- For other places with the same name, see Bethlehem (disambiguation).
Bethlehem (Arabic: بيت لحم, Beit Lahm Hebrew: בית לחם Beit Lechem) is a small city located some 10 km (6 miles) south of the Old City of Jerusalem within the West Bank, in an "Area A" zone administered by the Palestinian Authority.
The "little town" of Bethlehem, mentioned in Christmas carols, attracts pilgrims worldwide on account of its description in the New Testament (and particularly the Gospels) as the Biblical birthplace of Jesus, whom Christians believe to be Messiah and Son of God. The Church of the Nativity, one of the oldest churches in the world, is the focus of Christian veneration within the city. Modern textual analysis has almost universally drawn the conclusion that Nazareth, the place where Jesus spent most of his later life and the home town of Joseph and Mary was probably his actual birthplace, but that has not lessened the draw of this city for Christian pilgrims.
Bethlehem is also revered by Jews and Muslims as the birthplace and home town of David, Biblical prophet and King of Israel, as well as the traditional site of Rachel's Tomb (on the outskirts of the town).
Although also home to many Muslims, Bethlehem remains home to one of the largest Arab Christian communities in the Middle East (despite significant emigration which has resulted in a growing Muslim majority) and one of the chief cultural and tourism drawcards for the Palestinian community. The Bethlehem agglomeration also includes the small towns of Beit Jala and Beit Sahour, the latter also having Biblical significance.
Building up to the Millennium in the year 2000, Bethlehem underwent a massive largely foreign-funded project called Bethlehem 2000 in hopes of turning Bethlehem into a major tourist destination comparable to destinations such as Jerusalem or Tel Aviv in tourism infrastructure. Unfortunately a year later, the Palestinian uprising against the Israeli occupation occurred and the ensuing violence, including a standoff between Palestinian fighters holed up in the Church of the Nativity and Israeli troops, scuttled these tourism efforts. Although tension remains high in Israeli-Palestinian relations, violence is a thing of the past in Bethlehem and many in Bethlehem hope to continue on where Bethlehem 2000 started them off.
This article also covers nearby towns, including Beit Jala and Beit Sahour.
A long snake of town, the main thoroughfare of Bethlehem is Manger Street which stretches from Rachel's Tomb (and the road to Jerusalem) all the way to Manger Square, the focal point of the city. Manger Square is flanked by the Church of the Nativity on one side and the Mosque of Omar on the other. The Old Town and the souq (market), which are best navigated on foot, stretch up the hill from Manger Square.
The name means "The House of Bread" in Hebrew, and "The House of Meat" in Arabic. However, it seems likely that both meanings have been retrofitted onto what was originally the House of Lachma, the Mesopotamian god of fertility. The area has been settled since 5,000 BC and there is some evidence that the town is mentioned in the Egyptian Amarna letters (1400 BC). The Old Testament Book of Ruth (c. 1150 BC) has the first certain reference to Bethlehem; it tells the story of Naomi, who left Bethlehem during a famine, and later returned with her daughter-in-law Ruth. Still, Bethlehem remained a small town in the shadow of mighty Jerusalem, and according to most estimates it had some 300 to 1000 inhabitants at the time of the event that gave Bethlehem its fame, namely the birth of Jesus.
Somewhat surprisingly, aside from noting that the Nativity indeed took place there, the New Testament virtually ignores Bethlehem. And things didn't change immediately afterwards: wrecked during the Bar-Kochba revolt (132-135 AD), the Romans set up a shrine to Adonis on the site of the Nativity. Only in 326 was the first Christian church constructed, when Helen, the mother of the first Christian emperor, Constantine, visited Bethlehem. Afterwards it grew slowly but steadily, achieving its pinnacle as a strong fortified city during the Crusader era, but the Ottomans razed the fortifications and reduced Bethlehem back into the village it was 2000 years earlier.
