Souvenirs from Jerusalem - What would a Jerusalem tour be without some really great shopping?
There are several areas in Jerusalem with outdoor shopping promenades and a few indoor malls as well. Rest assured, when going shopping in Jerusalem, you can find what you’re looking for at whichever budget.
CITY CENTER: BEN YEHUDA AND SURROUNDING STREETS
Jerusalem’s entire city center area is now one large pedestrian mall. The city center’s core is Ben Yehuda St., a pedestrian street full of shops and restaurants, whose renovation a few years’ back made for a welcoming experience, with its repaved Jerusalem stone walkway, classy street lamp posts, elevated seating areas, and a small fountain to boot. The surrounding streets also enjoyed an upgrade with a sleek, grey-tiled sidewalk resurfacing and the same classy street lamp posts as on Ben Yehuda. This renovation was all done in preparation for the startup of the city’s lightrail on Jaffa St.
Given the expanded revamped area, when you go shopping in Jerusalem, it’s worth a stroll on all of the center city streets: Shatz St., King George St.,Hillel St., Ben Yehuda St., Jaffa St., Yoel Salomon St., and all of their offshoot streets. Tip: On Fridays during the day, check out the Artists Fair on Shatz and Betzalel Streets – an excellent place to purchase Jerusalem gifts by local artisans.
Ben Yehuda St. itself is a hill, connecting with King George St. at the top, and Jaffa St. at the bottom, where it opens up into the Zion Square plaza (Kikar Tzion). Ben Yehuda highlights include branches of two famous Israeli companies: The Dead Sea beauty products, Ahava, and the quality Teva-Naot leather shoes. Ben Yehuda St. is also a good place to peruse Judaica and Christian souvenirs at overall mid-tier prices – be sure to bargain! The area also offers practical day-to-day items, from hats and umbrellas to electronics.
At the bottom of Ben Yehuda St., at Zion Square plaza, stands the newly-installed department store HaMashbir LaTzarchan (commonly referred to as simply “HaMashbir”), whose multiple floors offer everything you’re used to in a department store. Near Zion Square, jewelry store Baltinester (Jaffa St.) is well known in particular for its name necklaces made to order. From Zion Square, you’ll enter into Nachalat Shiva, centeredon Yoel Salomon St., home to several pottery and jewelry artists’ shops as well as boutique clothing stores.
MAMILLA MALL & THE OLD CITY’S CARDO: UPSCALE SHOPPING
Moving away from the Ben Yehuda area, towards the Old City, you’ll find the incredibly classy Alrov Mamilla Avenue Mall, an architecturally statuesque outdoor shopping walkway. The avenue begins at the 5-star Mamilla Hotel and stretches all the way to the Old City’s Jaffa Gate entrance, and includes prestigious, international brands, namely Versace, H. Stern, Nike, and Gap, as well as high-end Judaica gifts. The upscale Mamilla Mall also displays artwork regularly, hosts live music in its amphitheater, and sponsors family-friendly activities, especially during holiday seasons.
During your Old City tours, you’ll find an exclusive shopping experience at the Cardo in the Jewish Quarter. The Cardo’s row of luxury shops are particularly suited to purchasing Jerusalem souvenirs, all with the unique backdrop of the Cardo’s ancient Roman columns and other archaeological remains. Thereby, the Cardo is a one-of-a-kind experience for any Jerusalem visitor, in that you can combine treading on history with shopping high-end.
THE JERUSALEM MALCHA MALL
The Jerusalem Malcha Mall is a solid choice for anyone seeking the suburban indoor shopping mall experience, as well as families seeking an indoor outing.
Now over twenty years old, when the Jerusalem Malcha Mall was established it was dubbed “The Biggest Mall in the Middle East”. To date Malcha Mall certainly maintains its status as the biggest conglomerate of stores in Jerusalem, with over 250 to choose from.
The Jerusalem Malcha Mall houses both international and Israeli stores, ranging from somewhat low to mid-range budget to boutique, higher end. World-famous brand names such as H&M, Zara, Home Depot, and Toys R Us all maintain branches at this mall. Several Israeli clothing shops for all budgets have space here, as well as a branch of the department store HaMashbir LaTzarchan (the same department store as on Zion Square), and the Mega supermarket. In addition, Malcha Mall offers practical services such as a synagogue, a post office, and Bank Hapoalim. For eats, there’s a vast selection of take out restaurants at the food court, all kosher.
Activities include an indoor ice skating rink during winter, and entertainment and crafts workshops during holiday seasons. In addition, the Shilav baby store has a gymboree area good for ages up to six.
Malcha Mall is an easy bus ride from center city or cab ride from anywhere.
THE OLD CITY’S ARAB SHUK
If you’re looking for authentic, local ware, the Old City’s Arab Shuk is the place to be. Located in the Muslim and Christian quarters, enter via Jaffa Gate and go straight into the Muslim Quarter. Once you see dresses and frocks hanging high, you’ll know you’re in the right place. Call it little Istanbul – the Arab shuk in the Old City is a Middle Eastern market full of endemic artistry both in clothing and in foods. You can also find Christian, Jewish, and Muslim souvenirs here, often at a lower price than on Ben Yehuda St. – it’s up to you to know, and use, your bargaining chips.(Hint: Start at half the offer price.)
In the Arab shuk, you’ll have a taste of the way things used to be. Merchants have been operating in the Old City for a couple of millenia, in these narrow alleyways, day in, day out; the sincerity of this centuries-old, Middle Eastern marketplace is something unmatched in Western culture in general, and even in Israel in particular.
MAHANE YEHUDA SHUK (MARKET)
The Mahane Yehuda market, or shuk, is renowned mostly for its Jerusalem flare with local food – fresh produce and nuts, bakeries (such as Marzipan), and shwarma/felafel joints. In recent years Mahane Yehuda has seen a slew of more upscale establishments – going from “shuk to chic” – with specialized wine and cheese shops, health food stores, vegetarian restaurants, and even a branch of the Israeli international franchise, Café Aroma. In addition to food, you can find gifts to take home such as Judaica, jewelry, and pottery. You can also purchase electronics, cell phone devices, and low-cost clothing, including Levi jeans for around $15 (they look like Levi’s, anyway).
Even with its upscale spin of late, the Mahane Yehuda shuk’s salt of the earth, authentic Jerusalemite ambience remains entrenched, and for this reason the Mahane Yehuda shuk is a must.
All in all, shopping in Jerusalem reflects the city itself, spanning the spectrum of ancient to modern, with options for those on a limited budget to those looking for upscale. You will see that shopping in Jerusalem is certainly an exciting, varied experience.