Essential Jaffa: Top 11 Things To Do In Jaffa, Tel Aviv
There are certain places in Israel that no one should miss on a visit- and one of them is Jaffa. Picturesque, mysterious and timeless, this ancient port, at the southern tip of Tel Aviv, offers visitors the chance to step back in time. One of the most ancient ports in the world (who doesn’t remember the Biblical story of Jonah and the whale?), and with views of the Mediterranean that will have you reaching for your iPhone, it has a charm all of its own.
Old Jaffa, full of winding streets, charming old buildings, and ancient historical sites, offers the visitor a bit of everything- a famous Flea Market, charming artists' galleries winding narrow streets, quirky coffee shops, and small boutiques, excellent restaurants and the port, where you can stroll by the blue-green sea, watching local fishermen reel in their catches and listen to locals playing the oud and the guitar,
Easily reached from Tel Aviv by bus, bicycle, or on foot, along the promenade or beaches themselves, here are eleven things we think you shouldn’t miss if you’re in this charming neighborhood.
1. The Jaffa Flea Market (Shuk haPishpeshim)
For anyone who loves poking around in junk stores, searching for unusual items, or just wants a good bargain, the Jaffa Flea Market can’t be missed. From jewelry and vintage clothing to Oriental carpets and furniture, be prepared to patiently wander the stalls and haggle like mad (it’s expected!).
The Jaffa Flea Market is a lovely spot you shouldn't miss!
As well as the chance to bag a bargain, the area’s teaming with coffee shops, restaurants, and small, independent stores, selling all kinds of charming items. if you want to make more of your visit, just take a Jaffa Flea Market walking tour and discover the area's amazing history. if you want to know more about the area’s history.
Stallholders set up before 7 am, and if you want your pick of the best items, turn up early!
2. The Jaffa Theatre
Located in the Old Saraya House, this multilingual theatre offers performances both in Hebrew and Arabic, and two companies inhabit it, working side by side.
The Jaffa Theater (Image source: The official Jaffa Theater website)
Described as a creative partnership between two peoples, and two cultures, the Jaffa Theatre is known for promoting coexistence between Jews and Arabs in the area. Try and catch a performance of ‘The Wandering Israeli’ (in English) on certain Mondays- it’s well worth it.
3. House of Simon the Tanner
Next to the old lighthouse, this ordinary-looking building was once the house of Simon the Tanner.
House of Simon the Tanner (Image source: Yoshi Canopus CC BY-SA 4.0)
According to Christian tradition, this is where St. Peter accepted hospitality from Simon, at that time a religious outcast, and it was here that God came to Peter in a dream. The House of Simon the Tanner is private property and you cannot go inside but there is an inscription above the door.
4. St. Peter's Church
The most distinctive building in Old Jaffa, and one with a fascinating history, the Franciscan St. Peter’s Church has served as a Christian meeting place for thousands of years. Built in 1654, over Jaffa’s mediaeval citadel, it’s dedicated to St. Peter, one of Jesus’ disciples, and known for raising a local woman- Tabitha- from the dead.
St. Peter's Church in Jaffa
Inside, its architecture might well remind you of European cathedrals- stained glass, high-vaulted ceilings, and marble walls- and the four panels represent different parts of St, Peter’s life. Because it’s built at such a high point in Jaffa, the views across the Mediterranean are simply wonderful.
5. The Clock Tower
It’s almost impossible to miss the Clock Tower - a Jaffa icon, it stands in the center of Yefet Street and dates back to Ottoman times. Erected in 1901 in Jaffa’s Town Square, it was built out of limestone (quarried from the nearby Zakaria's Cave) and features two clocks, telling the time both in Israel and in Europe.
The Jaffa Clock Tower
Fun fact: according to local legend, the clock tower was built because of an initiative of Yossef Moiaia, a wealthy local Jew who became tired of local passers-by entering his shop to ask him the time!
6. Jaffa Port
The Jaffa port is one of the oldest in the world and has a rich and strategic history. After the establishment of the State of Israel, it fell into disrepair but in the last decade, its renovation has made it one of the most popular places in the area for a visit.
