Bethlehem is the supposed birthplace of Jesus, a UNESCO World Heritage Site host, and one of the most visited places in Israel, or rather the Palestine territories. Bethlehem is divided from its big neighbour Jerusalem by a huge wall, a constant reminder of the uneasy relationship of the two. Clashes have been flaring up and dying down again for decades now and in the beginning of the millennium, it was difficult and dangerous to visit the city. Today the wall almost serves as a piece of art -- it's covered in graffiti from well-known artists.
For the past years the area has been quiet and there are currently no reasons that should prohibit travelers from visiting. Apart from the Church of Nativity -- the birth church of Jesus -- there are some other classic sights such as churches, old temples, monasteries, and mosques. It has an average old town, some restaurants, some museums, and surely offers any supplies you need. What is quite nice is to combine the outlying sights with a hike through the slightly hilly farmland surrounding Bethlehem. The town really comes to life for Christmas, when the streets are filled with believers from all around the world celebrating. Apparently scoring a room at that time will be difficult and expensive.
Bethlehem is more a town for middle-class travelers, so there aren't too many hostels in Bethlehem, but they do exist. Bethlehem hostels are of the small type, run in apartment-like structures, and also have an apartment-like feel to them. A huge advantage is the price level here, which is very likely to be half of that in neighbouring Jerusalem. Travelers have been heard complaining that with the cheap prices comes low maintenance, bad Wi-Fi, or a general lack of cleanliness. Also some travelers feel bothered by the shouts of the muezzins leading prayers in the surrounding mosques. On the other hand, the very personal attention from the owners, and the often-included, authentic breakfast have made up much for others. Bethlehem hostels are sometimes not all that easily found, as they might be in residential areas on back alleys, but locals are generally friendly and will help you find the way.
Another issue is getting to Bethlehem in the first place. There is no direct transport from anywhere in Israel but Jerusalem. So there will inevitably be a necessary interchange in Jerusalem. To add extra hassle, the Arab buses going to Bethlehem from Jerusalem many times do not use the same bus stops as the buses traversing Israel. So maybe for those with heavy luggage, a taxi is a worthy investment. There are some international connections to neighbouring Syria, although they might get suspended at any time due to the current situation in the country.
Hi, I'm gagalichen,
the Hostelz.com local expert for Bethlehem hostels. Welcome.