The setback proved only temporary, and despite the turbulence of the 20th century the town has (as of 2000) grown to an estimated 184,000 inhabitants. On December 21, 1995, Bethlehem became one of the areas under the full control of the Palestinian Authority. In the city, 41% of the population is Christian, while 59% is Muslim. Christians used to be a large majority, but their numbers have declined throughout the 20th century. Although Arabic is the language of Bethlehem's inhabitants, English, French and other languages are widely spoken and understood by many people in Bethlehem.
Although Bethlehem is a Palestinian town, it is also tourist-oriented. Because of Bethlehem's immense potential as a tourism magnet, the Palestinian Authority maintains a constant tourist police presence in the city. For example, if there is combat in Southern Israel and the Gaza Strip, this does not mean that trips to other Palestinian cities such as Bethlehem are unsafe. Bethlehem is a safe place for tourists to visit, and tourist numbers are increasing to this hidden gem of the Holy Land.
Most travellers arrive via Jerusalem. Since Bethlehem is administered by the Palestinian Authority, there are security checks conducted by the Israeli military on access roads. When coming via the highway there are no barriers when going to Bethlehem, however on the other side there is 1 highway 60 checkpoint on the road to Jerusalem. For instance in case you're traveling by bus, soldiers will board to check the passengers' identity documents. On the local road north of Bethlehem, there's a bigger checkpoint ("Rachel's Crossing"/Checkpoint 300). To cross, one shows his/her passport to an Israeli soldier, places his/her bags into an x-ray machine and then walks through a metal detector, much like airport security. As with all areas under Palestinian Authority control, Israeli law forbids Israeli citizens to enter unless they receive approval from the Israeli Civil Administration. Tourists are free to enter and exit Bethlehem and go back to Jerusalem as many times as they would like without any restrictions. Make sure you bring your passport with your Israeli-issued tourist visa to enter and exit the Palestinian areas.
Be careful when using a hired car, as some/many rental companies in Israel make it clear that the car has to be used, and remain, on Israeli soil.
From Jerusalem's HaNeviim bus station near Damascus Gate ("Bab el-'Amoud") bus 231 runs from here into Bethlehem (via Beit Jala). Even though the bus stop sign does not list it, bus 231 can also be boarded at the bus stop out of the Jaffa Gate and down the road a little – the bus comes from the tunnel. The average trip length is 30 min and costs ₪6.80. The 2 last stop from Jerusalem in Bethlehem is along Hebron Road about 20 min walk from the Church of the Nativity away. Also shared taxis (sherut/servees) leave from nearby Damascus Gate and manage the trip in 20 min.
Palestinian bus 234 also leaves from HaNeviim bus station near Damascus Gate. It costs ₪4.70 and runs directly to the 3 Jerusalem-Bethlehem Checkpoint (Checkpoint 300) and back. From the checkpoint, you can either walk half an hour or take a taxi to the center of Bethlehem (₪10–25), which is about 3 km away. Egged bus 163 also goes here from the Jerusalem Central Bus Station, halting for instance at the Jaffa Gate bus stop. Travel time from Jaffa Gate is 30 min, price is ₪5.90.
From Ramallah many shared taxis (sherut/servees) leave for Bethlehem. It is just a little pain to figure out the right bus station out of the (at least) four ones in Ramallah. The trip takes about an hour, goes all the way around Jerusalem and costs ₪20.
From Jericho take a shared taxis (sherut/servees) for ₪12 to 5 Al Ezariya (Junction), a town/junction east of Jerusalem, identified with Bethany from the New Testament. Ask the driver where to get off to get to Bethlehem or take the GPS pointer as orientation. From the junction take another shared taxis to Bethlehem bus station (₪5-10).
Devoted pilgrims often prefer to walk (and in happier times there has been a large procession at Christmas), at a brisk pace the trip is doable in 2 hr but there are plenty of ups and downs along the way and the summer heat is fearsome.
Many sites of Bethlehem are within foot-reach.
But Bethlehem is a small city, so taxi rides are extremely cheap; no trip within Bethlehem city should cost more than ₪20. To travel from Bethlehem to its neighboring suburbs of Beit Sahour or Beit Jala, it should be no more than ₪25-30. Just make sure, to only take service of the taxi ride and not a guided tour, which will cost you much more.
