I condensed our Jerusalem highlights from our 14 day trip to Israel (view full schedule here) into a three day tour that lets you enjoy lots of the culture and history of this incredible city with a toddler friendly schedule that allows for naps and some breathing time in between. All tours are toddler approved and planned in a way that lets you easily get from one spot to the next (either by walking short distances or by getting on and off the same train). We spend 5 days in Jerusalem in March 2017 (the full trip can be viewed here) and did all the mentioned activities with our then 19 month old daughter who woke up at 5:30 every morning and went to bed at 6:00 pm, so we didn’t actually spend the evenings out of the apartment. Sorry, no restaurant recommendations for the evenings there.
Since we lived directly across from Mahane Yehuda Market, I did however sneak out a few evenings and got us Take Away from there. The vibe in and around the market especially at night is amazing and I love the place! If you’re able to chose the area you stay in, I would therefore absolutely recommend Nachlaot.
Day 1: Old Town and Mount Olive
(This tour is hard with a stroller, take a carrier if you can. The schedule is just a recommendation to give you an idea of how much time we actually spent. If you’re in Jerusalem during shabbat, this is actually a great tour to take on a saturday, because most of the rest of the city will be closed then. Also the other two tours are not possible during shabbat.)
9:00 Hummus Breakfast
Enter through Jaffa Gate and have Breakfast like a real Israeli – go for a bowl of hummus at Tala Hummus
Stroll trough the Shouk before it becomes too crowded and hunt for some treasures to take home with you. I usually stay well clear of tourist souvenirs but this time I went a bit crazy for the painted crockery and left quite some money there. It was a good investment, since I still really enjoy setting an oriental tea table with our hand painted breakfast plates.
12:00 Western Wall
Visit the Western wall, bring your prayer on a little piece of paper if you’re religious and hide it in the wall, while the kid chases some birds
13:00 Zion Gate
Walk over to Zion Gate, listen to a free guided audio tour while kiddo is napping in the carrier (we took this one from the official Jerusalem website) and/or have some falafel from the street vendor for lunch and enjoy watching the tourist groups
15:00 Coffee break!
Go find the Lutheran Church of the redeemer, have a great Austrian coffee and let the kid play in the charming little hidden garden, while you take a break
Late afternoon/ sunset on top of Mount Olive
Hike up the many stairs of the Mount of olives. It’s worth it. I’d plan about two hours for this, especially if your kid wants to walk up the stairs by himself. If you can, watch the sunset from here. When we visited Israel, it was recommended that you leave the Old Town before it gets dark due to recent knife attacks, so we made sure to get back while it was still light outside.
Listen to the muezzins
Head back through Lion gate and walk up Via Dolorosa
This is the street that Jesus had to carry up his cross before being crucified and I recommend taking the free audio tour again if your kid lets you. Ours was fast asleep in the carrier by this time, so we had some time to actually soak up some more knowledge. But just listening to the muezzins calling their people to prayer from all around the Old Town is also pretty cool.
Dinner at Tmol Shilshom (not open on shabbat)
If you are still up for it after this culture filled day, consider joining the cities authors, poets and students for a relaxed dinner at Tmol Shilshom. Hidden at the sidelines of the busy shopping zone, this charming bookshop also serves delicious food (great Shakshuka!) while sending out a very calm vintage vibe. They also apparently host book launches for young authors and open mic night for young poets.. Ha, I know, I know. Maybe we can come here again when the kids are a bit older, right?
Day 2 Mahane Yehuda, Yad Vashem, Garden Tomb and rooftop view
(The schedule is a bit more important here because of opening times ;)):
8:30 Get up early for Breakfast at Mahane Yehuda Market
The famous Mahane Yehuda market is a food market with restaurants by day and a party location by night. I’d say it’s a must see if you’re in the city and we came here pretty much every day since our appartment was directly opposite.For breakfast I recommend shakshuka at Manou ba Shouk and then shop for a picknick, for example some Hummus from Tzidkiyahu Delicacies and a few Rugelach from Marzipan bakery.
(Rugelach are insane little chocolate filled croissanty things, which will be surprisingly heavier and way cheaper than you expected and will make you instantly addicted just to drive you crazy with the thought of them once you get home, because you will NEVER EVER FIND THEM AGAIN! I crossed half of Berlin hunting for Rugelach after our trip – nowhere I tried comes even close to what I ate in Jerusalem. I therefore HIGHLY recommend you take home a few chocolate babkas, which are essentially giant Rugelach cakes, but they keep fresh much longer and can be frozen and reheated – just in case you want to get your whole family infected. And all of your friends. And the kindergarten teachers of your toddler.)
