Tel Aviv - a city sitting on Israel's Mediterranean coast known for its world-class nightlife, its liberalism, and most importantly, its hummus.
With hip neighborhoods, UNESCO World Heritage Site certified Bauhaus architecture, bustling weekend brunch scene, and miles of city beaches, this cosmopolitan and vibrant city has something to offer everyone. I was lucky to visit Israel's cultural and commercial capital a few months back, and in this travel guide, I will tell you where to stay, what to do, and where to eat and drink in Tel Aviv.
TRAVEL TO TEL AVIV - Ben Gurion Airport is the main international airport in Tel Aviv servicing much of the country as well, being 45 km from Jerusalem, and 20 km from Tel Aviv. From central Europe, you can get direct flights for around €300 roundtrip or less.
TRAVEL WITHIN TEL AVIV - To get to the city center from the airport, you can take a train costing €3.50 taking twenty-one minutes, or take an Uber or taxi with similar travel time. Ubers do operate in the city, although native Gett was more reliable. Another great and convenient way to see the city is by electric scooter via the Bird app. Buses operate in the city but it is worth noting that buses do not run on Shabbat. Services end on Friday mid-afternoon and resume on Saturday night depending on its end time based on the time of year.
Where To Stay In Tel Aviv
There are many appealing neighborhoods in Tel Aviv. There is artistic and vibey Florentine, quirky village-like Neve Tzedek, the heart of the city center Lev Ha’ir, trendy and artistic Shapira or Jaffa (Yafo), the old town. Tel Aviv is a small city and thus walkable or easy to access via bike or scooter.
I stayed downtown at the hip and happening DAVE LEVINSKY - SON OF A BROWN, a boutique hotel between the famous Rothschild Boulevard and Levinsky Market. The hotel rooms have a vintage yet cool and contemporary feel to it with its decor and design. With its striking wallpaper and eclectic feel, the hotel offers everything you would need for a long weekend stay, fully equipped with a rooftop terrace as well. Other options on where to stay in Tel Aviv are:-
POLI HOUSE HOTEL - €€ - a contemporary hotel with distinctive modern design in a restored Bauhaus architecture-style building. The hotel offers panoramic views over the city from its rooftop pool and makes a good choice if you seek a modern, luxurious boutique hotel.
THE JAFFA, A LUXURY COLLECTION HOTEL - €€€€ - the epitome of luxury located in the historic port of Jaffa in a restored 19th-century complex that used to be Jaffa’s French Hospital. Within the hotel is The Chapel - a historic ornate convent transformed into a cocktail bar, creating the perfect setting for an evening drink.
What To Do In Tel Aviv
JAFFA - Jaffa is the Old City, also known as Yafo in Hebrew and is the historic heart of the city. This area is perfect to get lost in its crumbling stone buildings and charming narrow alleyways, peppered with art galleries and cafes. While there, visit Jaffa's popular flea market Shuk Hapishpishim for vintage treasures, The Greek Market for more antiques, and watch the sunset at Jaffa Port.
FOOD & SPICE MARKETS - With souks being a constitutive key of Middle Eastern culture, there is no better way to spend a few hours in Tel Aviv than to visit the myriad of markets. Coming early allows you to watch the fascinating process of set-up through to the cheerful and wild interactions between vendors and locals. Pick up a cup of freshly squeezed pomegranate juice, a bag of donuts, also known as sufganiyot, baklava, and kanafeh to snack on through the day as well as za'atar and meat spices for home. The best markets to visit in Tel Aviv are Shuk HaCarmel, Levinksy Spice Market, and Shuk HaNamal.
BEACHES - There is a strong Miami feel to the metropolis beach that cuffs Tel Aviv, bursting with active people on scooters, rollerblades, and playing volleyball, making the promenade and beach scene come alive. Catch the sunset at one of the cafes or hop on bikes to cycle from South to North. Gordon and Aviv Beach are amongst the most popular but there are others, even some solely for dogs and one that is gender separated. The waters are crystal clear and warm, so don't forget to pack your bathing suit!
NIGHTLIFE - With Tel Aviv branded as the party capital of the Middle East with its unparalleled and diverse nightlife, there is something to suit every taste. From neighborhood hipster bars with board games to mega-clubs with international DJs and fire-dancers, Tel Aviv has it all. Hit clubs like Kuli Alma and The Block open at 11 pm but come to life at 2 am, stretching to the early hours of the morning.
