Free Things To Do in Jerusalem
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Chances are that you'll spend much of your time here. The Old City is home to many of Jerusalem's most sought-after attractions, including the Western Wall, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and Temple Mount. Originally built by King David in 1004 B.C., the walled Old City comprises four distinct areas: the Jewish Quarter (or the Cardo), the Muslim Quarter, the Christian Quarter, and the Armenian Quarter. Each quarter exudes its own unique atmosphere, with religious sites, shops, and food offerings reflecting its respective heritage. Yet the Old City's winding alleyways and ancient stone plazas allow mixing and mingling among these cultures, making a very eclectic environment.
It's easy to lose yourself (both metaphorically and geographically) in the Old City, but make sure you devote some attention to its boundaries. You can access the Old City from seven entryways: the New Gate, Damascus Gate, Herod's Gate, Lions' Gate, Dung Gate, Zion Gate, and Jaffa Gate. Each doorway marks a significant era of Jerusalem's history. For example, Jaffa Gate is where the Tower of David (the city's primary defense point) can be found.
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Named after the olive groves that once covered its slopes, this 2,900-foot mountain stands opposite the Old City across the Kidron Valley. For more than 3,000 years, the Mount of Olives has served as Jerusalem's primary burial ground and the final resting place of notable biblical figures, such as Zechariah and Absalom.
There are also several notable religious sites found on the hill's slopes. For example, the Dome of the Ascension contains the last footprint Jesus made on earth before he ascended into heaven, and the Garden of Gethsemane marks the location of Jesus' prayers before the crucifixion (you'll also find olive trees that are roughly 1,000 years old). But above all else, come to the Mount of Olives for the views. According to one TripAdvisor user, "You look over the Kidron Valley to Jerusalem and Temple Mount. You can imagine Jesus as he looked over Jerusalem and saw a vision of the destruction."
- #6View all PhotosfreeMahane Yehuda#6 in JerusalemShopping, Sightseeing, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDShopping, Sightseeing, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDRead More
Sandwiched between Agripas and Yafo streets in West Jerusalem, Mahane Yehuda offers a glimpse (and a taste) of authentic life in modern Israel. This vibrant marketplace houses vendors selling everything from aromatic spices to souvenirs. The lively atmosphere is thick with the scent of fresh falafel and the sound of more than 250 haggling merchants. Although you're sure to find the market crowded no matter when you visit, be prepared for extremely heavy crowds on Fridays, when Jerusalem residents are stocking up for the Sabbath (which is observed from Friday at sundown through Saturday night).
Mahane Yehuda is open from Sunday morning through Friday afternoon, and it's free to explore (although you'll want some cash in case you find something appetizing).
- #7View all PhotosfreeYad Vashem#7 in JerusalemMuseums, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDMuseums, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDRead More
Located about four miles from the Old City in West Jerusalem's Mount Herzl neighborhood, Yad Vashem contains the world's largest collection of information on the Holocaust. Stretching out over 45 acres, this facility is comprised of both museums and memorials. The Holocaust History Museum and the Museum of Holocaust Art display artifacts and artworks that detail the tragic events. Meanwhile, Yad Vashem's unique memorials, such as the Hall of Names and the Children's Memorial commemorate the Holocaust's victims.
Recent visitors describe Yad Vashem as very thorough and well thought-out, and they praise the facility for its beautiful and serene design. Travelers also warn that a visit to Yad Vashem can be an extremely emotional experience. According to one TripAdvisor user, "The Children's Memorial is very hard to go through, but done so well."
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Believed to stand directly above Jesus Christ's tomb, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is considered one of the world's holiest Christian sites. Emperor Constantine originally built the church in 326 A.D. as a Byzantine place of worship. Since its formation, the Church has been destroyed twice, first by the Persians in 614 A.D. and then by the Egyptians in 1009. Today's church is a product of 12th-century Crusaders.
Travelers describe the Church of the Holy Sepulchre as nothing short of breathtaking. While the tomb of Jesus is the church's main attraction, and you will likely encounter long lines to enter the area. Many visitors say that the wait makes the church feel commercial rather than spiritual. One TripAdvisor user writes: "Obviously for Christians this is the most holy site. [But it] was a bit distracting because of the number of pilgrims and tourists taking pictures."
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The Church of the Holy Sepulchre may have a shrine, but it is widely believed that Jesus Christ was actually buried and then resurrected in the Garden Tomb. Located just a short walk from the Old City's Damascus Gate, this lush garden contains ruins said to be the sepulcher of Joseph of Arimathea. Today, recent visitors describe the garden as serene. According to one TripAdvisor user, "This wonderful place is a must see if you are looking for a spiritual experience. Very peaceful, beautiful and meaningful."
The Garden Tomb is open to visitors Monday through Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to noon, and from 2 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Admission is free, as are guided tours and pamphlets. For more information, visit the Garden Tomb website.
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Flanking the northwest corner of Temple Mount lies Via Dolorosa, which translates to "way of sorrows." This passageway led Jesus from Pontius Pilate's sentencing to Golgotha, where the crucifixion is believed to have taken place. While Christian hymns depict this road as quiet and lined with olive trees, today's Via Dolorosa can oftentimes feel crowded and noisy as it brims with ancient stone buildings and souvenir shops. The street leads to many notable sites (all of which are marked) that Jesus passed, including the Praetorium, where he was sentenced, and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where he is believed to have been laid to rest.
To make the most of your walk down the Via Dolorosa, recent travelers suggest wearing comfortable shoes. And according to one TripAdvisor user, it "doesn't really take too long to walk down the entire way […] but is really important to have a knowledgeable tour guide who will explain the significance of every station."
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