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Live well, tour free: Sandeman's comes to Jerusalem

by michael October 03 2008
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Unescorted tours of the Old City can be a daunting proposition, especially for first-time visitors to Jerusalem. Few places pack as much history into so small a space, and with the bustling throng of busy Jerusalemites flowing all around you, it's easy to lose your bearings and miss out on must-see sites. So sometimes it's best to swallow that independent modern tourist pride and get yourself a guide who can steer you through the twisting warrens of the Old City to the historical and cultural treasures within.

Enter Sandeman's. The international tour company, whose New Europe tours wind their way through European cities from Edinburgh to Madrid, has arrived in the Holy City, and unlike the dozens of other tour operators swarming over the Jerusalem stone, Sandeman's tours are absolutely free. And daily. All you have to do is show up at the Jaffa Gate at 11:00 AM, 364 days a year (every day except Yom Kippur), and all you have to bring is a inquisitive mind and a willingness to stay on your feet for a few hours (and, if you're feeling grateful, a nice tip for your guide). Measure that against spending hundreds of shekels to hear some dinosaur of a tour guide's decades-old, repeated-daily tourist jokes, and it's 5769's best deal.

The English-language tours, led by Ministry of Tourism-approved guides, last roughly 3.5 hours, and touch on all the major (and plenty of the minor) sites of interest in the Old City. And more is on the way - Sandeman's plans to expand its Jerusalem tours with such enjoyable offerings as a guided pub crawl (which will cost money but drinks are included), a concept which has seen much success with the backpacker crowd in Europe. And while Tel Aviv tours are also on the way, Jerusalemite would like to point out that our city, the true spiritual, cultural and political center of Israel, got 'em first. So if you're in the city for the holidays (or any other time), or if you're a veteran resident looking to expand your local knowledge, don't miss out.

Jerusalemite and Sandeman's are strategic partners working together to promote a culturally vibrant and tourist-friendly Jerusalem. Although, even if we didn't have a relationship with them, we would still write about their new tours, because they're just cool.

Photo of Old City by Harry Rubenstein for Jerusalemite.

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