Tel Aviv is one of the most surprising cities I have come across in some time. While I did some preliminary planning prior to traveling to Israel, no book, magazine or travel blog could have prepared me for what I discovered in this wonderful city.
Tel Aviv is unexpectedly secular and tolerant. Most tourists – including myself – unknowingly assume that a city within the borders of Israel would be governed by strict rules regarding food, dress and conduct. However, I found that the majority of the Tel Avivim that I met did not necessarily stick to a kosher diet (they were not religious), dressed as anyone living in a hot climate would and were by far cooler than some of the hippest hipsters. If I could summarize the feel and flavor of the city, I would describe Tel Aviv as the love child between Miami, Florida and Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
- My visit to Tel Aviv occurred during Ramadan. It was really striking to hear the prayer bells ringing during the day and Muslim families breaking fast throughout parks in the city after sundown.
- Tel Aviv is a gay friendly city. Unfortunately, my visit occurred after the yearly pride parade but many restaurant and bars still had their pride flag flying.
This city has some of the most beautiful and accessible beaches that are steps from the city center. In addition, the promenade spans the shoreline, has jungle gyms for children to play in as well as mini work out centers for the numerous buffs who run/exercise along its paths. Some of my favorite beaches are Banana beach and Hilton beach. Some cool beach tips for visitors:
- Galim Surf School is situated on Dolphinarium beach. I’ve taken several lessons here which I highly recommend. Their instructors are cool surf dudes/dudettes who will take you through the basics while challenging you in militaristic fashion.
- Take the Tel-O-Fun bike rentals on the promenade for a ride along the beach. Similar to New York’s Citibike, kiosks are located in and around the city.
- As I mentioned earlier, Tel Aviv is very gay friendly. In addition to Tel Aviv Pride festival that occurs every June, Hilton beach is designated Tel Aviv’s unofficial gay beach.
“l’hizdangef” (“to Dizengoff”)! Along the famous Dizengoff Street, which starts south of Tel Aviv Port and runs past the Mann Auditorium concert hall, the shopping and artistic experience is awesomely on pointe.
- Boutique shopping stores showcase the latest fashion trends. Think H&M meets Zara meets Mediterranean flair. I perused several stores and walked away with cute tops and skirts all under $15 a piece.
- Head to Dizengoff Center Mall for a more densely packed shopping experience. This mall has many boutique stores including the gem below which has all the fantastical creatures and beast collections that your little Dungeons and Dragons heart desires.
- Wet your whistle with a fresh squeezed juice from the corner juicerias. The fruit is fresh and the selection includes a variety of citrus choices.
- Visit the Dizengoff Square and the Agam Fire & Water Fountain for Fashionably Late every Thursday from 4-11 p.m. The municipality hosts a market presenting creations of young Israeli industrial, graphic, fashion and plastic designers.
OMG the food. Words do not do justice to the different spices, fresh fruits and vegetables you find in Israeli cuisine.
Of course for the there are museums and historic sites galore in Tel Aviv, but for the sake of time and since you can find details on TripAdvisor or any other travel site, I’ve included only the most memorable below.
- Old Jaffa – The only port in the world which can boast uninterrupted inhabitation throughout its 4,000 years of existence
- Carmel Market – Very affordable outdoor market with vendors that sell spices, fruits & vegetables, desserts, fish, clothes (pretty much anything you can think of)
- Tel Aviv Port – Popular spot to party, eat and drink
- Tel Aviv Museum of Art
- Palmach Museum – Interactive museum which details the story of the state of Israel
- Neve Tzedek – Old railroad neighborhood with a ton of shops and art galleries
One disappointment was that I didn’t learn much Hebrew during my stay. Most Tel Avivim speak English – actually, I don’t recall meeting anyone who did not speak English. Unfortunately, as a result, the only words and praises that stuck with me are the following:
- תודה רבה לך “Toda raba” = Thank you very much.
- על לא דבר “al lo da-var” = You’re welcome.
- כמה זה עולה? “ka-ma ze o-le?” = How much does it cost?
So for travelers who are not yet convinced by my blog post to visit this wonderful city, good God, everyone speaks English here! What more of an excuse do you need?