The Ultimate Travel Guide to Jerusalem #2: choosing accommodation
Regardless of how long you plan to stay in Jerusalem, I recommend you choose accommodation in the Old City. Why? Three reasons:
1) The hostels are cheaper
2) You will find yourself at the (multi)cultural heart of the city
3) Most of the sites you're here to visit are in or around the Old City anyway, so it will save you some time and money
4) Hostels in the Old City are often packed with students and other interesting individuals
5) The best hostel in all of Jerusalem is in the Old City.
(Another reason why I tend to avoid taking up residence in the modern part - although I hate to admit it - is because the New City is completely dead on Shabbat. An absolute ghost town. Streets empty, shops closed, complete silence. And I've seen too many horror movies to find this comfortable. Don't let that scare you though, I'm just being unreasonable.)
On this note, here are my top 3 recommendations for hostels in Jerusalem:
1) The Citadel Hostel
My favourite by a mile, I try to book the Citadel hostel every time I'm there, and only look at other options when it's fully booked. Unsurprisingly, everyone I've ever taken there now does the same. Why, you ask? The roof, of course! The Citadel lets you sleep on a mattress on their rooftop! For under half the price of any other hostel in town, you can wake up to an incredible view of the Old City. Of course, you do get woken up by the morning prayers/sunrise/church bells, but where else in the world are you going to get woken up by all three of those? It is absolutely worth it. Besides, the cool breeze at night means that you don't lie awake, tossing and turning, sweaty and sticky, as is usually the case in Israel, so you get a better night's sleep anyway. That said, if sleeping out in the open isn't your thing, the dorm rooms are also quite comfortable.
This hostel also offers lockers for a small fee, which I find is a must, to avoid walking around with your valuables (see previous post). If you want to move around for a couple of days, but don't want to drag around your suitcase, they let you leave it in the luggage room downstairs, for free - it is unlocked but I never found this to be a problem as you can keep the locker during that time. I left them my luggage when i went on a two-night trip to Petra, and came back to find everything exactly where I'd left it.
Facilities (shared kitchen, bathrooms, washing machines, 1 computer and free wifi) aren't perfect but they are adequate - hygiene isn't ideal but it isn't any worse than in most other youth hostels.
The staff is usually friendly and helpful, and will answer any questions you may have, the location is ideal and the decor is very "bedouin grotto" (see picture). So, really, what's not to like?
Oh, and, pro tip for the road? You can print things out by emailing them to the reception. Make sure you ask the guy with the american accent, as he'll let you do it for free! (The others will charge you).
2) The Jaffa Gate Hostel
Located - surprise surprise - right opposite the Jaffa Gate, down a little alleyway, the Jaffa Gate hostel is if slightly more expensive, your best option for private rooms. These have a hygienic en suite bathroom, locks on the doors; the hostel also has free wifi and a roof terrace (but it has nothing on the Citadel's, admittedly). Where the Citadel is buzzing with travellers, crowded with visitors coming and going, the Jaffa Gate hostel is nice and quiet.
3) The Petra Hostel
Should the two previous hostels be fully booked, the Petra hostel offers a decent alternative. Located right next to the Jaffa Gate, it offers fairly comfortable, hygienic rooms with air conditioning and en suite bathroom - both for private and dorm rooms. While there are locks on all the doors, do keep in mind that the staff has a copy of all the keys. Unfortunately, this hostel has no wifi (you can have access to a computer for a small fee), and the rooms are located upstairs, which may be problematic depending on your luggage. On the plus side, the reception area is large and allows for visitors.
So, that's it. My top three hostel recommendations for Jerusalem. If you'd rather stay in the New City, I've heard the Abraham Hostel is very good.
Oh, and one last piece of advice: Avoid the New Swedish Hostel. Like the plague.
The photos in this article were all taken from the HostelWorld website.