Now that I’ve shared all of my Israel photos (you can check out Tel Aviv Day 1 here, Tel Aviv Day 2 and 3 here, and Jerusalem here!) I wanted to do one final round-up of my favorite things to do and see in Tel Aviv. Although we were only in Israel for four days, we were quickly smitten with Tel Aviv, and have hopes to return again very soon :) So this post is a keepsake for me when we make our next trip east, and a guide for you if you’re also thinking of visiting Tel Aviv sometime soon!
Some things to know before you go . . .
The main airport in Tel Aviv is Ben Gurion International Airport, which is named after the first Prime Minister of Israel. Landing in Israel and getting through customs was a breeze. There is a train that goes from the airport to the city center in 20 minutes, but we elected to take a cab for ease. When you fly out of Tel Aviv, make sure to arrive at the airport at least three hours early. Ben Gurion is one of the most secure airports in the world, and before you get to your gate, you must go through several security checks. Kai and I were prepared for the worst, but wound up getting through security relatively quickly as we were flying late on a Monday night and the airport was quiet. However, we could see rows and rows of ropes set up for when hundreds of travelers all descended upon security at once. Be wary as I am sure these ropes are often put to use!
For our accommodation, we decided to stay in an Airbnb, as we would be in Tel Aviv for three nights, and wanted a bit more space to spread out. Also, the architecture and design in Tel Aviv is so unique and beautiful, we were hoping to have the experience of staying in a home. We decided to rent a spot in Yaffo, as it was walkable to the Old City of Jaffa, and quite a few of the other spots we wanted to check out in Tel Aviv. This is the spot we booked, and we would highly recommend it!
A note on Saturday travel . . .
In the Jewish religion, Shabbat (Saturday) is observed as the holy day. As Israel is a Jewish country, if you plan to travel on a Saturday, your travel will most likely be impacted by the country-wide observance of Shabbat. Most restaurants, stores, public offices, and other business are closed Friday afternoon through Sunday morning. We had been advised that getting a cab or checking into our hotel or Airbnb on Saturday might be tricky. Luckily we still managed to get a cab no problem, although we did pay a small surcharge to our driver due to the Shabbat.
1) Relax at a beach club.
Hanging by the sea is the perfect Saturday activity. Many restaurants and shops are closed on Saturday, but the beach is still accessible, and the holy day doesn’t stop seaside vendors from renting out chairs and umbrellas. There are dozens of beaches in Tel Aviv, all catering to different types of locals. Want a pet friendly beach? They’ve got that! Want to surf? Yes, you can do that too! On our first day in Israel, Kai and I cycled along the coast, checking out all of the beaches. Here’s what we found:
Lala Land was our favorite beach club and lunch spot on the ocean. We spent most of our beach time there, as we loved the fresh cocktails, the great tunes, and the lush white umbrellas. LaLa Land is located on Gordon Beach, which is also home to numerous volleyball nets and a salt water swimming pool, both attracting a fair crowd. We also really liked Jaffa Beach, which had no wave breakers and HUGE waves. Maravi Beach, known in English as Western Beach, was another chill spot with surfers – it was the closest beach to our apartment and we walked along the shore there several times. And then there’s Hilton Beach, towards the end of the strip, right at the foot of the Hilton Hotel. Hilton beach is popular amongst the gay scene, as well as with those who are into water sports. On our first night in town, Kai and I had an evening drink at Hilton Beach, and liked that it felt a bit more secluded than the other spots.As you ca see, there are so many great beaches to choose from in Tel Aviv! I suggest walking or cycling along the coast, and stopping at whatever beach strikes your fancy! Or, you could just head straight to Lala Land, grab a chair, and order a cold glass of white wine – yep, that’s what I’d definitely recommend doing ;)
2) Order a big bowl of hummus.
Where did hummus first originate? Some say it’s a Greek dish. Others say its Turkish. Perhaps it even hails from Egypt. No one really knows the birth place of hummus, but having traveled A LOT, and having a real affinity for hummus (the guy at my local hummus shop knows my order when I walk in – I kid you not) I can say first hand that the best hummus hails from Israel. And perhaps the best hummus in Israel is from Abu Hassan.The hummus at Abu Hassen is famous, and it’s not very hard to see why. At this small, unassuming hummus joint, workers, locals, and tourists alike pile in, sitting shoulder to shoulder, mopping up huge gobs of hummus with delightfully soft pita bread. There are only two dishes on the menu at Abu Hassen – hummus or hummus masabacha (hummus with whole chickpeas), both of which are served with warm pita, spicy sauce, and a fork to help you on your journey.I ordered the masabacha and Kai got the regular hummus, and we were both treated to warm, rich bowls of nirvana. The hummus was incredibly well-balanced and flavorful, and so creamy at the same time. I’ve never had a huge bowl of ONLY hummus before – but at Abu Hassen I was literally scraping the bottom of my plate with a fork, eating the hummus as if it were mashed potatoes or a bowl of pasta! Put this one on your Tel Aviv bucket list for sure :) and sample some of the world’s best hummus.
