Moderately priced hotels are in short supply in Jerusalem.  ystem is something of a joke. Official “rack rates” (aka published rates) for hotel rooms are fantasies—except during important Jewish holidays. So look for discounts wherever you can! The 11th commandment now reads: You shall not pay full price at a hotel.

So when are the important, rate-raising holidays? Jerusalem’s hotels are busiest at Passover and Easter, in September or October during the Jewish high holidays (Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Succot, and Simchat Torah), and at Christmas. Many hotels consider July and August to be the regular season.

Note: All official hotel prices in Israel are quoted in U.S. dollars. Foreign travelers are expected to pay by credit card or foreign cash; if you pay the equivalent amount in shekels, you must also pay an additional value-added tax (VAT) of 18 percent.

Alternative Accommodations

Bed-and-breakfast a
ccommodations in a private home or apartment are an interesting alternative to hotel stays. To find them, head to Airbnb—these types of digs are available all over Jerusalem. Prices are considerably lower for these shared digs than for hotels, and hosts are usually long-time Jerusalemites with lovely, spacious (by Israeli standards) homes and a genuine interest in meeting visitors from abroad. Unique places with private entrances, gardens, views, and especially nice decor, or accommodations for families, can be on the pricier end.

Christian hospices
or guesthouses are also a good option. Jerusalem abounds with them, and guests of all faiths are welcome. Guesthouses were originally built to accommodate the pilgrims who began to arrive in great numbers in the 1880s. Many are housed in 19th-century complexes with evocative Jerusalem architecture and style. The atmosphere is, of course, sedate; and better hospices are like extremely well-run small hotels, with comfortable private rooms with bathrooms. Depending on denomination, decor may include a crucifix over the bed, a Byzantine-style icon, or a framed photo of the pope.

St. George’s Pilgrim Guest House
(65 Nablus Rd; tel. 02-628-3302) offers single rooms with private bath for $100 per night and $140 for a double, with breakfast and service included. A small studio or private flat is available for long-term rates (monthly). For other choices, the  Christian Information Center offers extensive listings of guesthouses and hospices with available accommodations.

: Unmarried couples might run into trouble sharing a room at Christian guesthouses. It varies from place to place, but keep this in mind. You might be able to fudge separate last names on passports, but no visible wedding ring means no double room.

Where to stay in Jerusalam

The Old City: The advantage to staying in the Old City is that you feel the rhythms and hear the sounds of this extraordinary (and largely car-free) place—the calls to prayer from the minarets, the medley of bells from the city’s ancient churches. You’ll watch the bazaars come to life in the morning and slowly close down for the night. You won’t come across any high-rise (or even low-rise) luxury hotels in the Old City, just a few inexpensive-to-moderately priced hotels, hospices, and hostels.

The crime rate in the Old City, as in all of Jerusalem, is low, but the streets here (except for parts of the Jewish Quarter) are deserted at night and can seem intimidating. So you’ll need a spirit of adventure and an enjoyment of labyrinths and casbahlike alleyways for this to be the right part of town for your base. You’ll also need a good pair of walking shoes, because it will most likely be a trek from your hotel to the nearest gate, where you’ll be able to catch taxis and trams to the rest of the city. Tip: Wi-Fi and cellphone connections are not always dependable inside the Old City.

Zion Square, Jaffa Road & Ben-Yehuda Mall: Step out of your hotel and it’s a short walk to the Old City and the heart of the New City’s downtown shopping-and-restaurant district. The area is noisy, and in summer, discos add to the roar of traffic.

King David/king george Street area: This area is also central, although a bit farther from the Light Rail line on Jaffa Road. You can easily walk from here to the Old City.South Jerusalem

South of the King David Street area, it’s about a 30-minute walk or short bus ride from the city center. The area is convenient to the many cafes, shops, and restaurants in the German Colony. You are also close to the dramatic Cinematheque complex and the renovated First Train Station in Abu Tor.

East Jerusalem & the East/West Jerusalem Seam: The atmosphere in East Jerusalem is Palestinian, and the genuine helpfulness and hospitality found in many of East Jerusalem’s hotels are well known. As a rule, East Jerusalem hotels are somewhat less expensive than those in the western part of town. Be forewarned, however, that the area is relatively dead at night and that many of the cheaper East Jerusalem hotels, not listed here, can be run-down and smoky.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.