15 Great Bars In Jerusalem

15 Great Bars In Jerusalem

There are many great bars in Jerusalem.

Known as the cultural and historical center of Israel, and one of the holiest cities in the world, this is a city that hardly strikes you as a party-town. After all, at less than one hour drive Tel Aviv has the reputation of one of the best party cities in the world, and many travelers would rather concentrate their drinking and party efforts to the White City.

Yet, Jerusalem nightlife is actually fantastic and if you decide to spend enough time in the city, you will have plenty of chances to have a drink, party and have a fun night out – and this will come as a welcome break after having spent a day sightseeing. 

What you will end up loving about bars in Jerusalem is that they often are located where you’d least expect – a market stall, a hole in the wall, a train station. But there’s more! On a night out in Jerusalem, you will find any sort of bar – sophisticated and retro; budget friendly or expensive; and playing all sort of music – you won’t have troubles to find something to suit your tastes. 

I bet you are wondering which are the best bars in Jerusalem – and I am here to help you. I have my very favorite, but each time I visit, I try to explore new ones. So, continue reading to discover everything about Jerusalem nightlife, and all the bars you should hit. 

tips for traveling to Israel

15 Fabulous Bars In Jerusalem

Gatsby Cocktail Room

This is one of my favorite bars in Jerusalem so I feel obliged to mention it first. Located in downtown Jerusalem, minutes from the busy Yaffo Street, this is the kind of place you have to look for – in other words, you won’t come across it while walking down the street, because it’s actually not visible at all from the street. The bar is tucked away in on the ground floor of a building, practically hidden in a corner next to a nice café. 

Walk through the door, and you will find yourself in a fantastic retro atmosphere – 1920s style decoration, an overall speakeasy vibe, and great music (occasionally live). 

Cocktails are fabulous: you can expect the use of great quality ingredients, herbs, spices and whatever else your barman decides to mix. They have a fixed menu and a set of daily specials. They honestly aren’t cheap – so don’t go if you are looking for a happy hour kind of place – but worth every cent you pay. The atmosphere is easy going. 

PRACTICAL INFORMATION: Gatsby Cocktail Room is located on on 18 Hillel St. It is open from Sunday to Saturday from 6:00 pm to 1:00 am. Make sure to book in advance – you can do that via the Ontopo app, which is a must when in Israel.

Blaze

Steps away from Gatsby Cocktail Room, Blaze is pretty much its exact opposite – and you will love it just for that. It’s the perfect place if you are looking for a truly easygoing atmosphere, rock music, and a good, chilled beer. There is live music pretty much every night. It’s great. 

PRACTICAL INFORMATION: Blaze is located on 23 Hillel Street. It is open from Sunday to Thursday from 6:00 pm to 3:00 am; and on Saturdays from 8:30 pm to 4:00 am.

The Barrel and The Tap

Further down the street on Hillel, there’s another great English style pub in town. Expect to find great beer on tap, good pub food, and that very easy-going atmosphere that is typical of only the best pubs. 

You can expect to find the same beers you’d be able to get in a pub in London – Stella, Guinness, Carlsberg – and at actual reasonable prices. Food goes from snacks such as mozzarella sticks to burgers, sandwiches and salads. 

PRACTICAL INFORMATION: The Barrel and the Tap is located on 33 Hillel St. It is open daily from 6:00 pm to 4:00 am.

bars in Jerusalem

Yudale

This is one of the most fun bars in Jerusalem. At a stone’s throw from Mahane Yehuda, Jerusalem’s great market in the modern city, and right in front of Mahneyuda, one of the best restaurants in town (or shall I say, in the world) which is actually run by the same owners, Yudale is one of the trendiest spots in town, and summarizes what Jerusalem nightlife is like: easygoing despite its reputation. 

At Yudale you will be able to get some great bar-style bites, prepared in front of you and using the best ingredients coming from the nearby market. The selection of drinks is just as great – from wine to good cocktails and pints. 

PRACTICAL INFORMATION: Yudale is located on In 11 Beit Ya’akov St. It opens from Sundays to Thursdays from 6:00 pm till midnight, Fridays from 11:30 am to 3:00 pm, and Saturdays from 9:00 pm to midnight. You may find a line at the door, but it usually moves quickly. 

Wine Bar

There is no stopping the genius of Assaf Granit, owner of Machneyuda and Yudale. He is also behind Wine Bar, easily one of the best bars in Jerusalem for wine and tapas, equally perfect for a date or for a friends’ night out. You will find a great selection of drinks – wine obviously, but also beer; food – think charcuterie, sandwiches and the like, and a chilled atmosphere. 

PRACTICAL INFORMATION: You will find this bar on 28 Azza St. It is open daily from 8:00 am to 1:30 am.

Jerusalem nightlife

Yellow Submarine

An institution in Jerusalem nightlife, Yellow Submarine is the prime music venue in town. It’s the kind of place where you will be able to listen to a different kind of (live) music any day of the week – up and coming as well as established Israeli musicians will generally be on stage. 

Bar food is available in case you get hungry, and there is a bar with an excellent choice of drinks. 

PRACTICAL INFORMATION: Yellow Submarine is located on 13 Hareichavim St. It’s open from Sunday to Thursday from 7:00 pm to 1:00 am and on Saturdays from 8:00 pm to 2:00 am.

Birman

This is one of the best bars in Jerusalem for jazz lovers like myself. You will find an excellent selection of drinks, delicious Middle-Eastern style food, and a music selection that is close to perfection. It’s open until the wee hours – just in case you have insomnia. 

PRACTICAL INFORMATION: Birman is located on 8 Dorot Rishonim St., right by Ben Yehuda. It is open from Sunday to Thursday from 7:30 pm to 4:00 am, Fridays from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm and Saturdays from 8:00 pm to 4:00 am.

Mike’s Place

One of the most easygoing bars in Jerusalem, it’s located in the heart of town. It’s a nice pub, with good atmosphere, where you will find your typical selection of pub food and great beer. 

Mike’s Place is on two levels, with the lower one often being a venue for live music. You will also find pool tables. It honestly has that unbeatable pub atmosphere that you wouldn’t expect to find in Israel – which makes it all the better. 

PRACTICAL INFORMATION: Mike’s Place is located on 33 Yaffo St, the main commercial street in Jerusalem. It’s open from Sunday to Thursday from 12:00 pm to 3:00 am; on Fridays from 12:00 to 5:00 pm and on Saturdays from 8:00 pm to 3:00 am.

GOOD TO KNOW: There is a Mike’s Place in Tel Aviv too. You will find it at 90, Retsif Herbert Samuel St.

bars in Jerusalem

Beer Bazar

Mahane Yehuda market is a must-see in Jerusalem, and where you will find some of the best Jerusalem nightlife, and Beer Bazar is definitely one of the best bars in Jerusalem. It started a few years ago as nothing more than a hole in the wall where you could get good Israeli craft beer (and cider) and fresh popcorn to munch away, and it soon became so popular that it expanded and became a pub proper, and with excellent (kosher) food indeed. 

If it is your first time there, make sure to ask for the beer sampler before deciding which beer you want. Their ale is fabulous!

PRACTICAL INFORMATION: Beer Bazar is located on 3 Etz Chaim St., inside Mahane Yehuda market. It is open from Sunday to Thursday from 11:00 am to 2:00 am. On Fridays it is open from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm and on Saturdays from 7:00 pm to 3:00 am. 

GOOD TO KNOW: You will find a Beer Bazar in Jaffa too.

Hatch

Inside Mahane Yehuda Market, Hatch specializes in craft beer on tap and sausages – so easygoing is the word that best describes it. You can expect to find all sorts of American-style pub food – corn beef sandwiches are delicious – and you can chug them down with top quality beer. It’s kosher, so it is closed on Shabbat. 