To travel to more distant site (such as Herodium, any of the surrounding monasteries, or Solomon's Pools), it's advisable to negotiate a price with a taxi driver at the Bethlehem bus station. Many taxi drivers are willing to take you to a site, wait there while you tour a site and then take you back to Bethlehem for a negotiated price. Whenever negotiating a taxi price, always say the lowest price you think would be reasonable for the trip, and bargain with the driver from there. The driver will start as high as he thinks he can charge and bargain down for you. Make sure to agree on a price before going into a taxi.
- 1 Church of the Nativity (From the last bus stop walk left through Pope Paul VI street until Manger Square. It's all straight, just make sure to take a left at the Lutheran church.). Undoubtedly the top attraction in Bethlehem, a veritable citadel built fortress-like on top of the cave where Jesus was born to Mary. It is one of the oldest churches in the world, and has been inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. The first incarnation of the building was erected on the orders of the Roman Emperor Constantine I (the Great) in 330 CE. While the layout largely corresponds to Emperor Justinian's plans from 540 CE (the first building having been destroyed in a 536 riot), the church was first heavily fortified by the Crusaders and then degraded (mostly through neglect) under Mamluk rule. An earthquake in 1834 and a fire in 1869 didn't help. Today, the structure is mostly sound but somewhat dark and gloomy in appearance, only the adjoining Franciscan Church of St Catherine (dated 1881 and the site of the yearly December 24 midnight mass broadcast around the world) being in excellent shape. The alleged site of Jesus' birth is actually in an cave in the church (the original Manger where Jesus was born was a cave, not a shed, as popularly depicted). There is a star marking the exact location of Jesus' birth in the cave. The original Manger with the star marking Jesus' birth site is called the Grotto of the Nativity, and is accessible from inside the church. (The tomb of famed theologian and Bethlehem resident St. Jerome, who spent his life translating the Bible, is also in the cave with the Grotto.) Entrance to the entire complex is free, but in the high season (and especially on Jan 6th) be prepared for massive crowds and hour-long waits for entry into the Grotto. There are usually accredited but dodgy tour-guides waiting at the entrance or inside of the church who offer to give tours to groups/individuals, sometimes allowing you to skip the crowds. Makes sure to agree on a price before taking the tour, and if the promise was to skip the crowds and get into the crotto directly but not possible sometimes, lower the price by at least half. Otherwise do not support them, as it is unfair to the other visitors waiting.
- 2 Rachel's Tomb (Separated from Bethlehem by the wall). Burial place of the matriarch Rachel, wife of Jacob and mother of Joseph and Benjamin is the second most important historical site in Bethlehem. (Genesis 35:19-20). It is a holy site in Judaism, Christianity and Islam. As a result of the security situation, the Tomb's original structure has been surrounded by an Israeli fortress, barricading it off from Bethlehem. While the original tomb can still be seen in its entirety from within the fortress, access to the tomb is now only possible by vehicle, e.g. by taking the Egged bus that comes from Jerusalem or by hitchhiking the very short way.
- 3 Shepherds' Fields. "While shepherds watched their flocks by night..." - rival locations in the Bethlehem suburb of Beit Sahour claim to be the site of the angel's visitation to the shepherds mentioned in the Gospels.
- Orthodox Shepherds' Fields. Here you will also find open excavations of an old Byzantine church.
- Catholic (Latin) Shepherds' Fields.
- 4 Milk Grotto Chapel. Where Mary supposedly spilled a few drops of breast milk while feeding Jesus as she hid before the Holy Family's escape to Egypt, turning the cavern milky white. It is open all day. The white powder scrapped from the cave is also sold as a fertility medicine inside the chapel.
- 5 Mosque of Omar (مسجد عمر). Open daily 10–11AM, 1:30–2:30PM, 5–7PM. Only mosque in Bethlehem, built in 1860. Rather plain on the inside but somewhat pretty on the outside.
