When I spent a week in Tel Aviv in early September 2015, the city got under my skin pretty much. My first impressions were not the best, I have to admit, but after the initial 2 days it all changed. And I took off with a sad feeling that I had to leave already …
If you are visiting Tel Aviv for a few days, check out my list of the must do’s.
17 things to do in Tel Aviv:
1. Eat, eat and eat some more
I cannot stress this one out enough, that’s why it’s the first on my list. Israel is becoming famous for its cuisine and Tel Aviv is definitely an easy place to get vegan and vegetarian food. It’s also heaven for the meat-eaters, don’t get me wrong. My recommendations are trying breakfast at Benedict, get a pomegranate juice at the market, hummus at Shlomo & Doron, and try banana + nutela in a pita bread at Miznon.
2. Chocolate dessert at Max Brenner
I had to make this one a special point because getting almost anything you can imagine made of chocolate is what Max Brenner is all about. Food porn is still an understatement, trust me! Just don’t spend all your free time there if you don’t want to leave double size :D
3. Segway tour around Jaffa with Sego
If you are an adventurous soul like me and you are all up for exploring the city in a different way, then rent a segway and go check out the difference of the skyscrapers from the old town Jaffa. A Sego guide will show you how to ride and make it back in one piece, and also give you some information on the way. The breeze in your hair on a hot day is definitely something you will remember ;)
4. Coffee at the Carmel market at Shlomo Coffee
Ordering a cup of coffee from Shlomo ameans you might get lucky to listen to live music, too. Yemenite Shlomo was born and raised here in this house where he’s sold coffee since he retired. If you ask Shlomo, the owner, he might sing for you. After coffee, singing has been always his second biggest passion so each Friday at 1pm he stops doing everything and just sings for 30 minutes. According to his words he does it ”because I can.”
5. Make friends with locals
I just LOVE meeting new people, and if it’s locals, even better. They have a completely unique point of view and can tell you stories you might not hear otherwise. Many locals in Tel Aviv are super nice, more open-minded than in Jerusalem, and almost always smiling. I miss some of you so much! You made my day each time I saw you. (You know who I’m talking about…)
6. Beach time
I know you knew I would mention beach, right? You could not leave Tel Aviv without spending time on the beach swimming and sunbathing. I mean when the weather allows it, of course. The beaches that have lifeguards are safe to swim at, all the others will have signs ”no swimming.” Obviously, me and my friend did swim there, too as they looked pretty much the same as the others. All had waves I did not enjoy so I was only in the sea when it was calmer. Beach volleyball is pretty popular here, too. Big cities with beach are so awesome!
7. Stay at Dan Tel Aviv Hotel
If you are looking for a place to stay close to the beach and you are not a backpacker, then Dan Hotel might be your best pick. Most probably during your stay they will be making a movie or filming something else there but hey, that just means, you’ve chosen the right spot. The rooms are very nice, buffet breakfast brilliant offering various dishes, and the outdoor swimming pool with salt water on the second floor offers beach views.
I am definitely a market girl and Tel Aviv is a city with some cool markets that got my attention. The Carmel market is perfect for fresh fruit and vegetables, even for clothes. Food tours around Carmel market are becoming one of the most popular tours in Tel Aviv. We started our tour with Or right at the Star of David Square (Magen David) with 6 streets. The British Mandate was divided here between Jewish and Muslims when the bars were opened all night to celebrate so you could drink for free (the first and last time something like this happened in Tel Aviv.)
On Fridays there’s an artist market next to the Carmel which is worth visiting if you are looking for local hand-made souvenirs. The Jaffa flea market might be your next choice. The newest Sarona market with more than 100 shops and restaurants is a fancy place great for snacking. Sarona is open 7 days a week (also on Shabbat.) Paleo market is a local market just once a month (on a Friday morning) where you can not only buy meat but also many tropical fruits, veggies and spices (the reason why I talk about it is coconuts, spirulina and fruits; I don’t eat meat.)
9. Observe the architecture
It’s weird but I have to mention that I did not find the Tel Aviv architecture to be very beautiful, especially not the first 2 days close to the beach. That’s exactly the old part of Tel Aviv where the buildings are becoming more and more expensive, and they are surrounded by new skyscraper hotels.
Nowadays, the architecture tour is probably the number 1 tour in Tel Aviv and architects from around the world come to the city to find out more about it.
However, the White City of Tel Aviv was declared a UNESCO World Heritage in 2003. What we refer to as the White City are the houses built since the 1930’s in International style or Bauhaus mostly designed by German Jewish architects. There’s no other city with as many Bauhaus houses as the 4,000 houses in Tel Aviv.