PRACTICAL INFORMATION: Hatch is located on 28 HaEgoz St. It is open from Sunday to Wednesday from 12:00 pm to 1:00 am; Thursdays from 12:00 pm to 3:00 am; Fridays from 11:00 am to 4:00 pm and Saturdays from 8:30 pm to 1:00 am.

Servesa

If you are in search of one of the hippest bars in Jerusalem, look no further. Serveza is a place for a younger crowd, where you will be able to listen to great music and dance the night away. Needless to say, you will find a good selection of beer and cocktails – and considering this is Jerusalem, I am sure you will agree with me that prices are more than reasonable. Best at weekends – which in Israel will be either a Thursday evening, or a Saturday evening. 

PRACTICAL INFORMATION: Servesa is located on 17 Shamai St. It is open from Saturday to Thursday from 6:00 pm to 6:00 am.

things to do in Jerusalem

Mirror Bar

One of the nicest bars in Jerusalem is located inside Mamilla Hotel – easily the best hotel in town. You will love the trendy atmosphere, the great selection of drinks, and the view from the terrace (I don’t want to post a photo as I don’t want to spoil the surprise). 

PRACTICAL INFORMATION: Mamilla Hotel is located on 11 Shlomo Hamelech St. It is open from Sunday to Thursday from 6:00 pm till late; and from 9:30 pm till late on Saturdays. 

GOOD TO KNOW: On the mezzanine floor of Mamilla Hotel you will find an excellent wine bar too.

Toy Bar

If you are in the mood for some real local action, this is one of the coolest bars in Jerusalem. Located in the Nahalat Shiva neighborhood, here the vibe is a bit younger – you can expect to find university students too. Aside from the great selection of drinks at reasonable prices, what makes this place a must-see is the music – perfect if you are in the mood to dance. 

PRACTICAL INFORMATION: Toy Bar is located on 6 Du Nawas St. It is open on Thursdays from 9:30 pm to 4:45 am; on Fridays from 10:30 pm to 5:00 am and on Saturdays from 9:30 pm to 4:45 am. 

GOOD TO KNOW: This is one of the very few bars in Jerusalem that is actually open on Shabbat – so if you are in town on a Friday evening, look no further!

Video Pub

This 1980s themed bar is one of the nicest gay bars in Jerusalem – in fact, its website claims it is the only one in town. It opened in 2012 and immediately became a local institution. It’s the kind of place where you will be able to dance to electronic music while sipping a reasonably priced drink. Although it is a gay bar, it attracts all sorts of people – from all nationalities and any sexual orientation. In other words, it is a lot of fun. 

PRACTICAL INFORMATION: Video Pub is located on 1 Yohanan Horkanos St. It is open daily from 8:00 pm (10:00 pm on Fridays) to 4:00 am. It’s one of the few bars in Jerusalem to offer happy hour! 

Sira

A fun place popular among students, so perfect for a younger traveler. It also is one of the few places in town that offers happy hour from 5:00 to 9:00 pm – a more than reasonable duration, if you ask me. 

Go there for fun music, live music by Israeli prominent artists, events, premiers and the like. 

PRACTICAL INFORMATION: Sira is located on 7 Ben Sira St. It is open from Saturday to Wednesday from 4:00 pm to 3:00 am; Thursday and Friday from 4:00 pm to 5:00 am.

Final Thoughts On Jerusalem Nightlife

Despite its reputation for being all about religion and culture, nightlife in Jerusalem is great and you will find plenty of places to keep entertained and have a drink. The bars mentioned in this post are just a selection. The best way to discover more bars in Jerusalem is to just go out – my personal favorite is Mahane Yehuda Market, which is an incredible, lively place as soon as shops close down! 

Further readings about Israel

Make sure to read my other posts about Israel

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Read about the best bars in Jerusalem - via @clautavani

Find out which are the best bars in Jerusalem - via @clautavani

 

A Complete Guide To San Pedro De Atacama

A Complete Guide To San Pedro De Atacama

San Pedro de Atacama is the best access point to Atacama Desert, one of the most unique places on earth.

Located in the north of Chile and close to the border with Bolivia and Argentina, and pushing all the way into Peru, Atacama is known to be one of the driest places on earth (it has an average rainfall of around 2 cm per year). Rainfall doesn’t even happen every year, and some places have not ever recored rainfall at all! But when it does, the effects are outstanding (just check this post to see what I mean).

You realize how dry it is when you wake up in the middle of the night, almost choking on a dry cough and desperately in need of water (take my word for it: it happens to everyone!). 

If you are planning a long term trip across South America, or just a trip to Chile, you really should make it a point to go to San Pedro de Atacama, and I promise you this will easily become the highlight of your trip. It’s a cool place to visit alone (in fact, it’s one of the best places to travel alone) as you will get to meet lots of other travelers.

Despite being so dry, the Atacama Desert features an incredible biodiversity. You will find a great variety of flora and fauna; interesting rock formations; colorful lagoons. And since it is at a high elevation (San Pedro de Atacama is at 2400 meters above sea level) the air is so dry and clouds hardly ever make an appearance in the sky, and very few people live in the region (and so there is hardly any light pollution) this is the world’s best location for star gazing. 

In this post, I highlight the best things to see and do in San Pedro de Atacama, and share some practical information that will help you plan your trip. 

Atacama desert

13 Cool Things To Do In San Pedro De Atacama

Look at the stars

If you love looking at the star, you are in for quite a treat. As I have said before, the Atacama Desert is one of the driest places on earth. As it sits at quite an elevation and there are very few people living there (and thus virtually no light pollution), you will have an incredible view of the starry sky on any given day. 

What you have to do in order to look at the stars is just get out of San Pedro de Atacama. 

If you want something more structured, you can opt for one of two things:

  • A free star gazing tour – for this one, you will enquire in town. I did it when I visited, it was run by an expert who was just new in town and very keen on establishing this tour, but I am not sure it is still currently available.
  • An astronomical tour of San Pedro – in this case, you will have a more structured experience, with two different viewpoints and also astronomical equipment to make your experience all the more enjoyable. Make sure to book in advance as the tour is often sold out. You can book it here.

Valle de la Luna

Visit Valle de la Luna

Visiting Valle de la Luna is a must-do when in San Pedro de Atacama. At a quick drive from San Pedro, there you will find some impressive rock and sand formations of varying colors and often covered in white because of the salt left by drying lakes.

This area of Chile is famous for the beautiful sunset, with skies that dramatically change color to become first orange then all shades of pink. 

If you have your own car, it is fairly easy to get to the Moon Valley. Alternatively, you can join a convenient guided tour which usually also includes Mars Valley (also known as Death Valley). These are a few good options:

Death Valley

And Death Valley

So, the name of this place is actually a bit confusing. Most people in San Pedro de Atacama call it Valle de la Muerte – Death Valley. But then when you get to the area, you will see signs referring to it as Marte, which means Mars (hence its other name, Mars Valley). I guess it’s easy to confuse the two names, as there is much of an assonance between Marte and Muerte. Anyways – they are the same place. 

Valle de la Muerte is one of the most beautiful places you can hope to see in this part of the world. If you have a picture in your head of a desert that is mostly made of sand, you will find it there. It’s literally 5 minutes outside of town, and the sights are just incredible – it is surrounded by volcanoes! 

Tours to Death Valley depart regularly from town. You can go horse riding there – check out this tour – or even sandboarding (more about that below).

GOOD TO KNOW: If you want a complete change of landscape, go to the Huasco Valley on the southern edge of Atacama Desert. This is thought to be “the garden of the Atacama” and thanks to its favorable climate it’s become famous for its production of wine and olive oil. It’s home to the Diaguita people, one of the indigenous groups living in Chile.  

Sandboarding in San Pedro

Go sandboarding

If there is one thing you should not miss out on when in San Pedro de Atacama, that’s sandboarding. Honestly, it is an exhilarating thing to do, even if you have no idea how to stand up on the board – which was very much my case. 