- 6 Solomon's Pools. Three huge Herodian-era stone carved reservoirs capable of holding 160,000 m³ of water. They are located in a pine tree forest about 3 km from Bethlehem in a beautiful hiking area called the Artas Valley. In Artas, there is also the very beautiful Italian Order of the Sisters of Mary of the Garden built the Hortus Conclusus Convent and as well a Palestinian Folklore museum. Artas village also boasts an annual lettuce festival.
- 7 King David's Wells (Biyar Daoud). King David's Wells in King David street, off Manger Square, are three Great Cisterns excavated in the rock in Ras Eftais, an eastern sector of Bethlehem, marking the site where David's army broke through a Philistine garrison to bring him water; "Oh that someone would give me water to drink from the well of Bethlehem" (2 Sam. 23:15). It is believed by some that under the adjacent Church of St. David is where the King is buried (as opposed to the traditional tomb in Jerusalem). The cisterns were discovered in 1895. The church rested on a vast Necropolis composed of 18 Arcosolia with two to six tombs each. The cemetery was Christian as proved by the inscription. The Catholic Action Club lies on the site of one of the cisterns.
- 8 Convent and the Chapel of Hortus Conclusus (In nearby village of Artas). Monastery built in 1901. Hosts the Feast of Hortus Conclusus, which takes place on the third Sunday of August.
- 9 Latin Patriarchate Church (Church of Annunciation) (a little beyond Taboo bar). Another church worth a visit. Right next to it, up the road, you can also find the 10 Virgin Mary Church.
- Old City. Is also good for a stroll and shopping if you haven't seen an Arab city before.
- 11 The Monastery of St. George (Al Khader Church) (In the Al Khader quarter, west of the centre. St. George makes for a convenient stop on the way (back) to Jerusalem. Take bus 231 (the one that came from Jerusalem originally) from Bethlehem centre, and get off at the last stop before the checkpoint towards Jerusalem, basically just before getting onto the highway after leaving Bethlehem/Beit Jala. From there it is less than 1 km west-wards to the Monastery/Church.). St. George was a very important Christian Saint for Orthodox Christians, also called "Mar Jeriess" in Arabic. The monastery is said to hold relics from the saint that possess healing powers-especially for mental illness. The monastery was used in the 19th century as a psychiatric facility to treat mental illness by using St George's relics. The site is also venerated in Muslim tradition as the setting for the Muslim prophet Al Khider's teachings. In mid-April or early May (it goes by the Julian calendar), the town (both Muslims and Christians) holds a festival for St. George that is worth seeing.
- 12 St. Mary's Syriac Orthodox Church.
- 13 Immanuel Benedictine Sisters Monastery. Monastery belonging to the Greek-Melkite Catholic Church.
- 14 Evangelical Lutheran Christmas Church. Historic Lutheran, built in 1893.
- Banksy Art. The graffiti by famed yet mysterious artist Banksy have drawn worldwide media attention and is definitely worth a look. There are many other artists' works, drawn on the barrier wall dividing Bethlehem from Jerusalem, as well, including a Palestinian version of Guernica, portraits of Leila Khaled, Ahed Tamimi, Razan al-Najjar and many more. To see this, it is possible to hire a taxi where the driver may also guide or to go by foot. From southeast to north the sight are:
- 15 Banksy: Man throwing Flowers (On the eastern side of Fuel Station).
- 16 Banksy: Angel (On the southern side of the road, look downwards the road to the wall at the eastern end of the three shops).
- 17 Banksy: Dove with bulletproof vest (At the junction just look around yourself).
- 18 Banksy: Girl checking soldier (It is within the shop there).
- 19 Palestine Museum of Natural History (At Mar Andreas campus of Bethlehem University), ☏ .
- 20 Al-Badd Museum for Olive Oil Production (متحف البد), Fawagreh St. Also known as Badd Giackaman Museum, this museum is dedicated to the historic olive oil production within Palestine.
- 1 Bethlehem University. Gives the visitors to get in contact with the Palestinian students to get an insight of the life on the campus and in Bethlehem. There are tours in German and probably English available.
