Often described as one of the world’s most vibrant cities, Tel Aviv, Israel is as cool and modern as it gets, and the ultimate hybrid of east meets west. The city streets buzz with energy, its foodie scene is incredible, the night life is among the world’s best, and the sweeping, blonde beaches attract a young, hip crowd. Despite Tel Aviv’s modern skyline and amenities, history buffs will also find plenty to do around here–after all, Israel is at the centre of the Holy Land, which has been around seemingly as long as time itself–and the city serves a great base for day trips around the region with some major sites just an hour away. From exploring the captivating alleyways of the ancient port city Jaffa to the city’s best shopping spots, here’s the perfect Tel Aviv itinerary.
Relax on the best Tel Aviv beaches
If there’s one thing the Middle East is known for, it’s sand, and that means Tel Aviv has some absolutely phenomenal beaches. The city makes the most of its fab location right on the Mediterranean Sea with a long series of beaches that winds down the coastline, dotted with surf spots, high-rise hotels, pulsing beach bars, playgrounds and plenty of plush loungers and umbrellas.
One of the most fun things to do in Tel Aviv is spending a day lounging on the golden sand, people-watching, surfing or starting up a game of beach volleyball. Some popular spots include:
- Metzitzim Beach: This is a great family-friendly option, thanks to its shallow water, beach library and volleyball courts.
- Banana Beach: The fun, upbeat vibe and plethora of outdoor patios make this the perfect place to watch the gorgeous sunset.
- Gordon, Frishman and Bograshov: These are Tel Aviv’s most popular beaches, in the heart of the hotel area and centre of the action.
- Jaffa Beach: The ultimate surf spot in Tel Aviv, it also has great views of the old town.
- Nordau Beach: Also known as the Separated Beach, this is where observant Jews typically go as men and women are separated. The beach is open to men on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays; women are welcome on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Some female travellers, religious or not, also head here as it can be a good place to relax away from the crowds.
Globe Guide tip: While Israel is a modest, conservative country, it’s perfectly acceptable not cover up at the beach in Tel Aviv unless you’re at Nordau. So, feel free to rock that bikini!
Explore Old Jaffa
One of the best things to do in Tel Aviv is explore the ancient port city of Old Jaffa. Mentioned in the biblical stories of Jonah, Solomon and Saint Peter and believed to date back to the 15th century B.C., its sandstone buildings hide a maze of cobblestone laneways that wind past historic sites and landmarks which are basically Instagram heaven. One could spend hours exploring the quiet streets, ducking into the tiny boutiques or galleries, and marveling at the gorgeous views of the Tel Aviv skyline framed by the sea.
If you’re doing a self-guided tour through Jaffa, be sure to stop at:
- The Wishing Bridge: Legend has it that if you stand on this wooden bridge, look at the sea and make a wish, your wish will come true.
- Hapisga Garden/Abraham’s Garden: An intricate stone sculpture designed to look like a gate stands at the very top of Old Jaffa, depicting the story of the Sacrifice of Isaac. The large promenade surrounding it overlooks the waterfront, old town and modern skyscrapers in the background, making this one of the best spots to enjoy a city view.
- Clock Tower Square: At the centre of this spot is–you guessed it–a clock tower, which was built in the 1900s and soon saw other important buildings like a government house and prison go up around it. It’s now a standout feature of Jaffa’s facade.
- Jaffa Port: This bustling harbourfront is lined with restaurants, making it a great place to grab lunch while watching the boats come and go.
Go shopping in Neve Zedek
Get that credit card ready: besides being one of the oldest streets in Tel Aviv, Neve Zdekek is also one of the best for shopping. The charming, narrow stone laneways are lined with the likes of fashion-forward clothing boutiques, jewellery stores and home design shops, which makes this a great place to pick up a souvenir you’re sure to treasure for years to come. Cool street art adorns the old facades, and there are also some cute cafes, restaurants and even galleries to provide a midday pick-me-up in case you need a time out from all that retail therapy.
