Field Tested: 11 Best Museums in Tel Aviv
Tel Aviv is a popular tourist destination for many reasons- white, sandy beaches, quirky cafes, and legendary nightlife. It’s also a fantastic place to cycle and enjoy markets and vintage stores. And there are so many good restaurants in Tel Aviv that it’s a foodie paradise. But what many people don’t know is that it’s also a city that offers tourists plenty of culture.
There are all kinds of museums in Tel Aviv- from large institutions to small out-of-the-way spots that are definitely worth exploring when you’re visiting the Holy Land. From art to design and history to magic, you could spend your entire break here improving your mind!
So, culture vultures, the only question now is which one should you hit first?
1. Tel Aviv Museum of Art, central Tel Aviv
The Tel Aviv Art Museum boasts an enormous collection of both classical and contemporary art, showcasing works not just by artists in Israel but across the world. Spread over five floors, dive into German expressionism, surrealism, and Impressionism (and a lot more). Don’t miss works by Chagall and Van Gogh, and pieces by world-renowned artists such as Nahum Gutman and Menashe Kadishman.
One of the Museum's exhibitions; see the variety!
There’s also a lovely sculpture garden outside and afterward, why not take a stroll on nearby Rothschild Boulevard, one of the city’s most picturesque streets, which is full of renovated Bauhaus buildings and charming eateries?
2. Eretz Israel Museum, north Tel Aviv
The Eretz Israel Museum (Museum of the Land of Israel’) is located close to Park Hayarkon in Ramat Aviv and is a part of Tel Aviv University. Essentially, it's an archaeological and historical museum where each of its pavilions is dedicated to a different field but it’s a lot more than just ‘history’.
Eretz Israel Museum. Photo credit: Dmitry Mishin
There’s a wide array of coins, glass, stamps, and antiquities on display, alongside photographic displays (recent exhibits include ‘Local Nature, World Nature’ and ‘Photo Watchmaker: Israel Olstein’). It recently hosted the Tel Aviv Biennale of Craft and Design 2023 and on the grounds outside you’ll find ancient mosaics, a flour mill, and a reconstructed olive press! Oh, and the kids will love the planetarium!
3. Palmach Museum, north Tel Aviv
On the same street as Eretz Israel (above) is the Palmach Museum, telling the story of the underground defense organization named the Palmach - one of the forces that fought in favor of the founding of the State of Israel in 1948. Offering both children and adults an interactive and immersive experience, it’s a great way to learn more about Israeli history.
Visitors in the Palmach Museum's exhibition (Image source: The Official Palmach Museum website)
Using visual and audio tools, inside the Palmach Museum you’ll take a journey with some of its members, and learn about their personal stories, and exceptional bravery. Less of a traditional museum and more of a tour through rooms containing films and panorama, it brings this critical period of Israel’s past to life with very human tales.
4. Ilana Goor Museum, Jaffa
Set in the beautiful and historic city of Jaffa, the Ilana Goor Museum was established in 1995 and features works not just by Ms. Goor herself but also by prominent Israeli and international artists. Home to close to 500 works, its paintings, drawings, furniture, jewelry, statues, sculptures, and fashion accessories are a delight to behold - and the view of the Mediterranean from its roof is unparalleled!
The Ilana Goor Museum (Image source: The Official Ilana Goor Museum Website)
Even better, the museum is housed inside a stone building that dates back to 1742 and is the home of Ilana Goor (visitors often bump into her whilst wandering its rooms). After you’ve visited, why not take a walking tour of Jaffa - through charming cobbled streets, the beautiful Artists Quarter, the famous Jaffa flea market (the ‘Shuk Hapishpeshim’), and the ancient harbor?
5. Rubin Museum, downtown Tel Aviv
In the heart of Tel Aviv, close to the Carmel Market, lies the Rubin Museum, showcasing the artworks of the Israeli artist Reuben Rivlin. Born in Romania to a poor orthodox Jewish family, Ruben studied in Paris before emigrating to British Mandate Palestine in 1923 and became an accomplished painter, in the ‘Eretz Israel’ style, drawing on biblical themes and Holy Land landscapes.
One of Rubin's wonderful artworks (Image source: The Official Rubin Museum website)
The Rubin Museum, on Bialik Street, is the house where he both lived and painted and houses a large number of his paintings (including ‘Jerusalem Views’, ‘Early Tel Aviv’, and ‘local landscapes’) as well as guest exhibits by Israeli artists. Reuben’s studio is preserved, so you get a sense of the man himself, and there’s also a children’s workshop that operates in the basement.
6. ANU - Museum of the Jewish People, north Tel Aviv
ANU- also known as the Museum of the Jewish People - is a museum that does exactly what it says- tells the extraordinary, unique, and ongoing story of the Jewish people. Located close to Tel Aviv University, it’s undergone major renovations and is a must-visit for anyone who wants to understand the culture, history, and theology of Jews around the world.