Two daily expeditions leave from town – one in the morning, and one in the afternoon – to take you to Valle de la Muerte, where your guide, who’s obviously also a champion at sandboarding, will give you all the necessary training for you to go down the dunes. It’s quite a bit of effort, because every time you get down you have to walk up the dune carrying your board, and that is quite a workout – yet it is so worth it. 

By the end of it, you are covered in sand (I think it took me a few days and multiple showers to finally get rid of it). 

I recommend joining morning tours as the heat picks up quite a bit in the afternoon. Sandboard San Pedro is the most quoted company for this activity. You can book it here.

Go to the Rainbow Valley

Another really cool place you can visit from San Pedro de Atacama is the Rainbow Valley, or Valle del Arcoíris in Spanish. It actually one of the least visited places in the areas, but an interesting one. During your trip there you can also visit the Petroglyphs of Hierbas Buenas, which show images of guanacos, foxes and humans. 

As the name recalls, Valle del Arcoíris or Rainbow Valley is an extremely colorful place. You will see multiple rock formations in various shades of green and red, as well as white, along the hills through which Río Grande cuts through. 

If you have your own car (best if a 4 wheel drive), getting to the Petroglyphs of Hierbas Buenas and from there to the Rainbow Valley isn’t hard – the signs are quite clear. Alternatively, you can opt for a tour departing from town in the morning, such as this one.

El Tatio

Go to El Tatio Geyser

At 4320 meters above sea level, and with the incredible backdrop of the Andes, El Tatio Geysers certainly marks one of the best day trips from San Pedro de Atacama. You will find a series of fumaroles, and small mud pools that literally bubble, as well as hot springs. Beautiful in normal circumstances, they are even better considering that tours live at the wee hours and it really can be cold at that elevation – the hot springs come in as a relief! You can book your guided tour here.

Uyuni Salt Flats

Explore the Salar de Uyuni

The Salar de Uyuni, or Uyuni Salt Flats, is one of the most breathtakingly beautiful places on earth. It’s located in Bolivia, but San Pedro de Atacama is the perfect base to visit on guided multi-day tours. 

This is the world’s largest salt flat, with salt rock a few meters thick. It’s also has the largest reserve of lithium in the world, close to zero vegetation other than cacti (there is cacti island you can visit during the tour, which is quite impressive to see considering that it is surrounded by the salt lake!), and even less animal life (just pink flamingoes). 

Scattered around the area there are several lagoons – the White, the Green and the Red. Their names obviously refer to the colors! Another lagoon is the Laguna Hedionda, literally “Stinking Lake” – I guess you can figure out how it got its name. 

The salt flats are surrounded by the beautiful Andean Peaks and volcanos give it an even more eerie look. 

You really need a guided tour to see Uyuni, and you have to make sure you pick a great one as you will be in a high elevation desert for 4 full days – you want to check reviews before booking, and make sure the jeep you will be on is a good one! 

This tour comes highly recommended.

salar

Visit another salar

For a lesser-known place to visit from San Pedro de Atacama, you may want to opt for the Salar de Tara. This is one of the things to do in the Atacama desert for which you are better off taking a guided tour because – much like in Uyuni – there are no roads or tracks and you really need to know where you are going!

Another beautiful salar in the Atacama Desert is the Salar de Talar. You can go there on a day trip that also takes you to Las Piedras Rojas (the Red Rocks). This tour here comes highly recommended.

San Pedro de Atacama

Visit the many lagoons

Los Flamencos National Reserve is a must-see when in Atacama. It’s where the Moon Valley and the Salar de Atacama (Atacama salt flats) are located, and there are several beautiful lagoons where you can admire pink flamingoes and other birds, including the Andean condor.

The most famous lagoons are Laguna Miscanti and Laguna Miñiques; but a good guided tour will usually take you to other lagoons as well such as Chaxa (where you can see 3 different kinds of flamingoes), Tebinquinche or Cejar. Baltinache are probably not as famous, but beautiful and since they are very salted, you pretty much float there!

You have many options of tours that takes you around Atacama Desert and the many lagoons. I have selected the best ones:

Enjoy an afternoon at Termas de Puritama

If you are looking for a truly relaxing time while in San Pedro de Atacama, opt to go to the Termas de Puritama, beautiful natural, incredibly clear hot natural pools. The fee to get in is around $22 USD, and you have to add transportation to get there (you can book it here).

Go go Toconao

At about 38 km south of San Pedro de Atacama, the village of Toconao is an interesting place to visit. There is a nice church with a separated bell tower that dates back to 1750. I wouldn’t spend more than an hour or two exploring. You can go there independently or on a guided tour such as this this one.

San Pedro de Atacama

Do a buggy or ATV tour in the desert

If you want a bit of an adrenaline rush during your time in San Pedro de Atacama, you may want to opt for an ATV or a buggy tour in the desert. This is a great way of experiencing this part of the country, as you will be going through a variety of terrains, admiring beautiful mountain peaks and volcanoes, and learning about local wildlife at the same time. The even better news is that it’s yet to become a popular activity, so you won’t have to share the place with many other tourists. You obviously need a guided tour for this – you can book it here.

Hot air balloon ride

Last, but definitely not least, one of the coolest things to do in Atacama Desert is a hot air balloon ride. Tours starts before sunrise, because the idea is that you will be catching that from the sky – and trust me, it is quite a show. You will be up in the sky for anything between 30 to 90 minutes – it really all depends on the wind conditions. The good news is that being this San Pedro de Atacama, there are basically no chances of rain ever and you can rest assured your tour won’t get cancelled for bad weather conditions!

Once up, the views are simply breathtaking. You will be able to see all the way to Volcano Licancabur and the rest of the region. 

Hot air balloon rides aren’t cheap – they are in the range of $250 to $265 USD – but in my opinion totally worth it. You can book your ride here.

San Pedro de Atacama

Practical Information On San Pedro De Atacama

When to visit San Pedro de Atacama

The best time to visit the Atacama Desert is between December and March. At that time of year, the temperatures are a bit milder during the day and cooler but not cold during the night, making it truly pleasant. I visited at the beginning of March and found close to perfect weather. 

Guided tours of Chile that also go to Atacama

You can easily visit San Pedro de Atacama independently – that’s what I did. But if you are not a fan of planning or would rather leave the task to the experts, you may want to consider a guided tour that takes care of all the organization – so that the only thing you need to worry about is packing. 

I have browsed the web for the best guided tours that include Atacama Desert in their itinerary, and here is what I found:

  • Buenos Aires to La Paz – salt flats, sand and dunes: this 15 days tour by G Adventures takes you to some of the most unique places in South America, including obviously the Atacama Desert. You can also opt for the same itinerary, but starting in La Paz.
  • Southern Divide: a 3 weeks G Adventures tour that starts in Lima and finishes in Santiago. It really hits all the highlights of South America, including Machu Picchu, Uyuni Sal Flats, and San Pedro de Atacama.
  • The scenic route – Lima to Buenos Aires: this 30 day tour is similar to the one above, but it also goes to Patagonia. Literally the best of the continent!

Atacama Desert

How to get there

Despite being a very small town, San Pedro de Atacama is well connected to other places in South America. 

Below are the various options to get there.

From Santiago de Chile

If you are traveling from Santiago de Chile, you will have two options:

BY PLANE: There are regular direct flights from Santiago to Calama. Once there, you will have to take the bus to San Pedro de Atacama (1 hour journey).

BY BUS: There are regular daily buses from Santiago to Calama. The journey lasts about 22 hours on comfortable buses with recliner seats and an entertainment system. You need to book in advance. From Calama, it is another hour by bus to reach San Pedro.

From Bolivia

There are direct buses from Bolivia to Calama, from where you can take another bus to San Pedro. However, most people cross the border on guided multi-day trips across Uyuni Salt Flats such as this one.

From Argentina

There are direct buses connecting San Pedro de Atacama to Salta. The bus ride lasts about 11 hours on comfortable buses with reclining seats and must be booked in advance. 

