7-Day Itinerary for Cultural Exploration in Israel
Arts & Culture
Food & Wine
Road Trip Travel
Ancient ruins and sacred sites, modern museums and flavorsome food, Mediterranean beaches and desert oases - there are so many reasons to love Israel. Located only two hours from Greece, you can taste the similarities between the Mediterranean cooking you will experience throughout the region. If you love food, ancient history and warm weather year-round, Israel is a must-see. Discover how you can spend seven days in Israel with this guide I've created to the best sights, hotels and restaurants.
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Where to stay
The American Colony Hotel Jerusalem
Upscale hotel located in an Ottoman-era former palace with charming rooms.
$100 hotel / resort credit.
Upgrade & extended check-in/out, whenever possible.
King David Hotel
Stately hotel with refined rooms near the Western Wall in Jerusalem.
$100 food / beverage credit.
Upgrade & extended check-in/out whenever possible.
The Setai Luxury Hotel
Upscale hotel in Tel Aviv boasting chic rooms, a dreamy pool, a restaurant and a posh bar.
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Day 1: Arrive in Jerusalem
You're likely to arrive in Jerusalem early evening. Check into your hotel and walk from Jaffa Gate to the Nachalat Shiv'a neighborhood, browsing the local galleries before grabbing a simple dinner. Jerusalem is famed for its falafel and hummus joints. I recommend Azura, a landmark diner famed for its Israeli home-style cooking.
Day 2: Explore museums and the Old City
Spend the morning delving into the riches of the Israel Museum, one of the world's leading museums of art and archaeology. Highlights include the Dead Sea Scrolls, artifacts found at Masada and superb European paintings.
In the afternoon, take a taxi to the Old City and explore the Four Sephardic Synagogues and the Cardo. I suggest booking a tour of the Western Wall Tunnels for some hidden history. After all that history, you will probably be hungry. Head to Rooftop at Mamilla Hotel for unparalleled views of the city and sophisticated dishes like organic chicken with roasted zucchini and grouper shawarma with spicy tomato salad.
In the evening, head through the bustling souks (markets) of David Street. End the day with dinner at The Eucalyptus, where the dishes are inspired by the Bible. As the restaurant offers elaborate and generously sized tasting menus, it's easy to try a bit of everything.
Day 3: Visit the City of David
Stroll along King David Street to admire the architecture of the King David Hotel and the YMCA. The King David Hotel has hosted prime ministers, presidents and kings with its Mandate-era architecture. Built in 1926-1933 by the same architect who created New York's Empire State Building, Jerusalem's YMCA is one of the city's best known landmarks.
Before you continue sightseeing, have lunch at The American Colony hotel's lovely courtyard. After lunch, take a cab to the City of David and head up the Mount of Olives, best known as the place where Jesus ascended into heaven. Here you will also stop at the Church of All Nations and the Tomb of the Virgin Mary.
End the day with dinner at Talbiye away from the bustling downtown area. Here you will enjoy a European-inspired menu with smooth jazz playing in the background.
Day 4: Spend the day visiting Masada and the Dead Sea
Today brings a change of scene with an excursion to the fortress of Masada and the Dead Sea. I recommend booking a tour in advance for this day trip. Your hotel can assist you as well and tours are offered both from Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Cable cars transport visitors to the top of the mountains. This site contains fascinating ruins and stunning views spanning all the way to the Jordanian mountains. The last part of the tour is spent at the Dead Sea and was one of my best memories of the trip. You will float and relax in the salty waters before returning to Jerusalem.
Return to Jerusalem and head to Mahane Yehuda, Jerusalem's main food, fruit and vegetable bazaar, for dinner. I recommend Machneyuda, named after the market and one of Jerusalem's most well-known restaurants. Machneyuda's menu changes daily to reflect what's available at the local market. It's recommended to make reservations. After dark, the market is transformed into the heart of the city's nightlife. Grab a nightcap at one of the pubs.
Day 5: Travel to Tel Aviv
Wake up and make the short drive to Tel Aviv where you will spend your last few days in Israel. Known for its beaches and nightlife, Tel Aviv is widely different from the Holy Land of Jerusalem. Once settled into your hotel, head to Rothschild Boulevard for a coffee and Bauhaus architecture. The world's largest assemblage of buildings known as Bauhaus style is in Tel Aviv.
Have lunch at one of the trendy restaurants around Rothschild Blvd or head to Carmel Market for lunch at HaBasta, an intimate bistro. Tel Aviv is filled with markets, Carmel being the city's largest.
Walk along the Tel Aviv beachfront while enjoying the sunset and finish the day with dinner at Kitchen Market at the Tel Aviv Port.
Day 6: Visit the Tel Aviv Museum of Art
Before you go, you must visit the Tel Aviv Museum of Art. Start your day perusing the museum's sculptures and paintings by international superstars such as Van Gogh and Picasso.
Round off your visit with lunch at Pastel, which is conveniently inside the museum. Take a cab to Old Jaffa and explore the flea market and art galleries. If you don't want to wander on your own, I recommend a guided city highlights walking tour! For dinner, head to M25, an incredible restaurant for meat lovers. Order the Arais - chargrilled lamb, tahini and salad, stuffed in a fluffy pita - it's life-changing!
Day 7: Beach day in Tel Aviv
Start your morning with coffee and breakfast at Papua Cafe near the beach. This is your last day in Israel, so it's all about relaxing! Spend the day at one of Tel Aviv's beaches. The top five are Metzitzim, Hilton, Gordon, Frishman and Jerusalem beach. Even in the winter, it's often warm enough to sunbathe in Tel Aviv, making it a desirable destination year-round. Have your last meal at Port Sa'id, home of top Israeli celebrity-chef Eyal Shani. The menu changes daily and includes sharing portions of freshly-sourced local food, served with spoonfuls of tahini.
Need to Know
For more travel tips, check out my 6-Day Itinerary for a Girls' Trip to Greece.
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