The ANU Museum
ANU boasts interactive and photographic exhibits, ‘Jewish heroes’ (designed especially for younger children), stories of Jewish identity and culture, historical artifacts, stories on the influence of the Bible, and even a section entitled ‘Jewish Humor’ (after all, there are an awful lot of Jewish comedians around!) Don’t miss this museum and put aside a few hours because it has a lot to offer.
7. Ben Gurion House, downtown Tel Aviv
Located on (you guessed it) Ben Gurion Street, in the heart of Tel Aviv, and just a block from the beach, this tiny house packs a big punch for anyone interested in the history of the State of Israel. After all, David Ben Gurion was the nation’s first Prime Minister - it was he who read out the Declaration of Independence on May 14th, 1948, and, for many Israelis, is still regarded as a great hero and ‘father’ of the nation.
The Ben Gurion House Museum in Tel Aviv (Image source: The Official Ben Gurion House website)
It’s a small house but has been preserved entirely, so you can see just where he lived. A brilliant yet humble politician, this man was also a scholar and intellectual - all over Ben Gurion's house you’ll see thousands of books in different languages. Wandering the house, you get a personal insight into the man himself - you can even see his small bedroom (from where he conducted the Suez Campaign in 1956, whilst he was sick from flu). It’s free to enter and doesn’t take long to see but is recommended.
8. The Yitzhak Rabin Center, north Tel Aviv
A great military leader, leader of Israel’s Labour Party, and co-signatory of the original Oslo Accords, the legendary political Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated in November 1995, by a Jewish extremist in an act that shook Israeli society to its core. Over one in five citizens queued for hours to file past his coffin and on the day of his funeral, millions were left in tears as President Clinton and Rabin’s granddaughter gave eloquent and moving eulogies.
The entrance to the Rabin Center, Tel Aviv (Image source: The Official Rabin Center website)
The Rabin Centre was set up to remember his legacy and is an excellent way to learn about not just Rabin himself but the history surrounding the War of Independence and the tumultuous years that followed the creation of Israel. As you walk through the exhibit, on one side you follow Rabin’s life while, simultaneously, on the other, you see events unfollowing in Mandate Palestine and Israel. Very well laid-out, and thoughtfully presented, it’s worth a visit.
9. Design Museum Holon
A quick 20-minute cab or bus ride from Tel Aviv will take you to Holon, a typical Israeli city that most tourists will never see. However, the fact that it’s home to the Design Museum means that since 2016, when it opened, more and more people have been making the journey there, and few leave disappointed.
The Design Museum in Holon
You could visit here just for the design of the building itself- this Ron Arad creation can be seen from a distance, with its sinuous steel ribbons in burnt orange providing the perfect Israeli Instagram opportunity. Inside, there are all kinds of exhibitions that change regularly, all devoted to contemporary design around the world, including students in design schools around Israel.
10. The Blind Museum Holon
Ever wondered how you'd manage in the world if you were deprived of your sight? At the Blind Museum in Holon (also known as the Children’s Museum) you’ll find out just how. For about one hour, you’ll enter a series of pitch-black rooms which your eyes can’t adjust to a blind guide will lead you through, and you’ll begin to understand just how challenging it can be to live without sight.
Try the unique experience of the Blind exhibition!
This is an extremely popular museum, so you need to book way in advance, but it’s well worth the visit - at its conclusion, you can talk with your guide and ask questions. It’s a very humbling experience, teaches you never to take your sight for granted, and a trip you won’t forget in a hurry.
11. Uri Geller Museum, Jaffa
Finally, for those who like a little magic dust sprinkled into their daily lives, there’s the Uri Geller Museum and because it’s overseen by the man himself, we couldn’t leave it off the list. The Israeli illusionist, psychic, and magician, who shot to fame on TV around the world due to his miraculous ‘spoon bending’ powers, now leads guided tours (by appointment only) around the museum, which is located in a beautiful stone building next to the Jaffa port, overlooking the Mediterranean.
The Uri Geller Museum in Jaffa (Image source: The Official Uri Geller Museum website)
Inside, you’ll be able to enjoy an array of artifacts from his career, including the famous ‘Peace Cadillac’ covered in two thousand bent spoons (many of which belonged to notable figures) and all kinds of other objects associated with his long career. Uri himself is said to be a great storyteller and good at captivating his audience with tales of his amazing life. Highly recommended!
Whether you’re visiting Israel for the first time, or returning because you loved your last trip so much, check out our blog - which is full of tips and stories about life in Israel. Also, consider taking one of our Tel Aviv guided tours, where you can explore street food markets, learn about local graffiti artists, and stare at elegant Bauhaus buildings in the historic part of the city. Don’t hesitate to contact us by email or phone- we’re here to help you get the most out of your stay!