Where to stay in San Pedro de Atacama

You will find a good range of accommodation options in San Pedro de Atacama – from boutique hotels to hostels suitable for budget travelers. I have selected the best ones:

San Pedro de Atacama

Other useful information 

Should you want more information on Chile, you may find it on one of these guidebooks:

San Pedro de Atacama is a safe little town. However, I still recommend getting a good travel insurance for your trip. SafetyWing has some excellent insurance options. Check out the prices here.

Finally, if you’d rather rent a car for your trip to this region and move around independently, you may want to check this one out.

Further readings about Chile

Make sure to read my other posts about Chile:

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Discover what to see and do in San Pedro de Atacama Chile - via @clautavani

A Short Guide To Camaguey Cuba

A Short Guide To Camaguey Cuba

Most people overlook Camagüey Cuba during their trip to this Caribbean country. They remain enchanted with Trinidad, spend days in Havana, but entirely skip this large city, the capital of the Province of Camagüey. 

This is the kind of place you either love or hate. I must admit I failed to see its charm when I visited, for it surely lacks the quaint atmosphere that other places in the country have. Yet, it is precisely that which should draw you in. Camagüey isn’t nearly as visited as other places in the country, which means this is as close as it gets to the real Cuba.

In Camagüey, you will know that what you see has not been created for the use of tourists. Touts in the streets are still few: you won’t be pressed to buy a tour, to ride a horse and what not – though to be fair I had a few offers for a taxi ride in the space of 100 meters. 

But Camagüey isn’t just a laid back place. There are quite a few things to see and do that will keep you busy for a couple of days. 

In this post, I highlight the things to do and places to visit in Camagüey Cuba and share a few recommendations and tips that will help you make the most of it.

Camagüey

Omnipresent Che Guevara signs and posters in Camagüey

10 Things To See And Do In Camagüey Cuba

Get lost in the labyrinth 

The historic center of Camagüey Cuba is a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2008. The city was built in a medina style to keep away and confuse pirates, and try as you might to navigate a map, you will get hopelessly lost there. 

The good news is that it is actually really pretty and you will love looking at the derelict buildings, the street art scattered in the small plazas and narrow streets, the small squares with trees to get a break from the heat. It honestly is just pretty. It will give a new meaning to the expression “wander around aimlessly.”

Visit the churches and squares

Camagüey is the perfect place for people’s watching. The many squares scattered around the city are perfect to sit and enjoy the world go by. You will see that it is a favorite local thing to do! This is the kind of place where children still play in the streets and in the squares, so as soon as school is over for the day, still wearing their school uniforms, they will all hit the squares for a game of baseball (Cuba’s national sport). It’s fun to watch.

Parque Ignatio Agramonte is probably the most impressive square in Camagüey Cuba.

It won’t take you long to Camagüey is packed with churches. Make sure not to miss the Sacred Heart of Jesus Cathedral, and the churches of Nuestra Señora de la Merced (which was built in 1748 and has an attached convent) and of Nuestra Señora de la Soledad, which is at one of the main intersections of Camagüey.

Camaguey

Enjoy all the food

Many will tell you that food in Cuba isn’t that great, but I dissent. I ate nothing but delicious food during my trip, and it was the same in Camagüey. There are plenty of paladares (local private restaurants) where $5 USD will get you a full meal with lobster or other seafood – make sure to ask the owner of your casa particular for the best ones. And walking along the streets you will find plenty of snacks, from the sweet delicious churros to fried-anything to healthy fruit. 

Then have a drink

Speaking of food, as an Italian I generally associate with wine. This is why I can’t avoid mentioning La Cava, a super cool restaurant that actually has a wine cellar with a great wine selection for more than reasonable prices.

But if wine is not your thing, worry not. There are plenty of good places to have a good cocktail in Camagüey. Unsure what to order? Check out this list of great cuban cocktails

Attend a ballet show

Most of the time Cuba is associated with salsa and Caribbean style dancing. What you may not know, however, is that Cuba has a strong tradition in ballet. For a different night out, you may want to attend a ballet show at Teatro Principal in Camagüey Cuba. It only costs a few dollars, and it is a colorful show not only for the performers but also for the attendees who all show up in their best attire. 

Camaguey

Shopping is a must-do in Camaguey

Go to Cinema Street

La Calle de los Cines is one of the coolest places to visit in Camagüey. A stretch of Calle Agramonte, one of the main streets in town, between Iglesia de la Soledad and Plaza de los Trabajadores, has been renovated to make it a homage to cinema. There are 5 cinemas on this street, which were opened between the 1940s and the 1950s and which were pretty much abandoned before they were completely renovated for the 2014 500-years anniversary of the city foundation. 

Cinemas show just about any sort of movie, so you may want to go for a show. Just don’t expect the comfortable seats and state of the art projectors, but for $2 USD a show what do you expect?

Hang out at Casino Campestre

Camagüey is a really big city so you will find several parks scattered around town. Casino Campestre is one of them. It is located across the Rio Hatibonico and was first opened in the 1860s. It is a nice place to hang out, a favorite of local families who take their children there. There is a baseball stadium incorporated in it, and apparently also a small zoo – though I do not recommend visiting that. 

Camagüey

There are lots of art shops in Camagüey

Visit Museo Provincial Ignatio Agromonte

The coolest museum in Camagüey Cuba is Museo Provincial Ignatio Agromonte, which is named after Cuba independence hero and author of the first Constitution of 1869. The museum has a nice exhibit of antique furniture and a nice art collection of Cuban art from the 19th and 20th century. 

Shop at Casa de Arte Jover

There are several art galleries in Camagüey, so this is the perfect place to shop to bring home some unique pieces. One of the best art galleries is Casa de Arte Jover, located in Plaza Agramonte. Even if you don’t end up buying anything, this is a fun place to visit. The owners – Joel Jover and his wife – are lovely. 

Another nice studio is that of Martha Jimenez Perez (pictured above).

Go to the beach

Camagüey is actually landlocked so going to the beach isn’t exactly the first thing you should think of doing – there are easier places to go to the beach. But if you need a day away from the heat of the city, you may as well give it a try. The main issue is that you can’t count on public transportation to get there, so you will have to arrange a car with your casa particular. 

The nearest beaches to Camagüey are Playa Santa Lucia and Playa los Pinos in Cayo Sabinal.

Playa Santa Lucia is at 112 km (around 90 minutes drive) from Camagüey Cuba. It is a beautiful stretch of white sand and clear waters with easily accessible reefs and hardly any tourist infrastructure. 

Cayo Sabinal is 25 km west of Playa Santa Lucia and can be reached through a pedraplen. The beach is similar to that of Playa Santa Lucia – white sand and clear turquoise waters. It takes more or less the same amount of time to get there from Camagüey

Camagüey

Street life in Camagüey

Practical Information To Plan Your Trip To Camagüey Cuba

Guided tours of Cuba that also go to Camagüey

If you love traveling but don’t have the time or energy to plan, I can put together an itinerary for you so that will enable you to visit Cuba independently. You can get in touch with me via email through my contact page. Alternatively, why don’t you join a G Adventures guided tour? They are great value for money. These are the ones I recommend that also go to Camagüey:

  • Cuba, salsa and snorkeling – this 16 days tour is perfect for a younger crowd. It goes to the most famous tourist destinations in the country, including Camagüey.
  • Cuba colonial – a 15 day classic tour of Cuba that hits all the most famous cities and sites.

Getting a visa for Cuba

Remember you need a tourist card to enter cuba. Ask Easy Tourist Card to arrange your visa for Cuba for just $35 USD! 

Make sure to read my post How To Get The Visa For Cuba In 8 Easy Steps (Also For Americans).”

