What to Do in Tel Aviv: A Quick Guide

Here are some local tips to ensure you get the most out of Tel Aviv.

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Tel Aviv beach scene at dusk

There’s something cruel about setting up pristine beaches and gorgeous weather in a haven for hummus and falafel. But the Almighty works in mysterious ways, and His or Her presence can be felt in the cultural capital of Israel, with its historic churches, mosques and synagogues. That said, if it's religion you’re after, go to Jerusalem. Its younger, cooler sibling Tel Aviv, is a fun and eclectic gem, known for its liberal vibe, diverse cuisine and iconic fashion. Chaotic and authentic, the souks (markets) afford a glimpse of the bohemian underbelly of this historic beast, while the modernist towers of the White City look to future and prosperity. Unwind in the parks of Israel’s greenest city and dine in its upmarket restaurants. The city may never sleep, but you’ll catch plenty of shut-eye in the quiet, upscale neighbourhoods of Neve Tzedek and Rothschild.

Here's what to do in Tel Aviv to get the most out of your trip.

Tel Aviv by the sea

Museums

With its outlandish geometric angles and otherworldly form, the Tel Aviv Museum of Art is about as far from the outdated image of religious, old-world Israel as it gets. This Leaning Tower of Pieces (of Art) and its stunning contemporary works make for an enlightening first step in your exploration of the modern, vibrant and international Tel Aviv. Lose yourself in the collection of Israeli art: the largest of its kind in the world.

Carmel Market, Tel Aviv

Souks

It wouldn’t be an Israeli city without a souk or a shuk, depending on how you feel like pronouncing it. The largest and best-known bazaar in all of Tel Aviv is the Carmel Market, a dizzying maze of stalls, shops and restaurants. Its hectic vibe makes for a bit of a trip back down to earth from the glossy high-brow heights of the modern museums. But it offers a glimpse of authentic local culture through the scents, sounds and sights of souk life. Get a-haggling with fierce and humorous vendors over spices, fruits and meats.

Beaches

Ok, admit it. The souk got a bit much after haggling for three hours over a carpet that won’t fit in your suitcase. There’s no shame in that; you’re glad you went and you’re full of falafel, but it’s time to drop off the over-sized carpet at your apartment and waddle on down to one of Tel Aviv’s stunning strands. Wondering what to do in Tel Aviv with kids? There’s something for everyone here. Play volleyball by the restaurant of the lively Metzitzim Beach. Looking for tranquillity? Lie in the shade of the cliffs of the serene Tel Baruch Beach. Want to escape the husband? Try the Religious Beach that places a great, big wall between men and women. Now that’s cultural and practical.

Jaffa, Tel Aviv

Jaffa

And we’re not talking about the cakes biscuits biscuit-sized cakes (look it up, non-Brits). A jumble of rustic façades overlooks the water in this ancient Arab port town, offering up a quiet escape from the city streets. Yet, the preserved remains of the acropolis and the St. Peter’s Monastery belie a trendy and modern culture within, where narrow and crumbling alleyways are skirted by exotic restaurants and boutiques.

Architecture

Head down the Rothschild Boulevard and marvel at the Bauhaus designs of the upscale houses. Step inside the Independence Hall to see how Tel Aviv’s first mayor lived. Also, the nearby Haganah Museum exhibits enough weapons to bring down Rambo…or at least to knock him out. Change it up with the adjacent 19th-century Neve Tzedek Quarter, whose quaint edifices contain trendy artist hubs and boutiques.

Parks

It’s said that around one fifth of the city is green, making this the greenest city in Israel. ‘That’s not saying much for a country that’s 60% desert,’ I hear you grumble, cruel reader. And you’re right. But, give me a chance here. An Israeli take on New York’s Central Park, Hayarkon Park is packed with gardens and sports areas. Bring the kids to the petting zoo and take a pedal boat out on the water. Overlooking the sea, you’ll find the spectacular Tel Aviv Botanical Garden and the bucolic Independence Garden.

Did we mention the food?

Tel Aviv is the vegan capital of the world and is renowned for its first-rate Middle Eastern cuisine and seafood. Pick up some traditional challah bread and schnitzel from the souks and head to one of the aforementioned parks for a picnic. A range of light and locally-flavoured meals await you in the Yemenite Quarter. But the real fine dining is found in the chic bars of Dizengoff and the exclusive restaurants scattered across the city, from the Manta Ray seafood gem by historic Jaffa to the Asian fusion food of Zepra in the Sarona district.

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