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5 Ways to Take Advantage of the Jerusalem Summer

An old song from the musical Carousel said “June is bustin’ out all over,” and that’s what you can feel in Jerusalem, even on June 1. Summer has come early, flowers are blooming, and the streets are filled with locals and visitors alike ready to take in evening concerts, festivals of all shapes and sizes and enjoy a drink or bite to eat and people watch at a sidewalk café.

Musical evenings and summer festivals

The First Station

First Station Concert

For a charming evening of free music, make your way to the First Station complex near the German Colony, where you can enjoy free international music performances, organized in conjunction with the city’s Culture and Arts Department and the Israel Festival. The two stages are along Derech Milton, the bicycle track.

“France with Love” is opening night, June 7, featuring Riff Cohen, the Israeli singer, song writer, actress and musician who performs in Hebrew, French and Arabic.

Continuing through June 11, entertainment features include: World Music and a Mediterranean evening (one performer doing folk, country, rock n’roll, hip hop and jazz; another with Irish and gypsy music); a Romanian-Balkan evening (with international jazz fusion and world gypsy and folk music) and World Music (with a female singer and band and a folk singer). Each evening, there are two programs—7 p.m. and 9 p.m.

From June 4-13, “Under the Bridge” includes Jewish songs from North Africa; a jam session with an Israeli-Palestinian group; music on instruments around the world; local and original music; a pre-Shabbat jam session; and more.

Musrara Mix

Every summer, the Naggar School of Art and neighborhood residents sponsor the Musrara Mix interdisciplinary art festival with Israeli and international artists and musicians and students of the Naggar School, June 2-4, free except for main stage performances.

International Film Festival

Are you a film buff in search of the best films from Israel and around the world? If so, look no further than July 9-19, as the International Film Festival opens at the Sultan’s Pool just outside Jerusalem’s Old City walls.

Hutzot Hayotzer

From August 3-15, artists from more than 40 countries will display their wares at Hutzot Hayotzer Fair, the international arts and crafts fair. They’ll be accompanied by a host of concerts and dance performances throughout the festival.

Birman Musical Bistro

You can catch live jazz sessions throughout the year at Birman, on Doroth Rishonim Street just off the Ben Yehuda pedestrian drag, but the summer atmosphere is extra special, as passersby follow the music into the bar and join the regular clientele made up of local music-lovers and musicians.

Barood

Saturdays are peaceful in Jerusalem, but they can be a struggle for people in search of entertainment. Thankfully, Barood in the Feingold Courtyard makes sleepy Saturdays a little more bearable with free outdoor concerts on a semi-regular basis. The music is mostly jazz, and the courtyard seating provides a unique atmosphere reminiscent of Italy or Greece.

Here’s a taste of some of the many amazing festivals in Jerusalem celebrating the city, arts, culture and much more.

Rooftop Bars

rooftop (2)

Jerusalem’s summer evenings are is like no other, and the perfect way to start one off is with drink at one of the handful of rooftop bars around the city.

The most famous are Mamilla Hotel’s Rooftop Outdoor Lounge and Restaurant, which boasts an incredible view of the Old City and serves appetizers, grilled foods and pasta, and Notre Dame’s Rooftop Cheese and Wine Restaurant, which delivers possibly the best view of the Old City in town alongside gourmet meals, wines and 40 imported cheeses.

However, Jerusalem’s most popular hostel, the Abraham Hostel, has set out to prove that rooftop bars don’t have to be all about glitz and glamour with the opening of its new rooftop bar, where the it’s not so much about the view and the elegance so much as the homey atmosphere that encourages locals and tourists alike to mingle and enjoy the evenings with tasty food and a variety of drinks at affordable prices. In addition to the nightly happy hour, the Abraham Hostel has a weekly barbecue on Mondays, Thursday jam sessions and concerts on a regular basis.

Enjoy the Nature

Gazelle Valley (2)_670x400

Everybody who lives in the city longs to experience a bit of nature, and luckily for us, Jerusalem boasts more urban nature reserves than any other city in the country.

In fact, just this year, Jerusalem inaugurated its newest reserve, Gazelle Valley, located between the southern neighborhoods of Katamon and Kiryat HaYovel. The reserve is home to Jerusalem’s only boasts an area of 250 acres, highlighted by man-made ponds and streams, a picturesque green landscape and, as the name suggests, a pack of some 30 wild gazelles that roam freely throughout the park.

If you’re looking for something with easy access from the city center, check out the Jerusalem Bird Observatory, where you can observe Jerusalem’s native wildlife and take part in a number of educational activities while also helping preserve Jerusalem’s natural habitat.

Al Fresco Dining in Nahalat Shiva

Jerusalem afternoons can be hot, which may be why relaxing at a lovely café while sipping on a cold drink or even having a delectable lunch is a favorite past time in the city. If you are in the downtown area, one of the most charming to wander down is Nahalat Shiva, the area founded by seven gentlemen in 1869.

Nahalat Shiva is home to numerous mainstays of Jerusalem’s restaurant scene, such as Rachmo’s homestyle Iraqi-Kurdish restaurant and Rega Matok (Sweet Moments) Hungarian dairy restaurant directly on the main drag of Yoel Salomon Street, and places like Tmol Shilshom and Blue Hall tucked into the alleyways.

Also, on Yoel Salomon, you can find the latest restaurant addition to the area. Simply meander past the gift ships until you see the sign Music Square and just a few steps later you’ll happen upon Piccolinohoused in a 150-year-old building that served as a community oven to 100 years ago.

There, you can relax on the terrace and soak up the Jerusalem sun and air while taking in live music on a daily basis from 12:00 to 2:30 pm. If you’re more of a night person, head to Piccolino in the evening for dinner and live music from 8:00 to 10:00 pm.

If you’d like to explore more of what Nahalat Shiva has to offer, then continue to the end of Yoel Salomon (take a right out of Piccolino) and turn left onto Rivlin Street where you’ll see the recently-opened Friends of Zion Museum and the Avi Ben wine shop. Keep walking onward, and you will get to the center of Jerusalem nightlife: the bars and restaurants of Rivlin Alley, Feingold Courtyard and Ben Shetach Street, where you can sit outside and enjoy the weather as the city’s many pedestrians pass you by.

Walking Tours

Everyone likes a freebe and the Jerusalem Municipality offers weekly Saturday tours at 10:00 am: June 6 is from Mamilla Mall to Al Aqsa Mosque; June 13 is Mount  Zion; June 27 is “In the Footsteps of the Crusaders;” July 4 is Shivtei Yisrael Street. All tours start from Safra Square underneath the palm trees.

Markets are an attractive, sensory experience, especially Jerusalem’s Jewish produce market, MachanehYehudah. A number of walks by knowledgeable leaders are available at a wide range of prices and styles.

Boutique tour operator Cook A Tour offers tours of the Mahane Yehuda Market, Ein Karem and the Old City that include a number of activities depending on the tour, including cooking workshops, visits to a chef’s studio or meals out at some of Jerusalem’s best restaurants.

Shuk Walk by journalist, food writer, and cookbook author, Sybil Kaplan (Full disclosure: That’s me!), offers a 75-minute walk with a map for 45 NIS, during which you’ll hear anecdotes about the vendors, bars, restaurants and specialty shops.

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Sybil Kaplan is a seasoned foreign correspondent, journalist, food writer, book reviewer, and cookbook author. She comes from Overland Park, Kansas. She leads the weekly Shuk Walk in Machaneh Yehudah in English. Her husband, Barry, is her photographer. You can contact her by email at syb1023@aol.com.