Camaguey

Where to stay in Camagüey Cuba

There are a few good places to stay in Camagüey. These are the ones I have selected for you:

  • Casa de Caridad is allegedly the best casa particular in Camagüey. It is located in Oscar Primelles 310A between Bartolomé Masò and Padre Olallo (0053 32 29 15 54). It is a huge colonial house with high ceilings, antique (but perfectly functioning) bathrooms, a well kept large garden at the back, and a very motherly owner. She is not on any search engine so you just need to call to make a reservation.
  • Hostal La Isabela is a lovely room in a traditional colonial building in the heart of town.
  • Casa Torralbo has plain but clean rooms in the center of the city.

How to get to Camagüey Cuba

Camagüey is well connected by public bus. From Havana, you need to take buses headed to Santiago that make a stop in Camagüey. The ride will take you around 10 hours. 

There are direct buses from Santiago too, which leave at 7:30 pm daily and get in town at 2:00 am. It’s the same bus that continues onto Trinidad, which is at about 5 hours by bus. 

Other useful information

Wifi isn’t much of a thing in Cuba so a good guidebook may come in handy occasionally. These are some I recommend:

You will also need a good travel insurance for your trip. Make sure to read my post Why You Need A Good Travel Insurance.”

Further readings

My other posts about Cuba will help you plan your trip:

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Discover what to see and do in Camagüey Cuba - via @clautavani

33 Tips For Traveling To Israel

33 Tips For Traveling To Israel

One of the most frequent questions I get asked is if I have any specific tips for traveling to Israel.

You see, Israel is a country I know really well – I have been there many times already, for prolonged period of times, and each time I visit it’s a bit like going home. I have so many friends, and with time have become family. I get regular calls which usually start with the question: “When are you coming home?”

But if you are planning your first trip, I bet you have many questions running through your mind – things such as “Is Israel safe to visit?” or “How much money should I budget for my trip?” 

Don’t worry: I am here to help you and will try to share as many tips for traveling to Israel as I can think of. 

tips for traveling to Israel

33 Very Useful Tips For Traveling To Israel

Learn a bit of Israel’s history before going

Let me start this post on the useful tips for traveling to Israel with the most important one: learn at least the basics of Israel’s history before going. This is one of the most complicated countries in the world, and I don’t want to oversimplify its history here. But a quick summary may help.

The idea of a Promised Land of Israel is more than 3000 years old. According to the Torah, the land was promised to Jews already during the Iron Age.

Through a series of persecutions, Jewish people got scattered around the world. The idea to form a State of Israel dates back to the period of World War I, when the Middle East was a protectorate of Britain. The idea did not come into place then, but only subsequent to World War II, when more than 6 million Jews were killed in concentration camps by the Nazis. Holocaust survivors feared going back to their home countries; and during and after the war many other countries shut their doors on them. 

Following the 1947 UN partition plan, Palestine was divided into two states – a Jewish one and an Aran one. Jerusalem was placed under UN administration. This plan never really came to life and on 14 May 1948 the Jewish Community led by David Ben-Gurion declared the independence of the State of Israel. 
 
As a consequence, the Arab neighbors attacked Israel and ended up losing even more territories. Palestinians fled and wars and peace treaties have alternated each other. To date, there still is no solution to the conflict – though the vast majority of Israelis and Palestinians only wish for peace. Meantime, the reasons for the conflict evolved from those that caused it more than 70 years ago.

But there is more to Israel than just its geopolitical situation and its complicated past and present. This is a country of innovation – did you know that it is known as the start up nation? It’s the country that has been using new and experimental agriculture techniques successfully; it’s a country of incredibly resilient people. 

Just keep these things in mind when visiting. And in fact, if you want to learn more, I wholeheartedly recommend visiting Yad Vashem – the Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem – and  joining one of these two tours – I have taken both, and can’t decide which one is better:

  • Gaza Border reality tour – they have departures from both Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. It is a very intense tour, during which you will learn more than you will see. It is a bit like a crash course about the situation in Gaza.
  • Dual narrative tour of Hebron – this tour takes you to one of the most contested cities in the conflict. You will hear both sides of the story, so it is up to you to decide who is right and who is wrong (hint: you won’t be able to).

Make sure to read my posts Everything You Need To Know Before You Visit Palestine and What You Should Know Before Doing A Hebron Tour.

Consider the culture 

One of the most important tips for traveling to Israel is to understand the basics of its culture. The first thing you need to keep in mind is that around 75% of Israelis are Jewish. However, this doesn’t mean that they are religious (for example, only two of my friends are religious!). In fact, most Israelis are secular: they follow the latest fashion trends; they drive their car on any day of the week; they love a good party.

What is interesting, though, is that even non-religious Israelis value Shabbat, which means that even though they don’t go to the Synagogue, they will spend Friday evening and / or Saturday morning with their family. Most of them don’t care to follow a kosher diet (which forbids eating certain foods, and the pairing of others); but hardly any will eat pork. 

Israel travel tips

Learn about Shabbat

Shabbat literally means Saturday, but there is much more to it than just a day of the week. Shabbat marks the day of rest for religious (and even non-religious) Jews around the world, and even more so in Israel. It starts right before sunset on Fridays and ends right after sunset on Saturdays, and it is a time during which religious people are meant to connect with their inner self.

Most people in Israel spend Shabbat with their family.

Religious ones go to the synagogue several times (or to the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem). Orthodox Jews are forbidden from using their phone, electricity (even elevator, and in fact many buildings will have a Shabbat elevator that stops at each floor); driving; riding a bike. It’s not uncommon to see Orthodox Jews protesting against non-religious people who don’t want to abide by the Shabbat rules. 

But what does Shabbat mean for people who are only just visiting Israel? It hardly is a nuisance, if you keep this things in mind: public transportation throughout the country stops working so if you are planning on visiting places out of town one of the best tips for traveling to Israel is to plan to rent a car, or join a guided tour; most restaurants in Jerusalem are closed, but not in Tel Aviv; shops are closed throughout the country. 

You can learn more about Shabbat on this guided walking tour. And if you want to have a proper Shabbat experience, you may want to book a dinner through Betzavta. Finally, make sure to read my post What You Need To Know About Shabbat In Jerusalem.

Appreciate that Israelis are very direct

Israelis are very blunt. They won’t ever hide what they think from you – whether you like it or not. Some people find this rude, but try to look at it the other way around: you will never have to read anyone’s mind, and if you are annoyed by something or someone, you can just as easily speak up. So, one of my tips for traveling to Israel is to embrace this attitude: be polite, but always assertive. 

Israel travel tips

Almost everyone speaks English

I remember the time I walked inside a shop in a mall in Jerusalem and asked the assistant whether he spoke English. He laughed loudly and – with a strong but beautiful Israeli accent – told me: “Of course I speak English, this is Israel!” 

This is to say: even if you don’t speak a word of Hebrew, you have nothing to worry about. You will get by with just English. I can guarantee you that. 

Learn a few words before going

Having said that, one of my tips for traveling to Israel is to learn a few key words and sentences in Hebrew. It’s just a nice way to start a conversation! So, here are a few must-know:

  • Shalom: it literally means peace and it is used to say hello. I have never heard it used as goodbye (most people will just say buy). 
  • Shabbat Shalom: Good Shabbat. You will hear it loads on Fridays, as Shabbat approaches.
  • Boker Tov: good morning (Tov is Hebrew for “good”).
  • Laila Tov: good night.
  • Bevakasha: please.
  • Toda or Toda Raba: thank you; thanks a lot.
  • Ken: yes.
  • Lo: no.
  • L’chaim: cheers.
  • Sababa: cool / great / of course (this is honestly one of my favorite Hebrew words!!).
  • Beseder: ok.
  • Mah: what. 
  • Slicha: sorry / excuse me. 
  • Bevakasha: please.
  • Lehit-rahot: see you later.

Jerusalem Beach

Carefully decide when to visit

Deciding when to visit a place is key for the outcome of your trip; so one of the most important tips for traveling to Israel is to pick your dates wisely. I assume you’d like me to tell you when the best time to go is and just be done, but I must admit that this is easier said than done. 

