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.
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
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.
(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
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.
from that period.
In 1948 the modern state of Israel was declared in Tel Aviv.
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
becoming a single municipality called Tel-Aviv-Jaffa.
Tel Aviv's small main tourist
information centre is on the
beachside boulevard at 46 Herbert Samuel Street (corner of Geula
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
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
Most Tel Aviv hotels
are in a strip along the length of the beach.
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
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.
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,
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
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.
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.
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
Tel Aviv Museum of
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.
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.
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
north Tel Aviv.
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
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.
- 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
••Arts and crafts - Stroll the craft market at the northern
end of Nahalat Binyamin for artworks and
handmade jewelry by local artists.
- 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
••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
a walk: the tourist office has details of walking tours
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).
Jewish religious festivals,
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
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:
There's always a lot happening in Tel Aviv. Visit this calendar
page of the tourist office website for details of current and
Tel Aviv Marathon
24 February 2017
One of the biggest of Israel's many 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.
Tel Aviv Pride Parade
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.
••Where is Tel Aviv?
On the eastern edge of the
00 372 (+ drop initial 0 from local number)
GMT/BST + 2 hours.
Shekel (or New Israeli Shekel, NIS).
••Flight time for flights from London to Tel Aviv is around 5 hours.
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
operate low-cost flights from London to Tel Aviv. The principal
scheduled airline is El Al.
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