May 8th 2014
Today, the commerce, culture and entertainment compound known as “Jerusalem First Station” is a thriving and welcoming hub, a place for eating, drinking, upscale shopping, tours, regular activities and special events. But it wasn’t until 2013 that preservationists began working in earnest to breathe new life into the first train station in Jerusalem.
The first train from Jaffa to Jerusalem was received with fanfare at the original train station in Jerusalem in the fall of 1892. Travel time between Jaffa and Jerusalem decreased to only three hours, and the train ran profitably for decades. During the War of Independence, all transportation between the two cities ceased, and although the line ran on and off for several decades, the train never regained its former glory. The original Jerusalem rail terminal shut its doors permanently in 1998 and was left to decay.
It’s a good idea to start your visit at the First Station Smart Tour Visitors’ Center, where you can order tickets to Segway tours, bicycle tours and walking tours of the area. The Segway tours last 90 minutes and cover the First Station and the original train tracks, nearby Yemin Moshe and Mishkenot Sha’ananim and portions of the Old City of Jerusalem. The tours are led by skilled guides, and your fee includes protective gear, insurance, drinks and a secure place to store your personal items while you’re riding the Segway. Guided walking tours are held in the late afternoons in the summer months, and self-led bicycle tours include electronic navigation that helps riders appreciate the attractions they’ll pass on the route. First Station souvenirs are available for purchase in the Visitors’ Center.
The culinary offerings at Jerusalem First Station range from sea food, fresh fish, Italian and French cuisine, vegetarian, Mediterranean fare to high-quality, gourmet ice cream and fresh fruit smoothies. Please note that not all restaurants at Jerusalem First Station are kosher.
Jerusalem First Station really excels in its activities and public events. Weekly activities include Zumba, Tai Chi and Qi Gong movement classes, jazz performances, balloon artists, face painting and story hours for children, hula hoop workshops, laughter yoga, kite painting and more. On top of all these offerings, special events such as festivals, musical performances and fundraising events are held regularly on the First Station grounds. There’s a Kids Space activity center along with stores selling high quality, non-electronic games and toys, handcrafted housewares and baby items, a clothing design fair for men, women and children, high end athletic shoes and much more.