You would more likely visit Jerusalem for its Holy places and great cultural sites than for its coffee places.
Visiting Jerusalem requires a lot of walking, uphill and down the narrow streets. The very hectic pace of the city with thousands of inhabitants, tourists, pilgrims, worshippers,... coming and going in large crowds can create a feeling of dizziness.
And... what is the best solution if you want to have a rest while keeping the connection with the place you're visiting?
Having a cup of coffee! Yes!
From street vendors selling local Qahwa (a must taste!) to exquisite places serving espresso, the choice is huge. Please find below a non-comprehensive guide to my favourite coffee places in Jerusalem.
The earliest credible evidence of either coffee drinking or knowledge of the coffee tree appears in the middle of the 15th century, in Yemen's Sufi monasteries. Sufis used it to keep themselves alert during their nighttime devotions. Arabic coffee is made from coffee beans roasted very lightly or heavily from 165 to 210 °C and cardamom, and is a traditional beverage in Arab culture. The ground coffee is cooked very shortly in a pot over an open flame, with a specific amount of sugar (some drink very sweet coffee...) and poured in a small cup.
Spread worldwide by the Ottomans, Qahwa or arabic (turkish) coffee is one of the greatest pleasure to enjoy in the streets of the middle-East.
Starting Your day in the Old City at Lions' gate is smoother than through the crowded Damascus gate.
And having a good arabic coffee is the smoothest way to start your day in Jerusalem.
Habu El-Halaweh is a local coffee shop under the arches of an inner gate. Eventhough today this coffee shop is entirely decicated to passing tourists (with maps, books on the Via Dolorosa, Kodak films and postcards), it has a long history as a coffee shop for locals. The place has been a coffee stall for generations. Men from the surrounding area came here to play chess, cards, to smoke and chat.
If the café is empty, sit in the back and look at the pilgrims, friars, sisters, tourists ans soldiers passing in the street, framed by the arch of this old house and the two figures of the owners in their nice friday suit.
A qahwa costs 8 NIS (if You smile I think).
Coffee stall by Damascus gate.
If You start Your day through Damascus gate or if you want to escape the city on this side, the road by the bus station is full of opportunities for good qahwa.
The coffee stalls might not look the poshest on earth and the rooms behind the bar are full of suprises, but they serve a very decent authentic arabic coffee at a very reasonnable price!
Don't forget to mention the desired amount of sugar!
Jerusalem lies at 800 metres above sea level and suffers from cold wind from the sea. Some shelters are available on this street and are more than welcome.
A qahwa costs 5 NIS
The Austrian Hospice.
Situated at the corner of two main streets of the old city, the Austrian Hospice is a oasis of quietness in the very heart of the old city. Looking aristocratically over the narrow streets, the Hospice lies in a paradisiac garden where you can just hear the hurly burly of the streets below.
Nowaday, the Hospice is mainly a guest house but it has kept the Austro-Hungarian touch of its old days.
It hosts also a restaurant and a café where You can order apfel-strudel, wiener schnitzel and other Austrian specialities, listening to the radio in German, playing Schubert.
Completely disconnected from the reality of Jerusalem, the Hospice looks like a part of Mittel Europa lost in the Ottoman Empire
Nevertheless, it serves one of the best double espresso in town and the apfel strudel is a killing.
A double espresso costs 14 NIS.
Café by the Redeemer Church
The German lutherian Church of the Redeemer seems austere in comparison to the very exuberant oriental Holy Sepulcher just around the corner: white walls, designer chairs, silence and order.
This oasis of quietness in one of the most crowded area of the old city is a relief on busy days.
On the right corner of the church, a door will lead you to the café situated in the very old cloister. A few tables lie in the shade of the deep walls isolating you from the chaos of the surrounding streets and you can relax.
Espresso is served at around 8 NIS.
Jerusalem Taste is a family run local cake shop a few steps from the Holy Sepulcher and yet, very far away from the hords of tourists.
The owner and her three daughters make delicious Palestinian pastries, salted and sweet. Everything is homemade and fresh.
Coming to Jerusalem Taste is like coming home: it's very small, friendly and tasty.
The sign is small but you should find easily this clear and friendly place at Aqbat e-saraya street, n° 14.
Pastries cost around 3 to 5 NIS, tea and arabic coffee 3NIS.
Buying your own coffee beans
If it's time to go home, it's worth to buy a pack of feshly ground qahwa. The mixt is made from green coffee, black coffee and cardamom.
Plenty of shops are selling coffee beans but I think the best are on Beit Habad street and Salah-Din street. Coffee beans vendors look very severe behind their swiss grinders but it shouldn't refrain you from buying a good pack!
250gr of ground coffee mixt for qahwa costs around 11 to 15 NIS
Café Hillel in West Jerusalem
The atmosphere of the "new" Jerusalem is of course very different than in the old city. Shops, supermarkets, fast food, ...
There must some hidden gem as well on this side of the city and maybe Café Hillel is one of the most obvious nice café. Nevertheless, it has a friendly atmosphere, good cakes, good espresso,... it's quiet, fresh in summer and you can stay to work, read, use the wifi,...
It's a good place to stay with your bag on your way to the airport, saying goodbye to the middle East.
A double espresso costs around 13 NIS.