Address: Ha-Dolfin St 1, Tel Aviv-Yafo, Israel
3) Rent bikes and tour the city on two wheels.
Another great thing about Tel Aviv is that there are so many fun neighborhoods to explore. Thankfully, there are also lots of flat, quiet side streets, and so the city is easy to tour by bicycle. Kai and I loved taking out the city bikes for a spin – they can be easily rented and returned at one of the many access points in the city.The weather in Tel Aviv is generally fantastic, so get out in the sun, grab a bike for a few hours, and explore a new neighborhood on two wheels.Here are a few of our favorite neighborhoods in the city to cycle through:
Neve Tzedek is an enchanting neighborhood with boutiques, stylish restaurants, and even a weekly farmers market. Cycle through Neve Tzedek, and don’t miss Shabazi, the main road that runs through the neighborhood. Tie up your ride, and stumble into any of the shops or restaurants along the road to feast your eyes and reward your taste buds. Kai and I stopped for some delicious frozen yogurt on Shabazi and were not disappointed!
Florentin is another dreamy neighborhood, and was our favorite to explore by bike. Here you will find tall trees, walls splayed with colorful art, hip bars, art galleries, and numerous eateries. It was here Kai and I gorged on Italian appetizers, drank cocktails at a taqueria, and cycled up and down side streets until sun down.
After Florentin, our favorite cycle route in the city was along the water. Quite a few times, we cycled to from the port in Jaffa all the way up to Hilton Beach. This was a great route to enjoy the sea breeze, and thanks to the many bike racks along the way, we were able tie up, stop for an ice cream in the sun, and then continue our journey onwards!
You can learn more about the city’s bike scheme here.
4) Have lunch at Bistro 60
If you go to Tel Aviv, you HAVE to go to Bistro 60. Kai and I arrived to Tel Aviv on a Saturday, and to our dismay, many shops and restaurants were closed for the Sabbath. In need of a proper meal and without many options, our Airbnb host kindly suggested we walk around the corner to Bistro 60, where we would be able to enjoy a meal despite the holy day. We ordered a few dishes off of their appetizer menu to share, and were BLOWN AWAY by how amazing the food was!! To be fair, we were wow’d by the quality of the food in Israel time and time again, however our favorite meal was by far this first one at Bistro 60. Some highlights from our meal was the fresh and fragrant halloumi salad (above), the creamy hummus, and the roasted eggplant. We ordered five appetizers to share, and were literally scraping the bottom of each plate with a spoon so we didn’t miss a drop. If you want incredibly fresh and scrumptious Israeli fare, go to Bistro 60 – your taste buds will be thankful!
Address: 25, Sha’arei Nikanor St, Tel Aviv-Yafo, Israel
5) Spend an afternoon walking through the Old City of Jaffa.
This gorgeous neighborhood would have been top of the must-cycle list, as it was by far my favorite area to explore in Tel Aviv! However, the Old City is laden with cobble stone streets, narrow alleyways, and many steps – not ideal for biking! This is one spot you’re going to want to explore on foot, and with some good footwear!
The Old City of Jaffa is nothing short of captivating. Your stroll will reveal an oasis with a rainbow of florals, ancient clock towers, green parks, mosques, churches, and an array of adorable boutiques and art galleries.Admire the architecture, stop to enjoy a juice in the sun, and soak up all the beauty of this pastel neighborhood.
6) Have a drink along the Jaffa Port
Whether you stop by in the day time or in the evening, a jaunt along the Jaffa Port is not to be missed. Here you will find several cute industrial restaurants, along with bobbing boats and shady outside seats. The atmosphere is incredibly dreamy, with locals and tourists alike all looking to score a spot in the sun.Kai and I had dinner along the water at the Jaffa Port (more on this coming up!) and one afternoon we stoped for a drink and a plate of watermelon in the sun. The harbor serves as a fishing port, so as we enjoyed our drinks, we watched fishermen go about their trade, sailing in and out of the harbor. Snag a spot and enjoy the sea breeze, while sipping a refreshing Aperol Spritz.
Address: Tel Aviv-Yafo, 6803326
7) Do some thrifting at the Jaffa Flea Market
The Jaffa Flea Market is a slight to behold, with vintage furniture, colorful textiles, and lots and lots of junk. Wander through the market, stop for a coffee at one of the many adorable cafes, and continue your shopping. There were inexpensive souvenirs and goods, as well as upscale boutiques with fine scarves, paper products, and ceramics. While I didn’t buy anything at the flea market, we loved walking along the various shops and stalls, taking in the colors and the art. Set against the neighborhood’s sand-colored houses, these vibrant second-hand wares were a sight to behold.
Address: Yefet Street, Tel Aviv, Israel
8) Have breakfast at an Arabic Bakery
Abulafia’s Bakery is an institution in Tel Aviv. After strolling through the flea market, Kai and I noticed a large crowd at the end of Yefet Street, and made our way over. Here we found a mass of baked Arabic goods, from fluffy balls of bread to dazzling sweets, dripping with honey, topped with crushed pistachios. While Abulafia’s was delicious, it was also crowded. It was quite the experience to order at Abulafia’s high counter amongst a sea of people (in another language!) While we felt that Abulafia’s was slightly over-rated, this first Arabic bakery stop inspired us to duck into a few others on our trip, where we were rewarded time and time again with delicious pastries!! So start your day at your neighborhood’s local Arabic bakery, or save some space in your stomach for a mid-morning snack where you can sample some of Israel’s most tasty treats!
