Top 6 Free Things to do in Jerusalem
This article was written with the help of Yuval Russ, Private Tour Guide in Israel.
Jerusalem is one the most ancient and enchanting cities in the world. It is holy to three religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam, but has many other things to offer besides religious sites and ancient buildings. Come and explore the many different sites in Jerusalem, and discover how old merges with new. Even if you are on a tight budget, there are plenty of free activities that you can do in the city. Here are a few suggestions for your upcoming trip to the beautiful city of Jerusalem:
1- Explore the Old City
Jerusalem's Old City is one of the oldest and most magnificent in the world, and there is no entrance fee to it.
There is a lot to see within the Old City walls, but before seeing those, why not look at the walls themselves? Unlike what you may think, those walls are not there from the days of the Bible. The Old City walls that you will see today were built in 1535, when the Ottoman Empire ruled the city. The original walls were destroyed many times throughout the centuries. You can climb up on the walls and take the "Ramparts Walk" around the Old City, but this experience requires an admission fee.
Inside the city walls, you will find some of the most famous and important sites that Israel has to offer, amongst them the Western Wall, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the Temple Mount and the Dome of the Rock. Walk along the narrow alleys and explore the four quarters: Jewish, Christian, Muslim and Armenian. If you are looking for authentic souvenirs, stop by one of the shops in the market that starts near Jaffa Gate.
How can you get to the Old City? The Old City is easily reached by foot from Jaffa Street. If you're coming from the Central Bus Station, you can either catch bus line #1 or #3, which go all the way to the Western Wall, or get on the light-rail train, get off at "City Hall" station and walk a short while to Jaffa Gate.
For more info, visit the official site of The Old City.
Image taken from Wikipedia
2- Enjoy the Beautiful Panoramic Views of Jerusalem
There are many beautiful viewpoints all around Jerusalem and the admission to many of them is completely free of charge. We recommend visiting the Haas, Sherover and Goldman promenades, which are all adjacent to one another and located in the Armon Hanatziv neighborhood. The three promenades, which are often referred to as "The Armon Hanatziv Promenade", run from Abu Tor in the north to Jabal Mukabaar Park in the east, and provide some of the most spectacular views of Jerusalem. While walking along the promenades, you can see parts of Western Jerusalem, the Old City and the great Judean Desert. We recommend coming here close to sunset, to appreciate the lightened city of Jerusalem.
How can you get to The Armon Hanatziv Promenade? You can enter the promenade from Dani'el Yanovski Street. If you are planning to arrive by car, there are many parking lots in the area. Alternatively, you can use the public buses that stop at Yanovski Street (e.g. line #12). The entrance to the promenades is a short walk away from the bus station.
3- Take in the Sounds and Smells of Machane Yehuda Market
One of the busiest, most colorful and lively places in Jerusalem is its famous Machane Yehuda Market. You can roam around the many stalls and enjoy the sounds and smells without paying a Shekel. If you're lucky, you might even be able to taste some of the fresh products for free.
The main market is made up of many food stalls, selling fresh fruits, vegetables, fish and other treats. In the alleys you can also find some shops selling Judaica items, clothes and souvenirs.
There are also many great cafes and restaurants hidden in the market's busy streets. We recommend eating here lunch and enjoying the cool atmosphere.
When is Machane Yehuda Market open? Sunday through Thursday from 8:00 to 19:00, Fridays from 8:00 to approximately 15:00 (the beginning of Sabbath day). These hours refer to the market stalls and not to the restaurants and cafes that operate in the market.
How can you get to Machane Yehuda Market? The market is well connected to public transportation. The best way to avoid the rough traffic that usually evolves in the nearby Agripas Street, which is part of the bus route, is to arrive to the market by the light-rail train. There is a light-rail station right next to the market, named "Machane Yehuda".
For more info, visit the official site of Machane Yehuda Market.
Image taken from Wikipedia
4- Visit the Beautiful Montefiore Windmill
Moses Montefiore was a British-Jewish philanthropist and banker, who donated large funds for the development of the Jewish community in Israel. Montefiore had a crucial part in the establishment of Mishkenot Sha'ananim, the first Jewish neighborhood outside of the Old City walls, during the 19th century. The establishment began in 1857 with the building of a flour mill, which was meant to promote productive enterprise in the new Jewish settlement. The flour mill was phased out by 1891 due to many reasons, one of the major ones being the machinery, which was not designed for the grinding of the hard local wheat.
Today you can visit the restored windmill, which stands 18 meters high and lies next to the Mishkenot Sha'ananim and Yemin Moshe neighborhoods. There is a small museum inside the windmill, telling the history of it and of the first Jewish settlement out of the walls. Dial 02-6230323 to check if the museum is open when you are planning to visit.
Next to the windmill lies a beautiful viewing platform, which supplies great views of the Old City walls.
How can you get to Montefiore Windmill? You can get to the windmill by public bus (e.g. lines 18, 30, 49). Get off at the station next to the Liberty Bell Park on King David Street and walk a short while to the windmill. Another option is to take the light-rail train to "Jaffa Center" station and to make your way down King George Street to the windmill. It is about a half an hour walk.
Image taken from Wikipedia
5- Visit Yad Vashem
The Holocaust was one of the most traumatic events in Jewish history. If you are interested in learning more about it, you should visit the Yad Vashem museum, which is a living memorial to the millions of people murdered in the Holocaust. Yad Vashem is a state-run institution, which means you can visit it for free.
The different exhibitions include personal stories of survivors, authentic film footages, personal items from the time, historical documents and many other items connected to the Holocaust. Besides the Holocaust History Museum, you can also visit the Holocaust Art Museum, which displays thousands of artworks, mostly made during the Holocaust period.
When is Yad Vashem open? Sunday to Wednesday from 9:00 to 17:00, Thursdays from 9:00 to 20:00 and Fridays and holiday eves from 9:00 to 14:00.
How can you get to Yad Vashem? If you plan to get there by car, you can enter Yad Vashem via the Holland Junction, which is situated opposite the entrance to Mount Herzl, on the Herzl Route. If you plan to use public transportation, you can hop on one of the many Egged buses driving to Yad Vashem (e.g. 10, 16, 23, 28, 25, 39) or use the Tourist Bus #99. Alternatively, you can use the light-rail train, which has a stop near the museum - "Mount Herzel".
For more info, visit the official site of Yad Veshem.
6- Take Part in One of the Many Festivals
The people of Jerusalem like culture and celebration. Interesting festivals take place in Jerusalem throughout the year and many of those festivals are completely free. One of the most highly recommended festivals is the Jerusalem Light Festival (starts in late May and continues until the beginning of June). See Jerusalem in a different light. Tour the Old City in the evening and enjoy dozens of unique art displays, screened on the ancient city walls and buildings.
For more info on the different festivals taking place in Jerusalem, visit Jerusalem's official tourism site.