The Old Jaffa Port
Wander the boardwalk and watch locals fishing, check out the art exhibitions in the hangars, enjoy a drink as you watch small private vessels sailing out to sea (you can even take a boat tour yourself), or enjoy lunch at one of the many excellent restaurants there (it’s got to be fish and chips!)
7. The Ilana Goor Museum
Housed in a beautiful 18th-century building, this unique spot (both a museum and the private home of the artist herself, boasts over 500 artworks, not just of Ilana Goor but Israelis and international creative types. These include jewelry, sculptures, tiny statues, fashion objects, furniture, and pottery.
The Ilaa Goor Museum (Image source: The official Ilana Goor Museum website)
The Ilana Goor Museum house itself offers fabulous views over the Mediterranean and is packed full of collections and memorabilia. There are quite a lot of steps to climb up but it is worth it 0- and don’t miss the rooftop sculpture garden.
8. Jaffa’s Art Galleries
The area is full of art galleries that you shouldn't miss and many can be stumbled upon as you wander the narrow, winding streets of the Jaffa Artist's Quarter. Here you’ll find all manner of local creative types, and they’re the perfect place to browse for a special piece for your home, or indeed a gift if you’re looking for souvenirs from Israel.
Don't miss the local art scene!
Har-El (fine art; contemporary). Farkash (home to vintage Israeli posters), Adina Plastelina (handmade jewelry) Itay Noy (run by a very gifted watchmaker), and the Sind Studio (beautiful ceramics) are all worth a visit, but our advice is just to wander around and step inside spaces you find intriguing. If you plan on taking a Jaffa private tour, make sure your guide knows you like art, and they'll make sure you'll get your fill.
9. The Wishing Bridge
Overlooking the Mediterranean, connecting Jaffa’s Abrasha Park with Kedumim Square you’ll find the wooden Wishing Bridge. Decorated with twelve bronze zodiac signs (and if you wander the streets, you’ll see a continuation of this astrological theme, in street names and signs) it’s a popular place to walk over.
The Wishing Bridge
The local legend surrounding the bridge seems to be that if you gaze at the sea, whilst holding your astrological sign, and make a wish, it will come true! It’s a pretty spot to visit, and whilst you’re there you can also visit the nearby ‘Gate of Faith’ statue by Daniel Kafri. Made of Galilee stone, it depicts three important Biblical stories concerning God and the Jewish people- the binding of Isaac, Jacob’s ladder, and the Battle of Jericho.
10. Dr. Shakshuka
No trip to Jaffa would be complete without a visit to the legendary Dr Shakshuka restaurant (which was featured on the Netflix series ‘Somebody Feed Phil’). Shakshuka is a very popular Israeli food, hailing from North Africa- consisting of eggs baked in a spicy tomato sauce, with a few spices thrown in for good measure.
The Shakshuka is epic!
Whilst it’s traditionally a breakfast dish, it can be eaten at any time of the day and Dr, Shakshuka serves it in all different ways- with mushrooms, with spinach, and even with shawarma. Wash it down with some of their cold lemonade and you’ll be fuelled up for plenty more strolling.
11. The Uri Geller Museum
Finally, for all those fascinated by the psychics, illusionists, and magicians, head over to the Uri Geller Museum. Geller, who is best known for his spoon-bending powers, and had a TV show for years, moved back to Israel from the UK some years ago and decided to open a museum displaying objects associated with his career.
The Uri Geller Museum in Jaffa (Image source: The Official Uri Geller Museum website)
Visitors can book an organized tour which is led by the man himself and as you walk around you'll see plenty of memorabilia (including his famous Cadillac car, covered in thousands of bent spoons) and hear lots of entertaining stories about Mr. Geller’s career (he met Elvia Presley and Prime Minister Golda Meir!) Great fun and very entertaining.
If you want to see more of Jaffa and you're short on time, just take a Jaffa walking tour. and if you want to discover some culinary delights, interesting street art, and beautiful architecture - join this Tel Aviv walking tour.