Jerusalem may lack the sandy beaches of the coast or the funky nightlife of Tel Aviv, but it makes up for it with some spectacular views, free of charge and open at all hours. With August upon us, braving that daily 90-degree weather is no easy feat, but for those who are adventurous at heart, willing to trek up steep hills, climb winding stairs or take a long train ride, there’s a full day of viewable treats, all for the taking.
This week, our picks for the top five best views in the holy city.
1) Start at the beginning. You’ve just arrived in Jerusalem and are already seeking the nearest view. Head into the central bus station and grab a gelato at Aldo or an iced coffee at Aroma and walk over to the Jerusalem Bridge of Strings, a structure connecting a 160-meter span of white cables to a single piece of pylon. While the bridge is a famous attraction in itself, the views of Jerusalem’s hustle-and-bustle are worth the walk as well. The light rail runs right along the bridge (although if you want to get on the train, you’ll have to get off the bridge), and it serves as the perfect starting point to any Jerusalem view quest. Jerusalem Bridge of Strings, at the entrance to the city.
2) Now take the light rail toward the Old City’s Damascus Gate and head to the Austrian Hospice. Commissioned by the Catholic Church in 1863, it was built to house pilgrims visiting the Holy Land, and it still serves that purpose. Located at 37 Via Dolorosa, it’s just a two-minute walk from Damascus Gate, possibly five minutes when you’re making your way through the crowds of people in the Old City market. Luckily, the hospice is a cool escape from the crowds, and it’s just a few short flights up to the rooftop which offers a view the Old City, the Mount of Olives and Dome of the Rock. If you’re too hot or tired, there’s also an elevator option. Back down in the lobby, you can consider an iced coffee with a slice of apple strudel. You might want to dress modestly for this one. Austrian Hospice, 37 Via Dolorosa, Arab Market, Old City.
3) Head back toward west Jerusalem but take one more glance at what makes this city tick. Stop in at Mishkenot Sha’ananim, the city’s first Jewish neighborhood built outside the Old City, located at the bottom of King David Street. The Montefiore windmill, renovated just last year, turns on even the hottest days of the summer, and a series of plazas and overlooks set around the windmill offer a worthwhile display of the Old City’s outer walls and the city’s valley to the south. Montefiore Windmill, Mishkenot Sha’ananim, King David Street.
4) For a more urban view amid the lower rooftops of Jerusalem’s Nachlaot and Mahane Yehuda neighborhood, walk over to the shuk, (or take the train from Damascus Gate down Jaffa Street) to artist Yoram Amir’s Shodedei Yam gallery. Amir’s a bit of an iconoclast, gathering window frames from many an abandoned building — including the now-renovated Palace Hotel — and using these disturbing aspects of the city’s modernization to frame his landscape shots of the city.
You can wander through his home, a building dating from the last century which doubles as his gallery — he also works as a wedding photographer — and stop on the various flights of stairs and outer hallways to peer out at the neighborhood below, including the backs and alleyways of this still relatively untouched area of the city. Yoram Amir, 12 Rehov HaHaruv or 93 Jaffa Street (his home can be accessed from either address).
5) How’s this for (mostly) free and with a view? Catch a jazz show (tickets needed) or classical music concert (free) at the Brigham Young University Jerusalem Center, with its own spectacular view of the Mount of Olives. The university, a branch of the Mormon university in Pravo, Utah, is the home-away-from-home for the community’s students interested in a spiritual semester abroad, and is housed in an architecturally stunning building located on Mount Scopus with its own, 250-seat auditorium, featuring free classical concerts on Sundays. Before the show, nip out to the rooftop terrace, and check out spectacular views of the Mount of Olives, preferably at sunset.
The Jerusalem views can also be seen from inside the auditorium, in case you choose to tune the concert out. There are free 45-60 minutes tours available of the building, including a 10-minute organ recital, tour of the top floor and gardens. Call the hosting staff at 02-626-5666; for information about the monthly Thursday night jazz concerts, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Brigham Young Jerusalem Center, Mount Scopus.