In case you hadn’t noticed, I love knowing about all the cool places to eat and drink around me and one of the reasons I started to write this blog, was because people were always asking me for recommendations of where to go out in the Holy City. I used to regularly receive calls from guy friends from Tel Aviv asking for advice on where to take Jerusalem girls on dates because they did not know the city.
I was recently dating a guy who was not from Jerusalem and some of the fun of our early dates was showing him parts of the Holy City that he had never seen before and helping him understand why I love it here so much. One thing I realized from these dates is that when you are getting to know each other the ambiance and the set up of the venue can be very important. Sitting next to each other at a bar or close to each other on a corner of a table makes is much more informal than sitting across a table in an ‘interview’ style setting.
So in no particular order, here are some of my suggested date places in the Holy City:
Set off of Derech Bet Lechem behind the Old Train Station complex, this restaurant bar is often heralded as a piece of Tel Aviv in Jerusalem. As it is predominantly a restaurant, the bar area is more informal and does not have a pick-up vibe at all. Whether sitting at the bar, at a small table or in the lounge area, you still get the atmosphere of the place but can have your own privacy to get to know each other. Although popular with local and tourists alike, it is always busy but not too noisy which makes it is a great place for a first or later date.
One of the new kids on the block, this cheese and wine restaurant bar is a great choice for a early date. Sharing a cheese platter and a glass of wine allows plenty of time for talking without getting too distracted by the food and all the tables in the restaurant are small and intimate. It is centrally located but not in the middle of everything which is a good option if you chose to meet there. At night, the bar attracts mostly local Israelis looking to enjoy good cheese and wine.
While the branches in Rehavia and Emek have a more local feel to them, the city center branch is grander and the space allows for more privacy. On a date, I prefer to sit at the large semi-circular bar in the middle which also gives you a chance to watch the sushi being made.
A local favorite of mine for all occasions, this is also a great place for a date. There is always a great buzz and although it is always busy, I have never had a problem being seated, especially if you are happy to sit at the bar. The restaurant menu is varied but they also do some great bar snacks if you want to nosh on something small during the date.
A more formal choice than some of the others but during the summer evenings, the fabulous views of the Old City and cool breeze make this a wonderful romantic option. The high tables for 2 near the entrance are the best option for a date, even though the view is not as good from there. Be warned that even in July and August it can be quite cold up there so take a scarf! It is a meat restaurant but they have some great starters and desserts and a wonderful wine menu.
This is another rooftop option with breathtaking views over East Jerusalem and a great choice of cheese and wine. The restaurant has a much more formal ambiance than Basher and the clientele is usually pilgrims who are staying in the hotel or diplomats and foreign journalists. The menu is only in English and although they accept shekels, the prices are all in dollars. Most of the wines on the menu are not kosher but they do have a few kosher Israeli wines.
Another popular location for diplomats and foreign journalists, you would be forgiven for thinking you were in Europe and not the Middle East. The Summer Bar in the tranquil Palm House garden of the American Colony Hotel offers an escape from the hustle and bustle of the city and the service is impeccable. The style of the chairs means you are sitting very far from each other, so it is not so conducive to a free-flowing conversation but this is a great option if you want a change of scenery and most guys would get brownie points for originality.
A popular date choice for many in Jerusalem, my suggestion would be to go earlier in the evening and during the week when it is not too busy and there is not a DJ, unless you are looking for more of a party date. After 11pm, especially on Thursday and Saturday nights, it becomes more of a pickup dance bar which can make for some great people watching but not great for a date when you are still getting to know each other. As with all Mamilla Hotel eateries, the food is delicious and they have some great bar snacks and desserts to share.
*These restaurants/bars are not kosher.
Since writing this post Restobar and Basher have both closed and Colony is only open for private events.