ROTHSCHILD BOULEVARD - Rothschild Boulevard is the first and major street in the center of Tel Aviv with a wide pedestrian walkway. It makes for an incomparable place to relax, people watch, pet local dogs, and sip on iced coffee. There are plentiful trees canopying over to offer shade, lots of benches to admire the Bauhaus buildings from, and numerous cafes and restaurants lining the bustling boulevard. Grab an iced coffee from Gili Kiosk and make your way down to the beach.
NEVE TZEDEK - Neve Tzedek is a restored artistic neighborhood in Tel Aviv. known as the cultural hub of the city. It is filled with a maze of narrow winding streets oozing charm and character and has a very Soho New York feel to it. Neve Tzedek literally translates to 'Oasis of Justice' and makes for a great area to stroll around in with your camera, capturing the unique charisma of the neighborhood. There are many boutiques, art galleries, and restaurants here, and when in the neighborhood, you must try gelato from Anita's.
Where To Eat In Tel Aviv
Tel Aviv’s food culture is synonymous with its social and nightlife. The local cuisine has been carved over thousands of years through transformations and Arab cultural influences, and so the history of Israeli food is quite ambiguous, exemplifying the true melting pot that Israel is.
ABU HASSAN - Starting with hummus and arguably the best hummus in Tel Aviv, Abu Hassan is the oldest and most famous hummus restaurant located in Jaffa. The service is very fast - you grab a table and a waiter will serve you almost immediately due to the speedy turnover of diners. Once ordered, the food comes out within minutes. I recommend their hummus and foul which come with fluffy hot pita for an excellent and inexpensive quick lunch.
SHLOMO & DORON HUMMUS - This was my favorite hummus experience in Tel Aviv. Shlomo & Doron Hummus is next to Carmel Market tucked away in the narrow side streets, serving a variety of hummus dishes with delicious toppings. Wonky tables align the street and the cheerful chef and grandson of the original owner will gladly help you with your order. Try their salads and homemade iced tea as well - you won't regret it.
FRESH FRUIT JUICES - there is no one particular place to mention, but the fresh fruit juices that are sold across the city in markets, kiosks, and beaches are a must and the perfect boost to start your day.
SABICH - Sabich on Tchernikhovski St, is a no-frills Israeli pita sandwich shop for takeaway. The pita is filled with layers of colorful veggies, roasted eggplant, and egg. It is seriously delicious with each bite being a flavor explosion of its own sort, and popular in the city with locals and tourists alike.
JASMINO - Similar to Sabich but the meat version, Jasmino serves pita filled with lamb, veal, or chicken with delicious veggies. Jasmino is a takeaway so enjoy your sandwich on one of the benches outside. This place gets busy so be prepared to wait for a little.
PORT SA'ID - A trendy sit down restaurant serving Israeli delights with a fabulous atmosphere and funky interior. The dishes are tapas-style allowing you to sample a variety of plates. Reservations are recommended as this place gets very busy.
TLVMAKERS - COFFEE - PLANTS - COMMUNITY - This is one of the most beautiful and relaxing places you can have coffee and a light snack in Tel Aviv. TLVMakers - Coffee - Plants - Community is exactly that; a cafe with a plant shop and where locals come together.
LITTLE PRINCE BOOKSHOP - A book shop cafe with used booked lining the shelves along the walls, celebrating all forms of writing where you can also sip on some mint tea or coffee. The atmosphere is enchanting and feels very hipster Middle East and an ideal spot to spend some slow hours.
CAFE YOM TOV - With a heavy focus on vegan dishes, Cafe Yom Tov is a must after strolling through Carmel market. Stop here for weekend brunch and enjoy the outdoor dining experience while people watching, with its authentic Israeli atmosphere.
HAMALABIYA - For dessert, visit Hamalabiya for malabi, a very unique Israeli sweet dish served with cardamom syrup and shredded coconut. This place is a fun local hangout where people come together to have malabi, play board games and drink beer.
MIZNON - A street food oasis also in other cities, serving mainly pitas with meats or vegan-friendly fillings. This place is busy, noisy and can be chaotic when ordering, but it comes as part of the experience. They have a bar inside as well and I highly recommend their cauliflower.
Tel Aviv is a unique place, as is the country of Israel. The city constantly seems to reinvent itself with a churn of new restaurants and clubs opening all the time. With 365 days of sunshine year-round, a selection of fine beaches, and a culinary delight, this city should not be overlooked when seeking an escape. Is Tel Aviv on your list of places to visit?
Tel Aviv's peak season is July and August. The temperature is pleasant year round with summer getting to 34C. The city is flat and easy to get navigate. The currency used in Tel Aviv is Israeli Shekel (ILS). English is spoken by throughout the city but the main language of the country is Hebrew. Please keep Shabbat in mind when planning your trip as most of the city closes during this time. Buses and transportation is also affected.