who cares what the weather's like when you've got a few friends and three sheets to the wind? Click here to find a comprehensive list of the hottest bars and nightlife joints in the city.
Free and cheap activities
Rain is important (and atmospheric) during the winter months. Join the population of Jerusalem in praying for a bit of the wet stuff at the Western Wall.
Bundle up and take a stroll in the City Center. Warm up with a bag of hot chestnuts from a midrachov vendor, who sell them at night to fuel revelers and fortify strollers.
Once in a while, it snows in Jerusalem. Cross your fingers, and this winter you may get to see the unforgettable (and brief) sight of the Holy City beneath a blanket of snow – the Haas Promenade is a terrific place for a breathtaking view of a white Jerusalem (pictured).
Get a thermos of coffee, pick a cool spot, pull up a chair and watch the world go by. The Holy City is one of the best places in the world for people watching.
Explore the contemporary city (pictured) while there's room to breathe and no hot sun beating down your neck. Jerusalem is known for its classic institutions and antiquities, but the new stuff is great too.
Spend a dreary day indoors at the Bloomfield Science Museum, checking out exhibits about the movies or water, or pulling up a chair at the Science Cafe.
Kids are off of school for the whole week of Chanukah but you can be sure they’ll stay entertained with a full lineup of activities offered at the city’s museums, cultural institutions and malls including the Bloomfield Science Museum, the Museum of Islamic Art, the Museum of Italian Jewish Art, Beit Avi Chai, The Jerusalem Mall (Malcha) and many more.
If you're seeking substantial cold weather fare, nothing beats a bowl of soup – almost any Jerusalem joint you’ll walk into will be offering new and different brothy concoctions daily throughout the colder months.
The traditional Jerusalemite way to warm up on a cold day is with sachlab, a fragrant hot pudding made from the root of a local orchid. Get a steaming cup topped with cinnamon powder and crushed pistachios from vendors in the Old City's souk or Machane Yehuda - or from the late-night bourekas shop near Safra Square.
During the day throughout Chanukah, stop by one of the city's bakeries for a fresh-out-the-oven sufganiyah (Chanukah doughnut), which come in cooler and more creative flavors every year. Ouzo cream sufganiyah? Yes, please.
If for you winter means hot chocolate, forget Swiss Miss and have a hot chocolate in a cafe with cozy Victorian living room-style furniture – check out our list of the five best hot cocoa joints here.
Warm up with some soul food - Do you fancy a thick soup? A stick-to-your-ribs meat meal? Or perhaps a heaping plate of vegetables and couscous? Restaurants all over Jerusalem are happy to offer you shelter from the wind.
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