The Best Places to Stay in Tel Aviv for Tourists
Our expert guide to help you choose the perfect neighbourhood for your trip
What makes Tel Aviv so remarkable is its contrasting energy, no other city bustles quite like it. It is cosmopolitan, buzzing and beautiful all at the same time. An intellectual metropolis with a beach town mentality and a serious food obsession. It never sleeps, nor does it take a midday siesta. Fortunately, with summer raging for about 70% of the year and with so many of the city attractions being outdoors, it can adapt itself pretty easily to social distancing.
Here at Plum Guide, we make it our business to choose only the best homes that are situated in the finest and most exciting neighbourhoods. There are so many neighbourhoods to fall for in this vibrant city, but our rundown should help you hone in on the one that fits you most.
Stay in the city centre & Rothschild Boulevard
Experience the carefree charm of the city by surrounding yourself with its avenues and staples of culture. The most famous street in Israel is Rotschild Blvd. Home to great cafes, bars, Bauhaus and Eclectic style architecture (and the occasional civil uprising), it has become emblematic of all things Tel Aviv. To assimilate yourself with the locals after setting off from your Plum home for the day, grab a coffee from one of the little vendors and sit on a bench to partake in the TLV tradition of seeing and being seen.
A bike ride along Rothschild or the other two central boulevards, Ben-Tziyon and Chen, is an efficient (and rather joyous) way to get yourself across the centre. But just remember: if you’re pedalling the avenues, make sure you head down on Ben Tziyon blvd and not up. The incline is so steep it is lovingly referred to as “the wall of death”. Believe us, we failed to take our own advice and the humiliation was public. Rothschild ends in HaBima Square, where the national theatre, the Helena Rubinstein Pavilion for contemporary art and The Charles Bronfman music hall (Heichal Hatarbut) all reside. Be sure to visit the charming piazza itself for its art installations and sunken garden. Not far to the east you'll find the Sarona recreation complex with its unique design, boutique shops, fine restaurants and prestigious indoor food market.
For a glimpse into the city’s psyche, however, why not go on a shopping spree in Tel Aviv’s oldest and most beloved shopping mall, Dizengoff Centre? Tel Avivians love this place for its location, arthouse LEV cinema and the homemade food fair held on Thursdays and Fridays. But the main reason the locals have such warm feelings towards the centre is because of its truly perplexing layout, one that even city veterans struggle to navigate. Getting lost in “the dark side of the centre” is a legitimate TLV pastime. From there you can visit local designer shops on the historic Dizengoff street. Once so intrinsic to the Tel Aviv experience that it became a verb in the 1970’s. To Dizengoff (“Lehizdangeff”) basically meant “to be seen in Dizengoff street, doing that Dizengoff thing”. That piece of colloquialism may not be in use today, but the street still is.
Staying in the heart of the city means you’re never far from the beach, which also means you’re close to the Gordon Swimming Pool, the city’s oldest public pool and the only one by the boardwalk. In recent years it underwent renovations to become effortlessly chic and maximise the seaside view. It uses deep salty seawater instead of chlorinated water which makes for healthier nippy and truly invigorating laps.
Book a home in the Old North
Considered Tel Aviv’s most chilled part, this neck of the wood is ideal for sport enthusiasts and inner-city nature lovers. The Yarkon park and Yehoshua gardens, on both banks of the Yarkon river, are perfect for walking, running, bike rides and quite a few open air activities. (No swimming though, that river is for boats only. Trust us on this.) Tel Aviv’s green lung also boasts many family friendly attractions and sport facilities (such as a climbing wall and tennis courts).
If it’s art you’re after then a visit to the Tel Aviv Museum of Contemporary Art is a must. Venture further north and you’ll find the impressive Muza – Eretz Israel Museum for contemporary Israeli artifacts and archaeological treasures. Relatively quiet though the north may be, its inhabitants still love to go out and there are nightlife choices abound. Dizengoff street’s north end offers many restaurants and bars, as does Ibn Gvirol street and the charming set of streets around Basel.
However, the main leisure attraction is The Port. A large designated area for shops, restaurants, bars and a few nightclubs. Its modern deck promenade is one of the most atmospheric places in the city. Perfect for a romantic sunset stroll as well as a good night out. It is also the host of the trendy Shuk Hanamal, the port market, that offers fresh produce from local farmers, artisanal delicacies and casual and noncausal dining options.
Visit Nachalat Binyamin & Kerem Hateymanim
Here we look at two small neighbouring quarters, brimming with character. Nachalat Binyamin is one of the city’s prettiest streets. A pedestrian zone lined with some of the most beautiful 1920s Eclectic style buildings (like the House of Palms). On Tuesdays and Fridays, Nachalat Binyamin hosts the biggest arts and crafts fair as the street fills with tens of stalls and hundreds of people. Kerem Hateymanim, which confusingly translates to Yemenite Grove - despite never growing any grapes or olives, is a neighbourhood like no other on our list of the best places to stay in Tel Aviv for tourists. A cluster of tiny streets and alleys with humble 1-2 storey houses from the 1900s alongside trendy new builds. To this day, it's a hub of authentic Yemenite cuisine, as well as home to some of the city’s best hummus and middle eastern eateries.
