The Only List of Things to Do in Old Jaffa You Need
Marrying an ancient past with youthful energy and a stellar foodie scene, make a beeline for Old Jaffa when in Tel Aviv.
Ask any local what the one must-see place in Tel Aviv is, and they will likely exclaim 'Old Jaffa'. With its history beginning around 3,500 years ago, Jaffa has seen the pharaohs, the Templars, Napoleon and Alexander the Great. But no matter who ruled it, Jaffa remained a prosperous seaport attracting travellers and traders from around the world. And, even now that it has been consumed by the vibrant and cosmopolitan city of Tel Aviv, Jaffa still maintains its unique character, born largely of its history. Let's take a look at the very best things to do in Old Jaffa, as chosen by our trusty experts here at Plum Guide.
As the oldest part of Tel Aviv, Jaffa is unsurprisingly home to most of the area's famous historical attractions. Every building here has a story: the Clock Tower, mosques, the governor's palace, port, churches of various confessions, museums and plenty of private galleries all vie for your attention. Whether you're staying in Jaffa or just venturing in for the afternoon from elsewhere in the city, exploring these bastions of the areas heritage should be high on the list of things to do in Tel Aviv.
Hidden shopping gems
As well as exploring the historical side of this area, you can also shop at the biggest flea market to be found in Tel Aviv (located right next to the port). It's worth heading out of your stylish Plum home early to beat the crowds. Here you will find vintage furniture and lamps, Middle Eastern clothing and accessories, carpets and works by local artists. Given the rich traces of the past found here, it may surprise you to learn that exploring contemporary design also numbers among the best things to do in Old Jaffa. This is one of the best areas to shop for clothing, art and jewellery made by local designers and artists. During your visit, you could even commission something to be made just for you.
Although famed for its history, Jaffa is on the cutting edge of Israeli fashion. Maskit, whose collections have graced the cover of Vogue, and who hold the title of the first Israeli fashion house, is located here. You can come to their visitors’ centre in front of the flea market or their shop in the hear of Old Jaffa. It’s a store and museum at the same time, where you can see iconic dresses from different eras created by Maskit designers throughout the fashion house's history, as well as this season's styles, which can be bought on the spot. Right next to Maskit's store you will find a Yemenite museum and its jewellery store, Ben-Zion David. This treasure trove of a store exhibits and sells unique Judaica pieces and beautiful handmade silver jewellery created by an eighth generation silversmith from Yemen. The museum also houses several exhibitions and workshops that tell the story of the Yemenite Jews.
Another store worth visiting is Zielinski & Rozen, which sells handmade perfumes as well as soaps, shower gels, hair masks and other beauty products. The shop is owned by a husband and wife who themselves produce all the goods they sell. They make their perfumes from raw materials and say that they are “inspired by the eclectic street musicians that play in Jaffa on Fridays” – if the gorgeous smell of Zielinski & Rozen's products are anything to go by, the musicians must be excellent. If you have a penchant modern art, head to SAGA shop and gallery. They call themselves "the facade of Israeli design”, and this is indeed the best place to get an introduction to the Israeli design scene. After getting your dose of design education, head right behind the store to cafe SAG. Full of light and plants, this oasis of calm is the perfect tonic to the often overcrowded flea market.
The best cafes, bars and restaurants
Within the context of Tel Aviv's world-class restaurant and market scene, Jaffa is known in its own right for great nightlife, bars with live shows, and diverse dining options so head out from your unique Plum home and get ready for a fun night ahead. Most of Jaffa's population is Arab, meaning there is no shortage of places to sample Middle Eastern dishes. Abulafia is probably the oldest bakery in Tel Aviv, with one Arab family preparing breads, pastries, pizza, pitas, and other baked goods for generations. Biting into one of their fresh sambusak pastries is a must-do for every first-time visitor to Tel Aviv.
Go to Fairouz for spicy shakshuka and to Basma for the best knafeh (a traditional Middle Eastern dessert made of noodle-like pastry, cheese, and nuts) in the city. In the evening you can come here to listen to the oud (a traditional Arab string instrument) and smoke hookah. Unsurprisingly, Jaffa’s port is a hotspot for seafood restaurants. The most famous among them is The Old Man and the Sea, which is known for offering more than a dozen different salads and spreads as an aside to any main dish.
Jaffa is also the perfect place for a bar crawl. For live music, it’s hard to beat Akbar, The Container, or Shaffa, while The Cuckoo's Nest and Beit Kandinoff are bars-cum-art galleries with a particularly fun atmosphere. Most bars offer Happy Hour deals, usually between 6 pm and 8 pm, which are an excellent opportunity to try some Israeli beer: Goldstar, Malka, and Maccabee are all popular. There are also a few notable high-end restaurants in Jaffa. Par Derriere is a swanky bar with an open-air terrace that offers a great collection of wine and delicious international cuisine, while Selas is the area's best sushi restaurant. Tash and Tasha serves traditional Georgian food and has live music on most nights. All this being said, if you can only eat at one place in Jaffa it simply has to be Abu Hassan. Many locals consider this legendary eatery to serve the best hoummous the best in Tel Aviv (and there's some competition!). The place itself is very small and largely undecorated, a mark of quality when it comes to street food in Israel.
So, there we have it – just a few of our favourite things to do in Old Jaffa. Your greatest memories will of course come about through strolling through the streets, peeking into each little store and talking to the owners, who will gladly tell you their story and inspiration. If you're looking to move to Tel Aviv or simply for the ideal base for your trip to Israel, Plum Guide's team of experts can help you pick the perfect home away from home in Tel Aviv.