Shalom from Tel Aviv, Israel! Welcome to the Georgiexoxo Guide to Tel Aviv: a suggested 48-hour itinerary for this vibrant city. However, I must admit, Tel Aviv wasn’t a city on my travel bucket list, but it’s thanks to Eurovision this year for bringing me to this sun-drenched, hugely cosmopolitan city full of colour and electric energy on the Mediterranean Sea.
This is the first post in my series on The Holy Land, as after my time at Eurovision, I decided to stay on longer in this part of the world and explore a region I had longed to visit ever since I was a little girl. You can look back on my whole adventures in The Holy Land series right here.
But for the moment, it’s back to Tel Aviv. And even though it was a week of non-stop Eurovision whilst I was there, I did also manage to see and delight in so many of the amazing things that Tel Aviv has to offer. Hopefully, this post will serve as some inspiration if you too want to see what treasures it has in store!
History of Tel Aviv
Tel Aviv was founded in 1909 by 66 families as the first modern city to be created in Israel.
The Jewish National Fund purchased some land among the sand dunes north of the old Arab port Jaffa and built a new city called Tel Aviv or “Hill of the Spring” and it is now the country’s largest city. Not only is it built on sand dunes, it has 8.5 miles (14 km) of wonderful Mediterranean beachfront.
It was designed as a garden city in 1925 and has fabulous parks, palm trees and wide boulevards. From the 1930s to 1950s Jewish architects fleeing Germany designed 4,000 Bauhaus buildings here resulting in it being declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2003.
Today Tel Aviv is the business, financial and cultural centre of Israel and is referred to as the “nonstop city”. It is celebrated for its liberal spirit, its cosmopolitanism and vibrant nightlife.
Day 1 Tel Aviv Itinerary
It is certainly possible to enjoy the highlights of Tel Aviv in 2 days and there are many ways to do this. I’m going to suggest a 3.5-mile walk along the promenade from Tel Aviv port to Jaffa for your first day.
Tel Aviv’s port is the old port developed in the 1930s but decommissioned in 1965 when Ashdod in the south was created. It is now a lively area of cafes, bars, night-clubs, restaurants and shops.
You’ll pass by walled Nordau Beach which is gender-separated on different days for Orthodox Jewish bathers. Next is Hilton Beach below Independence Park which is another lively and gay-friendly spot. All along the beachfront promenade, you will see white-sand beaches stretching along the seafront, backed by a long promenade with modern hotels who enjoy the unbroken view of the Mediterranean Sea. This is also a favourite area for surfers and yachts. You’ll have plenty of choices to stop and enjoy the views as you relax at one of the numerous cafes.
As you enter the next section Gordon Beach and the Olympic-size Pool take a quick diversion inwards to 17 Ben-Gurion Street, the home of Ben Gurion who was the first Israeli Prime Minister. Further on you pass the very popular stretch called Frishman Beach and see the huge pink Opera Towers.
As you continue along the Promenade you reach an area called Manshiye which is between Tel Aviv and Jaffa with the Hassan Bek Mosque. Next is the Charles Core Park, the venue of the annual Love Parade, which is always a hive of activity and contains the Etzel Museum (dedicated to 1947-48 conflict).
It’s worth just heading inland for a bit to a trendy area called HaTachana where you can relax with a drink or visit the shops before you head off for the rest of the day to Jaffa.
It is important biblically as it’s named after Japheth, Noah’s third son who found it after the great flood and is also the Hebrew for “beautiful”. It is mentioned in Solomon’s time as the cedars for the first temple came from here and Jonah set off from here on his fateful journey with the whale! Archaeologists have found fortifications dating from the C18 BC. It existed as a port 4,000 years ago serving Egyptian and Phoenician sailors until Haifa took over making it one of the world’s oldest ports.
It flourished under the Ottomans and there is a noticeable Turkish influence including an Ottoman Clock Tower in the main square. The Turks were here until1917 when the British took over and until 1920 this was the gateway to the Holy Land. Today it has been greatly restored and is now the home of many artists. It is a favourite nightspot for Tel Aviv residents and tourists to eat out and enjoy its quaint cobbled streets. It is a wonderful contrast to the pulsating modernity of Tel Aviv.
Wander the streets and enjoy as much as you can in the time available to you. There is the House of Simon the Tanner where St Peter is said to have stayed and St Peter’s Monastery. You can learn about Jaffa’s long history at the Visitors’ Centre with its sound and light “Jaffa Tales” presentation or see the Roman exhibits. For shopaholics, the Flea Market is well worth a visit. Leave time to visit the Artists’ Quarters and admire the stunning views of the waterfront while you relax and find a local restaurant to eat.