The good news is that you can visit Israel year round – there won’t be anything to stop you from doing that, at least. But keep in mind that different seasons bring in different experiences. Furthermore, albeit being a small country (you can drive all the way from the border with Lebanon to Eilat in the Red Sea in 6 hours), there are various climates and environments (including deserts and mountains).

Temperatures can get unbearably hot in the summer months, especially between June and September; but on the other hand those are the best months to enjoy the Mediterranean beaches. Spring and Fall are great if you want to hike or just tour around; the winter months bring in a lot of rain (I am pretty sure it rained for a solid month when I was there between December and January), but that means snow in the highlands in case you want to go skiing. 

Another thing to consider is the religious holidays, because accommodation books up much faster then, and prices will inevitably rise.

Christmas is hardly a thing in Israel – celebrated only by the Christian communities – but it is high season because people from the rest of the world will have time to travel. On the other hand, Jewish holidays such as Pesach (Easter) or Roshashana (Jewish New Year) in September are huge, with lots of Israeli taking this as an opportunity to travel outside the country or to go camping and explore their backyard.

Hopefully this will help you decide when to visit.

Check out your passport or visa requirements

Among my tips for traveling to Israel, I recommend to check out that your passport meets the minimum requirements to enter the country. You will need to make sure that it is valid for a period of at least 6 months from your time of intended travel. 

If you are traveling from the United States, Canada, Australia, United Kingdom or any European Union countries, you won’t need a visa to enter Israel. On the other hand, if you are a citizen of an Arab country, chances are you will need to apply for a visa even before booking a flight – double check that!

tips for traveling to Israel

Keep the blue paper slip you receive at the airport 

If you like the idea of collecting stamps on your passport, you may be disappointed by this: Israel doesn’t stamp passports anymore. In fact, it hasn’t been doing that for quite a few years now. Try to look at this the other way around though: there are many countries that may give you a hard time if they see a stamp from Israel on your passport, so this is really handy. 

However, if you plan to go to Jordan – ie if you are planning to join this two-day tour of Petra departing from Tel Aviv – your passport will be stamped by the Jordanian border control authorities, and there will be no mistake where you came from. I remember when I crossed the border to Jordan I asked several times not to stamp my passport (they can stamp a paper slip, if they care to listen to your request) but after sending me from one office to the other, they eventually stamped it, completely ignoring my request. 

Anyways…

Since Israeli border control won’t stamp your passport, you will be given a small blue paper slip (like the one in the photo above) with a grainy photo, and your passport number (I obviously edited mine out of the photo) and date of entry. That really is the only proof that you have entered the country legally – so, one of the tips for traveling to Israel is not to lose it! You won’t really be asked for it (I was only asked when entering back Israeli territory after visiting Palestine), and once leaving you will be handed a similar paper slip, but in pink. You will need the blue card also for VAT refund claims.

Tel Aviv

Don’t be afraid of airport security

Israeli airport security has to be the most thorough one you can think of – in other words, annoying. Or it really can be nothing. It really all depends on the stamps on your passport, your age, and whether you are traveling alone or in a group. If you are a solo traveler, male or female, between 18 and 45 and have stamps from countries such as Egypt, Jordan, Morocco (even though they do have diplomatic relationships with Israel) security will take significantly longer, whether on the way in (you will be questions before even checking in your bags) or out. I only know too well! 

If you happen to have a stamp from Iran, tough luck: you may be questioned for hours; required to strip down to your underwear; your phone or computer will have to go through a check as well. My friend went through the entire ordeal. 

I have been through the process many times (in fact, every time I travel to Israel), so here are a few tips for traveling to Israel starting from security checks: 

  • Be patient – if you look nervous, stressed, angry, that will only arouse the curiosity of the guards and the process will end up taking even longer.
  • Always state the truth – if you end up being caught in a lie, the questions will be endless. 
  • Be friendly – remember that airport guards are only doing their job. 

I am honestly so used to these checks that I am not even bothered anymore.

Israel travel tips

It’s a safe country to visit – even for solo female travelers

One of the most common questions I get asked when I say I frequently visit Israel is whether it is safe to visit. 

The short answer to the question is YES! In fact, I think it is one of the safest countries I have ever visited, in general but even more so as a solo female traveler. People are generally very respectful of travelers; usually up for a chat and very friendly.

Having said so, there is no denying that this is a country with many tensions – but not to the extent that international news like to portray. My tips for traveling to Israel in this case is to use the typical precautionary measures: read your country travel advisory before flying (this is the one for US citizens); keep your wits about when walking down the street or in public places; get used to going through security at bus and train stations; avoid protests in the West Bank or on the border with Gaza. 

Soldiers are everywhere 

All Israelis – both males and females – have to serve in the army for a period of up to three years, from the age of 18. One of the most common sights is that on soldiers roaming the streets of the city, using public transportation, carrying a rifle and being actually very blasé about it. Indeed, soldiers are required to learn how to use them. But that’s about it. 

Israel travel tips

Pack wisely

One of the important tips for traveling to Israel is to pack wisely. As a general rule of thumb, make sure to break comfortable shoes, as you will likely be walking a lot. Pack a swimsuit no matter the season, because chances are there will be a beach to enjoy (definitely, if you visit in the summer) or at least the Dead Sea, where it is hot year round. 

However, remember that modest clothing is necessary when entering religious sites – which is likely the case if you are planning on visiting Jerusalem – and even more so if you visit certain neighborhoods. For example, if you plan on joining this guided tour of the Ultra-Orthodox neighborhood in Jerusalem you will need to be covered pretty much from head to toe. If you are a woman, you will have to wear long pants or a skirt that covers your knees, and cover your chest and shoulders – and likely your hair in some sites. Men won’t be allowed to wear shorts or tank tops.

It is very gay friendly

Israel is one of the most gay friendly countries in the world. In fact, one of my tips for traveling to Israel, especially for the LGBTQI readers here, is to visit during pride week. Pride in Tel Aviv truly is something else, with an enormous parade with lots of music, dancing, friendship. 

Consider the travel costs

Tel Aviv regularly makes the list of the most expensive cities in the world, and the rest of the country ain’t much better. So, one of the most important tips for traveling to Israel is to budget your trip very, very carefully. Pick your accommodation wisely (more about that below) – apartments on Airbnb are generally more budget friendly than hotels and even hostels.

Other ways to cut down are by keeping your food expenses down by cooking at least some of your meals; using public transportation to move around as much as possible. 

At the time of writing, the exchange rate is roughly 3.45 NIS (Israeli Shekel) to $1 USD and 3.90 to €1 Euro.

As a general guidance, these are a few prices: 

  • 5 NIS – bus ticket
  • 10 to 15 NIS – cup of coffee
  • 20 to 25 NIS – hummus and pita in a budget eatery
  • 70 to 130 NIS – meal in a restaurant
  • 40 to 50 NIS – pint of beer

Tel Aviv

Pick your accommodation wisely

This will be one of the most useful tips for traveling to Israel and it can really change your experience in the country. 

I already wrote before that this is one of the most expensive countries in the world. A bed in a hostel dorm will cost you an average of $25 USD including a modest breakfast; a private room in a hostel costs more than $100 USD. The price of hotels is even higher.

Airbnbs are a bit more budget friendly, but they often are a hit and miss. The rental situation in Tel Aviv is less than good, with apartments that have seen better days and owners that couldn’t care less to refurbish them, and the same goes for some Airbnbs.

My recommendation is to read all reviews carefully – but keep in mind that negative ones often don’t make it out there. You should also read my posts: 

Finally, here are a couple of Airbnbs I can recommend:

  • Feingold Studio – it’s located on Yafo St. in Jerusalem, so right in the heart of the modern city and at 10 minutes walk from the Old City. You get the entire apartment, which is charming and comfortable. Perfect for a couple. 
  • Room in Tel Aviv – this is a nice room with ensuite bathroom in the center of Tel Aviv, minutes away from the beach. The owner Nimrod is a real star and his dog lovely. 