- Hike in the Artas Valley, believed to be the site of hortus conclusus, Solomon’s erotic Canticle or Song of Songs: “Thou art like a garden enclosed, my sister, my spouse, like a sealed fountain. Thy plantations are a paradise of delights." Artas is just a short Taxi ride outside of the city.
- Dance at Cosmos nightclub, located in Beit Jala at the top of the hill, or at Cheers or Roots Lounge in Beit Sahour.
- Participate in homestays and volunteer opportunities organized by the Holy Land Trust, such as the Palestine Summer Encounter in which one stays with a host family for 1–3 months, studies Arabic, volunteers in Bethlehem, visits different Palestinian and Israeli cities, and meets with both Israeli and Palestinian peace makers.
- Celebrate Christmas in Bethlehem: spend Christmas in the town where it all began! Bethlehem is decked out in Christmas decorations for the Holiday season. Make sure to attend Midnight Mass led by the various leaders of the Holy Land's Christian denominations on Christmas Eve with the thousands of both foreign and local worshipers who gather in Manger Square outside the Church of the Nativity. Christmas is just magical in Bethlehem, there is nothing like it! The Christmas season is definitely the most exciting time to be in Bethlehem, much Christmas spirit is present in the town.
- Free walking tours are quite popular in Bethlehem and available by local guides, with a lot of local, difficult and sometimes one-sided but still interesting history, including their related sights within Bethlehem. Search of the Internet and much will emerge. Tips appreciated.
The All Nations Cafe organizes summer caravans where internationals can learn about the social, political and cultural fabrics of life in and around Bethlehem.
The Holy Land Trust organizes tours of many cities in Palestine for both politically inclined tourists and religious tourists. They are also able to organize homestays with local families and or short term/long term volunteer opportunities in the Bethlehem area for willing participants.
The Bethlehem Bible College offers programs and courses in English and Arabic on Biblical Studies and Theology of the Land.
While Bethlehem's souq is a lot smaller than Jerusalem's, it is much less touristy and the sellers are less aggressive and very friendly, many even offer potential customers coffee and tea. The Palestinian Authority doesn't charge a sales tax, so Bethlehem's shopkeepers charge much less for souvenirs. Bethlehem is a perfect place to practice those bargaining skills that you were hoping to try out!!
In peaceful times, Bethlehem's traders do a roaring trade in souvenirs for pilgrims to the town. In the current situation, the tour operators prefer to quickly hustle their guided groups in and out of the Nativity Church without allowing them time to look around Manger Square. Often, at the end of the tour, they will take their groups to a pre-selected souvenir shop and charge the owner of the shop a big commission for the sales made to the tour group. That means most smaller souvenir shops here are blessedly free from pilgrims, and also that the smaller shops are in desperate need of business. They remain, however, substantially less aggressive than Jerusalem's sellers. Souvenir shops in Bethlehem are much, much cheaper than in Jerusalem - with the same selection (surprisingly, many Bethlehem souvenir shops even have Jewish themed souvenirs). One must venture out of Manger square to the souvenir shops on Manger Street and also in the market place beside Manger Square past the Mosque of Omar. The smaller looking souvenir shops offer the best deals and very friendly service. Bethlehem is an awesome place to get all your Holy Land souvenirs for much, much cheaper than you would get them in Israel. If a price is listed in USD, it's a hiked price for tourists, so don't hesitate to bargain for a much lower price (you will almost always get a lower price if you ask for it).
On your way to the Milk Grotto Church, look for an Olive Wood factory located on the Milk Grotto Street. The guys there can provide you with a tour of their workshop and you can see how they hand carve things from the olive trees. Very friendly Christian family, and they also have a gift shop, where you can find really unique gifts. Also they have another gift shop right on Manger Square next to the peace center building.
Also on Milk Grotto Street there are a number of souvenir shops selling various religious gifts. The Tabash Nativity Store is friendly, not pushy, and willing to give discounts. They will also offer you a free Turkish coffee.