The story started in 1871 when the only place that existed in here was the old city of Jaffa (Tel Aviv was founded only in 1909.) There was a German colony established here in 1871 with 300,000 Germans. Until 1930’s the colony developed a lot but then the WWII started so the British kicked the Germans out of here as the enemy citizens (because of Hitler vs. Jews.) The Germans were sent to Australia and this colony turned into the main British colony. Once they left, it finally became an Israeli settlement.
Most of the Bauhaus buildings are more than 100 years old and some of them were invented in Europe because of the snow so they don’t collapse. They also have chimneys even though it doesn’t get that cold in here in winter but it was brought by the Germans who just copied their own architecture from home.
The houses also have cellars to keep fruits and veggies in cold weather. These houses are not typical in the area and had not been seen in the Middle East until 1930’s. To preserve these unique houses they were declared a UNESCO site as mentioned above. Today walking along the Rothschild Boulevard is considered walking in an open-air museum of architecture.
One of the most popular sights in Tel Aviv is a complex called Sarona – now with a market, wineries, and fancy shops. The reconstruction of the Sarona area has begun approx. 10 years ago and is becoming the new Tel Aviv. New 17 skyscraper are planned to be built here, with a huge underground parking that also serves as a bomb shelter. They expect 30,000 people to visit Sarona per day in the near future (tourists + locals coming here for work.) We see the skyscrapers now around, such as the IDF (Israel Defense Forces), PayPal, Checkpoint, Google Trend. Sarona is the most expensive real estate in the Middle East right now.
The German Templars built 2 wineries here with ventilation and a 70 m long tunnel. Now the wineries are famous fancy restaurants – Claro and Jajo Wine Bar. On the same street we can find posh shops such as Tommy Hilfiger. We can see a metal construction next to it which was the most classified place Israel had for decades. It was the Israeli Mossad intelligence headquarters with the main antena to broadcast the news from the spies.
The Adidas shop used to be the commnity centre of the German templars. Another house here is now a military facility but belonged to a German guy Hugo who hid 23 gold coins here before he was sent to Australia. In 2000 after 60 years when the reconstruction of the house began, Hugo sent them a letter speaking about the coins and then guided them via Skype to find the coins. What a fascinating story, right?
A couple of houses along the main street were moved 30 metres to make the roads wider. 10 million shekels were invested in each German house to preserve it which was the most expensive restoration in the area. The most important building of the German templars is now a fast food burger restaurant (with German and Arabic letters and original wood from Germany.) Behind the house we can see what used to be the first tennis court (now a square) and the first bowling alley in the Middle East (now it’s a beer garden.) The place is very popular for locals over the weekends.
Check out as well the so called Shell house close to the Carmel market. It was used as a slick with underground hidden weapons during the Israel indepedence from the British. Later on after the military service, the owner was a supervisor and loved collecting shells so made a house covered with shells. We can recognize a shell ship on the wall with illegal immigrants coming to Israel during the British Mandate who were stopped and returned back home or sent to Cyprus.
After all the delicious food I mentioned in the first points of this list, you might need to move your ass a lil bit! There’s many places for your exercise in Tel Aviv. You can workout at one of the parks (workout stations, yay!) or go jogging/cycling/roller skating/skateboarding along the beach promenade. And in case you don’t have time/energy or it’s too hot, you can always secretly observe others exercising with drops of sweat all over their hot bodies … Yum! It might make you to change your opinion and join them in the end ;)
11. Watch a sunset
On a clear or a bit cloudy day, Tel Aviv is more than an awesome sunset place. You can watch sunsets on the beach, in the Jaffa park, or in Tel Aviv port which is beautiful also at night after the Sun sets in the horizon. A picture is worth a thousand words.
12. Walk around
Exploring on foot is definitely one of my best ways. Even if you take a segway tour around Jaffa, I still recommend you to walk there. Check out the views, old buildings, the ruins, the Mosque, the Clock tower and the already mentioned flea market.
You can also stroll along the boulevards surrounded by trees observing the locals taking their dogs out and feel like in Barcelona. Or go for a walk around the beautiful Neve-Tzedek neighbourhood. I’ve heard that the Yarkon Park along the Yarkon river is another peaceful place for a walk.
13. Graffiti and art
Tel Aviv is quite famous for art, galleries and graffiti tours. The Museum of Art might be the main museum to visit where you should definitely have a look at the weirdest art I’ve probably EVER seen – by contemporary artist Uri Katzenstein who since 1985 developed his own language, played with sexuality images, made a musical instrument from used objects, etc. The Tel Aviv Museum of Art has 2 wings and the wing we visited built in the 70’s in the modernist (straight lines, easy colours) brutalist (rough exposed concrete) style. The second wing opened in 2011 (contemporary style with more colours.)
