After only one day in Tel Aviv, it ranked as one of my favourite cities in the world- top five even.
The coastal city is a place that’s hard to put into words- it’s ancient Middle Eastern history and culture, but mixed with a modern, progressive heartbeat- relaxed and fun-loving.
It’s easy to see why it’s quickly becoming a hot travel destination.
When I visited, I had three days in Israel- two of which I spent in Tel Aviv. On the other day, I took a day trip to Jerusalem and the Dead Sea. By contrast to Tel Aviv, Jerusalem is enough religious history is enough to leave anyone awestruck. Couple these two cities with an afternoon spent floating in the Dead Sea, gazing at Jordan in the distance, and I’m hard pressed to dream of a better holiday.
City, beach, history, nightlife, desert sun, delicious eats and excellent cocktails- Tel Aviv was everything I love about a holiday. I’m not sure when I’ll make it back there, but there’s no question it earned a place on my list of places to visit more than once.
What To Do
- Wander the city, there’s so much to see and explore
- Visit Jaffa, a city conjoined to Tel Aviv, is an ancient port city that feels like stepping back in time. Be sure to wander the old town- there are so many alleyways to get lost in and great views of the sea. It’s believed this is the area where Jonah left from the biblical story of Jonah and the whale
- Walk along the beach. Tel Aviv’s west side faces the Mediterranean Sea and has nine miles of beaches. You can even walk from Tel Aviv to Jaffa along the promenade. My hotel was a 5 minute walk from the beach, so I headed down there every morning to talk full advantage of sandy strolls
- Visit the shuks. One of my favourite things to do in any city is browse the local markets, and Tel Aviv has great ones. Known to locals as shucks, ShukHaCarmel is the most famous one and it’s been around for hundreds of years. Offering fresh food, spices, sweets, clothing, plants and housewares, it’s a bustling place. I did a tour of HaCarmel with Be Tel Aviv and LOVED it. As someone that travels with anaphylactic nut allergies, I’m always hesitant about trying new foods, and won’t eat anything if the ingredients can’t be fully identified and guaranteed to be nut free. As much as I love perusing markets, they’re not always the easiest places for me to eat. Cue: Be Tel Aviv, not only were the guides fantastic, regaling us with history of the market and the city, but they also had thorough exchanges with vendors to ensure food was safe for me. I tried so many things I never would have on my own and the tour ended up being one of my favourite parts of the trip. Nearby Carmel Market is Levinsky Market. I enjoyed this market as well, but it’s smaller in scale, and more so composed of shop fonts (think spices, nuts, olives, grains, beans)
- Take a day trip to the Dead Sea and/or Jerusalem. I opted for a guided tour because I was short on time, but a high speed railway connects Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, so it’s definitely feasible to visit on your own
Where to Have Coffee
Cofix: The go-to spot for cheap, but good coffee- it’s easy to see why Starbucks didn’t stand a chance in Israel. The one near Levinsky Market is spacious, and has awesome (strong) cold drip
Yom Tov Cafe: Near HaCarmel Market, the coffee is good, decor is cute, and breakfast bowls are lovely
Nahat Cafe: My favourite place for third-wave coffee in Tel Aviv- I even bought back a bag of beans to make my own cold brew at home
Amalia: Stumbled across this cafe looking for coffee before my Carmel Market tour. Cosy cafe with good iced lattes
Basma Coffee: Beautiful coffee shop in Jaffa
Where to Eat
Abu Hasson: The best hummus I’ve ever had, no competition. Served warm with herbs and spices on top, it’s nothing short of incredible
Puaa: A beautiful, vintage cafe in the heart of the Jaffa flea market- this was one of my favourite places in Tel Aviv. Come for breakfast, sit outside and watch the city wake up while sipping homemade lemonade
Citizen: Vegetarian food and detox juice heaven
HaKosem Falafel: Could not believe how great the falafel here was. Next level. So great, I came back twice
Night Kitchen: The beetroot and artichoke salads were delicious
- Bucke Cafe: Healthy, colourful food. Lots of vegetarian options
Abraxas North: Quickly established as one of Tel Aviv’s go-to hot spots, Chef Eyal Shani’s food is fantastic. Don’t miss the cauliflower and artichoke
La Shuk: This places deserves two thumbs up, one for being near my hotel and two for having some of Tel Aviv’s best Mediterranean tapas
Where to Drink
- Levinsky 41 Cafe: Order a kombucha and then revel in delight when you see it comes with a flower and herb bouquet, and a bunch of fresh fruit
- Shaffa Bar: Sip on homemade lemonade with mint and spice syrup while people watching at one of the street tables
- Jusa: Cold pressed juices
Imperial Craft Cocktail Bar: On my never ending hunt to visit the world’s best bars, I knew I had to stop at this place after seeing it rank on the 2017 list. Hidden behind an unassuming hotel lobby, the bartenders seriously know their stuff
Bell-Boy: A prohibition style bar with fun delicious cocktails. Had two drinks here, each was excellent. And, as a fun touch, they serve shots of the house punch from oyster shells
Mabrouk + Denim: Fun, lively bars with good late night specials. I stopped by both post Bell-Boy on my way to falafel, and genuinely enjoyed sipping wine and chatting up a few locals. Sidewalk drinking culture is a thing in Tel Aviv, and I’m definitely here for it
- Breakfast Club: I didn’t go, but this place came recommended from a few friends as part of Tel Aviv’s club scene for its techno and deep house
Extra Travel Tips
- Language: Hebrew, Arabic and English. Everyone I encountered spoke great English
- Currency: Israeli New Shekel. I withdrew some Shekels to have in case anything was cash only, but pleased to find most places accepted contactless payment
- Getting There: I flew into Tel Aviv from Bucharest (was previously there for a conference), and then returned to London. From London, the flight deals are too good to pass up- usually less than £200 return
- Getting Around: Walk. For super long distances (e.g. Jaffa to Dizengoff Square where my hotel was located, I walked one way and Uber’d back to save time)
- When to Visit: I visited in early October, and had sunny, warm days. Generally, I’ve heard March-April and September – November are best, usually cooler and less crowded
- Tipping: Waitstaff and bartenders expect 10-15%
- Wifi Access: Every cafe, restaurant, bar and coffee shop offers wifi, just ask for the password. I didn’t have service- I relied on wifi to get around and had no issues
Have you ever been to Tel Aviv? Is it on your list of places to venture to one day?