Visit one of Bethlehem's four refugee camps for traditional Palestinian handicrafts, handmade olive oil soap, and beautiful embroidery.
- Bethlehem Souvenir (Christian Gifts shop/e-store), Jerusalem - Hebron Rd (By Rachel's Tomb), ☏ . Welcome to Bethlehem Souvenir - Christian gifts - Offers Christian gifts such as Olive wood, cross, silver, gold, Ceramic from Palestine
- Christian Gifts Shop (Christian Gifts), By Rachel's Tomb (Hebron Road), ☏ . Sells Christian souvenirs, piece of Bethlehem to share with your family and friends. Many items in store with world wide delivery option.
- Jewelry stores in the market places (across the Manger Square past the Mosque of Omar). The Middle East is known for its top quality, beautiful gold and jewelry. Bethlehem has some really nice jewelry stores that sell higher carat gold jewelry for really, really cheap. This is an excellent opportunity to get high carat gold (up to 22 carats) for a fraction of what you'd pay back home!!
- The Peace Center, Manger Square - excellent value and good food and local 'Canaan' wine. Clean and airy with inside and outside seating.
- Shepherds Valley Village - The Tent Restaurant, Beit Sahour. Nearby the Shepherd's Field., ☏ . Good local cuisine in an outdoor setting or tent in winter. Good views across the valley.
- 1 Mundo Restaurant, Manger Street (on the Main Road, not far from Nativity Square), ☏ . 11AM-11PM. Mundo Restaurant makes the best pizza in Bethlehem. The restaurant provides a family-friendly atmosphere (and an excellent view).
- The Citadel Restaurant, Beith Sahour. Local cuisine and Taybeh beer in an old Bethlehem building with a friendly staff.
- Random falafel stand opposite the Nativity Church. Facing the Peace Center with Nativity Church to your right, there is a falafel stand at the corner, with a basement restaurant attached. ₪8 for falafel sandwich and Fanta soda. Also has shwarma etc. Very fair prices, completely satisfactory.
- Bonjour Restaurant & Cafe, John Paul II Street. 9AM-11:30PM. Located right next to Bethlehem University (in the heart of Bethlehem), "Bonjour" offers international cuisine (with an Arabic flair) in a stylish, relaxing space. Owned by two young Palestinian entrepreneurs, Bonjour has free WiFi, great coffee, and an attractive menu. Arabic, English, and Hebrew spoken.
- Stars and Bucks Cafe (down hill from the Church of the Nativity). This knock-off of Starbucks offers Starbucks styled beverages as well as Arabic snacks. They also serve very good homemade ice-cream!
- Afteem Restaurant (on the outer, downhill edge of Manger Square). If you love falafel, fresh homemade hummus, and other tasty Arabic food....you MUST visit this restaurant! Probably one of the best falafel shops in Palestine or Israel. The falafel is so good, shops come from as far away as Haifa to buy the raw mix.
- Abu Shanab (Ring road), ☏ . The best grills in town, served by two brothers with impressive mustaches. Fresh ingredients and the meat is chopped and prepared in front of you using traditional methods. The restaurant issues certificates stating that you have eaten there.
- Dar Jdoudnah (off Manger Square), ☏ . A fine bar with excellent snacks, particularly the Sambusek (wild thyme-and-cheese pastries). The name means "Our Grandfather’s House", and the walls are filled with evocative photographs of old Bethlehem
- Bon Jour Café (adjacent to Bethlehem University). A brand new western style café adjacent to Bethlehem University. With its stylish look and relaxed atmosphere Bon Jour has quickly become a popular hang out. The Café is best known for its wide selection of coffees and its early morning breakfast.
- Beit Jala Pork Butcher Shop (downtown Beit Jala). Craving some fresh pork in the Holy Land? Beit Jala's pork butchery is a rarity in a land where Muslims and Jews both don't eat pork. Customers come all the way from Tel Aviv!!
