Tucked away behind stone walls in the city’s German Colony neighborhood sits the Jerusalem Nature Museum. Located in a 19th century villa, this place is much more than a museum. It is a great destination for families to spend a morning or afternoon experiencing nature, history and food. The stone building, surrounded by gardens, is known as Villa Decan, and was originally built in the 19th century as a home to the family of an Armenian merchant.
With its arched windows and red tile roof, it is typical of local architecture at that time. It later served as a government building for the Ottoman empire, then as a British officers’ club after the first World War when England controlled the city.
By the 1950s, after Israel established its independence, the building was abandoned, and later became a center for nature studies. Today the museum itself is quite old-fashioned, filled with stuffed figures of animals native to Israel and the surrounding region. But the creatures are interesting for children. There are also dinosaur fossils, and an impression of a dinosaur footprint. Other exhibits focus on the human body.
But the real charm of this place is in the gardens and grounds around the museum. There are plenty of paths and benches, many of them well-shaded by palm and other trees. There are also some life-size statues of dinosaurs, a pond with lily pads and fish, a plant nursery and bird exhibit. The area is usually quiet, making this a nice place for families to relax and explore if they need a break from the hot sun and bustling city.
A new highlight is the whimsical Galipette food truck, where Sophie Berman makes fresh handmade crepes and coffee daily, except for Saturday. Born in France, Berman makes her delicious crepes in an authentic manner, with real butter, and a choice of fillings ranging from brie cheese and almonds, to pesto, to chocolate. Some flavors are made from gluten-free buckwheat flour. “This is such a magical location,” said Berman, who grew up in the surrounding neighborhood and often visited the Nature Museum and its grounds as a child. “It’s the center of the city, but it’s a different world here.” Visitors can enjoy her crepes and coffee while sitting at small tables under the trees.