Tel Aviv. One of my favorite cities in the world (not just because my best friend happens to live there). It is a city I have been to three times in less than two years, and located in a country I have been to four times (which is tied with England for top visits).
Every time I visit Tel Aviv, I discover something new and beautiful that makes me fall even deeper in love with the Israeli coastal city.
From the beaches (and beach bars) to the crowded Carmel Market to the tiny “secret” bars, there is so much more to Tel Aviv than meets-the-eye.
Where to go?
What to do?
Don’t know where to start?
For my explorations, it is a little bit of internet research mixed with random luck of finding places. But, I’m making it easy today and sharing with you the things I love in Tel Aviv.
1. Start your day at Little Prince Cafe
It’s well past dark when we stumble upon the Little Prince Cafe. With a sign in front of the shop offering wine and wifi, I turn to my friend and say “we should really come back here.” It isn’t that close to his house — in fact it is a bus ride away (note: we did walk from well beyond there back to the house when we first came across this adorable spot) — but we decide that the next day we will go and check it out.
As soon as we enter, there is that familiar smell of old books wafting through the air and all I want to do is dive into the weathered pages of the books lining the shelves. But, we’re on a mission: to get some work done. Instead, I head to the bar at the back of the store and order some coffee and then we go outside to a quirky courtyard to access the free wifi.
The lowdown: This gorgeous coffee shop/book store is unassuming from the outside. But, once inside, visitors are whisked into another world, far from the noise of King George Street. Sit inside or head out to the charming patio to sip on coffee or some delicious Mediterranean dishes. Inside, the shop offers second-hand books and hosts events throughout the month, too. This cozy shop is a perfect way to start the day in Tel Aviv.
2. Head over to Carmel Market
Like most markets around the world, stepping into Carmel Market is an assault on the senses. Around me, vendors shout in Hebrew, Arabic and English offering their goods, be it food or drink or funky inexpensive home decor. Part tourist-attraction, part local go-to for less expensive and gorgeous produce, this market has all the goodies. From souvenirs to freshly squeezed pomegranate juice to baked breads, desserts and all the fruits and veggies, Carmel Market, Shuk Ha Carmel, is a must-visit.
The lowdown: Head early (just after that cup of coffee from Little Prince Cafe) to get in some shopping before it gets too crowded. And trust me, it gets crowded. Be sure to wander a bit off the market for the numerous vintage shops and artist stalls which line nearby roads. Take note: the market closes early Fridays for Shabbat and does not re-open until Sunday morning.
3. Explore Jaffa
It’s sweltering hot the first time I head to Jaffa, an ancient port city tied to biblical stories located in southern Tel Aviv.
“Let’s go inside the market,” my guide suggests after we park and meander along the Mediterranean, small fishing boats gently lifting and dropping as the water laps the pier. Inside the Jaffa Port Food Market, I fall in love for the first time with this historic spot. It isn’t just the cool blast of air that hits me, immediately cooling me off and giving us a respite from the summer heat. It’s the fresh figs. Pop up shops. Wine bars.
As we stroll through the town, I become more enchanted with the quiet, old streets and the tiny alleys leading to something more spectacular around every corner.
The lowdown: Start at the shoreline and head to the Jaffa Port Food Market (closed on Sundays) for a sampling of Israeli dishes, tapas and more. Then, explore the nearby galleries before wandering into the tiny alleyways of this ancient city. For lunch, check out The Old Man and the Sea. It’s mainly a seafood joint, but the spot also serves a heaping amount of small dishes with your order — think hummus, pickles, eggplant, falafel and more, plus fresh pita for all the dipping.
4. Hit the beach
With 14 km of shore in the city, finding a spot to catch some sun (and some surf, if you want) is easy in Tel Aviv. I find such comfort in digging my toes in the sand, paired with a good book and the sound of waves hitting the shore in the background, it is my favorite way to unwind. The first time I visit the beach in Tel Aviv, I am with friends and we pay a few shekels to rent lounge chairs and enjoy the blasting sun. Hitting the beach in Tel Aviv is definitely a favorite way to cool off in the summer. But, there’s more than just that. The beaches here in the main part of the city all have bike paths and jogging paths, complete with benches to park it and enjoy the view.
The lowdown: Rent a chair or grab some sand and chill out while people engage in Matkot, or paddleball. There are plenty of popular beach spots, and I prefer the more southern areas (near Banana Beach Bar), but the most popular is Hilton Beach.
