Anush and I recently got back from a 2 week adventure to Israel and Jordan and it was absolutely incredible. For the first week we spent our time in Tel Aviv in Israel. Anush was primarily here on a work trip so I tagged along to get the chance to explore this city that I had heard great things about. Israel is a beautiful country and although we really wanted to explore the other parts like Jerusalem, Eilat etc we didn’t have the time this time around and will be sure to be back to explore more of the country next time. But with Tel Aviv, I think we pretty much covered it through and through. Over the week I got the chance to explore the city both with Anush during his free time as well as on my own, and safe to say it was so easy to fall in love with this “Nonstop City”.
I must say that in all my travels, Tel Aviv is the one place that pleasantly surprised me and turned out to be totally different( in a good way!) than what I had expected or had imagined of it. And in terms of safety – I can tell you from experience that the city was so safe and we had no trouble whatsoever. In my opinion, Israel is such a misunderstood country with all the media that goes around. It goes without saying that like any big city there are certain areas to avoid so doing your research in advance is always essential. Tel Aviv its really nothing different than a big city in the US like SF or NYC. To be “very” honest with you I felt 100% more safe in Tel Aviv than I do in San Francisco! Keep in mind high security is pretty normal everywhere in Israel, there will be soldiers out and about on the streets with their guns but that is not a matter of concern as all Israelis have to go through military training for 3 years in their life. You will infact see these soldier kids being completely normal – like chatting with friends, texting, etc.
Why Tel Aviv?
I think Tel Aviv was never really super high on my bucket list but after having visited this city and discovering how amazing it is I am surprised I hadn’t been here sooner. Situated on the Mediterranean Coast Tel Aviv is a stunning beach front city that also made the list of the top 10 best Beach Cities in the world by both Lonely Planet and National Geographic. Its a young, hip, tech forward, cosmopolitan city whose non stop energy is so infectious! Unlike the other traditional cities in Israel, Tel Aviv is a complete opposite! It is a “party capital” in the Middle East with a very liberal outlook, lively nightlife and a 24-hour culture. Hence the nickname “nonstop city”. And did I mention it is one of the top 5 foodie cities in the world?! Ill touch base on this in my fave places to eat later in the post but the food here is literally to-die-for. Overall I think this city is such a fantastic mix of ancient meeds modern and is a melting pot of so many cultures which is what gives it such a vibrant and unique feel.
How to get there?
Many major airlines fly directly into Tel Aviv. These days they do not stamp your passport upon entry. But its good to keep that in mind incase the officer wants to stamps your passport, you wouldn’t want it especially if you plan to visit certain Arab countries in the future (including Jordan).
When to Visit ?
The city is blessed with amazing weather year round (similar to Cali!). June – Sept is the summer and is typically the best time to travel to the city. Its “really” hot and humid which I personally love but if that bothers you October or May would be a much better option.
Where to stay?
We stayed at the Crowne Plaza Azreli Centre as it was close to Anush’s work. You cant really go wrong with staying in the city centre or the beach area. Its a fairly small city, easy to get around and very walkable too.
How to get around ?
Similar to Uber, I used the Gett app to get around everywhere in the city, but I also walked a ton.
What to do in Tel Aviv ?
TLV is such a fun and vibrant city and has so many amazing things to do, there’s something in it for everyone! I had the best time exploring it with Anush and exploring other parts of it solo.
My top things to do in this city are :
1 ) Beach hopping :
Did you even visit Tel Aviv if you didnt visit the beach?! Beach life in Tel Aviv is a huge part of their culture. With over 9 miles of beachfront that’s split into 13 glorious beaches, Tel Aviv has been aptly nicknamed as the Miami of the Middle East. The beaches here reminded me so much of South Beach – great beach clubs, warm water and so many good looking people.
Hilton Beach (suit c/o Solkissed)
Our fave beach so far was Hilton beach and the adjacent Metzitzim beach. Hilton Beach has a very chill beach club that Anush and I loved! Its a great place to enjoy the Mediterranean sun and sand, people watch, grab a slice of watermelon or watch the sunset. Gordon and Frishman beach are also very lively and happening.
The Tayelat or Beach promenade is a great place to catch the sunset from! Or a fun stretch for a morning run.
2) Old Jaffa
The beautiful old city of Jaffa (or Yafo in Hebrew) was undoubtedly my fave part in all of Tel Aviv. It is known to be one of the oldest cities of Israel and one of the world’s oldest ports.
Alleyways of Old Jaffa
The narrow passageways and ancient buildings in Old Jaffa are nothing short of charming and it is filled with so much heritage + history. A must do when you visit this part of the city is – the old clock tower, Jaffa Flea market, Old Jaffa port and of course exploring the alleyways of the old city.
Clock tower, Jaffa
The Jaffa Flea Market is a unique “Shuk”/market that is a treasure trove of antiques, handicrafts and other interesting trinkets. Weaving our way through the narrow lined streets of shops, cafes, stalls was such an incredible cultural experience – one that totally tantalized all our senses.
3) Neve Tzedek area
The Neve Tzedek neighborhood in Tel Aviv is a charming boho oasis – chock full of colorful buildings, bougainvillea lined streets, cute cafes and artsy boutiques! I would recommend starting at Suzanne Dallal centre, strolling down Shabazi street and also exploring the other nooks and corners of this pretty neighborhood.
