The ultimate Israel weekend guide

Jerusalem, Israel

While in most places in the world, there isn’t a huge difference between the weekend and mid-week when it comes to traveling, things are a bit different in Israel. Due to some travel restrictions during the weekend in Israel, as well as some important cultural things to know, the Israel weekend is kind of a special experience to have during your trip here. Here are the most important things to know about spending the weekend here, for the best time you can have in the country.

When is Israel’s weekend?

While in most countries, the weekend is on Saturday and Sunday, the Israeli weekend is on Friday and Saturday. The main part of the weekend is on Shabbat time, which starts at sunset time on Friday and ends after the first stars appear in the sky on Saturday evening. For more information about Shabbat, see our full guide for Shabbat in Israel.

Travel restrictions during Israel weekend

Public transportation

Generally, public transportation in Israel doesn’t operate during the time of Shabbat, as well as a few hours before and after Shabbat. This includes trains, buses, trams, light rails, and any other public transportation method in the country. Of course, taxis do operate during Shabbat, but at higher fares than usual.

However, some specific cities in Israel do operate public transportation within their municipal area. Those include Tel Aviv, which has a small number of free buses during Shabbat, and Haifa, which offers a more extensive public transportation service. Anyway, the weekend public transport in both cities is still quite limited, and won’t enable you to get around as easily as in mid-week.

Shopping places

By law, it is illegal to open a business on Shabbat time in most of the country. For that reason, most supermarkets in Israel, as well as restaurants, malls, and other shopping centers, are closed on the weekend. It’s very important to be aware of that during your trip here, and make sure you’re not stuck without food for the weekend.

Anyway, in some cities like Tel Aviv, as well as many Arabic villages like Sakhnin or Abu Gosh, most businesses are open as usual on Shabbat. This makes them much more convenient locations to spend a weekend in Israel.

Best ways to spend a weekend in Israel

Enjoy the liberal cities of Haifa or Tel Aviv

As we mentioned before, the cities of Haifa and Tel Aviv, which are the two most international and culturally-diverse cities in Israel, operate quite differently than most of Israel on the weekend. If you want to spend your Israel weekend with as few restrictions as possible, staying in either Haifa or Tel Aviv is your best option by far.

This will enable you to freely explore the cities, whether on foot or by bus, without worrying about food, and enjoy their great activities and restaurants, which are mostly open even on Shabbat.

Experience the tradition in Jerusalem

For the complete opposite experience, and the most traditional and cultural weekend you can have, we would recommend going to Jerusalem, and experiencing what it’s like to spend a traditional Jewish weekend. Since most of the Jewish residents of Jerusalem are religious, the weekends in Jerusalem are quite peaceful and restricted. Many people tend to go to synagogues on Friday evening and Saturday morning and spend the rest of the weekend at home with their families.

It’s important to note that there isn’t any public transportation in Jerusalem during the weekend, so if you plan to spend the weekend here, get ready to walk a lot, and choose your accommodation location wisely. In addition, you will have a hard time finding any attractions or restaurants which are open during Shabbat, so it’s very important to stock up on food in advance.

Stay in nature

Another great option to spend a peaceful weekend in Israel is to stay in one of the country’s many great natural wonders, where you won’t feel any restrictions and get to enjoy a peaceful time in nature. All of the national parks and campgrounds of Israel are open on the weekend, so whether you are in the Galilee, the Golan Heights, or the desert, you will have a variety of great options to choose from.

In any case, if you’re spending the weekend in nature, keep in mind that many of the popular national parks of Israel get filled up pretty quickly during weekends, and make sure to buy enough groceries for the whole time.

Visit a Friday morning market

By far, the busiest and most interesting time to visit the markets of Israel is on Friday morning, when the locals flock to their nearby market to buy groceries for the whole weekend. This makes it a perfect time to visit for those who wish to experience the Israeli culture and get to do some great people-watching. However, keep in mind that Friday morning is usually not the most pleasant and peaceful time for shopping in the markets, as queues can get long, prices are a bit higher, and many locals may get quite stressed and angry due to the crowds.

Party on Thursday or Saturday night

Of course, as in most countries in the world, the weekend in Israel is the official time to party long into the night, with Thursday and Saturday nights being the best party nights by far. You can find great parties throughout the country, from the world-famous Tel Aviv parties to parties in nature and in small kibbutz pubs, which also offer a great nightlife scene all over the country.

Search for posts and destinations

What would you like to find? Search here information and ideas about any location in Israel

Planning your trip to Israel?

Join our exclusive Facebook group for the latest travel tips, real-time updates, travel hacks, and connect with local experts & fellow Israel enthusiasts in our Facebook group