Israel

You must tip your waiter

Tipping is pretty much part of the culture in Israel, so one of my tips for traveling to Israel is to be prepared to tip your waiter at a restaurant. You can tip anything between 10% of the total, up to 15% if you think the service was outstanding. But never try to walk away without tipping – not unless you want the waiter to run after you (remember what I said about Israelis being straightforward?). In general, the wages of waiting staff are quite low, so they will count on tipping to make a living. 

Get a local SIM card

Wifi is found pretty much anywhere in Israel – all hotels and restaurants have it, and there even is public wifi in most of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. However, for your peace of mind I recommend getting a local SIM card as soon as you arrive. There is a kiosk at Ben Gurion airport arrivals hall, or alternatively you can go to the newsagent nearby. You can just select the duration of service and it doesn’t end up being too costly. It will also make using apps such as GETT (see below) or Google Maps or Waze much much easier.

Move around by public transport – or GETT

Despite the many complaints of Israelis, public transport is quite reliable in Israel. One of the best tips for traveling to Israel is to get a Rav Kav, Israeli’s public transportation magnetic card, as soon as you arrive. You can use it on trains, buses and the light-rail throughout the country (but not on buses that go all the way to the border with Palestine, as those work on a different system) and it allows you at least some savings.

One of the best tips for traveling to Israel that I can share is to download the app GETT. It pretty much is the local version of Uber and you can use it to call taxis anywhere in the country. 

Finally, for a truly local experience you may want to rent a city bike – both Jerusalem and Tel Aviv are very bike friendly, with bike lanes connecting the entire city – or the locals’ favorite: a scooter (or korkinet, as they call it).

best beaches in tel aviv

Rent a car 

One of the tips for traveling to Israel I love sharing is to rent a car. Driving in Israel is safe and easy (well at least it is for us Italians!) and most cars will come with a GPS system (if it doesn’t make sure to download Waze for directions and traffic tips). You don’t need an international driver’s license to rent a car, but keep in mind that although the car rental prices are very competitive, the final bill will be quite high with mandatory insurance and other fees. 

You can drink the tap water

Tap water is safe to drink in Israel, unless otherwise stated, and you will be normally served tap water at restaurants unless you ask for bottled water. Personally, I find the taste of it vile – but at least I know it is safe.

You must visit a market

In fact, you must visit many. Markets are a great place to learn about the local culture; you may be able to find some nice souvenirs to bring back (be prepared to haggle) and you can even try some local specialties – I am a huge fan of limonana (fresh lemonade with mint) and even pomegranate juice. Among the best markets to visit, there are Mahane Yehuda and the Old City Suq in Jerusalem, and El Karmel in Tel Aviv.

Make sure to check out these market tours:

Food is delicious

Israel is one of the best destinations in the world for food. Whether you are looking for a traditional meal of Jewish food or for Middle Eastern cuisine, or you fancy some international cuisine such as Thai or Vietnamese, you are bound to find what you want.

If you observe a particular diet – ie vegan or Kosher – you won’t have any issue at all. Most food you can get at grocery stores in Israel is classified as Kosher; and shops like Teva Castel carry the most incredible choice of vegan food you can ever hope to find. There also are many vegan and Kosher restaurants throughout the country.

Make sure to read my posts A Complete Guide To Israeli Food and Tel Aviv Vegan Food Guide: The Best Vegan Restaurants In Tel Aviv for more information, and opt for a guided food tour to fully appreciate what’s on offer. Here are some tours:

GOOD TO KNOW: Israel also produces some excellent wines!

things to do in Jerusalem

Breakfast is EVERYTHING

Important tips for traveling to Israel: skip all meals but breakfast.

Honestly, you don’t know what brunch is until you travel to Israel. If breakfast is your favorite meal you are in for a real treat. Benedict is Israel’s favorite chain and they do breakfast 24/7, but that’s not the only place you will be able to enjoy it. Pretty much all restaurants offer brunch at least some days of the week (and definitely on a Friday and Saturday morning). My favorite is Mi Casa, in Herzliya – a city north of Tel Aviv. It’s honestly worth the 20 minutes drive to get there. 

You must try Bamba

If you want a real Israeli snack, go to any store and ask for Bamba. It’s a snack made of – I honestly don’t know, but one of the ingredients is peanuts. It’s best with beer. 

Go to Jerusalem for the culture

One of my main tips for traveling to Israel is to head straight to Jerusalem as soon as you land. It’s the city that will require you most time, with many sites of historical, religious and cultural importance. You will find markets – the Old City Suq and Mahane Yehuda are only the main ones; good restaurants; museums; art galleries and much more to keep busy. 

GOOD TO KNOW: A site of such religious importance, Jerusalem holds high significance for many a visitor who build up a lot of expectations before visiting and end up crumbling down when they are finally there. This phenomenon – the Jerusalem Syndrome – is actually quite rare but it has been documented. You can read more about it here.

tips for traveling to Israel

But not only

Here’s a tip for you: don’t rule out a bit of nightlife in Jeusalem. This city is much more than meets the eye and you will find a multitude of pubs, bars, cocktail bars and much more to keep you entertained until the wee hours. In doubt, head to Mahane Yehuda market, which during the night is a real hotspot for youngsters who want to enjoy a drink and a chat. For a more sophisticated evening, Gatsby Cocktail Room (pictured above) is a great choice. 

Make sure to check out my post 15 Great Bars In Jerusalem.

Spend enough time in Tel Aviv

Here’s one of the best tips for traveling to Israel: plan to spend enough time in Tel Aviv. 

Most travelers see that Tel Aviv has less attractions in the traditional sense of the term and decide to dedicate much less time to it compared to Jerusalem. BIG MISTAKE! This is a city that honestly deserves at least three full days (or years, if you ask me). It has a great cultural life, a fantastic bar and party scene, restaurants galore and the vibe is just oh so incredible. You just have to live it to believe it. 

Don’t be surprised if many smoke inside bars

I know, it is gross. Smoking in public places was banned in Israel in 2004 and another law of 2019 tried to reinforce the prohibition, but the law is hardly enforced so it is not rare to go inside a bar and – by the time you walk home – smell like an ashtray. 

But there’s more. 

Smoking weed in Israel is very common. It was decriminalized in 2017 – though smoking marijuana in public places is still forbidden. But – you got it – it still happens. 

Tel Aviv beaches

Enjoy the beaches in Tel Aviv 

Tel Aviv is home to many incredible beaches, so here’s one of the best tips for traveling to Israel: bring your swimsuit and plenty of sunblock, pack a towel and just go. If you are not traveling to Israel in the summer, worry not: the beaches in Tel Aviv are fantastic year round, attracting people who opt to go there to exercise (many go running along the waterfront, and it’s a great experience!). 

GOOD TO KNOW: Israelis are obsessed with Matkot – it’s like paddle ball, but played on the beach. They play it year round, and the noise of the ball being hit is a summer favorite!

Make sure to read my post 15 Great Tel Aviv Beaches.

GOOD TO KNOW: While in Tel Aviv you can definitely go surfing, if you want to go diving you will have to head to other destinations further north in Israel (on the Mediterranean) or to Eilat, on the Red Sea (which is also a great destination just for snorkeling).

Dead Sea

And learn to float on the Dead Sea

Remember that I told you to pack a swimsuit regardless of the time of year you are planning to travel? That’s right, because one of the most fun things to do in Israel is visiting the Dead Sea. You can go there on day trips from either Jerusalem or Tel Aviv, and once there you can cover yourself in the Dead Sea mud – which is supposed to have many beneficial properties, and then float in the water – it really is impossible to swim! 

These are the best guided tours that take you to the Dead Sea:

Masada Fortress

Visit the archeological sites

You will find many interesting archeological sites scattered around Israel and you really should visit at least one. The most popular one is the Masada, which is close to the Dead Sea; but you should also consider going to Caesarea, which is often visited on guided tours to the North of Israel such as this one.