Suzanne Dallal centre
4) Visit Carmel Market
Tel Aviv has tons of amazing markets to visit! My fave was the iconic Carmel market which is the largest market in Tel Aviv. It gives you a taste of a typical traditional middle eastern market. The hustle and bustle of the market is a great experience by itself. I loved browsing through all the little shops that sold things from clothing to spices to fruits to electronics. Also tried my hand at bargaining! Another market I enjoyed browsing through is Lewinsky market – great place to shop for spices.
5) Stroll down Rothschild Boulevard
Rothschild Boulevard is part of Tel Aviv’s white city and is the oldest iconic streets of the city. It is a UNESCO world heritage site and the street is lined with buildings built in the original Bauhaus style of architecture. It reminded me a lot of neighborhoods back in Bangalore, India. Today the street is lined with tons of amazing cafes, restaurants, places to hang out and is one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in the city.
Tel Aviv is a great place for shopping! Head to Dizengoff street to shop/window shop your heart out or Old Jaffa to find tons of hidden treasures in the flea market.
Jaffa Flea market finds
Since Anush and I aren’t too big on nightlife, we didn’t experience this here. But I couldn’t not mention this in the things to do especially if you love nightlife. From my friend’s recommendation some of the popular spots to hit are Kuli alma, Hoodna (in the upcoming hipster Florentin neighborhood) and Teder. Also La mer is another spot right on the beach that we visited once in the early evening. They have hookah, great music and a toes in the sand kinda dining/lounge option.
Fave eats in Tel Aviv :
Before I start off on my list I must say from a culinary standpoint Tel Aviv was by far one of the best experiences I have had in all my travels. And just like me, I think the world thinks so too, check out this article. The Israeli diet is known to be one of the healthiest in the world. No wonder majority of them look soo fit! Its super easy to eat healthy with staples being lots of veggies, fruits, hummus and the like. So without further adieu here are my fave eats in the city :
1 ) Fave vegan eats/ Vegan tasting tour with Abraham Tours – Did you know that Tel Aviv is the vegan capital of the world! I am not 100% vegan, I am trying to opt for more vegan/veg options in my daily life and in Tel Aviv I found it SO easy. The city has over 400 vegan restaurants and its no surprise why it is plant based capital. I took a fun restaurant hopping tour with Abraham Tours that I highly recommend. The 3 restaurants that we tried were all beyond fabulous :
- Zakaim – Persian vegan restaurant. Try the vegan shakshuka and the heavenly vegan mayo (which is soooo so good, it has me salivating as I type this haha!)
- Citizen garden – try the yummy almond cheese toast or one of their healthy colorful veg bowls.
- Meshek Barzilay – award winning vegan restaurant in Neve Tzedek. Try their famous veggie burger and the drunken pear dessert.
2) Old Man and the Sea : This local fave in Old Jaffa is a must visit! All this that you see in the pic below is what you get on your table before you even order anything. Everything was finger licking delish!
3) Sarona Market – This is Israel’s largest indoor culinary complex. It has a great mix of local meets global ; classic meets contemporary cuisines and tons of small eateries to choose from. This was super close to our hotel so we ended up here most nights. Aside from browsing through all the shops, our fave eats here were the Freestyle ramen bar by Aharoni (try the vegan ramen), Captain Curry (indian food) and Paletas (yummy mexican ice candy).
4) Cafe XOHO – Cute cafe in central Tel Aviv and walkable from the beach. Great atmosphere, healthy homemade food and superb coffee (you have to get the yogurt bowl and iced Vietnamese coffee, it is the best treat on a hot day!)
5) Urban Shamam – Loved this hippie chic cafe on Dizengoff street. They have amazing bowls – try the acai or coconut bowls.
6) Tamara Juice Bar – I absolutely love how much this city LOVES fruits. Im not kidding but there’s literally a juice/smoothie shop at every corner (like starbucks in the US haha) and it’s pretty much what I lived on! Tamara Tel Aviv was handsdown my fave place ever, look at the shack – how cute is it! The juices and smoothies were so delicious + fresh and the best part – its open 24/7!
7) Miznon – Started by a celebrity chef who is known for his roasted cauliflower. Miznon had some of the BEST sandwiches we have had period. We both tried the veggie options – the “white”(cauliflower) sandwich was out of the world!
8) Anita gelato and fro yo – If you look at Anita gelato’s instagram and don’t crave gelato instantly then I’m sorry we cant be friends haha. But for real you guys – Anita had some of the best gelato we have tried. They have multiple locations all over the city. They also have fro-yo options ; the dairy free acai flavored froyo which was my go-to order at Anita!
9) Dr Shakshuka – Best authentic shakshuka in town, loved the cool vibe of this place in Old Jaffa.
10) Abu Hasan Hummus – One of Israel’s oldest and most famous hummus restaurants. It has been voted as the best hummus in the country.
11) Abouelafia bakery – Historic bakery in the heart of Jaffa. Get the sesame toast/bagel with Bulgarian cheese, olives, tomatoes, and spicy red chutney. Its finger licking good!
12) Dallal bakery – Love the coffee and baked goods here. But if not for anything, go here for the ambiance, its simply amazing!
If you stuck with me till the end of this extensive post – thank you! And I hope this convinces you to visit this beautiful vibrant city in the future. Thanks for stopping by! xoxo