While touring and museum hopping can often become expensive, this is a list of free things to do in Jerusalem.
Included are some of Israel’s most popular sites and both well and little known museums.
However, all the times on this list are historical and cultural gems of the State of Israel and Jerusalem itself.
The Temple Mount
The Temple Mount refers to the elevated plaza above the Western Wall that was the site of both the First and Second Jewish Temples. It is and always has been the holiest site in the world to Jews.
in the 7th century Muslims began viewing Jerusalem and the Temple Mount as a holy site. Today it is considered the third holiest sites to Muslims, after Mecca and Madina.
At the end of that century the shrine known as the Dome of the Rock was built on the Jewish holy site shortly and Al Aqsa mosque was as well shortly there after.
Non-Muslims are permitted to visit the plaza during set days hours. However they are not allowed to enter the Dome of the Rock.
Western Wall (Kotel)
The Western Wall or the Kotel, is the last remaining wall of the Second Temple. It is revered as a holy site because it is the closest to the Temple Mount Jews are legally allowed to pray.
In addition to Jews, many Christian tourists also come pray at at the wall.
Prayers there include regular Jewish prayers that are said three times a day, saying Psalms, and personal heartfelt prayers.
It is also tradition to leave a note asking G-d for things. These can be anything your heart desires, big or small.
Old City of Jerusalem
Walking around the old city, especially the Jewish Quarter, is a fun, interesting, and free way explore some of Jerusalem's rich history.
Also, dozens of free festivals take place around the Old City throughout the year, including the Light Festival, Knights in the Old City and Sounds of the Old City, to name just three.
Chamber of the Holocaust
The Chamber of the Holocaust was the the world’s first Holocaust memorial and is a powerful yet little known museum by Israelis and tourists alike.
It was built as a symbolic cemetery, as a place for Holocaust survivors to cry and mourn for their families, especially if they didn’t know where their loved ones were buried.
The memorial was established in 1949, four years after the end of World War II and a year after Israel was founded, as Holocaust survivors who came as refugees to the country sought a place to grieve.
Built in a Crusader dungeon, the chamber was a place for Holocaust survivors and victims’ descendants to light memorial candles, recite the Kaddish, remember, and mourn.
Today, it is a museum and the objects, on display were donated by Holocaust survivors and victims’ families as a memorial to those who perished.
Admission is free, but donations are appreciated since the museum funded largely by private donations.
Yad Vashem is the Holocaust History Museum and Israel’s memorial to the victims of the Holocaust.
Established in Jerusalem in 1953, Yad Vashem has become the most visited site after the Western Wall.
It is dedicated to preserving the memory of the dead, honoring Jews who fought against their Nazi oppressors, and Gentiles who selflessly aided Jews in need.
The focus of this museum is remembrance, education, documentation, and research related to the Holocaust.
I think, together with the Chamber of the Holocaust, it tells a very important part of Jewish History.
Mount Herzl is the site of Israel’s national cemetery where Israel’s fallen soldiers are put to rest.
Many of the Jewish state’s leaders are also buried here including Herzl himself.
This site of major national importance. It is where the families of the fallen file in crowds through the gates of Mount Herzl to attend the state Remembrance Day ceremony.
Ammunition Hill is the site of one of the most hard won and important battles fought during the Six-Day War leading to the reunification of Jerusalem.
Today it is a memorial and a museum to the men who sacrificed their lives in battle and a museum of the Six-Day war.
The fighting that took place on the night of June 6, 1967 lasted four hours.
Ultimately, Paratroopers took the hill, but 36 men were lost in the process.
The victory led to the opening of the road to Mount Scopus and the Old City.
Jerusalem was ultimately reunified, however, 182 soldiers from Armored Harel, Paratrooper Divisions, and of the Air Force fell in the battle for the cause.
On-site, are battle canals, bunkers, armored vehicles from 1948, and half-track tank.
There are also 182 olive trees which were planted to commemorate the each Israeli soldiers who fell in the war.
The guided tour tells the story of the battle on Ammunition Hill and you walk the paths of the paratroopers who fought there.
You also learn about morals that guided the soldiers during this crucial battle: heroism, courage, initiative, and more.
The tour includes a visit to the trenches and bunkers and a touching interactive presentation about Jerusalem’s Six Day War.
The Heritage Center also includes an audio-visual presentation of veterans telling their personal war stories.
Tip Based Tour of The Old City
This tour is more than two hours long and you really gain a good basic understanding of all four quarters of the Old City.
While the tour is technically free, and is actually called a free tour, in reality it is a tip based tour.
The the guides earn their money exclusively from tips and on top of that the guides have to pay the company about three to five dollars for each tour participant.
I know this because a friend of mine used to be one of the guides.
However, because the guides work on tips, the tour is very good and worth every penny you decide to tip.
Mahane Yehuda Market
Mahane Yehuda Market more often referred to as “The Shuk” is a favorite of locals and tourists alike.
The main street is lined with stands selling fruits, vegetables, and nuts with clothing and gift shops sprinkled in between.
However, if you go down the opens in the main path you'll find a whole other world with restaurants, cafe's, bakeries, jewelry shops, and so much more.
While there are many ways to spend money in Mahane Yehuda, exploring it is completely free.
The Kidron Valley is located between the Temple Mount and the Mount of Olives and has been equated to Petra.
In Hebrew the Kidron Valley, means the whole wadi, and the upper section that most people think of is referred to as Valley of Yehoshafat (Josaphat) or the King’s Valley.
The Valley of Yehoshafat was considered in ancient times to a part of the Mount of Olives, as part of the necropolis.
There are tombs here dating back to the First Temple and Second Temple periods.
Mount of Olives
The Mount of Olives of has been used as a Jewish cemetery for over 3,000 years, dating back to biblical times, and was named for the olive groves that once covered its slopes.
