For those in search of the not-so-holy land in Israel, Tel Aviv will be your savior.
According to both demographics and history, Tel Aviv is a relatively youthful city. Founded in 1909 and with almost half of the population under the age of 30, the excitement, energy, and evolution of Tel Aviv is evident in the new developments, renovations, and revitalizing efforts that are taking place throughout the city. Compared to Jerusalem, a place that orients itself more toward religion and the ancient past, life in Tel Aviv is lived further outside of those spheres of influence and instead focuses on the future. With non-stop nightlife, bustling open-air markets, pristine and easily accessible beaches, a remarkable culinary scene, lots of sunshine, and loads of activities, people in Tel Aviv are religiously enjoying life.
Explore the Old City of Jaffa
This ancient port city located in the south of Tel Aviv is far older than the modern metropolis that has sprung up around it. For centuries, Jaffa has served as the backdrop for various multi-cultural dramas, and the old city is chock-full of monuments honoring those who had at one point or another been the stars of the show. Today, traversing the smooth stones of Jaffa’s meandering alleyways lets visitors uncover shops stocked with the wares of local artists, Ottoman-era landmarks such as Clock Tower and St. Peter’s Church, and unmarked doorways that provoke the imagination. The climb to the top ends with an eyeful of the Tel Aviv skyline, and from there it’s a short walk to the bustling Jaffa Flea Market, where plenty of modern-day restaurants and bars await.
Feast Your Eyes (and Mouth) on Bountiful Markets
As the city’s oldest and largest market, Carmel Market is bursting with so many delicious goodies that it makes the most ravenous appetites wish for extra stomach space. Arriving hungry is mandatory for enjoying the freshly fried falafel, perfectly crisped cheese-filled crepes, cold craft beer, and hummus so exquisitely smooth and flavorful that it will make you feel like you are truly eating hummus for the first time.
While Carmel Market offers more of a traditional middle-eastern style souk experience, Sarona Market is the city’s new, upscale gourmet market hosting a bevy of shops and over 40 eateries from Tel Aviv’s most popular chefs. A short walk away is the Sarona Complex, where a former German Templar colony has been repurposed into shops and a beautiful breezy park with plenty of room to relax and enjoy the spoils from the market.
The souk-style Jaffa Flea Market abounds with local and imported products, but what really draws the crowds are the trendy bars and acclaimed restaurants that have popped up in recent years.
The Nachalat Binyamin Pedestrian Mall allows only local artists selling 100% handmade items to set up shop on this stretch of street. The buildings along the street host the work of Tel Aviv’s most talented street artists.
Recommended Fodor’s Video
Build Your Best Bod at the Beach
Tel Aviv does an incredible job of getting the most out of its beachfront property, successfully combining chilled-out vacation vibes with cosmopolitan vigor. The recently renovated 14-kilometer promenade and spacious beach provides plenty of room for the many activities well-suited to sand and sun, such as cycling, surfing, paddle boarding, volleyball, and matkot, a paddleball game that is a local favorite. For more passive beachgoers, there are plenty of spots to sit back, soak in the sun, and observe some of Tel Aviv’s most visually appealing citizens. In the summer, the beach comes alive in the evening when restaurants, bars, and clubs bring the energy all night long.
Take a Trip into the Mind of Yaacov Agam
The recently opened Agam Museum features the colorful, thought-provoking, and joyous work of Yaacov Agam, one of Israel’s most famous artists. The founder of the Kinetic Movement in modern art, Agam’s creations utilize light, sound, color, movement, and technology, often requiring participation of behalf of the viewer to fully realize the full intention of the artist. At 89 years old, this energetic artist played a prominent role in the design of the museum, eager to inspire visitors through his philosophy and create one of the few museums dedicated solely to kinetic art. Decades of Agam’s work come together in a bright, visually stunning display, exhibiting an immersive experience into the hyper-dynamic brilliance of the artist.
Stop in the Central Bus Station
A bus station does not usually inspire a voluntary visit, however for street artists and street art enthusiasts, the top floor of this unassuming transport terminal is a prime canvas to display the social, political, and playful expressions of prominent Israeli and international artists. Despite the usual controversies that accompany the medium, the powers that be in the Central Bus Station were persuaded to allow these artists to freely adorn the walls with their creations. The art was meant to be only a temporary display, but after the city’s enthusiasm for the murals became apparent, the residency was extended permanently.
