Lonely Planet Local Miriam Berger is a freelance journalist based in Jerusalem. She’s spent time in the city at different points throughout her life and has always felt privileged to live there. An Arabic and Hebrew speaker, she enjoys exploring all parts of the city, often by eating her way around it, as she seeks out new tastes and experiences in Jerusalem's diverse palette.

Jerusalem's iconic Dome of the Rock © hikrcn / Shutterstock
Jerusalem's iconic Dome of the Rock © hikrcn / Shutterstock

When I have friends in town… we eat. I’ve got my favourite falafel shops, such as Abu Shukri and the Yemenite Falafel Center, plus stops for Middle Eastern favourites: shakshuka at T’mol Shilshom and kunafeh (a warm, syrupy cheese-based pastry) at Jaafar Sweets. But scratch Jerusalem’s surface, and there’s a way more diverse food scene: Ethiopian food at Dire, Georgian and Russian food at Kangaroo and Kurdish pastries at Ishtabach, which give a taste of the culinary complexities of this city and its people.

When I’m up for a big night out… I’m more likely to head to Tel Aviv or Ramallah where there’s more of that kind of scene, but if I’m staying in Jerusalem, I’ll likely end up dancing at Sira, Cassette Bar or HaMazkeka. In Jerusalem, the weekend starts on Thursday night, and it’s the most popular time to go out because on Friday night, the start of the Jewish sabbath, most of the west side of the city shuts down. Jerusalem doesn't have big clubs like in Tel Aviv, but the city makes up for it with lots of restaurants, bars and music venues, and even in places like Mahane Yehuda Market, some impromptu dancing may break out.

A typical weekend includes… ideally a long run past the First Station, which is a perfect place to spend a Saturday eating or walking around. There are also some great day trips to take around Jerusalem and in the West Bank — or relaxing cafes to sit in if, like me, your weekend often includes work.

Writer Miriam Berger eating falafel, salad and hummus in Jerusalem
When Miriam's friends are in town, food is at the top of the itinerary © Miriam Berger / Lonely Planet

For cheap eats… I will admit that I frequent Cofizz and Cofix, Israel’s ubiquitous five-shekel coffee, juice and food shops, which can be found all around the west of the city. On Jerusalem’s east side, I can’t resist the bread and cheese pastries at Al Amin Sweets & Bakery and a filling falafel sandwich at Al Ayed by Damascus Gate. Even just a Jerusalem kaak (a round Palestinian sesame bread) or doughy zaatar manakeesh (baked bread topped with a thyme spice mix) sold on the street can be very satisfying.

One thing I hate about living in Jerusalem… is that it can be a divided and heartbreaking city for its residents. But that’s also why I’m here: to move between spaces and document what I hear and see. Holiday times can be a particular challenge to navigate, so be sure to check what Jewish, Christian and Muslim holidays may be happening during your trip and how that may affect your itinerary or expectations. During Passover, for example, only kosher food can be found on the west side. During Ramadan, much of the east side closes down but then is very crowded at night. Roads surrounding the Old City can be closed when big religious festivals are happening.

Sunset from Notre Dame Cheese & Wine Restaurant, Jerusalem
Notre Dame Cheese & Wine Restaurant is one of the best spots in Jerusalem to enjoy golden hour © Miriam Berger / Lonely Planet

My favourite place to see the sunset is from one of Jerusalem’s few rooftop restaurants, like the Notre Dame Cheese & Wine Restaurant and View Cafe Bar at the Holy Land Hotel. Or just from the garden in my backyard.

When I want to get out of the city… I feel lucky about all the options I have. For a beach day, I’ll head to Tel Aviv or to the Dead Sea, one of my favourite places on earth. I often end up visiting friends in Ramallah or relaxing at Hosh Jasmin outside Bethlehem or finding reasons to explore other areas, such as Nablus or Ein Kerem.

Locals and travellers shopping at Mahane Yehuda, a famous market in Jerusalem
Mahane Yehuda Market is the epicentre of Jerusalem's food scene © Alexey Stiop / Shutterstock

I do my food shopping at… the Musrara and Damascus Gate shops, where the prices are the most affordable and the produce is very fresh. There you’ll find stalls and shops selling all kinds of fruits and vegetables, as well as dry and canned goods, cleaning supplies and anything else you might need. On the west side, I’ll head to Mahane Yehuda Market, which is a bit more organised and expensive but it's a trove of tightly packed stalls and every food you’re looking for. Sometimes I’ll also head to the edges of an ultra-religious community to shop at small convenience stores and interact with people there. I love when pomegranate and grapefruit season starts. I hate when spinach season ends.

One tip for travellers… Take the bus. Download the transportation apps Moovit, Waze and Maps.me and push yourself to explore a part of the city you hadn't considered visiting. One of my favourite ways to do this is to pick a restaurant that’s popular in a neighbourhood I’ve never been to and strike up a conversation with the people there. Ask people who are different from you about what their experiences in the city are like.

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