5. Grab a healthy dinner
For some reason, every time I am en route to Israel the first thing I think about is all of the amazing food I am going to consume. The numerous salads. The hummus. The falafel. The figs. The food scene in Tel Aviv is amazing — especially for vegetarians/vegans. If I could eat my way through this city, I would. And, you should!
The lowdown: Salads, sandwiches and more can be found at LovEat, an organic coffee shop and restaurant. The location on Dizengoff is fabulous for people-watching and the food is sensational. Another must-visit is the vegan Ethiopian digs, Tenat. Located a bit off-the-beaten path, this spot is small with some seriously amazing Ethiopian food. When we went, we had no idea what to order, so the chef just delivered us a huge dish.
6. Sip a cocktail (or two) at Moonshine
It took me awhile to visit my first speak-easy. In fact, it is only a week before my latest trip to Tel Aviv when I hit up a secret spot in London (will dish on that in an upcoming post). But, I’m hooked. One night, while trying to figure out where to go and what to do that was different, we decide to research speak-easies around town. It wasn’t hard to find Moonshine since Tel Aviv is just getting in on the speak-easy scene and this venue is its shining star. This tiny spot, located behind a large steel door inside Mitbach layla restaurant.
The lowdown: With a menu of (you guessed it) homemade moonshine to the tune of maple, kiwi and more, choosing a cocktail is the hardest part of the night. Bonus points for the array of whiskeys on-hand, plus American snacks to munch on in this tiny spot.
7. Check out the Fire and Water Fountain
The famous Dizengof fountain located in the heart of Tel Aviv A photo posted by Diana Edelman (@dtravelsround) on
//platform.instagram.com/en_US/embeds.jsAfter having two cocktails at Moonshine, we opt to take in the Tel Aviv night and hike it back home instead of taking a bus or cab. The walk itself is uneventful. That is, until we hit this landmark.
The lowdown: By night, the Fire and Water Fountain is beautiful. Lit up to amplify the bursts of color it already has, take a seat and breathe in that fresh sea air here. The fountain, which is also known as the Dizengoff Square Fountain, is a landmark in the city and created by Israeli artist Yaacov Agam.
8. Take a street art tour with Mekomy
The moment I walk into street artist Dioz’s house, I’m struck by the intense creativity found inside. There is nothing not artistic about where he lives and I am intrigued to learn more about his life as a street artist in Tel Aviv and the entire street art scene. No matter where I go in the world, I always seek out the street art and the idea a burgeoning street art scene in Tel Aviv is my idea of love.
The lowdown: If you are anything like me, than this street art tour by Mekomy is one of the things that needs to be included on a visit to Tel Aviv. The tour starts at the home of Dioz, a famous street artist, then, with Dioz guiding the way, winds through the gritty, art-filled Florentin neighborhood highlighting some of the most famous works along the way.
9. Eat all the hummus
So, I’ve already mentioned my love affair with Israeli food. And hummus. My first trip to Tel Aviv, I’m on a quest to find the very best in town and my guide delivers us to Abu Hassan. Located just outside of Jaffa (we walk there), there is a line about 20 people deep, stretching out of the tiny shop and down the road.
“So, this place is really popular?” I joke with him.
After about 20 minutes, we are seated at a little, wobbly table outside and delivered our plate of hummus and warm pita.
Is it the best hummus in Tel Aviv? I can’t tell you that for sure, but it is certainly the best I’ve ever had.
The lowdown: The menu at Hummus Abu Hassan is limited to hummus and Masbacha, but this spot is a favorite with locals and tourists. Expect long lines, so don’t go when you are starving but when you know by the time you sit down, that plate of hummus will fill your belly. Service is pretty much non-existent, but it’s worth it. They are open until mid-afternoon (or until the hummus runs out, whichever happens first).
10. Sleep in art
When I arrive to Artplus Hotel, the first thing I notice once I step into my room is that instead of a typical notepad and pen, there is drawing paper and colored pencils sitting on my desk. It’s the little touches which endear me to this boutique hotel.
As I navigate through my first few days in Tel Aviv, Artplus serves as my quiet time to learn more about the art culture in Israel, enjoy the terrace and take advantage of the happy hour free wine.
The lowdown: Hotels are easy to find in Tel Aviv, but my favorite is Artplus. This hotel doubles as an art gallery, complete with openings, a happy hour nightly and a complimentary breakfast. Its located a five-minute walk from the beach on Ben Yehuda, and in a very central location. The rooms are on the small side, but they are comfortable. Be sure to grab that free glass of wine at happy hour and head up to the roof top deck.
Have a tip on what to do/where to go in Tel Aviv? Be sure to leave a comment!