10:30 Yad Vashem
Being from Germany, I’ve seen quite a few holocaust museums and memorials, but Yad Vashem is the most impressive of them and I recommend going there even though it’s not ideal with a little kid.
Take line 1 from Mahane Yehuda to Mount Herzl and then walk half an hour to Yad Vashem (sorry about this, we didn’t find a better way to get there). We took the stroller and timed this over her lunch nap. Kids are not allowed in, but we took turns watching the kiddo – who actually slept in the stroller half of the time – and playing with her in the garden and thus each had about 90 minutes. Three hours would be much more adequate for a visit, but it was enough time to let us race to our daughter afterwards and just hold her very close. I can’t get the story of the Lodz ghetto out of my head, that forced it’s “inhabitants” to give up all of their 20.000 children, elderly and sick people over the course of one night. To hand over your little child in full knowledge that it will be killed – I have no words, there are no words.
Still go. See. Tell your children. And never let it be repeated.
15:00 Lunch at Ishtabach
(If you do this tour on a friday, be aware that the whole area comes to a close for shabbat on friday afternoon and the whole saturday. Ishtabach is open till 4 pm on fridays.)
Get out of the train at Mahane Yehuda again, stop at Ishtabach to have a shamburak, – kind of a filled pizza dough- for lunch (seriously, do it! The place is packed with locals, the food is incredible and the atmosphere really let’s you soak up the vibe of the neighbourhood) then get back in the train and go to Damaskus Gate. But before you get back into the Old Town, take an hour to visit the
16:30 Garden Tomb
If you have even a slight interest in the places of the bible, I highly recommend visiting the Garden Tomb, which by some Christians is believed to be the actual place of Jesus burial and resurrection. Wether that is true or not, this is a good place to catch a breath after the bustle of the city and to let your toddler run free for a while.
17:30 Coffee and Sunset Austrian Hospice
The rooftop of the Austrian hospice is one of the best places to have a 360 Degree view over Jerusalem. It’s a few NIS to get up there but worth it. Enjoy a coffee in the lovely garden Café afterwards – but stay away from the overpriced cakes. Man, was I disappointed by that dry, flavourless piece of Sacher Torte. (Who is crazy enough to buy Sacher Torte in the country of Rugelach anyway!)
Day 3: Israel Museum and great food
(same as above. I recommend arriving at the Israel museum no later than 12, because there is so much to see and they close at 5 pm)
Start the day by packing a picknick (with all these great things you bought at the market yesterday)
9:00 Israeli Breakfast
Have a very un-parisian Breakfast at Cafe de Paris in Rehavia, where they serve super tasty Israeli dishes for a very reasonable price. Then take a walk through Sacher park to Israel museum. If you have some time, let your kiddo enjoy the Playground, because unlike most public playgrounds we’ve encountered in Israel, this one has a sand base, which is great also for the smaller toddlers. For bigger kids, there is an awesome tunnel slide collection. Skip this if you don’t have time, because there are also playgrounds at
11:00 Israel museum
Let the kiddo sleep in the stroller while you enjoy the garden with it’s miniature model of Israel and just plan on spending the rest of the day here. The museum is huge! At one point I got lost in the European art department, where I nearly crashed into a mirror because I was so puzzled to suddenly find myself in an original 18th century Rococo room (that was transferred to the museum in it’s ::entirety:: from Paris).
Absolutely try to make use of the free guided tours (we split up for this, while the other one had the kid). I took the Jewish Art and Living Tour and it was great, informative and very sweet actually because you could see that the guide lady was really in love with the collection.
16:00 Late lunch/ early dinner at Modern
We have actually not done this one because we didn’t know about it, but the Israel museum houses one of the top 13 restaurants (as reviewed on Trip Advisor) under it’s roof. The food on the pictures looks mouthwatering!
Bonus tip: If you are in Jerusalem on a Friday, be prepared for the Schofar – a crazy loud horn that sounds through the whole city on Friday afternoons to mark the beginning of shabbat. We where in a religious part of the city when it sounded and everyone started running to their homes (where they are supposed to be once shabbat starts) but we freaked out a bit because the thing sounds like a bomb alarm!