You can go on a graffiti tour with Rei Dishon from Israeli Artists but we mostly visited art galleries as the weather was beyond all bearing for walking outside any more. So we opted for quick visits in galleries with air con (and ice cream.) We visited the Benyamini Ceramics, the Rawart gallery and ArtSpace TLV.
14. The Peres Center for Peace
I had goosebumps during the whole conversation we had at the Peres Center for Peace which was founded by the former President Shimon Peres in 1996. Mr. Peres believes that peace and positive approach can be achieved not only through the Government but also through this non-profit organisation which focuses on improving the relationships between Israel and its neighbours. Since 2014 Peres, the 9th President of Israel and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, comes here to the office to work.
The center works with the Jewish and the other religions inside Israel (mostly the Arabs) and also with the Israeli and Palestinians. Two core values are focused on mostly – partnerships to establish trust, and also addressing a need. Different programmes are done, such as medicine and health care, education or business environment.
PS: We can find a really funny statue of Mr. Peres inside the center :)
Soon it will be possible for tourists to visit the Peres Center for Peace and learn more about the activities. If you have time/money please do help with your bit!
15. Startup companies
If you know some locals, there’s a chance they work for a startup company. We had a chance to briefly visit a couple of startups and let me tell you, I was shocked! My brain simply could not absorb all the tech things we saw there.
I highly recommend visiting the studio of Liat Segal, she is extremely intelligent and does awesome things at her Sweet Tech Studio.
Then we also had a look at the Xsites and their new Recasting.tv where you can become a sort of an actor. Film a scene and then insert it in one of the popular movies, such as Pulp Fiction. It looked way too cool, let me tell you!
We also briefly visited Sense – an Israeli startup company in the field of Edtech. The next big thing in education technology is MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses). MOOCs provide an opportunity to learn and potentially acquire a new profession to dozens of millions of people worldwide. Therein, however, lays the problem. These enormous, rapidly growing, numbers currently preclude the possibility of providing students with personalized feedback based on their answers to open ended assignments.
Sense is developing a patent-pending solution to overcome this obstacle. By translating students’ answers into pseudo-DNA sequences, Sense is able to use bioinformatics tools to compare students’ answers and cluster them accordingly into groups. Pilot studies in programming language courses reveal that even hundreds of students’ solutions can be clustered into less than 10 groups, enabling fast and easy examination and feedback.
The dozens of millions students taking MOOCs these days, often describe them as not much more than mere videotaped lectures. Indeed, in difficult courses, such as STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) courses, the dropout rates are very high sometimes reaching 90%. Sense’s aim is to revolutionize the booming field of online education by bringing into the game the opportunity of provide personalized feedback to students at a scalable level.
16. Pub crawl
I am not a party person and I personally do not drink alcohol at all since 2009 but many tourists do come to Tel Aviv to stroll on the Rothschild Boulevard to check out the night life. Ido, one of the Tel Aviv night life specialists took us around some bars. We visited the Moonshine – a 1920’s style cocktail bar with home-made liquor in different flavours which is used in cocktails. We could listen some jazz there.
Later we went to Buxa, a really nice gallery bar. The dark bar is decorated with hundreds of small sculpturers and graffiti that are lit with orange light. Very Unique! After that we went to Radio e.p.g.b. which is a favorite place of many locals in Tel Aviv. That place is really good for late nights and host some of the best DJ’s in the country (too loud for me but I am a weirdo when it comes to night life.)
Oh, and if you drink beer, then check out the Beer Bazaar where they sell different beer from Israel.
17. Bonus point: Experience a sand storm :)
We were ”lucky” enough to visit Tel Aviv during a sand storm which hit the city after 75 years. Although it caused change of some plans we had, it made the whole experience unforgettable! I always say that you need to enjoy every day as much as possible because it will never happen again. So now in the sand storm when we were not able to breathe properly and see the otherwise stunning views (such as the one from the Observatory) it made my saying even more true.
Experiencing these 17 things to do in Tel Aviv was possible mostly thanks to AllOver TLV. Our guide was Or Rein. You can contact Or via his email firstname.lastname@example.org. I highly recommend his services.
Alex is a crazy Slovak girl who made traveling the reason of her life. In March 2011 she quit her stewardess job and hasn't stopped ever since. Her motto is ''I live to travel, I travel to live.'' She writes about crazy travel, fun adventures and sexy photos.
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