Like many capital cities, Jerusalem offers up a plethora of free things to do. You’ve spent enough money getting here and paying for a hotel or an apartment in the holy city — you don’t need to lay out hundreds more dollars, pounds, or shekel to enjoy everything Jerusalem has to offer.
First stop for the best free thing to do in Jerusalem has to be the Old City. Pick up a map at the Tourist Information Center just inside Jaffa Gate and set off to explore the four quarters that make up this most intriguing mix of cultures, sites and people. Your only expense will be the couple of shekel you’ll have to lay out for cold drinks and maybe a felafel or plate of the world’s best humous to fortify you along the way.
To get a completely different taste of Jerusalem culture for the same price, head over to the renowned Machane Yehuda market between Jaffa Road and Agrippas Road. Elbow your way between the shoppers to get at the stalls selling some of the best of Israeli seasonal produce. Watch the colorful vendors yelling out the virtues of their wares to attract the shoppers and window shop at some of the trendy fashion boutiques dotted through the market.
There’s no fee to visit Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust Museum and Memorial, where the history and fate of Jews in the 20th century is documented. There are many moving sections to Yad Vashem, from the Childrens Memorial (dedicated to the 1 million Jewish children murdered by the Nazis) to the Valley of the Communities that documents the hundreds of Jewish communities destroyed in the genocide. If you have family members who perished in the Holocaust, check out the Hall of Names, a unique database of testimonies filed by survivors. It’s not unusual for people to discover long-lost relatives.
If you’ve had your fill of heavy activities, it may be time to take off for a day trip to the beach. A 25NIS bus ride will have you in Tel Aviv in around an hour, where you can take your pick from 14 kilometers of beaches to enjoy sand, surf, and people-watching to your heart’s content. While you’re there, you may want to get in a little free workout time at one of the open-air beach gyms. The best one is at Gordon Beach where the fitness buffs congregate to ogle and be ogled.
Hankering for some free culture back in Jerusalem? Check out www.janglo.net, THE go-to website for English speakers in Jerusalem, and the Friday weekend calendar section of the English-language papers. One of the most popular venues is the Sunday night concert series at the Mormon University on Mount Scopus, where the auditorium provides a sublime view of the Old City and the Temple Mount.