The Ideal Vacation in Tel Aviv
We take vacations not just because we have free time, but to escape the daily grind and change our reality. We all have dreams about what our ideal trip might be and what we’ll do there to make it an amazing experience. Of course, so much depends on the place you’re going to and the fact is that few people don’t enjoy a vacation in Tel Aviv. With its non-stop vibe, stunning Bauhaus architecture, cosy, independent coffee houses, friendly locals and kilometres of sandy white beaches, it’s hard not to fall in love with this city.
Panoramic view of Tel-Aviv Beach. Photo credit: © Shutterstock
The Huffington Post once hilariously remarked, “New York and Ibiza had a sexy baby and they called it Tel Aviv”. But they hit the nail right on the head. This is a city with atmosphere, charm, style, and buzz. A city for those in love and a city for those who want to fall in love. Come to Tel Aviv and see for yourself - step outside your comfort zone, meet the locals, and create memories of this Mediterranean city that you’ll never forget. Here are a few pointers, in the meantime.
Romance or Relaxation?
Tel Aviv is a paradise for lovebirds - stylish boutique hotels, world-class eateries, cocktail bars galore, and fabulous Mediterranean sunsets. Stroll the streets of charming Neve Tzedek, wander through the historic Jaffa, take a paddleboat down the river in Yarkon Park, or just head to the seashore. Each Tel Aviv beach has its own vibe - whether for surfers, drummers, the LBGT crowd, or the volleyball aficionados. Grab yourself a sunbed and umbrella, slop on some protection then lie back and count the shades of blue in the sea, whilst your sweetie lies beside you. Few things can be better.
And fear not, if you’re alone (or at least not ‘loved up’) Tel Aviv still has plenty of charm for friends or solo travelers. With its endless streets cafes, lively promenade (with dedicated bike lanes, making for a perfect cycling outing or a Tel Aviv bike tour), and two port areas - the Namal and Jaffa port, it’s easy to while away the daylight hours strolling around, stopping for a light bite, cold lemonade or a cleverly-designed cocktail.
Young woman walking on the beach in Tel-Aviv, Israel. Photo credit: © Shutterstock
From Street Eats to Elegant Dining
Once the sun goes down, Tel Aviv really comes into its own with dining options. For those who keep kosher (i.e abide by the Jewish dietary laws), you’ll find plenty of options - from pizzerias to steakhouses, you won’t go hungry. The basic premises of ‘kosher’ means not mixing milk and meat products so if you’re curious to eat in one of these Tel Aviv kosher restaurants, you’ll need to choose first whether you’re in the mood for some creamy cheeses and milky desserts, or a schnitzel, steak or shawarma!
As for vegetarians and vegans - well, Tel Aviv is a veritable paradise. The city is a world capital when it comes to plant-based eateries, drawing on its reputation for Mediterranean cuisine - for starters think olives, green vegetables, juicy fruits, hummus, falafel, sabich, tahini, and potato bourekas!
If you’re on a budget, stop at Ha Kosem (which, in Hebrew means ‘The Magician’) - it’s one of the best falafel joints in the city, and the recipe for their chickpea ball creations is a closely guarded secret! For elegant vegan cuisine in Tel Aviv, try Meshek Barzilay in Neve Tzedek - creative plates combined with boho chic make for a memorable meal.
Flowering magnolia tree in Jaffa. Photo credit: © Shutterstock
Tel Aviv Street Tours - Eating Like a Local
Whether you’re traveling as a part of a couple, wandering the city with a friend, or venturing out alone, if you’re a foodie then there’s no better way to see Tel Aviv than with a local guide, who can give you a whole new perspective on what’s good to eat. Join a Tel Aviv street food tour if you need guidance.
One of the most popular spots in the city is the Carmel Market - selling everything under the sun (from lemonade, pomegranates, and exotic spices to Shabbat tablecloths, toys, and souvenirs, a new and popular activity for foodies is to take a culinary tour. One tour we’d recommend is with Tal Goring, of ‘Loca Local’.
Not only will she take you around the market, explaining its history and introducing you to the stall-owners, she’ll then help you buy produce from them. After this, you’ll stroll back to her house, have some mint tea, and then be taught how to prepare a few local dishes. Once cooked, you’ll all sit at her table and enjoy the fruits of your hard work. You’ll meet some new friends too, all fellow foodies! It doesn’t get more authentic than this.
If you’re not a fan of cooking, then why not take Carmel Market Food Tour? You’ll indulge in all kinds of local treats - from Yemenite bread and a variety of hummus spreads to purple olives, local cheese, and fine wines. Don’t fill up too fast either - the baked goods and sweet treats are to die for.
Carmel Market Fruit stalls. Photo credit: © Dmitry Mishin
Have an Adventure
Part of the allure of a vacation is the chance to get out of your comfort zone so why not have an adventure and explore one of Tel Aviv’s diverse neighborhoods on your own? The streets are safe, almost everyone speaks English and we guarantee that the locals will be delighted to meet you - your average ‘Tel Avivi’ is notoriously friendly.
Sarona - once home to German Templars, in Ottoman Palestine, Sarona boasts a covered market that’s a foodie’s paradise, and the architecture isn’t bad either!
- Florentin - hip and happening, this is the best place in the city to take a street art tour and see why Tel Aviv’s a rising star in this field. Florentin is named for Solomon Florentin, who owned this land in the late 1920s.
- Neve Tzedek - one of the city’s most charming neighborhoods, and full of tiny, winding streets, it's hard not to fall in love with this place. Literally, the name of the neighborhood means Abode of Justice, it is also one of the names for God.
- The Namal - Tel Aviv Port, known in short as the Namal, is one of the most popular attractions in Tel Aviv with 4.3 million visitors annually. It has a boardwalk and a lively food market.
