Tel-Aviv pulses with energy, and life. New building construction like massive pieces of sculpture, reach for the sky and historic buildings are being refurbished and reimagined into boutique hotels, art galleries, coffee shops, restaurants, and interior design stores.
Cafés, bakeries, and trendy restaurants spill onto the sidewalks. The cuisine has evolved into a sublime and unique blend of the diversity of Tel-Aviv’s population. European, Middle Eastern, and African. Recipes merge into a delicious combination of traditional fare: Jewish, Lebanese, Moroccan, Ethiopian, Yemenite, Italian, Spanish, French, and Arabic. It’s a foodie’s nirvana.
Dizengoff Street and Ha Yarkon Park.
Dizengoff is flanked by a canopy of trees that provide shade and dappled sunshine. Up-and-coming designers in clothing, fabrics, and home furnishings, populate the boutiques. Every few steps you’ll find an enticing bakery, coffee shop, bar, or restaurant. Pedestrians stroll the wide sidewalks; bicycles, motorized skateboards, kick scooters, and electric scooters whiz by as they weave their way artfully through traffic.
On the Southern end of Dizengoff Street, you’ll reach the iconic, round, Dizengoff Square built in 1934. At its center stands a circular, tiered musical fountain, designed by Agam, a pioneer of the Kinetic Art Movement. Rest your weary feet a while. Linger over a cup of coffee and pastry while watching the activity in the square. Several blocks further South you’ll reach Dizengoff Center, which straddles the street. It’s a huge shopping mall that boasts a smorgasbord of stores. An ideal destination for shopping in the heat of summer or a rainy winter’s day. You name it and you’ll find it in Dizengoff Center.
The Northern end of Dizengoff will lead you to the Yarkon River and Ha Yarkon Park. In contrast to Dizengoff Street, this tranquil park has wide expanses of green lawns, a petting zoo, children’s playgrounds, outdoor concert venues, biking trails, botanical gardens, a rock garden, tropical garden, sporting facilities, waterslides, boating, kayaking, canoeing, and jogging trails. It’s a world away from the action of Dizengoff. Pack a picnic basket and spend the day. Summer weekends can be crowded but glorious spring, fall, and winter days are serene and peaceful.
Ben Yehuda Street – is another vibrant lively street, two blocks from the beach and a couple of short blocks from Dizengoff. As of 2021, much of Ben Yehuda is closed due to the construction of a Light Rail system. When the Light Rail is completed, it will once again be abuzz with life and activity.
Tel-Aviv’s fourteen-kilometer (8.7 mile) promenade stretches from the Old Tel-Aviv Port in the North to Jaffa in the South. There is not a time of day or night, nor a time of year when the Tayelet sleeps. In the early morning joggers, walkers, cyclists, and skaters, savor the peace and the fresh morning air. Fishermen cast their rods, and swimmers glide across the calm Mediterranean Sea.
In the hours before or after a heavy rain storm, surfers are out riding the waves, while “Foot –Volley’’ – Soccer Volley Ball games, take place on the golden sand.
Coffee shops, restaurants, bars, and hotels sit on the beaches and along the promenade. If you are a walker, I highly recommend a walk from the Old Tel-Aviv Port to Jaffa or vice versa. One can make a day of it stopping along the way to linger over a meal or drink, and a dip in the sea. This is especially pleasant on the spring, autumn, and sunny winter days.
On a summer’s night, the Tayelet is the place to be: it sparkles with lights, laughter, and music; waves rolling onto the shore create their own gentle symphony; street performers entertain the strolling crowds; restaurants and bars overflow with locals and tourists enjoying the balmy summer nights.
The Old Tel-Aviv Port
The Old Tel-Aviv Port has not been operational since 1965, by which time it had fallen into total decay.
In 2002, restoration began to revive the port as a destination for outdoor dining on the quays alongside the harbor, where once upon a time boats had anchored. Today it’s also a popular shopping area that boasts local and international brands.
The indoor market – held in hanger 12 – attracts a daily stream of customers from the time it opens at 9:00 a.m. to closing at 7:00 p.m. (It closes earlier on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays.) It’s a gastronomical delight that offers everything from gourmet pasta and sauces; to an assortment of coffees; unusual fruits and vegetables; irresistible bread and pastries; creative fruit drinks etc. etc. The list is endless!
My advice: visit with an appetite so that you can indulge your salivating taste buds in addition to filling your shopping bags.
Jaffa is a jewel! Its Old Town rests on a hill overlooking the ocean and the ancient port, which is mentioned in The Old Testament stories of Jonah and Solomon, in the New Testament in connection with Saint Peter, and Greek mythology in the story of Andromeda and Perseus.
