Walking through the Old City of Jerusalem is an exhilarating but overwhelming experience. Hurried teens pushing tiny wooden carts filled to the brim with dates and nuts, local shoppers, tourists, priests, rabbis, imams, and merchants throng the streets. Visitors and Jerusalemites alike often search for a place to cool off and escape the noise and crowd. One of the best places to do so is at the Austrian Hospice.
Though the name may sound rather grim, the Austrian Hospice is actually a 19th-century guesthouse that originally catered to Austrian and German visitors in Jerusalem. Unassuming from the outside, the building’s charming interior is the perfect place for a short siesta from exploring the area’s myriad historical and religious sites. Better yet, its roof offers what is arguably the best view of the Old City.
From the roof, you can see the Dome of the Rock, the Armenian Church of Our Lady of the Spasm, and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, all of which make for a strikingly unique skyline. Even the Mount of Olives—including the golden onion domes of the Russian Orthodox Monastery and the many headstones of the ancient Jewish Cemetery—is visible from this vantage point.
After taking in the cityscape, it’s worth spending some time exploring the rest of the building. Founded in 1854 by the Archbishop of Vienna, the Austrian Hospice still hosts guests, but has also become a favorite with locals, owing to its Viennese-style cafe, replete with a chandelier and burgundy upholstered chairs. If you need to refresh yourself before hitting the Old City’s bustling streets again, order an iced coffee. Deceptively named, it’s actually coffee that has been thoroughly blended with a dash of milk and topped with a generous helping of rich, freshly made whipped cream. If you’re in the mood for something more substantial, you can’t go wrong with their apfelstrudel.
Another must-see is the tiny but opulent Austrian Catholic chapel, which still holds the occasional mass in German. Before you leave, walk along the hall just below the rooftop—it’s home to an art exhibit, which rotates every year. By the time you’ve taken in all there is to see, you’ll be refreshed and ready to brave the bustling streets again.
Know Before You Go
You have to buzz on the door for them to let you in. Entrance is free, but bring a little cash for the cafe and for access to the rooftop (credit cards aren't yet accepted).
It costs 5 shekels to access the rooftop - coin/cash only.