Book a Hotel
Tour the City on a Bike
A fun and fast-moving way to get the most out of a visit to Tel Aviv is from the seat of a bicycle. Bike rentals are readily available, but the overall experience can be greatly improved by hiring a knowledgeable and friendly guide. There are obvious advantages to a guided tour, such as gaining insight into the history and significance of various points, learning which places and experiences are not to be missed, and getting to know one of the locals. Tours are highly flexible and designed to either follow the guide’s itinerary or let you create one of your own. The city is relatively flat, so you don’t need to be exceptionally fit experienced to be able to hop on a bike. If you’ve been steadily consuming your fill of falafel, a little bit of exercise might be welcome.
Live Your Best Life at Night
Live Your Best Life at Night
Sleeping is optional in Tel Aviv and not encouraged if you really want to get a sense of city. From trendy hot spots to sweaty crowded clubs to overflowing-onto-the-sidewalk patio bars, they have it all and a lot of it going all night long. Each nightlife zone in the city offers a different type of experience. Rothschild Boulevard is one of the most popular areas with something for everybody, from dark and intimate cocktail lounges to energetic hipster dance parties. On Florentin Street, grungy Brooklyn vibes meet the American birthright crowd. Neve Tzedek is geared toward a more sophisticated audience, and fine dining can be followed by a visit to an upscale art gallery. Allenby Street pours cheap drinks and is an ideal route for a bar hop, ending at the clubs on the beach. Jaffa has become the gem of Tel Aviv nightlife, offering casual sidewalk dining, carefully-crafted cocktails, a bar that doubles as an antique shop, and the chance to dance your face off at the club.
INSIDER TIPExtra points can be awarded to Jaffa for the abundance of late night street eats on the sidewalk.
Hike the Israel National Trail
Inspired by the Appalachian Trail in the U.S., the Israel National Trail extends across the entire length of Israel from the Lebanese border in the north to the Gulf of Aqaba in the south, making it possible to experience the wide variety of landscapes, wildlife, and cultures found throughout Israel. The distance between the beginning to the end is 292 miles, however, the network of trails covers around 620 miles of terrain, making it possible to get up close to parts of Israel that are rarely seen. The trail offers little in terms of services or amenities, and many hikers rely on the kindness of Trail Angels–people who provide resources such as an internet connection, warm showers, a place to cook, or even a room for the night, all out of the kindness of their own hearts. One does not have to set aside two months of their life to experience the trail; there are many sections that can be hiked in a day or over a weekend and are easily accessible from more populated areas including Tel Aviv.
INSIDER TIPEnlisting the expertise of a certified tour guide can help you to get the most out of your experience and make sure you know what those birds are.
Learn How to Cook Like an Israeli Chef
A great way to take a little bit of Israeli cooking home with you is to learn the tricks of the trade from one of the masters. At Dan Gourmet cooking class, a prominent Israeli chef can sharpen your shakshuka skills and help you to hone your hummus. Students can choose to focus on either traditional Jewish cuisine or local Israeli dishes such as falafel, hummus, fattoush salad, tahini, eggplant carpaccio, and Jaffa-style shakshuka. For those who really love the process, the cooking class can be combined with a tour of the market to learn about and select the ingredients. The best part of any cooking class, of course, is the end, when the feasting begins.
Take Advantage of that Sweet Tech
Opening in the spring of 2018, The Link by Dan Hotels in Tel Aviv integrates the latest technology into all aspects of the hotel experience, down to the very last detail. Using only a smartphone, guests can use the hotel’s app to check in and out of the hotel, access their room key, order food for delivery, access a virtual concierge for information about the city, order a taxi, place local telephone calls, and process all transactions such as drinks at the bar, purchasing toiletries, and laundry services. The hotel also integrates technology into the social experience, allowing hotel guests to introduce themselves and make plans with one another via social media before they even check in. The experience is not entirely without human interference, as there are jack-of-all-trades organic humans on staff who can be summoned through the app or in person for those who are willing to brave a face-to-face encounter. The Link Hotel is a brand new concept that clearly has a bright future in our digitized world, and it seems destined to be the ultimate hotel experience for business travelers, millennials, introverts, and those who are straight-up obsessed with tech.
Israelis can easily be considered some of the world’s most interesting and diverse people. Not only are the circumstances of their modern-day society incredibly unique (a relatively new state in one of the most historically and sociologically complex regions on earth) but individual Israeli identity is built on ancestral roots that extend across the globe. Today, many Israelis in Tel Aviv appear to enjoy active, family-centric lifestyles accompanied by a downright enviable bounty of incredible cuisine. Those who visit Israel with a friendly disposition and open mind will likely come across many sociable, worldly people who are willing to engage in discussions about anything and everything. If you bring your A-game, you just might land a dinner invitation which falls solidly under the category of “goals.”