Archaeological digs in Jaffa have revealed items dating back to the Bronze Age, The Ottoman Empire, and the Hellenistic, Roman, and Crusader occupations.
From the Clock Tower, make your way up the hill and stroll the labyrinth of original stone alleys of Old Jaffa, through ancient archways, past art galleries, and artisan’s workshops, and feel as though you’ve stepped back in time.
Sit on a bench in Ha Pisga gardens / Summit Gardens, and take in the most spectacular views of Tel-Aviv and the entire coastline.
Visit adjacent Abrasha Park and the beautifully carved “Gate of Faith” which depicts Jacob’s dream, the Sacrifice of Isaac, and the Fall of Jericho.
Pop into St. Peter’s Church, which faces the small plaza.
On your way down the hill, you’ll come across the remains of ancient Turkish baths, where nature and man-made structures have merged to create a new and captivating art form.
Adjacent to the clock tower, the vibrant, seductive, Shuk Hapishpeshim – Flea Market, is a kaleidoscope of colorful alleyways, where historic buildings have been restored and repurposed as boutiques, galleries, coffee shops, bakeries, and restaurants.
Visit on a Friday mid-morning until early afternoon when it’s at its liveliest. Be on the lookout for paintings where artists have used old doors and building facades as canvases for their stunning and creative artwork.
Make your way down to the historic Jaffa fishing port. It’s particularly lively on Fridays and Saturdays when musicians gather to give impromptu concerts; the outdoor restaurants serve scrumptious Arab/Israeli meals with freshly baked pita hot out of the oven; the ice cream parlor offers a mouthwatering choice of exotic flavors; artists display their paintings; and many visitors come to just stroll, soak up the atmosphere, and the scent of the fresh sea air.
Funky Florentin known for its fabulous array of street art oozes youthful energy and warm neighborly vibes.
An eclectic mix of artisan cheese and wine stores, pottery studios, creative jewelry designers, trendy clothing boutiques, and leafy squares, make this up-and-coming area a magnet for young city dwellers. Locals stop to chat while walking their dogs, and hang out at the ever-increasing mix of cafés and culturally diverse restaurants.
Teder, at Beit Romano in the heart of Florentin, is a huge indoor-outdoor venue that hosts year-round parties featuring the coolest DJs and bands. Constructed in 1947 as the city’s first shopping mall, this decrepit old building has been resurrected to become the most hipster music venue in Tel-Aviv.
Neve Tzedek lies adjacent to Florentin. Established in 1887, it was the first Jewish neighborhood outside the ancient port city of Jaffa. Over time it fell into a shabby state of neglect and lost its luster. Today it’s a picturesque, highly sought-after area imbued with a cozy, laid-back, yet elegant charm.
Its sidewalks are dotted with upscale restaurants housed in refurbished homes and buildings; high-end, one-of-a-kind, designer clothing, fabric, jewelry, shoe stores, and art galleries.
Brightly colored bougainvillea and flowering vines drape the walls in the peaceful, narrow, residential web of winding lanes. Neve Tzedek is a little oasis of calm in the heart of the hustle-and-bustle of Tel-Aviv. Explore the main artery – Shabazi Street – then wander the atmospheric side streets.
Ha Tachana – Tel-Aviv’s old railway station, was the first railway in the Middle East. It connected Old Jaffa to Jerusalem creating a more efficient means of transporting goods from Jaffa to Jerusalem than a long trek by camel.
Today this long-abandoned, historic, outdoor space with old platforms, railway lines, and restored buildings, is beginning to bloom as a place to find an impressive assortment of cafés, bars, restaurants, and stores. Situated between Florentin and the edge of Neve Tzedek, and across the road from the beach, this has to be the next up-and-coming trendy area in Tel-Aviv.
Nahalat Binyamin – Off bustling Allenby Street, adjacent to the Carmel Market, Nahalat Binyamin is a pedestrian-only area. Famous for its historic architecture, impressive collection of fabric stores, outdoor cafés, bakeries, and ice cream parlors, Nahalat Binyamin hosts two hundred artists every Tuesday and Friday who set up their booths along the pedestrian walkways.
The atmosphere is dynamic yet relaxed as the crowds browse the stalls, walk their dogs, and linger in the cafés enjoying coffee, freshly baked pastries, or a light meal while watching the parade of people go by.
The Levinsky Market
Walk South along Nahalat Benyamin toward Elat/Yafo Road and you’ll reach the small, delightful, Levinsky street market, where you’ll find an impressive display of dried fruits, nuts, herbs, and spices.
Pop into the charming corner store – Yom Tov – with its golden stone façade and blue awnings, known for its selection of cheese, wine, and a variety of nougat.
