· What to do in Tel Aviv, Israel ·
Smack-dab in the middle of Israel’s Mediterranean coast lies the modern city of Tel Aviv. Bordered by Egypt, Syria, Jordan and Lebanon, the Jewish state is a gateway to the Middle East. Tel Aviv provides all the comforts of a modern, Western city just as the ancient wonders of Israel lie at your feet.
While the land of Israel is famous for its Biblical associations, the city of Tel Aviv is fairly young. Officially founded in 1909, it merged with the nearby port town of Jaffa in 1950. Despite its young age, Tel Aviv has grown to be one of the most populous and important cities in Israel. Its booming tech industry has earned it the nickname Silicon Wadi and many international embassies are located there (including the US embassy… for now).
Sitting on the coast, Tel Aviv has miles of beach along the Mediterranean. Of course, no trip to Tel Aviv is complete without some serious time on the beach. The coast is broken up into different beaches, each with different offerings. Hilton Beach is friendly and clean, known for its welcoming gay scene. Meanwhile, Mezizim Beach is popular with families due to the playground. If you’re looking for recreation, head up the coast away from Jaffa to Gordon Beach. Here you’ll find volleyball and access to sailboats and surf board, along with beach bars and restaurants.
With all it has to offer, Tel Aviv has been the place to go on the Med recently. You really can’t beat the beaches, markets, culture and nightlife in the White City. Here are some things not to miss!
Where to go: Jaffa
A long walk (or short taxi ride) from Tel Aviv’s modernity lies the ancient port city of Jaffa. While the walk can feel long in the heat, it’s more than doable and follows the coastline so you get picturesque views of the old city as you make your way towards it. With links to stories such as Jonah and the Whale and Andromeda, the port is one of the oldest in the world. Contrasted with Tel Aviv’s skyscrapers and modern culture, Jaffa’s dusty, winding streets have an authentically Middle Eastern feel. Indeed, Jaffa stood in for Beirut, Lebanon in the second season of Homeland. Heading up to the top of the hill overlooking the port, you’ll get awesome views of Tel Aviv and the Mediterranean Sea.
Heading up to the top of the hill overlooking the port, you’ll get awesome views of Tel Aviv and the Mediterranean Sea. Definitely try to time this with sunset, but also make sure you’re there in time to hit some of the boutiques on the way up. Hidden down tiny, winding streets, some you’ll even have to duck down to get into.
Though the modern comforts of Tel Aviv make for a pleasant stay, visiting Old Jaffa lends an authentic Middle Eastern feeling to your vacation. History linked to the Greeks, Romans, Ottomans and Arabs abound, and the bustling shops and markets provide a vibrant atmosphere.
What to do: Hit the markets
While you’re in Jaffa, be sure to check out the Jaffa Flea Market. With its treasure trove of various trinkets and decorations, its stalls opening onto narrow halls and loud haggling taking place all around you, it’s one of the reasons Jaffa feels so authentically Middle Eastern. But it’s just the beginning. Tel Aviv (including Jaffa) is chock full of markets: old, new, expensive, cheap, the White City has it all!
Besides Jaffa’s Flea Market, there’s Carmel Market. Another bustling, partly outdoor market, you can find everything from colorful spices and Baklava to jewelry and clothing. Fresh fruits and vegetables along with cuts of meat for your own cooking and falafel and shawarma ready to eat, the market is one of the best places to find street food in the city. It’s clearly a well-used market and you’ll see locals and tourists alike.
In contrast to the slightly dirty, hot outdoor street feel that is Carmel Market, Sarona Market has the advantage of being brand new and air conditioned. Only opened in 2015, it drew inspiration from food markets around the world to be “the heartbeat of Israeli culinary art.” Again comprised of stalls, shops and restaurants providing everything from raw ingredients to premade dishes and even kitchen utensils, Sarona Market also contracts with business owners from other markets around Tel Aviv. Thus, it becomes a one stop shop. Like Tel Aviv itself, it has a unique mix of global and local for a truly unbeatable experience. Time to brush up on your haggling skills!
Where to drink: Rothschild Boulevard
As the sweltering day turns into a sultry night, it’s time to grab a drink. Tel Aviv boasts a vibrant nightlife and much of it is centered around Rothschild Boulevard and its surrounding streets, so that’s the best place to start.
Be sure not to miss BuXa, which boasts a place on nearly all the lists of the best bars in Tel Aviv. A bar within an art gallery, BuXa is a favorite of both tourists and locals. The artwork on the walls lends a hipster vibe while underground DJs provide the perfect soundtrack. With the drinks flowing, its artsy, hip and very Tel Aviv.
Just down the street, you can take advantage of the balmy nights by hitting Speakeasy – Rooftop on Rothschild. Sandwiched between high-rise buildings, this hidden rooftop bar has views overlooking the bustling Rothschild Boulevard, atmospheric fairy lights and a menu with inventive bar bites and tasty cocktails. This bustling bar is the perfect place to take advantage of warm nights while still experiencing Tel Aviv’s bar scene.
Of course, if you really want to take advantage of Tel Aviv’s natural offers, start your night off with drinks on the beach. There are several places both on the sand and just across the street overlooking the Med.
Where to eat: Falafel Gabay
So this probably isn’t what you were expecting. Instead of a highly rated restaurant, Falafel Gabay is reasonably priced, authentic Israeli street food. Think shawarma, schnitzel, hummus and, of course, falafel, among other fare. The pita sandwiches are reasonably priced and some of the best you can find in Tel Aviv. It comes highly recommended by TripAdvisor and is a favorite among locals in the area. There are two locations: on Bograshov Street and in the Dizengoff area.
While Falafel Gabay is a top-rated example of where you can find Israeli bites, the point is not to miss the traditional local cuisine. A trip to Tel Aviv would not be complete without shawarma, falafel and hummus. Falafel Gabay is guaranteed to serve good grub, but as mentioned above, the markets also offer great street food. And who doesn’t want to spend a week eating shawarma and hummus??
Though there’s plenty to do in Tel Aviv, be sure not to miss the rest of Israel, either. A relatively small country, the wonders of Jerusalem can be reached in just two hours. The meeting of the world’s most popular religions, the ancient city holds experiences that can’t be found anywhere else in the world. Then there’s Caesarea, built by Herod, or Acre, one of the oldest cities in the world, and Masada, Herod’s fort famous for its siege by the Romans. While visiting Masada, don’t miss the Dead Sea with its restorative mud and unrivaled buoyancy. And that’s just a taste of what Israel has to offer. Whether you’re looking for beaches, sunshine, historic, culture, food or nightlife on your next holiday, Tel Aviv has you covered. What are you waiting for??
Wondering what to pack? Check out our Tel Aviv style tips!