Jerusalem is full of great attractions and a lot of them are free of charge! Here’s a list of the top free things to do in Jerusalem:
1 – Visit the Old City:
The entrance to the Old City of Jerusalem is free of charge. Enter through one of the ancient gates and make your way through the beautiful, enchanting alleys. You can find a nice market in the Old City, aligning several alleys, amongst them David Street. You can get to the market from Jaffa Gate – the entrance to the market is situated right in front of the gate. You can also visit the many historical and religious places in the Old City, which are also free to enter: put a wish in the Western Wall, awe inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and visit the Temple Mount (you should be able to go up there during the morning, except for Fridays and Saturdays, but you should expect to pass through tight security checks). For more info about Temple Mount, visit my post – The Story Around Temple Mount.
Another place I highly recommend in the Old City is the Christ Church Museum near Jaffa Gate. It has wonderful models of the Old City and of Temple Mount, made by Conrad Schick, and it’s totally free to visit! You might also want to taste the delicious cakes sold in their cafe.
There are many other interesting buldings within the Old City Walls, so take your time to explore the different quarters: Jewish, Muslim, Christian and Armanian.
How to get to the Old City? It’s very easy to access the Old City. The easiest way is to enter is through Jaffa Gate, which is situated at the end of Yaffo Street, next to Mamilla Mall. You can get there by foot from the city center or by the light-rail train (station “City Hall”/”העירייה”).
For more info, visit the offical site of the Old City of Jerusalem.
2 – Enjoy the Sounds and Smells of the Mechane Yehuda Market:
One of the most vibrant places in Jerusalem is Mechane Yehuda Market (the “Shuk”). If you want to experience a real market experience, then you will really enjoy this beautiful market! Fresh fruit, vegetables, spices, fish, Judaica items and cheap clothes – you can find those and much more in the market! During the day you can find great restaurants here and during the night, fun bars and beautiful graffiti works on the market stalls’ shutters.
How to get to Mechane Yehuda Market? Take the light rail train to the “Machena Yehuda” station.
For more info, visit the official site of Mechane Yehuda Market.
3 – Visit Yad Vashem:
The World Holocaust Remembrance Center opens its gates for free to the public. Here, you will be able to learn about the Holocaust and get to know its victims. While visiting the center, make sure to visit the Holocaust History Museum. Before or after your visit, you can also visit the neighboring Mount Herzl National Cemetery, where many of the nation’s greatest leaders are buried alongside victims of acts of terror and IDF soldiers who have fallen in the many wars in Israel. Amongst the people who rest here are Theodor Herzl, the founder of modern political Zionism, Itzhak Rabin, the fifth Prime Minister of Israel, who signed on the peace agrrement with Jordan in 1994, and Golda Meir, the first woman to be elected Prime Minister in Israel.
Opening Hours: Yad Vashem is open Sunday to Wednesday from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM, Thursdays from 9:00 AM to 8:00 PM, Fridays and Holiday Eves from 9:00 AM to 2:00 PM. Closed on Saturdays and all Jewish holidays. The Mount Herzl Cemetery is open every day until dark, except for Yom Kippur, Independence Day and other national ceremonies.
How to get to Yad Vashem? Take the light rail train to “Mount Herzl” station (last station of the line). The entrance is just across the road.
For more info, visit the official site of Yad Vashem.
4 – Go Up and Down Mount of Olives:
Mount of Olives, east of the Old City, is one of the most important places for Jews, Christians and Muslims in Jerusalem.
How to get to Mount of Olives? The Mount is more of a hill than a mountain, so with a bit of effort, you’ll be able to climb to the top without a problem. The climb up takes about 15-20 minutes, depending on your pace. The base of the Mount is an easy walk from the Old City. You can either exit the Old City from the Lions’ Gate or from the gate near the Western Wall and then walk around the city until you get to the Mount of Olives (at its base is Gethsemane).
For more info on Mount of Olives, visit my post – The Many Sites of Mount of Olives: What to See?
5 – Enjoy the View from Armon Hanatziv Broadway:
One of the most dazzling views of Jerusalem can be seen from the Armon Hanatziv Broadway. From this beautiful promenade you will be able to see the Mount of Olives, the City of David, the Old City walls and even parts of the New City. At the eastern side of the promenade is Armon Hanatziv (meaning: The Palace of the High Commissioner). During the British Mandate in Israel, the high commissioners lived in this Government House, so magnificent that it was nicknamed “Palace”. Today, you cannot go inside the Palace, as it is the headquarters of the UNTSO (United Nations Truce Supervision Organization), but you can look at it from the outside.