Between the two neighbourhoods stands the Carmel souk, Tel Aviv’s largest and most famous open market. With stalls and surrounding shops selling fresh produce, spices, delicacies and finery. Unsurprisingly, the quarters take their cue from the market and the area is authentically colourful and lively. The small streets spilling out of the market and into the neighbourhoods have a number of restaurants, bars and cafes – most with outdoor seating. Not far on Allenby street you’d find the unique Great Synagogue complex, where the large house of God is surrounded by small open-air trendy bars and taverna-like eateries. In case you hadn't gathered already, one of the keys to unlocking Tel Aviv’s charm is to experience the freedom of wining and dining outside, hoping to catch a breeze, without ceremony or pomp.
Enjoy a stay in Neve Tzedek
Claim this is Tel Aviv’s most stunning district and few would argue. Neve Tzedek boasts colourful oriental houses in characterful alleyways that could launch a thousand photo albums. A short walk from the beach, Kerem Hateymanim and the south end of Rothchild boulevard, the historic neighbourhood’s name translates to “Oasis of Justice” and though we cannot attest to the justice part, the other is pretty accurate. It functions as a somewhat detached and self-contained bohemian oasis, home to excellent restaurants, trendy bars, independent art galleries and boutique shops.
The neighbourhood’s biggest pride and joy is the Suzanne Dellal Centre for Dance, home to the renowned Batsheva Dance Company. The beautiful campus has several auditoriums, classrooms and a piazza that often hosts outdoor performances and events. Venture out a little and you’d be rewarded with the sight of the historic Hassan Beck mosque, the indulgent seaside Manta Ray seafood restaurant, the picnic and BBQ opportunities the Charles Clore seafront park provides, and the unusual shopping drinking and dining experience on offer at the Old Railway Station compound.
Find a home in Florentin
The only neighbourhood on our list of best places to stay in Tel Aviv for tourists rewarded with its own popular TV show in the 1990’s (aptly named “Florentin”), this is also the edgiest and funkiest of the city’s quarters. This southern neighbourhood is popular with the young, the hipsters and the artists, all flocking to it for its exciting food and nightlife scene. This neighbourhood is loud, gritty and bustling. There is little wonder why it’s considered the Mecca of Israeli street art, with tour guides happy to take you on a graffiti treasure hunt in search of the latest urban masterpiece.
No doubt the best and most exciting part of this neighbourhood, though, is The Levinski Market. A cluster of alleyways with speciality shops that sell spices, cheese, baked goods, roasted nuts and vegan delicacies. But there is only one truly unmissable culinary wonder on sale there: The Burekas. One of Israel’s favourite food and a staple in any picnic, office party or wake, this Balkan flakey stuffed pastry (specifically the cheese one), is an absolute must. Just maybe don’t mention this to your dietitian. Not far from Florentin you can also find one of the coolest spots in the city: The joyous and vivacious Gan Ha-Chashmal (directly translated to “Electricity garden”). The garden and surrounding streets are a leisure haven with young designer shops, vintage clothes stores, colourful and diverse restaurants (like the Mexican Taqueria and the mind-blowing vegan pizza The Green Cat) and nifty little bars and music venues.
Experience the culture of Old Jaffa
Nothing beats the majestic authenticity of old Jaffa, with its ancient Arabic buildings, beautiful churches, mosques and synagogues and breath-taking vistas of the Mediterranean. This old district of a city within a city offers a fascinating glimpse into a fraught but hopeful coexistence.
Steeped in history this quarter has many beauty spots and attractions; The Jaffa Port is a thriving venue with picturesque views of docking fishing boats and several trendy restaurants and bars. It connects to the Seawall Promenade which makes for a lovely walk to the Charles Clore Park (it then turns into the Tel Aviv boardwalk that stretches all the way to the Tel Aviv port in the north).
Next to the Jaffa port you will find Kedumim Square which frequently hosts outdoor markets and events and the buildings encompassing it are home to archaeological excavation sites, theatres, cafes and art galleries - like the elegant Illana Goor museum. A couple of minutes away is the gorgeous Gan Ha-Pisga, the summit garden, a must for its unmissable panorama of the coastline, a wishing bridge and the ideal spot for live performances during the annual Jaffa Nights festival. The old city Flea Market has always been a firm favourite with both Tel Avivians and tourists, but in the past decade the area saw great developments and has become bigger and better. Now not only a great place to flex your haggling muscles and go bargain hunting for antique furniture, vintage clothes and old curiosities by day, but a popular hangout by sunset. The surrounding streets offer boutiques and designer shops and the music and aromas from the outdoor restaurants and bars fill the air.
But if there is one reason, in our opinion, to stay in Jaffa above all else it might be this: The legendary Abu Hassan eatery on Ha-dolphin street. A place that serves one dish and one dish alone, this temple of hummus is arguably the best in the country and has the queues to prove it. Order the massabha and be sure to drizzle the provided house dressing before you start wiping it with your pita bread. Living round the corner might just give you the edge you need to avoid the queue, and that’s all the motivation we need! And there you have it. So, this draws to a close our (incredibly) detailed breakdown of the best places to stay in Tel Aviv for tourists, to the best of our (expert and tasteful) opinion.