The Old City of Jaffa dates back thousands of years and is a treasure trove of historic architecture, lofty ceilings, domed doorways and slinking steps – worlds away from the skyscrapers and high-rises in downtown Tel Aviv. Take a tour of the Old City, stop off at hidden art galleries and visit the Flea Market, a real highlight of Jaffa where you’ll find stalls overflowing with everything from Judaica (Jewish ceremonial art) to jewellery, guitars to Persian tiles and souvenirs to antiques. The Jaffa, a Luxury Collection Hotel is a superb feat of architecture right at the heart of the Old City.
Jaffa Port is believed to be one of the most ancient in the world – it’s the starting point in the biblical tale of Jonah and the Whale, and the spot where modern-day Tel Aviv flourished from. It was once a hub for merchants and mariners and still serves as a fishing port today, but has been modernised to include the Jaffa Port Market – this converted hangar in the harbour below the Old City has a selection of gourmet Middle Eastern food stalls and boutique shops.
Tel Aviv Port
Known as Namal Tel Aviv, the city’s modern port area was revived during the early 2000s and is now one of Tel Aviv’s hedonistic hot spots. Tayelet Boardwalk, a huge wooden deck promenade, runs along the port’s old sea wall. During the day you can browse boutique shops and lap up sea views from oceanfront restaurants, cafés and coffee bars. Tel Aviv Port is just as nocturnal by nature, coming alive once the sun sets with a fantastic range of bars and clubs.
The White City
The White City is a UNESCO World Heritage Site which houses the largest collection of International Style (Bauhaus) buildings on Earth – over 4000 of them constructed by German Jewish architects who had fled Nazi Germany during the 1930s. To get a feel for the area and appreciate the scale of the project, we’d recommend booking one of the excellent English-language Bauhaus walking tours.
This was the first official Jewish neighbourhood to be built outside Jaffa’s Old City and port, back in 1887 before Tel Aviv even existed. It was a popular spot for artists and authors by the early 1900s, and after a period of decay it was later restored into a welcome retreat away from the buzz of Tel Aviv’s city centre. Neve Tzedek literally means ‘Oasis of justice’ and the neighbourhood has a bohemian feel, with narrow streets and eastern-style architecture marked by low-rise buildings.
Tel Aviv has been named one of the 10 best beach cities in the world by National Geographic Magazine and it has 16 stretches of golden sand to choose from, plenty of which are family-friendly. Hilton Tel Aviv and Shalom Hotel & Relax are both just a short stroll from the beach. Get stuck into watersports including diving, beach volleyball, kayaking and surfing, or try your hand at Matkot – a variety of paddle ball and Israel’s most popular beach sport.
Tel Aviv is one of the world’s leading party destinations and a really gay-friendly city. Nightlife here is as diverse and dynamic as you want it to be — the upmarket Rothschild Boulevard, which begins in Neve Tzedek, is home to high-end hangouts with live music, the rejuvenated Gan Hahashmal neighbourhood is a popular hipster haunt with some funky bars, and Dizengoff Street in the north of the city has chic international vibes.
Food & drink
Tel Aviv is an innovative food destination – it’s home to tempting street creations, a thriving café culture and over 4500 places to eat (including around 400 vegan-friendly restaurants). Enjoy delicacies including bourekas (crumbly pastries stuffed with potatoes, mushrooms and vegetables), and shakshouka – this mixture of poached eggs in tomato sauce and spices goes brilliantly with parsley and feta in a pitta. Carmel Market is the largest and most famous shuk in Tel Aviv, and has been a key part of the city’s history after opening in 1920; visit to see stalls overflowing with roasted nuts, multicoloured spices and fresh produce.
Kosher food is prepared in accordance with Jewish dietary law, and does not include pork, rabbit, certain birds, shellfish, or meat and dairy together. Mehadrin refers to the strictest level of kosher supervision. Food stands and restaurants (including in hotels) are obliged to display certificates proving that their food meets required standards. Most hotels have a good range of dairy and meat or fish options – if you’re vegan, vegetarian or gluten-free then these options can often be ordered in advance.
Shabbat is Judaism’s seventh day of the week and day of rest. In Jerusalem and other Israeli cities, most restaurants and shops are closed from a few minutes before Friday sundown to an hour or so after Saturday sunset but Tel Aviv is a little different. Many cafés and bars plus breakfast and brunch spots remain open here, in places including Rothschild Boulevard and Jaffa, although Carmel Market does close. The beaches get particularly busy on Saturdays as locals and tourists flock to enjoy the day off. While public transport including buses and trains don’t run at all during this time, some taxis continue to operate as normal; Tel Aviv is also a great city to explore by bike as it’s fairly flat and has a good system of bike lanes. At the end of Shabbat on Saturday evening (Motzei Shabbat), services tend to restart almost instantly.