Wander down Rothschild Boulevard
Speaking of shopping, another place fashionistas will want to hit is Rothschild Boulevard, which is one of the top places to visit in Tel Aviv. Stretching about a dozen blocks through the centre of the city, Rothschild has something for everyone whether you’re looking for a great eatery, to relax in an outdoor cafe, spend the night in a cute boutique hotel, shop or dance the night away. There are plenty of green spaces, fountains and park benches along the route, making it a great place to spend a sunny afternoon.
Eat incredible food
Foodies rejoice! When it comes to creative cuisine, Tel Aviv is the go-to spot for gastronomy. Inventive chefs come from around the world to work their magic in Tel Aviv’s kitchens, the result being a diverse offering of culinary prowess that draws inspiration from every corner of the earth.
The best way to enjoy the unique offerings is to book a food tour, check out the kiosks in Carmel Market, or head into a different neighbourhood each night for dinner to check out the food scene. The hummus is not to be missed (obvs), as well as falafels, tahini, and the sweet, cheese-pastry kanafeh.
Day trips from Tel Aviv
Thanks to Israel’s compact size, it’s easy to explore most of the country by making the city your base and booking a day tour from Tel Aviv. Whether you travel by car or train, there are several incredible locations accessible within just an hour or two, including the holy cities of Nazareth, Bethlehem and Jerusalem, the impressive ruins of Masada, the serene Ein Gedi Nature Reserve which has gorgeous waterfalls, and even taking a dip in the famous Dead Sea.
Click below to book one of these great day trips from Tel Aviv:
Tel Aviv transportation
Getting around a city as busy as Tel Aviv may seem overwhelming at first, but luckily there are no shortage of options. The easiest is to slip on a comfortable pair of shoes and walk, since streets are quite well-marked and there’s so much to see no matter which direction you’re heading. Besides renting a car (keep in mind parking isn’t the easiest), there are taxis as well as Uber, which works the same as the traditional app but will actually summon a cab for you versus a private car. Other ways to travel around Tel Aviv are:
- Bus: The buses in Tel Aviv run often, and there’s hardly a spot in the city that their routes won’t cover. Depending on the length of your stay, it may benefit you to get the Rav Kav card which allows you to buy ride packages and saves a bit of money. Buses #4 and #5 are the most important ones in the city, while #18 heads to Jaffa and elsewhere in the southern part of the city Tel Aviv.
- Sherut: These shared taxis follow similar routes as the bus system, and operate around the clock. There are no designated stops for getting on and off which makes them a bit quicker than the bus, and surprisingly enough can also be cheaper to ride.
- Bike or scooter: There are bike-sharing stations strategically located throughout Tel Aviv through a program called Tel-O-Fun, which costs as little as about $5 per day. Bicycles can be rented for anywhere from one day to an entire week, with most people opting for the package where you borrow a bike for up to 30 minutes, dock it in another station, then grab a new bike when you’re ready to continue riding to avoid extra fees after the 30 minute mark. Scooter rentals are also available.
Where to stay in Tel Aviv
Royal Beach Tel Aviv: For a luxe stay, look no further than the Royal Beach which is one of the best hotels in Tel Aviv. With a prime position on the beachfront which means gorgeous water views, guests love relaxing around the large swimming pool, unwinding in the swanky suites, and watching the sunset over the Mediterranean from 23 storeys up. Click here to book
Link Hotel & Hub: This mid-range option has a good location in the arts district, just a quick walk from Rothschild Boulevard. A great option for millennials, business travellers and longer-term stays, on-site amenities include a fantastic gym, spa and free laundry. At the centre of this tech-forward hotel is “The Hub”, which has a kitchen and bar for grab ‘n go food, a pool table, video games, plush loungers and large workspaces that encourage collaboration and interaction among guests. Click here to book
Abraham Hostel Tel Aviv: Budget travellers adore this spot, which offers incredible value in the heart of the city. Part of a chain with sister properties in Nazareth and Jerusalem, the friendly staff at this clean, dorm-style hostel can arrange tours in and around Israel and facilitate plenty of fun activities which makes this a great pick for solo travellers. Click here to book
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