Tel Aviv – only the sound of this city makes my mouth water, I’m telling you! This city is FULL of places with delicious food and has some of the most amazing street artists ever. But let’s start from the beginning.
I visited Tel Aviv on my 2 week Israel&Jordan trip this spring and Tel Aviv was my starting point. I stayed 4 nights in Tel Aviv and 2 nights in Jerusalem and I’ve heard all sorts of nightmarish stories about traveling into Israel. I heard stories about hours of being questioned and complicated entry formalities. I ended up flying with Swiss Airlines from Zurich to Tel Aviv on a Saturday afternoon and found myself outside the airport in Tel Aviv a few hours later – completely startled about how smooth everything went. I’ve currently traveled to 39 countries and this was honestly the fastest I’ve ever been through immigration. Part of it was certainly because I arrived in Israel during «Shabbat» and «Pessach»and the airport was practically empty. Note: Good time to arrive if you want to pass immigration on a fast-pass and empts streets. Downside: Once in the city, you’ll find out that all the shops and many (Jewish) restaurants are closed and public transportation is not running. Taxis are in service though and there are a number of (Arab-run) restaurants open. The pro’s outweight the con’s, if you ask me.
What to do in Tel Aviv
So Tel Aviv doesn’t actually have a lot of sights you can go look at, but it’s known for it’s «Bauhaus» architectural style, Jaffa, the shops, beaches and street art. I had about 3.5 days to explore the city and felt like I had more than enough time to see it all (In fact, I think 3 days would have been sufficient). Since it was already incredibly hot when I visited in May, I’d usually plan one activity for the morning until maybe early afternoon and spend the rest of the afternoon at the beach.
Tel Aviv has a quarter called «The White City» where over 4000 Bauhaus buildings are standing. The architects of those buildings were mainly German Jews, who immigrated to Israel during WWII. Since 2003, the White City quarter belongs to the Unesco World Heritage. There is also a Bauhaus Center, which offers tours and a variety of information, if you’re interested to learn more about it. I was happy just wandering the streets looking at the different styles.
Jaffa was once an Arab town, which is now part of the city of Tel Aviv and known as the «Old Town». Jaffa offers some pretty sights (churches, archeological sites, clock- and light tower) but you will want to go there for food, drinks, coffee and the market. During the day, Jaffa has small boutiques, hip little coffee shops and an interesting flea market. I loved roaming the little streets with no fixed agenda, stopping here and there to take everything in. During the night, the restaurants and bars dominate the area between Yefet and Yehuda Margoza Street. Now, let’s talk food. I came across this beautiful bakery called Abouelafia Bakery on Yefet Street, which is already a treat to just look at. The baked goods are so tasty and I suggest you buy a variety of everything you think you’d like. For lunch, I stopped at The Old Man and the Sea, which served 20 (!) types of salad with fresh flatbread, falafel, hummus and home-made lemonade. That itself was already enough to feed 2 people, but was actually only meant to be the appetizer.
For dinner, I have tried out Cafe Puaa, where I’ve had the BEST tomato salad and I’ve also stopped at a couple of very cute Cafes during the day. If you are keen to try a traditional Israeli dish, try out «Shakshuka», which is a dish of eggs poached in a sauce of tomatoes, chili peppers, and onions, commonly spiced with cumin, paprika and cayenne pepper. Accoring to various sources, it’s believed that the best Shakshuka is served at Dr Shakshuka Restaurant. I tried it out, but as it was my first and only Shakshuka (not a big fan of it, to be honest), I can’t tell you if the rumours are true.
Tel Aviv is street art heaven and I have spent hours in the streets of the «Florentin» quarter, where most of the street are is found. There’s no map of the art on the walls and you just need to wander around, trying to find the pieces you like. The Do-It-Yourself Street Art Tour of Tel Aviv was a great starting point for this.
Food and drinks
If not for anything else, you need to come to Tel Aviv for the food. There are so many incredibly good restaurants that I started to ask myself why I only have room to fit 3 meals into my stomach per day (and trust my, I’ve tried very hard to fit in more). There are hip breakfast places, delis, sit-down restaurants, smoothie-stands (the Tel Avivim take the smoothie business VERY seriously), cafés – it’s like Disney Land for foodies. When it comes to the cuisine, you can basically eat your way through the world, one restaurant at a time. But not only the food was delicious and diverse, also the restaurant’s decors where hands-down some of the most creative, surprising, inspiring ones in such a surprising density it was hard to wrap my head around and if you couldn’t already tell, made my foodie heart sing! I’ve tried to list a couple of uh-mazing restaurants below.
But before you jump there, can I just quickly have a word with you about Hummus? Can we make an agreement that when you do travel to Tel Aviv one day, you will order Hummus to every meal you eat (yes, that means even breakfast)? Because I did, and honestly, if I could, I would do a cannonball into a big pool of Hummus any given day. Now that we’ve talked about that, let’s get started with those restaurant tipps:
Old North Neighborhood
- NOLA – American Bakery
- Goocha – Excellent Dinner Address
- Tamara – Juice Bar
- Under the Tree – Coffeeshop
- Benedict – Breakfast Place
- Puaa – Lunch/Dinner Place
- Onza – Dinner Place
- The Old Man and the Sea – Lunch/Dinner Place
- Hummus Abu Hassan – Supposedly the best Hummus in Town
- Abouelafia Bakery
If you find other good places (and I’m sure you will). Please let me know, so I can add them to the list.
Where to stay
I’d suggest you check into a hotel in the Old North area. Why? From Old North you are within walking distance to the beach, the shops on Dizengoff street, the fancy restaurants, bars and everything else you might need (or don’t even know yet you’ll need). I have stayed at the Dizengoff 208 Hotel, which I liked because it was within walking distance of almost everything and there was a bus stop right in front of our hotel, which took us straight to the bus terminal to Jerusalem.
How to get around
Walk. There’s so much to discover along the streets, it would be a shame to miss it while in a Taxi or Bus. It can get tiring, so I decided to get a 3-day access card to Tel-O-Fun, which is a bike sharing system in the city. I registered with my Credit Card, which was super easy, cost me about $13 for 3 days and allowed me to use the bikes for free for 30 minutes every time I took one. Since even Jaffa is max. 30 minutes away by bike and there are a lot of stations across the city, I never needed more time. Just make sure your bike is pushed into the holding-poles correctly after using it. Otherwise it will continue to count, which happend to me on the first day. I asked the hotel reception to call the hotline for me and they were extremely helpful and I didn’t have to pay the extra time.