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. Place a wish in the Western Wall, awe inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and visit the Temple Mount. It’s possible to visit Temple Mount during the morning except for Fridays and Saturdays, but 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 buildings within the Old City Walls, so take your time to explore the different quarters: Jewish, Muslim, Christian, and Armenian.
How to get to the Old City? It’s very easy to access the Old City. The easiest way to enter is through Jaffa Gate, 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 official site of the Old City of Jerusalem.
And check out Top Free Things to do in Jerusalem Old City.
2 – Enjoy the sounds and smells of Machane Yehuda Market:
One of the most vibrant places in Jerusalem is Machane Yehuda Market (the “Shuk”). If you want to experience a great 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. At night, there are many 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.
Here’s a video by “Relaxing Walker” that shows how the market looks like when it’s CROWDED (usually on Thursday-Friday and holidays):
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. The museum takes you through the history of the Holocaust, from its very beginning to its end. You can listen to videoed testimonies of survivors, read explanations, and see authentic items from the time.
Before or after your visit, you can also visit the neighboring Mount Herzl National Cemetery. This is where many of the nation’s greatest leaders are buried alongside victims of terrorism acts and fallen IDF soldiers. 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 agreement 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.
Check out this virtual tour by Yad Vashem:
4 – Go up and down Mount of Olives:
Mount of Olives, east of the Old City, is one of the holiest places to Jews, Christians and Muslims in Jerusalem. On top of the mountain, there’s a beautiful view of old and new Jerusalem. The mountain is also home to one of the oldest Jewish cemeteries in the world, and some important Christian churches.
For more info on Mount of Olives, visit my post – The Many Sites of Mount of Olives: What to See?
How to get to Mount of Olives? The Mount is more of a hill, so with some effort, you’ll be able to climb to the top. The climb up takes about 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 Lions’ Gate or from the gate near the Western Wall, Dung Gate. From Dung Gate, walk around the city walls until you get to the base of Mount of Olives.
If it’s sunny and hot, you might prefer to take a taxi from the base to the top. The ride should cost up to 50 ILS. Another cheaper option is to take Arab bus number 255 from Damascus Gate terminal (which also operates on Shabbat) or Egged bus number 84 from the Ammunition Hill Light Rail Station (which only operates Sundays to Thursdays).
5 – Visit the Rockefeller Archeological Museum:
The Rockefeller Archeological Museum was the first archeology museum to be built in the Land of Israel. The British built it in the 1930s. Till today, it is one of the most beautiful buildings in Jerusalem. So, when you come here, make sure to look at the architecture and decorations of the building and not just at the displays. One of the most interesting displays is the carved wooden panels from the Al-Aqsa Mosque, which date from the 8th century CE. Another great display is the beautiful lintels, which were placed above the entrance to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre from the Crusader era until the mid-20th century.
Opening Hours: The Rockefeller Archeological Museum is open on Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Thursday from 10AM to 3PM and on Saturday from 10AM to 2PM. It is closed on Tuesdays and Fridays.
How to get to the Rockefeller Museum? The museum is located at 27 Sultan Suleiman Street, just outside of the Old City. You can exit the Old City from Damascus Gate and then continue down Sultan Suleiman Street, which goes to the east until you see the entrance to the museum to your left. It is about a 10 minutes’ walk from Damascus Gate. If you’re not coming from the Old City, you can take the light rail train to Damascus Gate station and continue from there.
For more info, visit the official site of the Rockefeller Archeological Museum.
6 – Enjoy the view from Armon Hanatziv Promenade:
One of the most dazzling views of Jerusalem can be seen from the Armon Hanatziv Promenade. From this beautiful promenade, you’ll see Mount of Olives, 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, the high commissioners lived in this Government House, so magnificent that it was dubbed “Palace”. Today, you cannot enter the Palace, as it is the headquarters of the UNTSO (United Nations Truce Supervision Organization). Still, you can look at it from the outside.
How to get to Armon Hanatziv Promenade? If you’re coming from the city center, the best way to get to Armon Hanatziv is by taking bus number 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.
Here’s a video of the promenade by Menachem Fooksman:
7 – Explore the first Jewish neighborhood outside of the Old City Walls:
American Jewish businessman, Judah Touro, passed away in 1854 and left an estate of 60 thousand dollars for the poor of Jerusalem. The British Jewish philanthropist, Sir Moses Montefiore, was one of the trustees of the estate. 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 for the first Jewish neighborhood outside the Old City walls. This neighborhood is Mishkenot Sha’ananim (meaning: Peaceful Habitation) and it was established in 1860.
On your visit to this peaceful and beautiful neighborhood, you will see the huge white windmill, which Montefiore built in 1857. He planned that the windmill will to provide flour and employment for the Jewish community outside of the city walls. Next to the windmill is a display of Montefiore’s chariot, which he used to travel around Israel during the 19th century. The chariot was restored after someone burned it. Also, make sure to take a look at the view of the city walls from the lookout south of the windmill.
Continue down the road from Mishkenot Sha’ananim, along King David Road, and you’ll reach the First Station. This is a modern shopping and dining center, built inside the old train station of Jerusalem. Learn more 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 King George Street until you see the windmill to 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).
Here’s a video of Mishkenot Sha’ananim by StandWithUs:
8 – Take a stroll in Ein Karem:
Beautiful Ein Karem is the most southwestern neighborhood of Jerusalem, nestled at the foot of Mount Herzl. Take time to 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 since they are nearby and also free of charge.
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. There’s a path that goes down the wadi from the road leading to Yad Vashem.
9 – 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 can 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. Then you can wander around the beautiful, peaceful grounds of the gardens and read about the different plants common in Israel. There are also many 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 can also visit the Ammunition Hill Memorial Site. It costs 15-28 ILS per person, depending if you’ll only watch the audiovisual show or also visit the new museum. But it is worth it!
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.
10 – 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.
Guided tours in Jerusalem:
There are some companies that offer free tours in Jerusalem. Though, it’s important to note that “free tours” are not really free but are based on tips. Still, they are a great way to explore the city of Jerusalem and learn more about the places you see on the way. If you’re looking for a guided tour in Jerusalem, here are some options from the Free Tour platform Guruwalk:
Want a private guided tour in Jerusalem? I’m a certified tour guide in Israel and would be happy to guide you around. Learn more here.
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