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Trendy Jerusalem: Boutique hotels, hip restaurants and buzzy cocktail bars

The city centre has blossomed with a youthful, hipster juxtaposition to the religious pilgrims roaming the Holy City.

Trendy Jerusalem: Boutique hotels, hip restaurants and buzzy cocktail bars

Machneyuda is a restaurant in Jerusalem's city centre that embodies the boisterous spirit and flavours of contemporary Jerusalem. (Photo: NYT/Tzachi Ostrovsky)

In the city centre, just a 15-minute walk from the cobblestone alleys of the Old City of Jerusalem, trendy restaurants and boutiques – even coffee bars that double as late-night performance venues – have blossomed. Their youthful, often tattooed clientele offer a curious juxtaposition to the religious pilgrims roaming the Holy City.

A growing tech scene – there are upward of 500 startups in the city – has fuelled the metamorphosis. So have art schools, with about 2,500 students combined; many of those students are remaining thanks to city and nonprofit spaces supporting arts-minded entrepreneurs.

The city’s creative energy is on full display at Machane Yehuda Market, also in the city centre. In recent years, the 19th-century, open-air market for spices, meat, flowers and produce has had a second shift at sundown when it transforms into a lively nightlife scene with frequent DJ-hosted events. In this sprawling labyrinth, artisan beer halls, tapas and falafel stands, and upscale restaurants open their graffiti-adorned garage-style doors to welcome the city’s multi-culti cool kids.

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MACHNEYUDA

For a meal that is as much a party as a dining experience, this nine-year-old restaurant inside the Machane Yehuda Market, run by acclaimed chefs Assaf Granit, Yossi Elad and Uri Navon, embodies the boisterous spirit and flavours of contemporary Jerusalem.

As dishes arrive – fattoush salad with Bryndza cheese, mini open-faced corned beef sandwiches topped with chipotle aioli, and “Shikshukit,” ground lamb with tahini and lemon – Arabic funk blares. Impromptu dancing erupts when the staff gives a signal by banging on kitchen pots.

Beit Ya’akov Street 10; machneyuda.co.il/homepage

The dining area of Villa Brown Jerusalem, a 24-room boutique hotel. (Photo: NYT/Tzachi Ostrovsky)

VILLA BROWN JERUSALEM

In a city of big-box hotels, this Ottoman-era villa turned 24-room boutique hotel opened in 2017 and is manna to travellers drawn to intimate, tastefully designed lodging. A rooftop terrace, a bougainvillea-draped garden and a cozy subterranean wine cave fashioned from an ancient cistern add to the charm of this stylish property.

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Ha-Nevi’im Street 54, brownhotels.com/villa

Gatsby is a 1920s-inspired cocktail bar in Jerusalem's city centre. (Photo: NYT/Tzachi Ostrovsky)

GATSBY

In true speakeasy fashion, this 1920s-inspired cocktail bar is as stylish as it is hard-to-find, behind an unmarked door in a nondescript strip of shops. Theatrical takes on classics – like the Gatsby Sazerac, which involves a fiery torching of a vintage coupe glass – are the boite’s calling card.

Sofia is a boutique with sleek, made-in-Israel apparel. (Photo: NYT/Tzachi Ostrovsky)

SOFIA

Eight years ago, when Miri Ashur Zuta opened this gem box of a shop, a trendy fashion boutique in conservative Jerusalem seemed like an oxymoron. Yet this boutique has thrived, with its sleek, made-in-Israel apparel a beacon for locals and visitors on the hunt for standout style.

The cafeteria inside Hamiffal at Lorenzo House Cultural Centre. Hamiffal is an art collective and creative platform. (Photo: NYT/Tzachi Ostrovsky)

HAMIFFAL AT LORENZO HOUSE CULTURAL CENTRE

With ever-changing installations in the elevator, within toilet stalls, dangling from rafters and woven throughout the rosemary-scented garden, a crumbling 19th-century mansion has been recast (through funding by the Jerusalem Foundation) as Hamiffal, or, “the factory.”

At this art collective and creative platform, visitors can view and purchase work by local artists, partake in events that range from concerts (classical and electro-romantic to Hasidic rap) and film screenings to secondhand fashion pop-up shops. Or, they can simply hang out under the fantastically frescoed ceilings with a snack from the on-site cafe.

Ha-Ma’aravim Street 3, http://hamiffal.com/english/

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Amy Tara Koch © 2018 The New York Times

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