Check out my post Masada Sunrise Guide: Hiking The Masada Snake Path.

Go on a hike

So, here is the last of my tips for traveling to Israel: pack your hiking shoes! You will find many good trails around the country, in national parks and not only. Galilee and the Golan are the best areas for hiking, but even the mountains surrounding Jerusalem have good trails. And if you want a multi-day hike, you will have ample choice. I can definitely recommend the Jesus Trail which goes from Nazareth all the way to the Sea of Galilee – you can read about it on my post Everything You Need To Know To Hike The Jesus Trail.

Further readings about Israel

Are you planning a trip to Israel? Make sure to read my other posts:

Can you think of more tips for traveling to Israel? If so, let me know in the comments!

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Get the best tips for traveling to Israel - via @clautavani

Get the best Israel travel tips - via @clautavani

 

Where To Get The Most Impressive Views Of Paris

Where To Get The Most Impressive Views Of Paris

You can get stunning views of Paris from many places, and you don’t have to pay for all of them. 

Many dream of traveling to Paris and staying somewhere with views of the Eiffel Tower. If you have a budget to splurge for a room with a view, you should definitely go for it. But if you aren’t loaded with cash and need to watch the pennies, you will be relieved to know that there are many places in town where you can catch incredible Paris views. 

There is no doubt that Paris is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Wherever you are in town, you are bound to be enchanted by what you see. It is the kind of city where you just turn around a corner and suddenly find yourself in front of the most astonishing views. And whether you are into photography or just want to enjoy the pleasure of recording an image in your mind, you won’t be disappointed. 

So, make sure to always carry a camera or a smartphone with you to take at least a snap of the best Paris views. 

In this post, I will show you all the best places to get beautiful views of Paris. If they are attractions you have to pay for, I will point out the opening time and entry fees (if there are any) and share some other useful tips for the best photos. 

GOOD TO KNOW: The photos in this post were shot using either my Nikon D3300 with a 18-105 mm lens; or my iPhone 11 Pro. In some cases you may want to use a longer lens for better results.

views of Paris

The views of Paris from the Eiffel Tower are impressive

10 Places To Get Breathtaking Views Of Paris

Eiffel Tower

Think about the best views of Paris and chances are that the first thing that comes to mind is the Eiffel Tower. Paris’ most iconic attraction is not only a fantastic sight in and of itself, but also a great vantage point to take in all the views of the city. I don’t think I need to convince you to get on the Eiffel Tower – I am sure this will likely be the first place you visit in town. 

Now, the big question is: should you make the effort (and pay) to get all the way to the summit? Some will tell you that you can get incredible views from level one. Others will try to convince you that the best views of Paris are from level two. I actually believe that the views of Paris you get from the summit of the Eiffel Tower are by far the best.

Another question is whether you should go up for sunset or at night, or simply during the day. That is completely up to you. Surely, if you want to get views of Paris at night, going after dark is a great idea. Whether you go for sunset or not is a matter of weather too. I was perfectly happy with the morning views I got!

PRACTICAL INFORMATION: The Eiffel Tower is open daily from 9:00 or 9:30 am. Closing time is 6:30 pm for stair users and 00:45 am for elevator users. 

To avoid the massive lines at the Eiffel Tower, make sure to get tickets in advance. These are the best options:

Paris views

This is the view of the Eiffel Tower from the Champs de Mars

Champ de Mars

Right behind the Eiffel Tower, you can freely access the Champ de Mars, a park which was opened in 1780 next to the École Militaire. It’s a great place to get views of the Eiffel Tower, to hang out, to spend an afternoon with family and friends. And it’s 100% free to visit. 

Eiffel Tower

The Eiffel Tower as seen from the Trocadero

Trocadero

Across the Seine river from the Eiffel Tower you will get to the Trocadéro. This is one of the undisputed best places for Paris views – especially if you are keen on taking photos of the Eiffel Tower. 

The Trocadéro can be accessed freely throughout the day. You may find that it is rather crowded – there were a lot of people when I went, at around 12:30 pm. If you want to have the place to yourself, and an incredible light to capture the Eiffel Tower, make sure to go at sunrise. 

best views of Paris

You’ll get fantastic views of Paris from the Arc de Triomphe

Arc de Triomphe

The views of Paris from the Arc the Triomphe are simply stunning. You get to see the Eiffel Tower, the Champs-Elysees all the way to the Louvre and La Defense, Paris’ modern district packed with skyscrapers. 

PRACTICAL INFORMATION: The Arc de Triomphe is open every day from 10:00 am to 10:30 or 11:00 pm, depending on the season. It is closed on 1 January, 1 May, 8 May (morning), 14 July, 11 November (morning) and 25 December. Get tickets in advance here or here.

Views of Paris from Montparnasse

These are the views of Paris from Montparnasse Tower

Montparnasse Tower

Easily the ugliest building in Paris, the good thing about getting on Montparnasse Tower is that once you are in, you don’t get to see it! There are two levels you can visit: floor 56, which is basically all enclosed with glass windows, and the Terrance, which is also closed but there are a few openings so you can dodge your camera for views. There also are telescopes to get closer views.

PRACTICAL INFORMATION: Montparnasse Tower is open every day from 9:30 am to either 10:30 or 11:30 depending on the season.

Get your tickets in advance here.

Views of Paris

You can see all the way to Pompidou from Sacre-Coeur

Sacre-Coeur

The steps of Sacre-Coeur Basilica in Montmartre are supposed to be one of the best places to get views of Paris. Unfortunately, when I visited the weather was overcast and as there was a fair in Montmartre it was terribly crowded (even more than usual) and I couldn’t get to a decent place for photos. Even then, I was able to see the Centre Pompidou and Notre-Dame on the right. I know, my photo isn’t the best – so if you do go make sure to send me yours for comparison!

You can access those steps for free.

Notre Dame

Notre Dame as seen during a Seine River cruise

Seine River

You will find some of the best views of Paris along the Seine River – the many bridges (especially Ponte Alexandre III), Notre-Dame Cathedral (which used to be one of the best places to get Paris views but was unfortunately hit by a fire in April 2019), the Eiffel Tower and much more can be seen walking along the banks of the river or even during a Seine river cruise. 

In case you want to opt for a cruise, you can book it here.

Pompidou

The small square behind Pompidou

Pompidou Center

The Pompidou Center is a National Museum of Modern Art and Europe’s largest modern art museum. Inside you will find the work of artists such as Picasso, Matisse, Kandinsky. But to make your experience even better, you can ride the elevators and get to the upper level from where you can enjoy views of the Eiffel Tower.

PRACTICAL INFORMATION: Pompidou Center is open Wednesdays to Mondays from 11:00 am to 9:00 pm. It closes at 11:00 pm on Thursdays. You can get your tickets here.

Musee d'Orsay tickets

Musee d’Orsay is a fantastic building

Musee d’Orsay

The Musee d’Orsay is one of the best museums in Paris, with a fantastic collection of impressionist art with works of the likes of Monet, Manet, Renoir and more. What many don’t know is that you can actually get incredible views of Paris from there, through the clock on the upper level. 

PRACTICAL INFORMATION: Musee d’Orsay is open every day from 9:30 am to 6:00 pm. On Thursdays it closes at 9:45 pm. It is closed on Mondays. Make sure to get tickets in advance before you go. You can get them here.

Paris Pantheon

The dome of Paris Pantheon is a great place for views

Paris Pantheon

Last but not least, for views of the Latin Quarter, Luxembourg Gardens, Eiffel Tower and even Notre Dame, get on the Dome of Paris’ Pantheon. 

PRACTICAL INFORMATION: The Pantheon is open every day from 10:000 am to 6:00 or 6:30 pm depending on the season. You can get tickets here.

Further readings about Paris

If you are planning a trip to Paris, you should definitely read these other posts:

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Find where to get the best views of Paris - via @clautavani

Learn where to get the best Paris views - via @clautavani