Sound too good to be true? Well, it IS true. If you've forked out the dough to get all the way over here to Israel, then I am happy to tell you that there is at least some good news to be had. And that is the fact that there are free tour(s) offered on a daily basis by Sandeman's New Europe Tour Company. You might have heard of Sandeman's famous free tours if you've visited a few European cities, including Amsterdam, Madrid, Prague, Paris, Munich, London, Edinburgh, Hamburg, Brussels, Berlin or Dublin. Thankfully, for budget minded travelers, Sandeman's has also added the cities of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem to their free tour repertoire over the last few years.
There is no catch involved. You just show up, get a ticket from the tour guide at no cost, wait for the tour to begin, and then take part in your 3 - 4 hour tour. At the tour's conclusion, you are free to tip based on how much you feel the tour was worth. Just look for the guys in the red "Sandeman" t-shirts (see picture to the right and below) at the Jaffa gate. Don't worry, if you can't find them, they will likely find you. The tours run seven days a week starting at 11 a.m. and a 2nd tour also goes five days a week (from Sunday - Thursday) at 2:30 p.m. each afternoon. The fact that this tour runs on Friday and Saturday is great news since Jerusalem, as I may remind you, pretty much shuts down on the weekends. So, something to do and at no cost? Sounds great for the bargaining traveler!
I finally took this tour when I had a visitor in town from the US who had just concluded her Birthright Israel trip. It was fun to go check out all four sections of the old city, which neither one of us had done before. The old city is a big place and it can be a little intimidating to go into the other quarters without knowing where you are heading. Sandeman's offer three tour types in total here in Jerusalem: the New Jerusalem Free Tour, the Holy City tour, and the Mount of Olives Tour. The only one running on a Saturday, when we went, was the New Jerusalem Free Tour, but I would love to go back one day to take the Holy City tour, which takes you up close to the Al-Asqa mosque (only open at certain times and on certain days of the week) and into the room where the last supper took place.
If you make the effort to come all the way out here to Israel, or if you happen to already be here, be sure to look for "the men in the red t-shirts" and check them out online as well: http://www.newjerusalemtours.com/