This post may contain affiliate links, which means I may earn a commission from the discount codes used or when a link/ad is clicked. All purchases made will come at no extra cost to you, and I only include products and services that I have personally used and would recommend.
Jerusalem won’t be the cheapest city you’ll ever visit, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have its fair share of free or cheap things to do that will suit any budget. One of the best free things to do in Jerusalem is to simply walk around the Old City and immerse yourself in its history. You could easily spend a day or two exploring the different quarters, taking in the sights and sounds of the bazaars, and visiting all of the holy sites in Jerusalem. But there are some fantastic hidden gems in Jerusalem too that are worth adding to your itinerary.
Some of the must-see sites in Jerusalem will have an unavoidable entry fee, including many of the popular museums - but not everything! Surprisingly, we found that a lot of the historical attractions are completely free to enter, and we came across some unique points of interest both around the Old City and in the newer parts of Jerusalem too. Your first trip to Jerusalem doesn’t have to break the bank, so to help you budget a little better here are some of the best free things to do in Jerusalem.
1. Temple Mount
To get a true understanding of the deep rooted history that Jerusalem has, a visit to Temple Mount and the Dome of the Rock is a must. Exploring Temple Mount is one of the best free things to do in Israel, and draws in millions of visitors every year. This religious site is important for Muslims, the Jewish people, and Christians, and once served as the centre of religious life during biblical times. There are strict rules when visiting that need to be observed, as well as certain opening times so make sure you check those out online before visiting. Get there at opening time to avoid the crowds!
2. Western Wall
Sitting just below Temple Mount is the Western Wall, also known as the Wailing Wall. This is the closest Jewish people can get to Temple Mount to pray, so it’s a very holy site and is incredibly moving to visit, even if you aren’t religious. The Western Wall is free to visit, and is open 24/7. You’ll need to pass through security to enter the plaza, and at peak times the queues are very long so make sure you take that into account. If you wish to place a prayer in one of the cracks of the wall, there is a paper station setup at the entrance so you don’t need to worry about bringing your own pen and paper.
3. Via Dolorosa
The labyrinth of narrow cobblestone streets in the Old City can be somewhat difficult to navigate if you’re not part of a tour, but one walking route that you simply can’t miss is the Via Dolorosa. This processional route represents the walk that Jesus would have taken as he carried his cross to the place of crucifixion, and it’s a major pilgrimage site in Israel. Along the route are the stations of the cross, and it finishes at the entrance to the Holy Sepulchre. If you’re only spending 1 day in Jerusalem you shouldn’t miss this route.
4. Holy Sepulchre
After seeing the most important religious sites for the Jewish people and Muslims, it’s important to visit the Holy Sepulchre, which is important for people of Christian faiths. This is another incredible free thing to do in Jerusalem and is very impressive inside, encompassing the sites of the crucifixion of Jesus, where his body was prepared for burial, and his tomb. All of these are free to visit but during the daytime the church is extremely busy so it may be worth visiting before sunrise if you can.
5. Ethiopian Village
During our guided tour of the Old City, we made a brief stop at the Ethiopian Village, Dir A-Sultan, which is a monastery of sorts nestled on the rooftop of the Holy Sepulchre. There are various small huts here which is where the monks live, and the surrounding walls still show remnants of the crusader era when this location used to be an inner courtyard of the Augustine Canonical order. This is definitely one of the more unusual things to do in Jerusalem, but is worth stopping by as you make your way from the Via Dolorosa into the Holy Sepulchre prayer chapels.
6. Mishkenot Sha'ananim
Exploring parts of Jerusalem that are outside of the Old City is also important to gain a better understanding of how the city has developed over the past century. A very unique area of the city to visit is known as Mishkenot Sha'ananim. It was the first neighbourhood to be built outside of the Old City, and is where the famous Montefiore Windmill is located. It’s a charming neighbourhood with a lot of beautiful photo spots, and it can easily be added to your itinerary if you’re spending more than 2 days in Jerusalem.
7. Mahane Yehuda Market
One of the best free things to do in Jerusalem is to visit the world famous Mahane Yehuda Market, which was founded during the Ottoman period and is the largest open-air market in Jerusalem. It’s also very well known throughout the Middle East, boasting no less than 250 market stalls selling everything from fresh produce to delicious street food. There are plenty of food tours here to choose from if you’re interested in the history of the market and want to eat some must-try food in Jerusalem. Come here on an empty stomach because you’ll want to eat everything in sight!
8. Street art
While walking through the neighbourhoods of Jerusalem, I noticed that there was a lot of unique street art in the city. The area around the Mahane Yehuda Market is particularly full of street art, and some of them look very realistic! Street art in Jerusalem needs to get approval from the city before it appears, as well as from nearby businesses, so only appropriate images will be shown. Looking for street art is a great idea for a self-guided free walking tour in Jerusalem.
Your trip to Jerusalem doesn’t need to be expensive, and with these free things to do in this ancient city you can spend your money on more essential things like accommodation and food. Whether you’re looking for things to do in Jerusalem at night, free museums in Jerusalem, or indoor things to do in Jerusalem, there are plenty of options available so you’ll never find yourself with nothing to do while visiting the Israeli capital.
Do you know of any other free things to do in Jerusalem? I’d love to hear some recommendations so please leave me a message below or get in touch via Instagram where you can also follow along with the rest of my travels.