Day 2 Tel Aviv Itinerary
The second day in this “Mediterranean Capital of Cool” is a chance to enjoy some of the other attractions on offer away from the coast. I suggest you start the day at Bialik Street, one of the city’s most historic streets. Along this peaceful street, there are many historic buildings. The old town hall Beit Ha’ir is a museum now telling the history of Tel Aviv. Next door is the Felicja Blumental Music Centre which holds classical concerts. Opposite is the Design Museum of the International School with Bauhaus furniture. At no. 22 Bialik House, the home of a former national poet Chaim Bialik has been restored. At no. 14 is the Rubin Museum, home of their most famous painter Reuven Rubin, which exhibits his studio and paintings.
No visit would be complete without a tour of the markets in Tel Aviv. Each has its own unique character but any will give you a chance to savour the noise, smells and exuberance of the many markets. You are now very close to Carmel Market the one I visited as it is renowned for its fresh local delicacies. As the city’s most famous and largest fresh food market, people come from all over the world to experience a truly unique and authentic Middle Eastern shopping experience. I must warn you it is closed on Saturday for the Sabbath. While at Carmel Market it is well worth exploring the surrounding area of the Yemenite Quarter which is right in the city centre. As well as Carmel Market there is the Nakhalat Binyamin Arts and Crafts Market on Tuesdays and Fridays. On other days it is still worth walking along the Nakhalat Binyamin Street to admire its examples of eclectic architecture blending Moorish, Classical and Art Nouveau.
One block to the west you can see the Shalom Tower, once the tallest tower in Israel. Use the lift to the 29th floor to get spectacular views of the city. Continue to walk until you reach Rothschild Boulevard, one of the city’s most prestigious addresses. This lovely leavy street is lined with excellent examples of Bauhaus architecture. Tel Aviv has the world’s largest number of buildings, 4000 in all, in the International Modern style known as Bauhaus. They were built mainly in the 1930s and 1940s by immigrant European trained architects, particularly from Germany, the home of the modernist Bauhaus School. The characteristic style is simplicity and functionality which unifies art with technology and matched the socialist ideals of Zionism on which Tel Aviv was founded. It has earned the title “White City” and is recognised by UNESCO as a world heritage site. At no. 16 is Independence Hall, former home of the city’s first mayor Ben Gurion and where he declared Israel’s independence on 14 May 1948.
Now turn and walk towards the direction of the Sea and you will very shortly be in Neve Tzedek, the place where Tel Aviv began. It was founded in the 1880s on empty sandy flats by Jews wanting to escape the overcrowding of Jaffa. Still today it is a hidden gem of a neighbourhood and an oasis at the heart of the bustling city. It still feels like a small village with narrow flower-filled lanes and beautiful oriental architecture. Its focal point is the C19 school complex, the Suzanne Dellal Centre which was transformed into a centre for dance and drama. Nearby is a museum dedicated to the Russian born Israeli painter Nachum Gutman. Further south is the trendy bohemian neighbourhood of Florentine.
I hope you will manage to see the sites I did but still find time to relax and enjoy the food, entertainment and nightlife in this remarkable city. I thought I’d add a few other suggestions depending on what you want to see.
There are many wonderful museums in Tel Aviv. The Beit Hatfutsot is the Museum of the Jewish people over 2,500 years while the Yitzhak Rabin Centre uses state-of-the-art technology to tell the story of the State of Israel.
For lovers of culture, there is so much to sample. The Tel Aviv Museum of Art owns just about every well-known Israeli artist and its art collection spans the C17 to the present day, including Degas, Monet and Picasso. If you buy a ticket it also covers the entrance to the Helena Rubinstein Pavilion. There is the world-renowned Israel Philharmonic Orchestra based in the Mann auditorium at the eastern end of Dizengoff Street. This is also the city’s main shopping centre and a very lively area. And finally, if you want the unique experience of watching a play in Hebrew you need to go to the National Theatre called Habima.
And last of all, relax and enjoy one of the 3,000 restaurants that offer an incredible variety of styles and options to suit every taste! But did you know that Tel Aviv is one of the most vegan-friendly cities in the world?! At almost every restaurant in the heart of the city you will be able to find innovative, delicious and scrumptious vegan options, from the basic salads and sandwiches to more elaborate dishes, and dreamy lattes of all kinds. I was so happy to find not just one but two incredible spots to feature here for you all.
My number one choice is Cafe Anastasia. This place is basically where I lived with my friends because the food was beyond exceptional. And if you’re a fan of Shakshuka this spot has a truly divine vegan option for you to enjoy (it’s what I’m tucking into in the above!). Also, if you go, tell beautiful Assa Georgie says hi! Anastasia also has a shop inside stocking the loveliest vegan treats.
My second choice is Cafe Xoho where I had the dreamiest Lavender Latte of my whole life and you bet I’m going to try and recreate it for you all! This place has the coolest, slickest vibe and interior and the food is also just divine. Between this and Anastasia, you’re truly spoilt for choice!
And there ends the first post of my adventures in the Holy Land and my time in Tel Aviv. I’d love to know what your impressions of this city are, has it been on your bucket list at all?
How many of you have also been to Tel Aviv, Israel or the Holy land? I’ll be following this post with my whole adventures right here. Also, please do let me know if you like this ’48 Hours in…’ type of posts to document my travels!