Have you ever heard of the village Ein Karem in the Jerusalem mountains? This artistic and culturally significant village is now a neighborhood of Jerusalem and in my opinion the ultimate hidden gem to enjoy a day trip or weekend getaway. Ein Karem is is an interesting mix of art galleries, amazing chef restaurants, breathtaking views and monasteries. Moreover, it has a bohemian vibe with some of the most picturesque streets in Jerusalem! Especially in January and February it is a dream with all the almond trees blossoming.
How to get there
Ein Karem is very easy to get to both by car and by public transport. From the Jerusalem Central Bus Station there are trains every ten minutes to Mount Herzl and from there it is a short five minute bus ride with bus 18 to Ein Karem, which runs every five minutes. If you are staying in Jerusalem, it is the perfect day trip combined with Yad Vashem which is at Mount Herzl. The bus drops you in the middle of Ein Karem and since it is a small neighborhood, everything is easily walk-able.
What to do
Ein Karem is probably most famous for its Christian heritage, because it is the birthplace of John The Baptist and Mary visited Elisabeth when they were both pregnant. Supposedly the spring where they met is now one of the most famous sights in Ein Karem and called Mary's Well. From there, you can also visit the park that has amazing views of the Jerusalem mountains. Ein Karem is also home to five churches and monasteries, of which the most famous probably is the Gorny Monastery, high up a mountain and visible from the entire village. Keep in mind that visiting the monastery is climbing many steps from Ein Karem. An easier way to get to the monastery is if you drive to Hadassah Hospital and walk from the parking lot of the monastery, it's still a walk but no climbing!
The Hadassah Hospital, one of Israel's leading hospitals, is actually worth visiting by itself because its synagogue houses the famous Chaggal Windows. When you visit Ein Karem, I also recommend you to just wander around the little ancient streets to visit some art galleries - there are many great artists living in this picturesque village.
Another must see in Ein Karem is the church of St. John the Baptist, it's a beautiful 12th century Catholic church in the center of Ein Karem. Around it, you can find many beautiful artist homes and galleries.
The official tourism website of Jerusalem is also offering tours to Ein Karem from the Jerusalem City Center, click here for more info.
Where to stay
When visiting Ein Karem, I recommend you stay at Hotel Alegra. It's one of the most beautiful boutique hotels in the country, with stunning, characteristic rooms, a rooftop with the best views in Ein Karem and a garden with sauna's. Their breakfast is served in a nearby bistro and trust me - that alone is worth visiting Ein Karem!
Where to eat
Ein Karem is home to some of Jerusalem's most beloved bistros and restaurants - although I must say, none of them are kosher. Karma and Mala Bistro are the most beloved restaurants in Ein Karem and it's wise to book ahead. For laid back - though delicious - Italian cuisine, Pundak Ein Karem is your place!
Craving something sweet? Right in the middle of Ein Karem you can find Sweet Ein Karem, a chocolate store where they also have a cafe and host chocolate workshops.