Exotic aromas wafting from the restaurants will have you scrambling for a table at one of the restaurants that spill out onto the pedestrian street. Relax and enjoy their unique fusion cuisine.
Shuk Ha Carmel – Carmel Market
When in Tel-Aviv don’t miss spending several hours in Shuk Ha Carmel, a bubbling cauldron of colliding aromas from spices, fragrant fruits, freshly baked bread, bouquets of bright flowers, to meat, chicken, and vegetables on the grill.
The calls of vendors of every age and nationality carry across the quarter-mile length of the market, where one can shop for anything one’s taste and heart desire: Fresh fruit and vegetables that are brought to market daily; gourmet cheeses; mouth-watering Halva in dozens of flavors; Middle-Eastern delicacies such as Baklava, Turkish Delight, and Knafeh; and candy and chocolate from across the globe.
Stalls are stocked to the rafters with household goods, clothing, linen and bedding, electronics, and Dead Sea body, hand, and face products.
Stop for a memorable, inexpensive meal at one of the chef-owned food stalls, and explore the profusion of trendy atmospheric restaurants and cafés that hug the narrow side alleys.
Shuk Ha Camel is a symphony of colors, sights, and sounds. Its vibrant energy is an instant remedy for leaving whatever was on your mind behind.
Kerem Hateimanim – Yemenite Vineyard – snuggles between Allenby Street, the Carmel Market, and the sea. Established by Yemenite Jews in the late eighteen hundreds, it’s a hive of cafés, bars, and restaurants that clog the narrow alleys. The neighborhood hosts some of the most talented up-and-coming chefs who artfully blend ingredients and spices from a hotchpotch of cultures and traditions with mouthwatering results. It’s a foodie’s heaven, brimming with energy.
Kikar Hamedina – designed by Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer, is the largest plaza in Tel-Aviv. A circular park, encircled by He Be Iyyar Street, its setting and design outshine Rodeo Drive, Via Condotti, and Fifth Avenue. All the exclusive international designers and luxury brand stores have a presence around this unique two – hundred – thousand square meter park. As of 2019, the park is under construction. Foundations are being laid for three, forty-story luxury apartment buildings, a beautifully landscaped park with a lake at its center, and underground parking.
While the construction may take several years, it has not affected the magnetic pull of the high-end stores whether one is a shopper, a browser, or a window shopper.
Reach Kikar Hamedina via Jabotinsky Street (runs from East to West) and Weizman Street (runs North to South).
Sarona – is a neighborhood in the heart of Tel-Aviv easily reached from Kaplan Street. Its history dates back to 1871 when it was established by German Christians – the Templars – who came to the Holy Land to await the Second Coming. In the early days the community was plagued by malaria but by the late eighteen hundreds, they had built homes, sheds, barns, and planted crops, orchards, and vineyards. During the Second World War, the Germans were interned by the British in Sarona, and all were deported by 1945.
Today Sarona is both a tranquil and vibrant neighborhood, where an artfully designed, extensive park is dotted with boutiques, restaurants, bars, and a tiny tourist information office, all housed in the original Templar homes, which underwent painstaking renovation. Modern playgrounds, lily ponds, flower beds, and shaded benches beckon one to stay a while and take in the peace of this surprising oasis in the midst of a bustling city.
Adjacent to the gardens is the – not to be missed – Sarona Market. One of the most superb, upscale, indoor culinary markets in the world. It will entice you to return repeatedly from across the city to savor the irresistible smorgasbord offered by eateries and stalls. From freshly baked bread and pastries to cheeses from across the globe, spices, halva, wine, and gourmet pasta.
The list goes on and on!
Claro Restaurant, located in a plaza beyond the indoor market, is housed in an Original Templar building constructed in 1868 as a wine distillery. The food is excellent and the ambiance is unique. Be sure to make reservations.
Rehov Rothschild is a must for strolling, early morning and evening biking, and relaxing at a café over a coffee and freshly baked pastry, while reading the newspaper or watching the parade of people go by. It’s flanked by homes both in the historic Bauhaus style, and spanking new ones; art galleries; restaurants; and bars.
At its center is a wide, tree-lined park, with fountains, cafes, walking and bike trails, and children’s playgrounds. The park stretches the length of Rothschild from the border of Neve Tzedek – near Herzl Street – and ends at HaBima Square.
Built in 1910, Rehov Rothschild was one of Tel Aviv’s first streets. Its original name was Rehov Ha’am – The Street of the People. The dry stream that ran along its center was transformed into the leafy green, thoroughfare that it is today, with car lanes on either side.
** Also check out Rehov Sheinkin, another trendy street, which leads off Rothschild on one end and King George on the other.
Disclosure: The two photos of the Tel- Aviv Port and the photo of Rehov Rothschild Park were purchased from Depositphotos.