The southern part of the mount was the necropolis, was the burial place of Jerusalem’s most important citizens, attributed to the ancient Kingdom of Judah.
It is largest and holiest cemetery in the Jewish world, containing some 70,000 graves.
It is the final resting place of well-known figures such as Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, Rabbi Obadiah of Bertinoro (Bartenura), Rabbi Yehuda Hehasid (Rabbi Judah the Pious) and Holy Land scholars Rabbi Yehosef Schwartz and Samuel Klein.
The First Station Jerusalem
Today, First Station – known in Hebrew as HaTachana HaRishona – was once a busy railway station filled with hustle and bustle.
Today it’s a chic lively place filled with restaurants, shops, and events locals love.
Montefiore’s Windmill was one of the first Jerusalem landmarks to be built outside the Old City walls.
It was built in 1857 by Sir Moses Montefiore where he would later build Mishkenot Sha’ananim which became first neighborhood in Jerusalem outside Old City.
Today, the windmill houses the Jerusalem Vineyard Wineries Visitor Center.
Near by in a glassed-in room is a replica Montefiore’s carriage which he used in his travels.
Ketef Hinnom is a little known archaeological site consisting of a series of rock-hewn burial chambers dating from the First Temple period.
This archaeological site is located behind the Begin Heritage Center Museum.
You can reach it by through an opening in the gate coming from the main road walking towards the museum.
The Knesset is the Israeli parliament.
Free tours are given on Sunday and Thursday in Hebrew, English, Arabic, German, Russian, Spanish, and French are available throughout the day.
Visitors are also welcome to sit in on debates.
Supreme Court of Israel
The Supreme Court of Israel sits in Jerusalem. It is the highest court of Justice in Israel and the final court of appeals.
Free daily tours of Supreme Court of Israel are given that are open to the general public in both Hebrew and English.
The tours inform about the Court, the architecture of the building, and with the history and the structure of the Israeli legal system.
The Public Affairs Department collaborates with the Knesset in providing the “The Life of a law” tour which deals with the interaction between the Supreme Court and the Knesset.
Also, the first floor of the Supreme Court Library is open to the general public from Sunday to Thursday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m..
National Botanic Garden of Israel
The National Botanic Garden of Israel, also known as the Botanical Garden of the Hebrew University, is the first botanical garden in Israel.
It covers over 6 acres and houses more than 950 plant species, representing over 40% of the wild plant species of Israel, approximately 240 are considered rare or endangered.
This botanical garden is unique as an ecological conservatory for a diverse collection of plant groups, preserving authentic Israeli species within their natural habitats from around the country.
Many of the species are very rare or non-existent in the wild.
Within the Garden are ancient burial caves from the Second Temple period.
Buried in these caves is Nicanor of Alexandria, who brought the copper doors of the Temple.
Today, visitors can see reconstructed ossuaries within the burial caves, since the originals have been moved for display to the British Museum in London.
The combination of natural flora with history and archaeology genuinely reflects the characteristic landscape of the Israeli homeland.
Wohl Rose Garden
The Wohl Rose Garden, or Wohl Rose Park, is one of the few rose parks of its kind in the Middle East, and has been proclaimed one of the most beautiful rose gardens in the world.
It features around 450 varieties of roses are grown there, many of them gifts from countries around the world.
Also displayed there are wild roses from the Land of Israel (the Dog Rose and Phoenician Rose), ancient varieties, and rare or endangered roses designated for conservation.
The Wohl Rose Park’s Garden of Nations is made up of sections donated by other countries. Each section has rose varieties characteristic of, or grown in, the respective country as well as trellises, sculptures and fountains.
In addition to some 15,000 rose bushes, the park has expansive lawns, there about 200 species of ornamental trees, bushes, and plants, an ornamental pond with aquatic plants and fish, a waterfall, rockeries, and sculptures.
Also, a sixth-century mosaic floor unearthed at Kibbutz Sde Nahum is on display in the park.
The main flowering period of the park’s roses is in the spring, from the end of April through mid May. The modern roses in the park continue to blossom through the summer and autumn seasons, until the start of winter.
Jerusalem Bird Observatory
The Jerusalem Bird Observatory is free and open all day every day.
It is Israel’s first urban wildlife site and attracts thousands of migrating songbirds to its pond and fruit trees.
This makes it the perfect for quality birdwatching at the bird hide.
In fact, this is one of the few traditional birdwatching areas in Jerusalem that has not been harmed by development.
At the heart of the Jerusalem Bird Observatory is the Beracha Bird Hide where visitors have a great view of the pond and surrounding fruit trees.
There are a variety of free walks, lectures, workshops and trips offered in English and Hebrew throughout the year.
The Jerusalem Forest is a favorite by locals and has many playgrounds and picnic areas in it along, with a hiking trail.
It is filled with pine and cypress trees, as well as Palestine oak, terebinth, carob, olive, fig, pomegranate, and other species that used to cover the slopes of the Judean Hills.
On many of the slopes there are agricultural terraces, burial caves, wine-presses, and cisterns from ancient times.
Gazelles often run in the area and and you can hear the sounds of the the many songbirds who live in the trees.
Gazelle Valley Park
Gazelle Valley Park is Israel’s biggest urban nature reserve and also the best place to watch endangered mountain gazelles in their natural habitat.
The valley was once a home to a herd of over 30 wild gazelles until 1993 their passage to the mountains surrounding Jerusalem was blocked by a new highway.
The gazelles were trapped in the valley and the herd gradually disappeared.
In the year 2015 Gazelle Valley Park was established when only 3 gazelles remained.
Today, there are over 45 mountain gazelles are living in the park, leading a mostly natural lifestyle.