Written by Bradt Travel Guides
Israels’s fun-loving beachside city has modern architecture, eclectic restaurants and a buzzing nightlife © The World in HDR, Shutterstock
Tel Aviv is the economic, financial and commercial heart of Israel. Where Jerusalem is proud of its biblical history and devout religiousness, Tel Aviv’s pride is found in the opposites. This colourfully loud and flamboyant city has an almost hedonistic atmosphere, where the main concerns are what to wear, where to be seen and where to party. A trip to Israel would most certainly be a biased one without a stop in this, the most Israeli of Israel’s cities – and with direct low-cost lfights from London, it’s never been easier to visit. Here’s how to make the most of a weekend in the city.
Rabin Square is great for people-watching but during events it is the centre of activity in the city © חן-חייק, Wikimedia Commons
After breakfast make your way to the headline-making Rabin Square. Few people around the world will have escaped seeing the city’s largest square on the news at some time in its 40-year history as this is where celebrations, festivals, rallies, protests and exhibitions are held. While there isn’t an awful lot to see when there isn’t an event taking place, the square can nonetheless be a good people-watching spot, where people come out to play frisbee, walk their designer dogs or just sit and chat.
The Azrieli Centre is one of the city’s most recognisable landmarks © Dana Friedlander, IMOT
Next head to the Azrieli Centre. Constructed in the late 1990s, the complex of Azrieli buildings quickly became one of Tel Aviv’s most recognisable landmarks. The round, square and triangular structures are home to not only one of the Middle East’s biggest business centres but also one of the city’s key attractions: the Azrieli Observatory. Head to the top for the best view of the city and a chance to get your bearings.
The museum was also the spot where the declaration of independence was signed © Dana Friedlander, IMOT
For a dose of culture, the Tel Aviv Museum of Art has a world-class collection that’s impressive to even the most novice art enthusiast. Its permanent exhibitions proudly display pieces by Picasso, Monet, Renoir and Cézanne, to name but a few. Standing as one of the world’s foremost art museums, it is the pièce de resistance of Israel’s art scene and an integral part of the country’s cultural heritage.
Tel Aviv is home to the world’s largest collection of Bauhaus buildings © Dana Friedlander, IMOT
As you wander the city itself, look out for examples of the 2,000 Bauhaus buildings found here. In 2003, Tel Aviv was awarded UNESCO World Heritage status because of its abundance of buildings built in this architectural style. While these can be found dotted all over the city centre, there are well-preserved concentrations along the length of Rothschild Boulevard, Dizengoff Square, Bialik Street and Kalisher Street.
Israeli fast food is healthy, widely available and extremely cheap © Dana Friedlander, IMOT
If you’re feeling hungry make a pitstop for some of the world’s finest fast food at one of the hundreds of hummus and falafel eateries around the city. Tel Aviv is teeming with small restaurants and kiosks selling freshly cooked falafel, pitta, hummus, salads, shawarma and sabich which are a cheap, filling and delicious way to enjoy some traditional food.
Visitors can go boating or canoeing on the lake or join in with a local game of football © Ted Eytan, Wikimedia Commons
Relax in the afternoon at Tel Aviv’s biggest park, Hayarkon. Spreading out from the Yarkon River that pours into the Mediterranean at the northern end of the city, the park, in addition to the river, features a manmade lake and landscaped grounds. It is a lovely place to go and escape the urban buzz, especially in the warmer months, but be warned – half of Tel Aviv will also have the same idea.
Tel Aviv is easily the best city in Israel for nightlife © Dana Friedlander, IMOT
A good spot to spend the afternoon, evening and even late into the night to sample the city’s famous nightlife is the Old Port. Long since closed to sea traffic, the area has been remodelled into a hub of recreation, good food, nightclubs and wooden promenades. During the daytime the port is a pleasant place to come for a stroll, light lunch or relaxing afternoon in one of the countless cafés and at night, the area really comes into its own, with more bars and clubs than you can shake a cocktail stick at – just don’t get there too early, clubs don’t usually get going until at least 01.00.
Wide and sandy, clean and relaxed, the beaches of Tel Aviv are wonderful © Igor Rogkow, Dreamstime
The next day make for the Tayelet (promenade) that runs the length of Tel Aviv’s stunning coastline. The wide, paved pedestrian walkway is one of the best spots in the country to witness the true cross-section of Israeli culture. Go for a stroll, then pick your beach. With such a wide variety, there’s something for everyone here – head to Hilton Beach for the best surfing, Gordon for the quintessential Tel Avivan people-watching experience or Dolphinarium to mingle with the hippy, artsy set and listen to live music.
Just a few kilometres apart, Tel Aviv and Jaffa are world’s apart © JekLi, Shutterstock
After lunch, take a taxi or bus to historical Jaffa to wander its Old Town streets, shop for souvenirs like Roman glass or Jewish Yemenite jewellery, then dine on fresh seafood at one of its coastal port restaurants. Start at its Clock Tower Square, the centerpiece of Old Jaffa and work your way down from there.
Jaffa is a buoyant and lively town with a fascinating history and welcoming atmosphere © Boris B, Shutterstock
The flea market in Jaffa has become one of the hangouts in the city and is a really wonderful experience for visitors, who get to appreciate the trendy side of young Tel Avivians in the setting of a funky, authentic old market. In summer, the bars and cafés that surround the central market area come alive with antique hunters, the young and chic and the bohemian, and on Thursdays the market stays open until midnight. So have a drink, peruse the stalls and take in the eclectic, buzzy atmosphere.
To discover Israel’s other cities, check out our new guide to the country: