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Tel Aviv beach sunset (c)Vanda Biffani

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Tel Aviv beach surfers (c)Vanda Biffani

Tel Aviv - lanes of Old Jaffa (c)Vanda Biffani


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Vibrant, vivacious, exhilarating Tel Aviv is one of the greatest beach cities in the world. Stroll the long, wide promenade with its swirling patterns underfoot and a vast expanse of soft sand alongside. Locals flock here to swim, sunbathe or relax in the shade at beach bars. Just minutes from the beach, Tel Aviv city centre is full of energy, and attractive with streets and boulevards of restored pre-War Bauhaus architecture.
  Tel Aviv is Israel’s largest city and dominates the country's cultural and economic life, with a unique mix of sophistication and hedonism, tremendous cultural diversity and spectacular modern arts and performance venues noted for dance, drama and music, together with a big all-night clubbing scene.
  From Tel Aviv, most of Israel is within a short distance. There are dozens of departures daily by train or bus for the approximately one-hour journey to 3000-year-old Jerusalem, Israel’s capital and its political and religious centre.


 Get the feel

Tel Aviv is brimming with joie de vivre. The city centre is packed with arts venues, tempting shops, café culture and nightlife. Despite the all-night clubs and 24-hour entertainment, there is almost no crime or drunkenness.
  Locals, as much as visitors, like to cool off by the sea. Grab an ice cream, a coffee or a freshly squeezed juice, or maybe a falafel in pitta or a shwarma (though these two classic take-aways are much less common than they used to be), and walk the wide seafront promenade or tayelet beside the vast sandy beach,  where young Tel Avivans swim or play matkot (like ping pong with a hard ball and no net).
  Turn into the narrow streets of the Yemenite Quarter (or Kerem Yateimanim), named for the Yemeni Jews who settled here years ago. Push through the crowds in hectic traditional Carmel Market.
  Explore Tel Aviv’s first neighbourhoods, like lovely Rothschild Boulevard, now lined with chic eateries and restored white 1930s Bauhaus buildings. Here too visit Independence Hall and see monuments to the city's founders. At its southern end, Rothschild leads into the quiter lanes of the up-and-coming Neve Tzedek district, which dates from the 19th century Jewish settlement of Jaffa.
  Walk the southern section of the seafront promenade for another few minutes to discover the ancient, picturesque port town of Jaffa, a popular dining and entertainment district of Tel Aviv.

 What, why, where

Tel-Aviv-Jaffa (Tel-Aviv-Yafo in Hebrew) is on Israel's Mediterranean coast, in the region known as Gush Dan. With a population over 1 million, it's the largest Jewish city ever to have existed.
  Tel Aviv sprang into life in 1909 when a group of Jewish families quit ancient, squalid Jaffa, where the local Arabs were violently hostile to them, to build a spacious, modern town of their own. On dunes north of Jaffa they laid out the first of the boulevards and neighbourhoods of what is now south Tel Aviv.
  In the 1920s and 1930s, the city grew rapidly as Jewish refugees poured in from an increasingly anti-semitic Europe. The city's
Bauhaus (or International) architecture dates from that period.
  In 1948 the modern state of Israel was declared in Tel Aviv.
The city remained the new state's capital for two years, after which Jerusalem was re-conquered and became the capital of a free Israel once again. Nevertheless, Tel Aviv remains Israel's premier city and economic hub. Expanding rapidly - as it still is - Tel Aviv soon encompassed Jaffa, becoming a single municipality called Tel-Aviv-Jaffa.  

 Getting started

Tel Aviv's small main tourist information centre is on the beachside boulevard at 46 Herbert Samuel Street (corner of Geula Street).
  There's another office in Jaffa at 2 Marzuk and Azar Street (by the Clock Tower), and another at Building 5, Hatahana (the 'Historic Railway Station' between Tel Aviv and Jaffa).
www.visit-tel-aviv.com (Tel Aviv tourism)

 Compass points

Tel Aviv clings close to the sea from upscale North Tel Aviv and the Yarkon River, down through the city centre, further south into increasingly fashionable older neighbourhoods like Neve Tzedek, and eventually reaches ancient Jaffa, formerly a busy port, now an entertainment and nightlife quarter.
  Tel Aviv’s focal points include Dizengoff Street and the nearby avenues, a busy shopping area just two or three blocks from the sea; more hectic main thoroughfares through the city centre such as Allenby Street; the workaday downtown area around Rabin Square; and the attractive Rothschild Boulevard with its appealing cafes and restaurants.
  The main 'hotel district' is along Hayarkon Street between Ben Gurion and Allenby streets, though there are plenty of other hotels north and south of here, and inland.
  Discos, clubs and late dance venues are on and off Allenby Street, and in the southern half of the city centre.

 Getting around

Tel Aviv city centre is generally pleasant and safe to walk around for both women and men at any time of day or night.
  The city is bike-mad, with extensive cycle lanes filled with crowds of cyclists and a multitude of variations, including many motorised bikes and scooters, segways, skateboards and monocycles.
  Tel Aviv's popular bike hire scheme is called Tel-O-Fun. Pick up one of the distinctive green bikes at rental points in streets all over the city. There’s a basic subscription charge, and the first
30 minutes of any rental is free - long enough to go anywhere in the city.
  Beware - it's normal for all these two- (and one-) wheeled vehicles to ride on the footway among pedestrians.
www.tel-o-fun.co.il

The city has a comprehensive, inexpensive bus network; all bus drivers speak English up to a basic, adequate level, and despite an air of impatience they are always willing to help.
  Single-journey tickets are available for 5.90NIS per journey.
Locals normally travel using a less expensive, pre-paid RavKav pass. This is available for visitors too: just complete an application form at the bus station; you'll need ID and a passport style photo.

Sherutim are shared mini-bus taxis following fixed routes, generally the same as bus routes. Fares are comparable with the bus and often less - usually 6NIS per trip.
 
Ordinary (or "Special") Taxis are faster, much more expensive, and can be hailed in the street. The meter shows either Tariff 1 (Sun-Fri 0530-2100) or Tariff 2 (Sun-Fri 2100-0530 and Shabbat). Tariff 2 is 25% higher than Tariff 1.

 Entertainment and nightlife

They say Tel Aviv ‘never sleeps’. Let's hope that's not literally true (planes descend over the rooftops all night on the approach to the airport). But it does have terrific nightlife. There are several late-night or all-night clubs and a party atmosphere on Allenby St and in the vibrant Florentin district near Jaffa.
  The city’s entertainment also includes world-class drama, classical concerts and opera at prestigious venues, notably the renowned Habima Theatre (Tarsat Blvd), HaTarbut or Charles Bronfman Auditorium [formerly Mann Auditorium] (Huberman St) and modern dance at Suzanne Dellal Centre (Yechieli St), home of the Batsheva Dance Company.

 Eating and drinking in Tel Aviv

Israeli eating means generous portions, fusion cooking, and a fondness for fresh, finely chopped salads, eaten at almost every meal including breakfast.
  Tel Aviv has hundreds of good, moderately priced eating places geared to locals rather than tourists. Cuisine ranges the entire spectrum from French to sushi, solid East European fare to delicately spicy Middle Eastern flavours.
  It's easy to be vegetarian in Tel Aviv, which has also been declared the world's best city for vegans. There are also numerous good quality kosher restaurants in Tel Aviv, for both meat and dairy menus: see the eLuna website.
  Restaurants, bars and cafes usually have menus in both Hebrew and English.
  For breakfast or brunch, lunch or dinner, follow locals to the Rothschild Boulevard area and its side streets - such as Nahmani Street, where the main restaurant of the elegantly restored The Norman is a contender for the best in the city, with exceptional cooking, a chic setting and relaxed, capable service in Israeli style.
  At the beach, standards vary from simple fried dishes and salads to the more stylish and ambitious. For a filling meal beside the sea, try big, popular, informal Cafe London (in the northern part of the promenade, at 111 Herbert Samuel Blvd) serving every type of meal all day long. A waterfront location of high standard is Manta Ray on Alma Beach, in south Tel Aviv, open all day from the sumptuous breakfast to the excellent evening menu.
  For top falafels and houmous, meze-like salad meals, or fresh fish with a sea view, continue further south to Old Jaffa, which gets packed in the evenings.

 Hotels in Tel Aviv

Most Tel Aviv hotels are in a strip along the length of the beach. The 5-star Dan (99 Hayarkon St) and Sheraton (115 Hayarkon St) are top names. Head south for lower prices. Particularly good value is the large, family-friendly Dan Panorama (10 Kaufmann St).
  A block or two inland, smaller, more affordable hotels include the Cinema Hotel (Dizengoff Sq), a treasure-house of movie memorabilia in a beautifully restored Bauhaus building.
  Interesting luxury hotels downtown include The Norman (Nachmani St),  a stylish top-of-the-range boutique hotel in beautifully converted 1920s Modernist buildings off Rothschild Ave.

At almost all hotels, standard B&B rates include the huge Israeli breakfast buffet of salads, cooked dishes and bakery items.

 Must-see

 Bauhaus Architecture 
Much of central Tel Aviv is built in the distinctive 1930s Modern Movement style known as International or Bauhaus. The city has the world's largest collection of Bauhaus buildings, and is a UNESCO World Heritage site, under the name "The White City". Many have been handsomely restored, especially around Rothschild Boulevard and the old Town Hall area in Bialik Street. Other districts also have fine examples, for example Neve Tzedek, which is undergoing extensive restoration.
www.bauhaus-center.com

 Carmel Market (Shuk HaCarmel)
Wander the hectic alleyways of Carmel Market (daily except Sat). Evocative, atmospheric, old-fashioned, it fills a network of narrow lanes with a fragrant cornucopia of produce.

 Eretz Israel Museum 
The huge Eretz Israel Museum in north Tel Aviv is a remarkable historical, ethnographic and archaeological museum. It encloses the site of an excavated tel - a hill consisting of remnants of civilisations layered one on top of another - and  explores 3000 years of history on this site. Additional displays cover the history and culture of ancient Israel through folklore, Judaica and traditional arts and crafts. More recent history includes wine and oil presses and a flour mill.
www.eretzmuseum.org.il

 Jaffa 
Picturesque Old Jaffa in south Tel Aviv was, according to the Bible, the major trading port of ancient Israel. Today it's Tel Aviv's favourite dining district, with great fish restaurants and views along the coast. Its steep stairways and narrow alleys edged by high walls climb between the waterfront and the central Kedumim Square, linking old and new districts. In the square, there is an underground museum and a tourist information centre. Rising from the square is a peaceful park adorned with modern sculptures.
www.oldjaffa.co.il

 Tel Aviv Museum of Art 
Opened in 1932, this is Israel's leading collection of modern artworks. It focuses mainly on Modernism, Impressionism and Post-Impression, with a growing collection of contemporary work. There are exceptional major displays of 20th-century European art, notably two donated collections of Impressionists and post-Impressionists - most of the greatest names of modern art are here, with works that have never been shown elsewhere. In a separate wing, there are interesting temporary exhibitions. The museum also hosts classical and jazz concerts, performance arts, lectures, dance and cinema.
www.tamuseum.com

 Independence Hall
The home of Tel Aviv's first mayor, Meir Dizengoff, was the venue for the momentous declaration that brought the State of Israel into being on 14 May 1948. It's now a museum recalling the event, with a stirring history of Zionism.
www.eretzmuseum.org.il/e/99/

 Diaspora Museum (Beit Hatfutsot) 
Discover the music, costumes and cultural diversity of the Jewish people during 2000 years of worldwide diaspora, including historic film footage, at this big museum on the university campus in north Tel Aviv.
www.bh.org.il

 Historic Station (Hatachanah) 
Close to the beach and beside Tel Aviv’s ‘first neighbourhood’, Neve Tzedek, the restored 19th-century railway station (originally on the line connecting Jaffa to Jerusalem) has become a relaxing centre for shopping, dining and family entertainment.

www.hatachana.co.il

 Buy it

Tel Aviv's main centres for shopping are the malls (the best is the Ramat Aviv shopping centre north of Yarkon Park), the designer stores around  Kikkar HaMedina in north Tel Aviv, the more varied shopping along Dizengoff, atmospheric traditional Carmel  Market and the craft market in the next street, Nachalat Binyamin.

Judaica - City centre Tel Aviv shops and craft market stalls sell a wide variety of Judaica (hanukkiot, mezuzas, kippot, dreidels, etc) from classic silverware to innovative designs and materials.

Jewellery - Fine silverwork, gold, jewellery set with diamonds, are all locally made by talented craft workers, often with imaginative designs and very reasonable prices.

Designer fashions - Israel is fashion conscious, with a stylish informality all its own. Casual clothes and beachwear are specialities.

Arts and crafts - Stroll the craft market at the northern end of Nahalat Binyamin for artworks and handmade jewelry by local artists.


Shuk bargains - Wander HaCarmel lane through Shuk HaCarmel (Carmel Market) to find stalls selling cheap-and-cheerful souvenirs.


Tourists benefit from a zero rate of VAT (a tax on transactions) on many items. When making your purchase, ask for a Tax Refund Invoice; then, when leaving the country, take the invoice to the tax refund desk at the airport for the VAT refund.

 In the Know

At Jewish religious sites men should cover their heads (paper yarmulke usually available free if required).

Shabbat shutdown: from Friday late afternoon to Saturday evening, many attractions are closed and there is no public transport.

Take a walk: the tourist office has details of walking tours that are completely free of charge.

The word 'kosher' means conforming to Jewish religious law. Some basic rules: no pork, no shellfish and keeping meat and milk completely separate - although kosher imitations of non-kosher foods (especially shellfish) may be indistinguishable from the real thing.

Haggling or bargaining is not usual in Israel (other than in Arab markets and Arab stores).

 Events and festivals

Jewish religious festivals, anniversaries  and holidays (and Shabbat) are all 25 hours long, starting at nightfall and ending the following nightfall. Dates are fixed according to the Hebrew calendar, and may fall on a different 'conventional' date every year.  
The major festivals are:
Pesach - especially the first night (Seder night); Shavuot; Rosh Hashanah; Yom Kippur; Sukkot; and to a smaller extent, Hannukah. This year's dates can be found at:
www.hebcal.com/holidays/

What's on...
There's always a lot happening in Tel Aviv. Visit this calendar page of the tourist office website for details of current and forthcoming events:
www.visit-tel-aviv.com/events

Tel Aviv Marathon
24 February 2017
One of the biggest of Israel's many marathons and half-marathons
is this hugely popular run through the city and beachfront. As well as the main event, there's a half-marathon, two shorter runs, a kids’ marathon and a hand-cycle race.
www.tlvmarathon.co.il

Tel Aviv Pride Parade
9
June 2017
One of the world's biggest, loudest and gayest celebrations of sexual freedom is the week culminating in Pride Parade, a
huge display of brilliant colour and raunchiness which makes its way through the city centre streets to the beach.

 Tel Aviv Basics

Where is Tel Aviv?
  On the eastern edge of the Mediterranean.
International phone dialling code:
 
00 372 (+ drop initial 0 from local number)
Time zone:
 
GMT/BST + 2 hours.
Money:
 
Shekel (or New Israeli Shekel, NIS).

 Flights to Tel Aviv

Flight time for flights from London to Tel Aviv is around 5 hours.

Easyjet operate low-cost flights from London to Tel Aviv. The principal scheduled airline is El Al.

Flights to Israel arrive at Ben-Gurion Airport, on the Jerusalem highway 20km (12 miles) SE of Tel Aviv. Buses, sheruts, taxis and trains run to the city centre. The fastest way is by train.

Avoid Fridays and Saturdays: on Shabbat (from Friday evening to Saturday evening) there is NO public transport at all to or from the airport. Taxis are available but hike their fares accordingly.





 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Tel Aviv
Updated and revised January 2017.
All rights reserved worldwide.
Text © Focus Guides and Andrew Sanger.
Pictures (all of Tel Aviv) © Vanda Biffani, courtesy of the Israel Government Tourist Office.
Permission to use: This guide may be freely PRINTED ONLY for personal non-commercial use. Unless a LICENCE has been obtained it may not, in whole or in part, be COPIED nor used for any COMMERCIAL purpose.
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