Jerusalem’s First Train Station is a historic location that doubles up as a fantastic place for an afternoon or evening out. Amazingly, having opened in 1892, the train station remained in operation until the close of the Jaffa-Jerusalem railway in 1998.
The station was built as the terminus of the line during the Ottoman Empire and at its opening there were numerous notable figures present such as Eliezer Ben Yehuda (if you haven’t yet heard of him you are sure to come across him very quickly during your gap year).
When the station fully closed in 1998 it was left neglected for many years with just the railway yard being used for events such as the annual Hebrew Book Week. However, a few years ago it underwent extensive renovation and it is now a bustling cultural and entertainment centre.
The station has now been called HaTakhana HaRishona (The First Station) and its renovation cost $9.3 million. The area is home to all manner of restaurants, cafes and bars and much of it is open seven days a week. There is a huge wooden deck in the centre which not only means that there is plenty of space for walking, but it is also used as a space for a number of temporary attractions. On one side you will even find a European style beer garden.
There are regular live music nights held on a specially constructed stage in the centre. The type of music played is always changing so it is worth keeping an eye out for adverts. The events are free of charge and you can combine it with grabbing a bite to eat or a drink at one of the many different locations.
You will also find a gallery which has ever changing exhibits as well as special displays on fashion, design, food, toys and much more all of which are updated on a regular basis. Every Thursday there is a Farmers’ Market while on Friday a number of Artisans set up shop to sell their high quality arts and crafts. For those more spiritually minded, or looking for connection, then every Friday they have a Kabbalat Shabbat service (in the afternoon) with musical instruments and dancing. Being surrounded by hundreds of people singing, dancing and clapping along is a great way to bring in Shabbat.
The station is also the start of a lovely walking and cycling path. The path will take you through some beautiful park land and follows the old railway tracks. This is a great way to spend an hour on a free afternoon or Shabbat and if you don’t feel like the exercise you can even rent Segways and go on a tour of the area.
The First Station is an excellent place to spend an afternoon or evening. You are sure to find some form of entertainment that you like, whether it’s an exhibition or a concert, and you can combine it with a meal or some fast food from one of the stalls (there are both kosher and non-kosher options). Best of all, once you feel that you’ve explored all that The First Station has to offer, you can then go to Tel Aviv and explore the other end of the railway line at the recently restored HaTachana (The Station) in Jaffa. Both Stations are conveniently located near to the Aardvark apartments.