With its hot artistic vibe, miles of picturesque city-side beaches, fascinating neighborhoods and a thriving nightlife, Tel Aviv seems to have it all. Yet Israel’s second largest—and no doubt hippest—city remains under-appreciated by most travelers. Thankfully, a series of hotel openings, city-wide renovations and a renewed appreciation for the city’s historic offerings has finally started to garner this glam metropolis the attention it so rightly deserves. Here’s just five of the reasons this Mediterranean paradise should top your travel to-do list.
There’s something special about a major metropolis with a gorgeous beach. Well, Tel Aviv doesn’t just have one beach, it has 16. That’s right, the city boasts almost 10 miles of sandy seashore, featuring pristine coastline ringed by azure waters. Best of all, each beach has its own unique personality. Metzitzim Beach, with its calm waters is popular with families, Nordau Beach, commonly known as “Religious Beach,” has a segregated area for men and women, and there’s even a beach just for dogs. One of the best (and energizing) ways to soak in all of Tel Aviv’s seaside offerings is with a Segway tour (try SEGO or ZuZu tours) along the city’s stunning promenade.
Jaffa, aka, the Old City, also known as Yafo in Hebrew, is not to be missed. While Tel Aviv is a relatively new city (it was officially founded in 1909), the over-3000-year-old Jaffa district is its historic heartland. Here’s you’ll find ancient, arched, meandering alleyways and faded white stone buildings peppered with art galleries, fashion boutiques and lively cafes. While in the area, be sure to check out the incredibly popular flea market, Shuk Ha-pishpeshim. Spread over a series of streets, it’s a great place to find vintage items, furniture and artwork.
Charming Neve Tzedek (which translates into “Oasis of Justice”) is where you’ll get a chance to explore Tel Aviv’s artsy side. The restored neighborhood’s narrow, cozy streets are lined with one-of-a-kind jewelry and clothing stores, galleries, museums and buzzing bistros. Shabazi street is the main and most active street in the area with many stores, but the key to experiencing Neve Tzedek’s is to head down one of the tiny alleyways. Down these twisting corridors you’ll discover wall art, immaculately manicured doorways and hidden green spaces where you’re guaranteed to get plenty of Instagrammable pics.
A wonderful way to spend an afternoon is to get lost in one of Tel Aviv myriad markets that are spread throughout the city. The Nachlat Binyamin market features an astonishing array of arts and crafts made from local artisans. It’s the perfect place to pick up a unique souvenir like an engraving with your name written in Hebrew. Open-air Carmel Market is the city’s largest market with hundreds of vendors selling everything from electronics to clothing and household goods. The real treat at Carmel, however, is the food section, with its incredible selection of fresh produce, prepared foods and spices. If you’re pressed for time, the smaller indoor Sarona Market is a good place to buy international food and spices, as well as a bottle or two of Israeli wine. Outside the market, be sure to visit the restored homes of a German Templar colony. If you’re pressed for time, a good way to get the most of the food markets is with a foodie-focused tour, like the one offered by Delicious Israel.
So, you’ve had a long day of sightseeing and are looking forward to calling it an early night? Resist the temptation to rest your weary head and don’t miss the chance to take in Tel Aviv’s hot nightlife scene. At 10 p.m. on nearly any night of the week, the main streets of the city are delightfully full of smiling people on their way to hit their first bar or nightclub of the evening. Kuli Alma and Sputnik are good for dancing and feature live DJs and art exhibitions, and are popular with all ages. The city also houses a hip speakeasy bar scene. True to its secretive, speakeasy culture, Clavis has no official address or website but it’s worth befriending a local to see if they’ll take you (hint: it’s located inside a Mexican restaurant). Tel Aviv’s reputation as the most pro-LGBT city in the whole of the Middle East also means it’s easy to find a welcoming place, like Shpagat, to party no matter what your personal persuasion. If you don’t have time to devote the whole night to discovering Tel Aviv’s party personality, consider a nightlife tour with a company like D-TLV.