How to get to Armon Hanatziv Broadway? If you’re coming from the city center, the best way to get to Armon Hanatziv is by taking bus nmber 78 from the Jaffa City Center / Strauss station (that’s near the light rail station). Get off at Ha’Askan/Yanovsky station (in Hebrew: העסקן/ ינובסקי). Then cross the road to the broadway. It takes about 25 minutes to arrive from the city center.
6 – Explore the First Jewish Neighborhood Outside of the Old City Walls:
In 1854, the American Jewish businessman, Judah Touro, passed away and left an estate of 60 thousand dollars for the poor people of Jerusalem. The British Jewish pilanthropist, Sir Moses Montefiore, was one of the trustees of the estate, and he decided to use the money to build a hospital for the Jewish people of Jerusalem. This plan didn’t work out, but Montefiore did manage to purchase a large piece of land and establish upon it the first Jewish neighborhood outside of the Old City walls, in 1860. This neighborhood is Mishkenot Sha’ananim (meaning: Peaceful Habitation).
Today, you can visit the peaceful and beautiful neighborhood, that is situated next to a huge white windmill, built by Montefiore in 1857 to provide flour and occupation for the Jewish community outside of the city walls. Next to the windmill is a display of Montefiore’s chariot, which he used while travelling around Israel during the 19th century. The chariot was restored after someone burned it. Also, don’t forget to take a look at the view of the city walls from the lookout point south of the windmill.
If you continue down the road from Mishkenot Sha’ananim (along King David road), you’ll get to the First Station, a modern shopping and dining center, built upon the old train station of Jerusalem. You’ll be able to learn about the First Station’s history by reading the signs all around the station.
How to get to Mishkenot Sha’ananim? The neighborhood is about a 25-minutes’ walk from Jaffa City Center light rail station (just go down along King George Street until you see the Windmill on your left). You can also take bus number 7/ 75 / 77 / 78 from the Jaffa City Center / Strauss station and get off at Keren HaYesod/Shalom Alekhem station (in Hebrew: קרן היסוד/שלום עליכם).
7 – Take a Stroll in Ein Karem:
Beautiful Ein Karem is the most southwestern neighborhood of Jerusalem, nestled at the foot of Mount Herzl. You can stroll between the different churches, take a look into the beautiful art galleries, stop for a drink of excellent coffee in one of the coffee shops and enjoy the view of the wonderful terraces that are situated next to the neighborhood and are dated back to the time of the Second Temple. You can easily spend here a few hours of exploring and relaxing. You can combine your visit to Ein Karem with a visit to Yad Vashem and Mount Herzl Cemetery, which are near the neighborhood and also free of charge to enter.
For a suggested travel route in Ein Karem, visit my blog post – Ein Karem – Following John the Baptist.
How to get to Ein Karem? The easiest way is to get to Ein Karem is by taking the light rail train to Mount Herzl station and then taking bus number 28 down to the neighborhood (from the top of the road that’s west to the light rail station, leading down to Ein Karem). Alternatively, you can walk from the station to Ein Karem within about 30 minutes. But, keep in mind that the road is narrow at some places and there is no sidewalk, so be careful!
8 – Visit the Botanical Gardens of the Hebrew University on Mount Scopus:
If you’re into botanics and want to get to know the Israeli foliage better, you might want to visit the botanical gardens of Mount Scopus. It is located inside the Hebrew University, so you will need to show an ID when entering, but the entrance is free of charge. Then you can wander around the beautiful, peaceful grounds of the gardens and read about the different plants common in Israel. There are also amny benches throughout the gardens, making it a perfect place to sit down and relax. For more info, visit my blog post – The Botanical University.
If you’re already in the area, you might want to pay a visit to the Ammunition Hill Memorial Site (which you can also enter for free if not planning to visit the museum of the audiovisual presentation). The site is located next to the Ammunition Hill light rail station,
How to get to the Botanical Gardens? You can take bus lines 30, 26, 23, 68, 46, 19 or 4a to the Mount Scopus Campus.
Opening Hours: Sunday to Thursday between 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM and Fridays between 8 AM to 1:00 PM.
9 – Explore the German Colony of Jerusalem:
This beautiful colony is one of eight colonies that the German Templars established in Israel in the 19th century. Today, you can stroll around the impressive buildings, that are preserved mainly along Emek Refaim Street. Some of the most interesting landmarks in the German Colony include the communal hall, the Matthäus Frank House and the Templar Cemetery. The area is also full of shops and restaurants, so it’s a good place to stop for lunch or dinner.
How to get to the German Colony? From the city center, you can walk down to the German Colony along King George, King David, and Derech Beit Lehem Streets (about a 30 minutes’ walk). Alternatively, you can take bus number 18 / 34 / 77 from the Jaffa City Center light rail / Strraus station and get off at Emek Refa’im/Hatsfira station (in Hebrew: עמק רפאים/הצפירה). The ride takes about 20 minutes.
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