10 things to do in Tel Aviv

10 things to do in tel aviv
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.

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Group tours: are they worth it?

Are group tours worth it?

I’ve been on a few group tours in my day. During this most recent little jaunt from Thailand to Europe I went on three of these outings.

The first was with Abraham Tours in Israel where we experienced Hebron and learned about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The second and third were with Roundabout Tours in Slovenia where, on two separate tours, we explored the Karst region (including the magnificent Škocjan Cave) and Piran on the Adriatic, and then the other a tiny slice of the Alpine region which included the beautiful Vintgar Gorge and stops at Lakes Bled and Bohinj.

Here’s my thing about group tours: I love them. And I don’t. At the same time.

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The battle for hope in Hebron: the dual narrative tour

A loud bang permeates the air, reverberating through the empty spaces in the crowded desert city.

Hebron 2 in Hebron

We jump, but not too much.

A few hours earlier, our group of 13 had been warned in the afternoons that Palestinian protestors often take to the streets, and, in response, the Israeli army will fire something which emits a loud noise (our guide calls it a “sound grenade”) to back them off.

When the noise pierces the air, it doesn’t phase us; but it does phase our tour guide, Lena, who is Palestinian.

“OK, now I am scared, so we are going to leave and get you back over to the other side,” she says, hurrying us out of the heart of Hebron, one of the holiest cities in Middle East, through a gate, and back into the deserted Al-Shuhada Street.

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Where to stay in Jerusalem: Abraham Hostel

When it comes to hostels, I tend to think bigger isn’t better. Why? Well, in my experience, the more people crammed into hostels, the more chances of loud, obnoxiousness (although those travelers can be found everywhere, regardless), and a less safe vibe. Before arriving to Israel, I had planned on staying at Abraham Hostel, despite the 250 (!) bed count.

As far as hostels go, Abraham Hostel is one of the bigger hostels I have ever stayed at.

But, Abraham Hostel, located near the heart of the action and a 20-minute walk from the Old City of Jerusalem, isn’t like those other big-bed hostels. At all.

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Behind the wall of Bethlehem

behind the wall of bethlehem and the israel palestine conflict

We see it before we even “arrive” to Bethlehem, a massive, concrete wall spanning as far as the eye can see, rolling up and down hills and into the horizon. On top of the wall rest lookout towers, barbed wire and remote-controlled machine guns.

As I pull the rental car I am driving up to the turn-off for the checkpoint, I am told I can’t drive into the town, I have to leave my car here. On this side of the barrier between two worlds.

So, I do.

Cody, Giselle and I leave the car, and when we cross through the metal detectors and a maze of walkways leading from freedom to another, reality hits me. Hard.

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Budget digs in Tel Aviv: Gordon Inn

Gordon Inn, from the outside, is quite easy to miss. It’s just off of the major Ben Yehuda Street in Tel Aviv, and aside from a sign at the entrance and a little balcony, people can walk right by it.

I did.

However, while it may seem almost invisible from the outside, the inside of this hostel is another story. Sure, it is in an older building, which means no elevator and for those carrying anything but a backpack, it can be a pain in the ass (I had my Kelty, so this rang true), but that isn’t a reason to not book at this cozy hostel.

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Driving in Israel

I tentatively press my foot on the gas in the black Mazda.

Oh so tentatively.

“Oh my god,” I saw to Giselle and Cody, who somehow have agreed to be willing participants in the Great Israeli Driving Experience (which I totally just made up). “I cannot believe we are renting a car. I cannot believe I am driving in Israel!”

And with that, I grip the steering wheel tight and pull out onto the little side road off of Hayarkon and the Budget Rental Car garage (although it really is more like an underground area with a few parking spots) and out into the gorgeous and happy Tel Aviv afternoon.

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