Visiting Jerusalem's Ben Yehuda Street: A Guide to Israel’s Iconic Pedestrian Mall
Jerusalem, Israel ✈
Whenever I'm in Israel, there's a particular charm about Jerusalem that I can't resist. At the heart of this attraction is Ben Yehuda Street, a place I find myself returning to time and again. The true essence of Ben Yehuda Street lies in its exciting atmosphere. The street is always alive with music, street performers, and the chatter of locals and tourists alike. It's a melting pot of cultures and traditions, a place where the past meets the present.
Ben Yehuda Street, named after Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, the reviver of the Hebrew language, is steeped in history. It's not just a street; it's a symbol of the modern Hebrew revival movement. Established during the early 20th century, this pedestrian mall is a blend of the old and new facets of Jerusalem.
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“Shopping on Ben Yehuda Street is an experience in itself. The street is lined with stores offering a range of products, from clothing to souvenirs and specialized Judaica items, jewelry, handmade kippot, and Dead Sea products. It's a great spot to pick up unique gifts and mementos.”
Ben Yehuda Street has been a major road in Jerusalem long before the State of Israel was established in 1948. The street was transformed into a pedestrian mall in 1983, known in Hebrew as a "midrachov," a neologism combining the words for "sidewalk" and "street".
Located in the heart of Jerusalem, Ben Yehuda Street is a bustling artery in the city's cultural and social life. It runs from King George Street to Jaffa Street, acting as a connector between traditional and modern neighborhoods. This central location makes it easily accessible and a starting point for exploring the city.
Shopping on Ben Yehuda Street is an experience in itself. The street is lined with stores offering a range of products, from clothing to souvenirs and specialized Judaica items, jewelry, handmade kippot, and Dead Sea products. It's a great spot to pick up unique gifts and mementos.
Ben Yehuda Street is also a paradise for food lovers. From upscale restaurants to affordable fast-food joints, it offers an array of dining options. Here’s a few kosher fan favorites:
- Café Rimon: Known for its diverse menu, Rimon is a great place for those who want to experience modern Israeli cuisine. They have separate seating areas for their meat menu and their dairy menu.
- Big Apple Pizza: For a quick, satisfying bite, Big Apple Pizza serves up some of the best pizza in the area.
- Sam's Bagels: Here, the bagels are a must-try, perfect for a quick breakfast or a snack while exploring.
- Moshiko: Offering a taste of authentic Israeli street food, Moshiko is famous for its shawarma and kebabs and often is touted as the best place for falafel in Jerusalem.
- New Deli: Known for its delicious sandwiches, offering a fresh and modern twist on classic deli fare.
There are numerous hotels in and around Ben Yehuda Street in Jerusalem, catering to a range of preferences and budgets. Here are some options:
1. 21st Floor Hotel: Located directly on Ben Yehuda Street, this hotel is close to popular shopping areas, the Mamilla Mall, Machane Yehuda Market, and a 20-minute walk from Jaffa Gate of the Old City.
2. Bezalel Hotel - an Atlas Boutique Hotel: Situated a short walk from Mahane Yehuda and several light rail stops, this hotel is right off of Ben Yehuda Street.
3. Arthur Hotel - an Atlas Boutique Hotel: This hotel is adjacent to Ben Yehuda Street, in the commercial center of Jerusalem and within walking distance of the Old City and various cafes and restaurants.
4. City Center Jerusalem: Offering well-equipped rooms, this hotel is about a 20-minute walk to the Old Town and is situated near Ben Yehuda Street.
5. Eyal Hotel Jerusalem: Located a couple of blocks from Ben Yehuda Street, this hotel offers good value and is well-situated for exploring Jerusalem.
6. Herbert Samuel Jerusalem: This is a 5-star hotel offering an excellent experience and is located adjacent to Ben Yehuda Street.
7. Ibis Styles Jerusalem City Center: Situated right in the middle of Ben Yehuda Street.
8. Ibis Jerusalem City Center: Not far from the other Ibis, this one is on Elisar Street just off Jaffa Street. This hotel has an excellent staff and is in a convenient location. It is a little quieter than the one on Ben Yehuda Street.
9. Harmony Hotel - an Atlas Boutique Hotel: Known for its excellent location, this hotel is within walking distance of the Old City, Mamilla, and Ben Yehuda Street.
10. Bat Sheva Hotel Jerusalem: Located close to bus services and within walking distance of Ben Yehuda Street, this hotel offers friendly staff and an excellent breakfast.
11. Shamai Suites: Offering a convenient location to everything in Jerusalem, this hotel is praised for its friendly and helpful staff.
These hotels offer a range of amenities, from basic to luxurious, and are well-suited for visitors looking to explore the heart of Jerusalem and its rich cultural and historical heritage.
Where Ben Yehuda Street meets Jaffa Street, you will find a piano. The piano is part of a public music project known as the Cadenza Piano, installed for a social experiment. It allows anyone to play, fostering community engagement through music. This initiative, along with other public music projects, aims to bring a unique musical experience to the streets of Jerusalem.
The Mashbir Department Store
Located near the piano is the Mashbir. The Mashbir, also known as Hamashbir, is a historic department store chain in Israel. It celebrated its 75th anniversary in 2023, marking its establishment in September 1947. The first Mashbir store opened on Jaffa Street in Jerusalem, becoming the first all-in-one retail store in the area even before the establishment of the state. Over the years, it expanded to include various branches across the country. The chain played a significant role in supplying essential goods to residents, especially during challenging times like the siege of Jerusalem. I remember when the Mashbir was located at the other end of Ben Yehuda Street at King George Street. Today, it continues to operate with multiple branches and many employees, contributing significantly to Israel's retail landscape.
While Ben Yehuda Street is close to other major attractions in Jerusalem, such as Machane Yehuda Market, you will find even more cafes, restaurants, and fast-food places to enjoy on Jaffa Street. When walking from Ben Yehuda Street and past the Mashbir, make a right onto Jaff Street and check out the following:
- Café Hillel: A cozy spot for coffee enthusiasts and casual dining.
- The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf: Dairy restaurant which offers a wide range of coffee and tea selections.
- Burgers Bar: Known for its juicy burgers and casual atmosphere.
- Pisgat Hafalafel: A popular choice for falafel lovers.
- Harvey’s Smokehouse: Specializes in smoked meats and BBQ dishes.
- Mike’s Place: A lively bar with American-style food and live music.
- Mr. Green: Focuses on healthy, green, and vegetarian options.
- Aroma Café: A well-known café chain with a variety of coffee and light meals.
- Pasta Basta: Offers a range of customizable, fresh pasta dishes and pizza.
Ben Yehuda Street in Jerusalem is more than just a destination; it's an experience. Its blend of history, culture, cuisine, and shopping makes it a microcosm of Jerusalem's spirit. Every visit here adds a new layer to my understanding and appreciation of this historic city.
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