Ben Yehuda Street is probably the most famous street in Jerusalem outside of the Old City. When living there, it is all too easy to dismiss the street as a tourist trap with nothing worth seeing. When visiting the city, many people simply don’t have the time to uncover much of what is hidden on the pedestrianised thoroughfare.
When strolling along Ben Yehuda, you will come across an array of cafes, street food stalls, buskers, gift shops and much more, all of which are worth spending a few minutes exploring. You are bound to have the opportunity to visit the street during your gap year, so here are a few tips on what to look for.
First off, a little history. In 1917, when Jerusalem was under the rule of the British, it was decided to move the business centre of the city west along Jaffa Street. The city plans designed a triangle that was to home businesses and shops. By the time the streets had been constructed, Eliezer Ben-Yehuda had passed away, and it was decided to name the central street after him. Since then, the street has retained its position as one of the city’s most important locations and it was fully pedestrianised in 1983, cementing its place at the heart of modern Jerusalem.
There is no doubt that today Ben Yehuda Street is the perfect location to find souvenirs. You will find numerous shops selling Judaica, jewellery, t-shirts, custom designed kippot, Dead Sea products, ceramics, and far more. There is no way you will be able to miss the stalls and while the prices may be a bit inflated, you are sure to find some unique items.
If all the walking makes you hungry or thirsty, then you are not short of options. For example, falafel lovers have two fantastic options in Pisgat HaFalafel and Moshiko Falafel. Both offer delicious options going far beyond falafel, such as shakshuka, shawarma, and plates of hummus. If you want something a little upmarket, you should try the Italian style Café Rimon. It has been run by the same family since 1953 and is easily one of the oldest cafes in Israel.
Other options include the Muffin Boutique, which offers healthy muffins, bagels and smoothies, or you could even pop into the kosher cocktail bar John Smith, which is just around the corner and also offers a tapas menu.
While walking along the street, don’t forget to keep an eye out for the many street performers. Zion Square is at the bottom where Ben Yehuda meets Jaffa Street and there is almost always something going on there. You will find buskers, dance troops and more. There are plenty of benches as well, so you can sit and enjoy some food while taking in the performances.
If you are visiting Jerusalem, there is far more that you will want to see in the area. The Machane Yehuda Market is just a few minutes’ walk away or you could visit the Ticho House Museum, a historical home that is definitely worth seeing. You are bound to have plenty of time to explore all of these on your gap year, so make sure that you don’t miss out.