- Jaffa - with its winding alleys, picturesque galleries, charming flea market, and ancient buildings, this is a must-visit attraction when you’re on vacation. Wander at leisure, or take a Jaffa Flea Market Tour
- Rothschild Boulevard - this elegant and stylish boulevard is home to a number of extraordinary beautiful 1930s and 1940s buildings, renovated and remarkable. Take a classic Bauhaus tour and find out just why Tel Aviv’s known as the White City.
Classical Bauhaus Architecture, in Tel Aviv, Israel. Photo credit: © Shutterstock
Out on the Town
Tel Aviv’s got a well-deserved reputation for bars and clubs, and the mixology that’s going on is quite impressive too. Cocktail bars that you have to try include ‘Spicehaus’ (where drinks are served up in chemistry beakers), the Imperial (upscale and plush, with Asian-inspired bar bites), ‘Bellyboy’ with its outlandish and innovative drinks menu, and the classy ‘Library Bar’ at the Norman Hotel (which, arguably, serves the best martini in Tel Aviv).
Jaffa and Florentin, in particular, are hotspots for nightlife and, in case you didn’t know, Tel Aviv has some fabulous bars and nightclubs. Florentin is a particularly young and trendy neighborhood, where a lot of 20-somethings live and when the sun comes down, it really starts to get lively. You can party to your heart’s content here until the wee small hours; indeed, some Tel Avivis go to ‘morning raves’ at the end of a party night out. Just remember, the real nightlife doesn’t get going here until about 2 am. Our tip: have a power nap before you head out!
DJ in one of Tel Aviv clubs. Photo credit: © Shutterstock
If you want to understand more about the vibe of Tel Aviv, there’s plenty you can read about (via the internet, or with books). We recommend:
- Tel Aviv Noir’ by Etgar Keret & Assaf Gavron - 14 extremely readable stories, giving you the chance to see a more ‘hidden’ side of the city.
- ‘When I Lived in Modern Times’ by Linda Grant - the story of a young girl arriving in Palestine as a state struggles to be born.
- ‘Rhyming Life and Death’ by Amos Oz - the evocative story of an author who, bored with his fame, has traveled to Tel Aviv to promote his latest book.
- ‘The Way to the Cats’ by Yehoshua Kenaz - a story of aging and uncertainty, which is a delightful read.
Neve Tzedek, Tel Aviv. Photo credit: © Dmitry Mishin
Culture and History
Whether you’re staying a couple of days or a couple of weeks, it’s always useful to figure out your itinerary and decide what your ‘must visit’ and ‘must do’ activities should include. Tel Aviv’s not just about beaches and food joints - it’s also the perfect place for a cultural odyssey, in the form of museums, galleries, and performance venues.
When it comes to museums, you can take your pick! The Tel Aviv Museum of Modern Art houses impressive permanent and temporary exhibitions, Nahum Gutman’s house in Neve Tzedek showcases his paintings, the Steinhardt Museum is full of treasures of nature, the Ilana Goor Museum (Goor was self-taught and never studied art) is full of beautiful sculptures and the Rabin Centre gives you a little history into the life of Israel’s famous Prime Minister, who was tragically assassinated in 1995.
If it’s a performance that you’re hankering after, then check out one of Tel Aviv’s numerous music and dance venues - Yarkon Park and the Nokia and Bloomfield Stadiums and the Zappa Club host live music and have hosted the great and the good, including Madonna, Ringo Starr, and the Rolling Stones. For classical music, take in a performance at the Mann Auditorium by the Israeli Philharmonic or some opera at the Cameri Theatre.
Theatre lovers won’t be disappointed at productions hosted by the Gesher troupe (who marry Russian classics with contemporary Israeli playwrights) or even some Yiddish theatre. And when it comes to dancing, you should not miss a performance of the famous Batsheva troupe, whose home is the beautiful Suzanne Dellal Centre in Neve Tzedek.
You should also leave enough free time to wander around some places of historical interest unless you want to book a private Tel Aviv tour Israel’s Hall of Independence, on Rothschild Boulevard, is where David Ben Gurion proclaimed the famous Declaration of Independence in 1948. The Palmach Museum lets you experience the gripping story of the years leading up to the creation of Israel, by following a group of friends on their journey.
And the Diaspora Museum is a must for anyone fascinated by the history of the Jews, spanning over two thousand years, from the time of Abraham to the modern-day state. A trip to any of these places will really give you a sense of modern-day Israel and help you understand the history of this fascinating country a little better.
Minaret of a Sea Mosque in the Old City of Jaffa, Israel. Photo credit: © Dmitry Mishin
Relax and Kick Back
It’s often been said that Tel Aviv’s the kind of city that tends to grow on visitors...at first glance, it seems noisy, crowded, and a bit chaotic, leaving you wondering if you should head for the hills! But as you get to know it, its charm and flair tend to seep inside you...leaving you craving just one more day on its streets. Of course, many people who visit the City that Never Sleeps don’t have too much time to stand still, so here are a few tips on how to get the most out of 2 days in Tel Aviv.
Finally, whether you’re having a romantic break, exploring with friends, or spending some quality time with yourself, the most important thing is to relax and have a great time. The weather is so good for much of the year that you can walk everywhere (or be adventurous, and hire a City Bike or electric scooter). Soak up the atmosphere, grab an iced coffee or some mint tea, and hit those streets. Decide on one of various Tel Aviv day tours. After your obligatory falafel, stroll on the promenade and chillout time, gaze at a glorious sunset over the Mediterranean, take a breath and remind yourself that you’re on vacation - and you deserve to be enjoying it.
Tourist on the beach, Tel Aviv. Photo credit: © Dmitry Mishin