City Guide to Tel Aviv
What to see and where to eat in the White City
Since studying abroad in Tel Aviv, known as the White City for its large concentration of Bauhaus architecture, I’ve tried to convince every person I’ve met to put it on his or her list. It truly is incredible. A fascinating clash of the old and new, Tel Aviv sits on the Mediterranean and is the second biggest city in Israel after Jerusalem. While Jerusalem is known for its religious significance, Tel Aviv is known for being a cosmopolitan city in the Middle East. The sights, nightlife, and food are all top-notch and the people are extremely accepting. If you decide to go, check out some of my top recommendations for what to do and, perhaps most importantly, where to eat.
The Beach- What is Tel Aviv without the beach? The beach adds a lot to the vibe of the city, so don’t miss out. Grab a towel, listen to the sound of the popular Israeli paddle board game matkot, and take a dip in the warm Mediterranean. If you’re into a more social beach scene Gordon beach is one of my favorites. For a more relaxed vibe, head to the beaches at the Southernmost or Northernmost points of the city. You can also try paddle boarding at any of the beaches for a great view of the coast. Try to catch the sunset from the beach; I’ve seen the most beautiful sunsets of my life in Tel Aviv.
Jaffa- Jaffa is what you’re probably picturing Israel as- old buildings & small streets. Jaffa’s Old City can be a bit touristy, but is still a must see, just be sure to check out the rest of Jaffa. Lots of artists have studios hidden in little shops. My favorite is Julien Roux’s shop where you can get quirky art that is very representative of Israeli and Tel Avivian culture. The Jaffa Flea Market is a great option for picking up cheap souvenirs and practicing your haggling skills. As for food, go to Abu Hassan’s for arguably the best Hummus in Tel Aviv, The Old Man & the Sea for an authentic & high-quality meal overlooking the ocean, or Fisherman’s Restaurant on the port for quick, fresh seafood. By night, check out The Container for a bar on the port with a great, hipster vibe.
Carmel Market- Where I felt the most culture shock after coming to Tel Aviv. It’s hectic, loud, and a little dirty, but the fresh produce, authentic food, and experience can’t be beat. Eat everything- it’s a food market! But some of my top choices include Arepa’s for Venezuelan food in the heart of Israel, Bar Ochel for shakshuka that I still daydream about, and, not in the market but close by, Julie’s for authentic Jewish Egyptian cuisine. For nightlife, Beer Bazaar is a craft beer bar close to Julie’s with a huge selection of Israeli beers.
Rothschild Boulevard- Tel Aviv is a city full of bikes, so consider renting a bike to get an authentic feel for the city. Start from Habima Square: smell the flowers, hear the music, buy some coffee and then bike down Rothschild, know as Tel Aviv’s most beautiful boulevard, until you hit the lower end of the street, filled with popular restaurants and hangout spots. If you get hungry try Benedicts. A popular spot for their 24/7 breakfast, I recommend getting at least one order of the pancakes. Just do it. For a cool snack try Tamara. The frozen yogurt obsession is real in Tel Aviv and Tamara is a top pick with fresh fruit and healthy, yet delicious flavors. At night, Rothschild becomes a hub for nightlife, filled with bars and dance spots, which makes it a convenient area for bar hopping.
The North- This area is a bit out of the center but is still packed with things to see and do. Must-sees include the Namal or port in English. This is a great choice for shopping and lunch on the water. When you’re done there, take a stroll through HaYarkon, the Central Park of Tel Aviv. Picnics in the park are magical, especially on Saturdays when everyone in the city comes to the park to chill on Shabbat. There are a lot of restaurant options in the area, but a few stand out above the rest. On the port, check out Kitchen Market. It’s pretty expensive on a college student’s budget and a tad fancier, but worth it if you have something to celebrate or want a view over the ocean. For a more relaxed lunch on-the-go, try Pier 23. You’ll miss out if you don’t order the Calamari Barcelona. Not too far off the port is Room Service, which features delicious food and a great vibe perfect for a late dinner. As for nightlife, Shalvata is a pretty popular club with the younger crowd in Tel Aviv, featuring an open-air venue and chic décor. Rubi Bar is a smaller venue that is generally 23-24+, but if you can get in it’s worth it for the unique décor and a fun crowd.
Want More?- If you still have time, explore Florentin, a neighborhood covered in street art, or the picturesque Neve Tzedek. If you are a food lover like me, Sarona Market is an absolute must. Go with friends and share things from all the stands for the best experience and be sure to try something from Segev Concept! I would also recommend doing some shopping at Dizengoff Mall, known in the city as an impossible to navigate maze (hey, it’s an adventure!), and then hitting up the Friday food market inside the mall or Miznon on other days for a twist on Israeli street food.
During your trip remember that lots of things are closed early on Friday and all day Saturday for Shabbat, including most public transportation, so make sure to plan your trip around these special hours and closings.
As for getting around the city, Tel Aviv’s small size makes it easy to walk and bike friendly. For further distances, I recommend getting a sherut (shared taxi) and, although Uber isn’t a thing in Israel, GetTaxi is extremely popular. The bus system is also quite efficient and affordable.