Address: Abulafia’s is located at 7 Yefet Street
9) Have a mezze feast at The Old Man and the Sea
Multiple friends told us that if we went to Tel Aviv, we had to go to The Old Man and the Sea. Sitting on the Jaffa Port, this waterfront restaurant serves up a delicious selection of seafood – however the main draw is the mezze, which arrives at your table almost as soon as you do! When Kai and I got to The Old Man and the Sea on a Monday night, around 8.30pm, the line to be seated stretched down the waterfront. We debated going somewhere else, but as so many friends had raved about the spot, we decided to wait it out. The line moved fast, and within 20 minutes we were seated at an outside table along the water, and small plates of salads, dips, and vegetables were being stacked in front of us. I would be lying if I said this was the best meal we had in Tel Aviv – some of the mezze dishes were a bit bland and unexciting, however the hummus, roasted vegetables, warm pita, and tabbouleh were awesome, so it was a mixed bag. We only had the mezze for our meal, as it was quite the spread, and this was plenty for two people. I would suggest going here for the experience – dining on dozens of middle eastern salads and dips along the waterfront was a highly memorable Israeli experience :)
Address: 85 Kedem St., Jaffa
10) Fall down Tel Aviv’s culinary rabbit hole.
There are so many amazing restaurants in Tel Aviv that offer well beyond the traditional Israeli fare. Kai and I loved Bicicletta, and Italian gem with to die for eggplant fries and grilled squid (below). The courtyard where we were seated was incredibly dreamy, curtained with twinkling lights and draping plants. The wine list was fantastic (although much more expensive than Amsterdam!) and towards the end of our meal, a DJ started spinning tunes outside that got numerous patrons on their feet.Puaa was another favorite of ours, with colorful bohemian decor, great cocktails and an outstanding chicken curry. We were told there would be a 10 minute wait for our table, and were allowed to order and drink a cocktail outside while we waited (dinner service at it’s finest!)They also gave us shots on the house, which always gets bonus points in our book!A few other spots on our Tel Aviv food list are as follows – we didn’t make it to them all, but based on the excellent quality of the spots we did try, I can’t wait to visit again and tick more spots off of our Tel Aviv food list:
Port Sa’id – We heard this was a great spot for food, drinks and music.
Caramel Market – We wandered through the Caramel Market on our last day, and feasted our eyes on many different Israeli treats. While a bit crowded, this is a great spot for picking up some Israeli street food.
Hakosem – The go to place for falafel in Tel Aviv.
Manta Ray – An ocean side restaurant with amazing sea food. We cycled by here every day, and were bummed we didn’t get a chance to enjoy a meal at Manta Ray – next time!
Benedict – We heard Benedict was great for breakfast, and at one point we walked by . . . but we always wound up filling up on Arabic pastries in the morning and never made it for a propert sit down breakfast! Next time we would love to try their shakshuka.
Aladdin– A cozy Mediterranean restaurant in Jaffa with great views.
11) Take a day trip to Jerusalem.
Okay okay – so this isn’t actually an attraction in Tel Aviv, but Jerusalem is a quick 50 minute bike ride from Tel Aviv, and it’s well worth checking out. Tel Aviv is much more liberal than Jerusalem and is also located on the sea. So if you make a trip to Israel, I suggest heading over to Jerusalem for a day or a one night stop over to soak up the city’s history, and then heading back to your home base by the sea.There’s so much to see and do in Jerusalem, and you can find details on our whole trip here. A few of our favorite things to do in Jerusalem include:
Taking a tour through the Old City. Here you will find Temple Mount, King David’s Tomb, and the Last Supper room – not to mention a labyrinth of streets and alleyways that Jesus and his disciples once walked. Divided into four quarters – Muslim, Christian, Armenian and Jewish – the Old City is a fascinating place to explore, with a religious significance that spans far beyond Christianity. We also loved exploring the Mahane Yehuda Market. I suggest visiting in the day to explore the different shops and stalls, and then come back again in the evening when you can get a drink or a late night falafel.
We were blown away by Dwiny, the best pita bar of our trip! Dwiny is a hip, hole in the wall with a fantastic menu, including many mouth water pita creations. You can find Dwiny at: Beit Ya’akov street 6
Lastly, the best dinner of our time in Israel was at Yudale. Stop by my Jerusalem post for the full story of our meal, but in short, there was singing, dancing, open flames, shots with the bar staff, and lots of delicious shared plates for our meal! The atmosphere, great staff, and food make it a must if you’re in Jerusalem.
If you’re thinking of visiting Israel and have any questions, let me know in the comments and I am happy to help you plan!
Otherwise, can’t wait to share my next update on Italy with you!