Jerusalem is mostly known for its impressive history and revered sacred sites, but it also contains one of the liveliest streets in Israel.

On a visit to the pedestrian-only Ben Yehuda Street, you’ll discover trendy cafés, mouthwatering street food, street musicians, boutique hotels and superb gift shops that will make you go Tel Aviv who?

Ben Yehuda Street in Jerusalem is a midrachov (in Hebrew, midracha means sidewalk, and rechov means street) closed to vehicular traffic.

It is one of the busiest spots in Jerusalem, mostly due to its central location: Ben Yehuda joins King George Street and Jaffa Road to form the “Jerusalem Triangle.”

Street scene on Ben Yehuda pedestrian mall, Jerusalem. Photo by Sivan Simhi

This prime hangout attracts tourists from all over the world looking for Jerusalem’s best shopping experience and is no less popular with locals, who are in-the-know about the best eateries around.

A street musician at the Jaffa Road foot of Ben Yehuda Street in Jerusalem. Photo by Sivan Simhi

In this ultimate street guide, we will veer you away from the tourist traps and give you an insider look at the best that Ben Yehuda has to offer.

The rest is history

In 1917, under the rule of the British Empire, it was decided to move the main business center of Jerusalem west, along Jaffa Street. The British experts designed a large “triangle” of streets as a center of attraction for business owners and shoppers.

By the end of the construction work, Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, the “reviver of the Hebrew language,” had died and the British decided to commemorate his memory by naming the central road after him.

Ben Yehuda Street became one of the most important arteries in modern Jerusalem and its side streets were filled with shops, offices and residential buildings.

In 1983, Ben Yehuda Street was closed to vehicles and the pedestrian mall was established, turning it into a magnet for residents and tourists.

The shopping center of Jerusalem

Although named after the reviver of the Hebrew language, Ben Yehuda Street is known for its mostly English-speaking tourists looking to find the perfect gift to bring back home.

Handmade kippot (skullcaps) for sale on Ben Yehuda Street, Jerusalem. Photo by Abigail K. Leichman

The pedestrian mall and the surrounding streets are the best destination to buy all the only-in-Israel souvenirs your heart desires: Judaica and knickknacks, jewelry, printed t-shirts with Hebrew puns, handmade kippot (skullcaps), Dead Sea therapeutic products, one-of-a-kind ceramics, handmade leather shoes and much more.

Restaurants, cafés & nightlife

This lively street in the holiest of cities is the ultimate place to sip great coffee while watching the passing crowd. Stroll down Ben Yehuda and its side streets to find a variety of cafės, top-notch restaurants and bars.

Jewelry in a Judaica shop on Ben Yehuda Street, Jerusalem. Photo by Sophie Gordon/Flash90

Try Pisgat HaFalafel to make your falafel-in-pita experience a grand one, with a free buffet of 15 types of salads and extra vegetables in the falafel mix. Other must-tries are the shakshuka, vegetable patties, and spicy hummus.

Pisgat HaFalafel is strictly kosher and vegan. Photo by Sivan Simhi

Moshiko Falafel is a tiny falafel restaurant with fantastic fresh ingredients. Here, you can order falafel, shawarma in a pita or taboon bread, and grab bottled beer or soda from the fridge.

Moshiko Falafel and Shawarma at 15 Ben Yehuda Street, Jerusalem. Photo by Sivan Simhi

Hummus Pinati,  just around the corner on King George Street, exists since 1948 and is one of the most prominent hummus chains in Israel. Here you’ll find delicious hummus dishes, rice, beans, mujaddara, moussaka, and more — everything homemade.

Hummus Eliahu serves freshly made hummus, ground daily, with an abundance of different toppings to choose from, in warm all-you-can-eat Yemenite pita.

The kosher Italian restaurant Café Rimon is the flagship branch of a chain run by the Rimon family since 1953. It is one of the oldest cafés in Israel and is considered a Jerusalem institution. ​​

Café Rimon off Ben Yehuda Street in Jerusalem is one of the oldest cafés in Israel. Photo by Sivan Simhi

The Muffin Boutique, run by former Canadian couple Shmarya and Lainie, is a charming bakery known for its healthy muffins, bagels and smoothies.

The Muffin Boutique on Ben Yehuda Street, Jerusalem, is owned by Canadian émigrés. Photo by Sivan Simhi

Make sure to stay until nightfall to enjoy the bustling nightlife scene. Besarabia Bar, a multicultural underground bar in a cute side alley, features Balkan music, alcohol, books and games.

John Smith on Shamai Street is a kosher cocktail bar located in the old Orion Cinema. They serve a selection of boutique beers, wines, and cocktails along with a varied tapas menu.

The John Smith bar off Ben Yehuda Street, Jerusalem. Photo by Sivan Simhi

Next door to John Smith, the Dublin Irish Pub offers a more laid-back atmosphere, where you can enjoy classic Irish hospitality with a huge selection of beers and alcohol, delicious food (not kosher) and great music.

Dublin Irish Pub in downtown Jerusalem. Photo by Sivan Simhi

Nearby attractions

Ben Yehuda Street is just a few blocks away from Machane Yehuda Market, the largest open market in Jerusalem with over 250 vendors selling everything from fruit and vegetables to baked goods; fish, meat and cheeses.

Another nearby attraction is the Ticho House Museum, a historical home that is part of the national Israel Museum.

Also within walking distance are the upscale Alrov Mamilla Mall and the beautiful Independence Park with impressive green space, perfect for a picnic under the shade of the large pine trees.