- The Wall Lounge (nearby the entrance to Bethlehem). This very innovate restaurant takes a symbol of despair, the massive Israeli barrier separating Bethlehem from Jerusalem, and turns it into an asset for his business. The restaurant's menu is posted on a huge sign onto the barrier and as well, at night soccer games are projected onto a huge projector screen put on the wall for people to view on outdoor tables. This place is a lot of fun to eat, drink, and watch some sports on a big "movie-theater" style projector screen!
- Toast R Us (the Main street of Bethlehem). This restaurant serves "frozen yoga" (frozen yogurt), ice-cream (both the Arabic ice-cream and regular gelato), crepes, sandwiches, milk-shakes, and more.
Enjoy the atmosphere and hang out with friends for dinner or a few drinks at Bistro lounge bar in Beit Jala.
- Al-Khema (The Tent), Beit Sahour (beside the Shepherd's Field). This restaurant, is enclosed in a huge tent. It serves good food, excellent drink menu (especially the Palestinian beer brand "Taybeh"), and also offers a great selection for hookah (flavoured tobacco).
- Cremisan Cellars. Visit the famous Cremisan Cellars Winery located in the Bethlehem suburb of Beit Jala. This Winery, also the site of the ancient Cremisan Monastery, is on a hilltop and offers a spectacular view of the valley below it and as well of the surrounding Jerusalem and Bethlehem area. A must visit for any wine enthusiast!
- Layal Night club (Beit Jala). This nightclub plays mostly Arabic pop music. There is usually a younger crowd here. Make sure to have a female when going to the nightclub because often when there is too many male patrons, they only let males in if they have girls with them.
- Numerous Liquor shops. Bethlehem, being a Christian Palestinian city, is abundant with liquor stores selling various alcoholic beverages for very, very cheap prices. The local specialty is a Arabic liquor called "Arak". It tastes like liquorice and is often mixed in lemonade or in ice-water.
- 1 Taboo Bar (In Beit Jala), ☏ . Small and cozy bar/club in Beit Jala popular with young Palestinians. Good drinks and includes outdoor seating, also serves food.
Unlike Mary and Joseph, you'll have an easy time finding somewhere to stay in Bethlehem, with many options to choose from. Because tourists often stay in Jerusalem rather than Bethlehem, Bethlehem's hotels often offer much cheaper rates than their Israeli peers to encourage tourists to stay in the region rather than day-tripping. Bargaining for a cheaper hotel price usually works in Bethlehem. Feel free to contact numerous Bethlehem hotels for quotes and compare the prices; it can save you a lot of money compared to staying in the more expensive hotels in Jerusalem
- 1 House Of Peace, Wad Ma'ali, Saff St. 10 (next to Malhamet inyaz, near manger square), ☏ , , firstname.lastname@example.org. Dorm bed from ₪50.
- 2 Al Salam Hotel, Manger Street (Opposite to Church of the nativity), ☏ . Single from ₪132.
- 3 Bunksurfing Hostel, AlDawha al-hurreya Str (either 10 minutes by public transport or 20 minutes walking from Bethlehem city center and Jerusalem bus stop), ☏ , Buncksurfinghostel@gmail.com. Check-in: 22:00, check-out: 10:00. A low budget hostel in the holy land with a very friendly knowledgeable owner that is running daily Alternative walking tours. The rooms are 8-bed dorms, including shower, toilet and direct entrance from the road all in one room, also not the tidiest one – needs to get used to it, but for this price, one cannot question. ₪50.
- Dheisha Camp Homestay, Dheisha Camp Bethlehem (From Bab-zkak it is a 5-min taxi drive.), ☏ 0569243202 , email@example.com. Check-in: 15:00, check-out: 11:00. A homestay in Dheisha refugee camp that features a private room, bathroom, and balcony access. From ₪100.
Some of the following are probably outdated:
- Grand Hotel (If you take local bus 21 (and maybe 124), the bus will drop you off on a hill. If you hike up and keep going straight, the hotel will be on your left. It's got what's probably an upscale Mexican restaurant on top, called Mariachi, but is also situated above a falafel stand). US$50 for a single, but if you look like a budget traveler, they might give it to you for ₪150..
