Tel Aviv has grown into a major tourist destination for those traveling to Israel, featuring over 4,000 buildings built by German Jews in the 1930s to 1950s in the Bauhaus style, which gave it the name “The White City”.
The modern city of Tel Aviv is fairly new. Established in 1909 by 60 Jewish families, it was first named Ahuzat Bayit and then a year later became Tel Aviv, meaning “hill of spring”. Although the city we know today is only a bit over 100 years, its history dates back to 7,500 BC when Jaffa, now a part of the city, was a major port city.
Fast forward several thousand years and we enter into the remarkable city we see today full of bars, shops, markets, churches, mosques, and restaurants serving food from all over the world.
So for those looking to take a trip through Tel Aviv, here’s a list of the top off-the-beaten-track places to mark off your list.
To experience the ancient part of the city, a ride over to Jaffa is not to be missed. It’s a gorgeous place and has a lot of history which you can really feel by simply walking through the streets. The area is full of small shops, cafes, eateries, and museums that you can explore over a few days. Everyone here is very accommodating and helpful. One of the best features of Jaffa is the view of the sea and the city of Tel Aviv.
Jaffa is located 7 to 10 minutes from the city center, and the easiest way to get here is by a taxi (or car if you rented one).
Jaffa Flea Market
The Middle East has some of the best street markets you could ever find. The one to check out is Jaffa’s Flea Market, located in Jaffa (another reason to visit this ancient apart of the city). The market is swarming with stalls and shops—some hidden while others are right out in the open. You can purchase a variety of items including knickknacks, souvenirs, jewelry, furniture, and electronics (these may be old-school electronics, so if you’re a collector, Jaffa’s Flea Market is the place to go). Love to bargain? This is the market to do that as well.
Jaffa’s Flea Market is open 9am to 5pm Monday through Thursday and Sunday. On Friday, it’s only open until 2pm and closed on Saturday.
If you’re in Tel Aviv, visiting a religious site may be unavoidable, so we recommend you check out Al-Bahr Mosque, meaning “The Sea Mosque”. It’s the oldest in the city and is also located in Jaffa. Dating back to the time when the Ottoman Empire occupied The Holy Land, the mosque was used by people coming in from the sea. Even nowadays, seamen continue to use it, as well as those living around the area. And because of its location, the view is absolutely incredible, so make sure to bring your camera for some amazing travel photo shots.
We recommend you bring something for your head (i.e. a hat or scarf), and proper clothes (especially for females) if you’re planning to go inside the mosque.
After a day of exploring, it’s time to eat. To get a true taste of Israel, make your way to Sender, a traditional Israeli restaurant in Tel Aviv. It’s not an expensive place, but the food is incredible! One of the best dishes is the Chulent, a traditional Jewish stew. The atmosphere is also a huge plus with its photo-lined walls of old-age photography that puts you back 100 years.
It’s a hit for all the locals so you may find yourself in a long conversation with one (or even a group of Israelis) if you ever end up eating a meal here. But a word of caution, it’s a small place with only 20 seats, resulting in a bit of a wait if you go during peak hours. Therefore, making a reservation ahead of time is highly recommended.
Once you’re ready to wind down, head over to Spicehause, a “cocktail bar pharmacy” where bartenders work in pharmacy uniforms. All drinks are served in beaker bottles, making you feel like you’re drinking some mysterious cocktail the pharmacists prescribed to you. It’s a unique experience and one for the books! It’s sometimes a little hard to find, so look out for the sign outside that says “The East Jaffa Perfume Company”.
Traveling to Tel Aviv is a wonderful journey. The city has so much to offer tourists near and far—from ancient sites to funky cocktail bars, Tel Aviv should be on your next list of must-go-to destinations.
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