It’s easy to bleed money when we’re traveling. It’s also easy to bleed money living in a city like Jerusalem. Lucky us, there are lots of free things to do in Jerusalem with kids.
Explore the Old City
The Old City in Jerusalem is beautiful and full of history. Whether you’re exploring the Church of the Holy Supulcre, walking the Via Delorosa, or visiting the Western Wall (aka the Kotel), there are a wealth of free things to see. Throngs of tourists explore the Old City every day, and kids are welcome! Here are the don’t miss things to see for free:
The Souk: Enter through Jaffa Gate and head straight ahead! You’ll quickly find yourself in a maze of shops selling tourist items, jewelry, religious curios, and delicious fresh juice. Store owners are friendly to small children, but they also won’t hesitate to take advantage of your kids’ delight in new! shiny! toys! to make a sale. Go early in the morning if your children are small, that way you avoid the midday crowds.
Via Dolorosa: The path that Christ took through the Holy City on the way to his crucifixion. The trail has religious significance for Christians, but also lots of great hummus joints (check out Lina’s hummus near station #5). The route begins in the Muslim Quarter near Lion’s Gate. The first stop is in front of school, where the caretakers are happy to let you in when school’s not in session. There are beautiful views of the Dome of the Rock from the second floor. Here’s an excellent guide with pictures.
Church of the Holy Sepulcher: At the end of the Via Dolorosa is this site where Jesus is believed to have been crucified, buried, then risen on the third day is home to several Christian denominations. Wear conservative clothing and be prepared for crowds if you go any later then mid-morning.
Western Wall: The Western Wall is an enormous wall that borders Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount and is the holiest site in Judaism. It has been a site for pilgrimage and prayer for centuries. The wall itself consists of several layers, some of which are almost 2,000 years old.
Haram al-Sharif: Visitors can visit the Haram al-Sharif grounds, but non-Muslims cannot enter the Dome of the Rock itself. Dress modestly!
Visit First Station
First Station is an old train station that’s been renovated into an outdoor cultural area and mall. It’s one of the few cultural centers in Jerusalem that’s open on Friday nights and Saturdays, although there are plenty of kosher restaurants there that remain closed. In addition to the great food, the people watching is fantastic. My kids always make new friends and find other children to play with when we go.
Wander through the Shuk
The Machane Yehuda market (aka “the shuk”) is Jerusalem’s central outdoor market. It’s full of vegetable vendors, butchers, bakeries, fantastic restaurants, and as with most of central Jerusalem, great people watching. While there are throngs of tourists on food tours and birthright trips, locals also fill the market to buy their groceries, particularly on Friday mornings before Shabbat.
Run through the Fountains at Teddy Park
During the summer, Teddy Park is full of children from all over Jerusalem, from conservative Muslims in hijab to Haredi in their black coats, to the many secular families in Jerusalem. When it’s warm, the city turns on fountains that kids can run through.
Look at the Art at Ticho House
Ticho House is not only home to a fantastic restaurant (Anna’s), but also an art museum. Ticho himself was a doctor dedicated to serving the poor of all stripes in Jerusalem around the turn of the 20th century. His daughter gave the house to the City of Jerusalem, and the bottom floor is now an art museum featuring contemporary Israeli artists.
Walk the Haas Promenade
The Haas Promenade is a very short portion of a beautiful walking trail and park that runs from Jaber Muqubela in East Jerusalem behind the residential part of Talpiot, and continues to Yes! Planet, near First Station. The views of the Old City directly to the North are spectacular, particularly at sunrise and sunset.