- The Holy Land Trust, 529 Manger Street (Beside Reem al Bawadi restaurant), ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. NGO's such as this offer cheap homestays, both short term and long term, with Palestinian families. ₪120.
- Beit Al Liqa, ☏ , email@example.com. This is a Christian Community center located in Beit Jala. It offers accommodation to tourists in its guesthouse.
- Abu Jubran Lutheran Guest House (Beside Christmas Lutheran Church and inside Dar Annadwa, Paul VI St.), ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. Touts its "elegant" accommodations and Ad-Dar Cultural and Conference Center. 13 twin/double rooms with en suite bathrooms, Heat and air conditioning, and TV and broadband Internet
- Everest Hotel (Beit Jala), ☏ , Everest@p-ol.com. The hotel is located on the top of the mountain of Beit Jala, overlooking the city of Bethlehem with an excellent view over surrounding hills.
- Paradise Hotel (beside the Bethlehem Checkpoint), ☏ . Located at the entrance of Bethlehem, one km from the Church of Nativity.
- Shepherd Hotel, ☏ , email@example.com. On one of the west hills of Bethlehem, very near to the main Jerusalem-Hebron road.
- The Alternative Tourist Group, ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. Arranges bed & breakfast with local families, an introduction to Palestinian hospitality. Privacy is guaranteed with a separate entry and bathroom for guests.
- 4 Mount David Hotel, ☏ , email@example.com. A relatively new hotel in the heart of the city.
- 5 The Walled Off Hotel, 182 Caritas St, ☏ . This isn't the Waldorf. Established March 11, 2017 by internationally-known street artist Bansky, the ten-room inn boasts “the worst view of any hotel in the world”... facing directly on to a controversial barrier wall separating Israel from the Palestinian territories. More of a political statement than a room at the inn in Bethlehem, the Walled Off Hotel includes a gallery and museum. Dorm from $70, rooms from $200.
- 6 The Diamond Hotel, 35 St. Antonio St, ☏ .
- 7 [dead link] Grand Park Hotel Bethlehem, ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. A few minutes' stroll to the Nativity Church and the shopping area.
- 8 Jacir Palace Hotel (قصر جاسر), ☏ . Only 5-star hotel in Bethlehem, housed in a classic building dating back to 1910. Foreign diplomats visiting Palestine often stay at this hotel because of its prestigious image. Notice that Jacir Palace Hotel is closed as of 2023, it is unclear when it will reopen.
Phone numbers in the Palestinian territories use one of two country codes: +970 and +972, which correspond respectively to the Palestinean Authority and Israel proper. If one of the codes won't work for a number, try again using the other.
Most major Palestinian cities are served through the Bethlehem Bus station for shared taxis (sherut) in the center at Manger Street.
- Nearby popular sights of the West Bank include Herodium (Herodion) Park, Monastery of Mar Saba and Monastery of St. Theodosius.
- Battir – a settlement some 5 km west of Bethlehem is inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List as Palestine: Land of Olives and Vines – Cultural Landscape of Southern Jerusalem.
- Jerusalem – Besides the Dead Sea, a central focus for most people coming to this region.
- Efrat – On the way to Hebron, if you are into wineries, this is the place to go.
- Nablus – One of the oldest cities in the world and famous for its kunafa/kenafeh. If you are on a tight schedule and planning to go to Ramallah (the de facto seat of government of the Palestinian authority and a good starting point going further north in the West Bank), you might want to skip the latter for this more exciting Palestinian city.
- Hebron – The traditional burial place of the Biblical patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and their wives.
- Jericho – One of the oldest settlements in the world and the Middle East, and a great starting point for Kalya Beach at the Dead Sea. The latter being one of the most famous things to see/do in Israel and Jordan.
- Negev and Judaean – deserts close to the Dead Sea, featuring amazing sites and desert landscapes, including the Ramon Crater and two other craters. Also Hiking in the Judaean Desert is very popular.