Things to Do and See Near Tel Aviv
Once you’ve arrived in Tel Aviv, it’s easy to stay put - with its sandy beaches, endless independent cafes and hipster neighborhoods, many tourists never venture outside the city. But that’s a pity because there’s plenty to do just a short distance away from the White City. So if you’re looking for a few hours away from the hustle-bustle, here are a few suggestions.
Most tourists never venture to Ramle, and that’s a shame because it’s really worth a visit. Just half an hour south-east of Tel Aviv, this working-class city is ethnically diverse - Jews, Muslims and Christians co-exist comfortably (with the city’s 60,000 Jews coming from over 50 different countries, including Ethiopia, Argentina and India). Ramale also has a fair few attractions, including a bustling market, a beautiful church, an old tower and - wait for it - the chance to take an underground boat ride!
Yes, indeed. In the 1960s, in the midst of constructing a nearby highway interchange, workers stumbled upon Ramle’s Old City (dating back over 1000 years). And what they found was astonishing - colorful mosaics, ceramic jars (with inscriptions in Arabic) jewelry and gold bars and coins (which are on display today at the local museum).
Most impressive of all - arguably - were the deep cisterns and drainage canals. Today, a highlight of any tour of Ramle is a visit to the Pool of Arches, an outstanding example of Muslim architecture. Built in 789 CE by the Caliph of Baghdad, it was originally a large aqueduct, with an almost square basin. Today, you can take a gondola ride (well, a rowing boat!) through this underground lake, sailing past stone columns which hold up a beautifully- arched ceiling.
It is astonishing to think that this Pool or Arches has survived almost 1,200 years (in which time there was an enormous earthquake in Ramle, which destroyed much of the city).
Our tip: eat lunch at Maharaja, an authentic and cheap Indian eatery close to the market. You can also pick up spices and Indian sweets there.
Founded in 1996, this family-owned boutique winery in the heart of the Sharon region has won international awards for its cellars, and is a wonderful place to sample wines. Their guides are known for being friendly, engaging and knowledgeable and the winery itself is set in beautiful surroundings.
The tasting room itself has plenty of space and for 100 NIS you will receive a selection of wines, olives (marinated in their own olive oil), bread and cheese. Yoram Shalom, the charming proprietor, left his job as a photographer with Israeli television to open the vineyard and is often around to show visitors around and answer questions about the business.
This family regard wine-making as a labour of love and when you take a tour here you learn just as much about the people involved in the process as you do the wines themselves. Only 30 minutes drive from Tel Aviv, it’s a fantastic way to spend a few hours.
Derech Hefer 15, Beit Yitzhak-Sha'ar Hefer.
Design Museum, Holon
Opened in 2010, this intriguing museum is the first of its kind in Israel devoted exclusively to design. Dreamed up by the acclaimed architect, Ron Arad, the Holon Design Museum aims to act as an engaging experience both for children and adults, as well as those who have no background in the subject.
Divided into two spaces (the Design Lab and the Collection Windows) it showcases objects as diverse as chairs, eyeglasses, jewelry and a do-it-yourself sundial for the kids! The exterior of the museum is particularly striking - comprised of five sinuous bands of red Corten weathering steel, these ‘ribbons’’ both support the structure and give it a ‘flowing’ feel.
Ben Shemen Forest
An oasis of greenery in Israel’s center, this forest is only 30 minutes drive from Tel Aviv (about half-way to Jerusalem). Full of pine trees and cyclamen, it is the perfect place for a family day out, since it has picnic areas, bicycle trails, and beautiful scenic trails too. Around the forest are observation points, as well as areas of archaeological interest (eg. graves from the era of the Maccabees).
If you’re feeling ambitious, head off on the Anava Trail, 25 kilometers long (and circular) which passes the Monks Valley and gives you great look-out opportunities across the surrounding area. Moreover, if you visit on Friday or Shabbat, whilst it will be busy you’ll also have an opportunity to pick up food and drink first from one of the stalls at the main parking lot - freshly-baked laffas and some local beer are a great way to begin a hike!
Directions: From Highway 1, turn East at the Ben-Shemen Interchange to Maccabim and Re’ut (route 443).
Shefayim Water Park, Netanya
Shefayim Water Park is about a 30-40 minute drive north of Tel Aviv and the ideal place to bring the kids in Israel’s long hot summer months. It boasts 22 different slides, (including a slalom), a wave pool or tubing track. There is also a large pool and a separate pool for young children.
Shefayim has quite a few numbers of cafes and restaurants (moderately to expensively priced) but you are allowed to bring your own food and drink, so why not think about a picnic? Please note, however, that glass bottles are not allowed into the park. There’s plenty of shaded areas (and astroturf to sit on) as well as a paintball area, if you get tired of splashing around on the slides!
The park is open daily from May to October but it’s advisable to call ahead as occasionally it is booked out for private group events. Also, take into account that it’s a very popular attraction so it can get very crowded.
Our advice? Buy your tickets online, in advance, and arrive at least 30-45 minutes before the park opens. Then when you walk in, head straight to the large pool and grab a sunbed with an umbrella! Once that’s bagged, you’re set for the day.
Directions: Drive north towards Netanya on Highway 2 and exist at Kvish HaHof, ten minutes north of Herzilya.