Tel Aviv was my base for a two-week stay in Israel; in between day-trips, I gave myself one full day of dedicated exploration of the city and two more days for taking it slow and easy. From the tourist point of view, that is more than enough to get a good feel for a city of a relatively modest size.
Notwithstanding the ancient history present in Yafo, Tel Aviv is a very young town – it was formally founded only in 1909. There are not that many eye-catching spots in the city, although the pleasant vibe is everywhere. The most lasting visual impressions of Tel Aviv probably come from Tayelet ♥, its city-length seaside promenade. Dizengoff Square ♥ is highlighted by Hotel Cinema Esther, Bialik Square ♥ by the Old Town Hall.
The White City ♥, a World Heritage site based on the Bauhaus movement, offers occasional architectural highlights, including those found on the aforementioned squares, but also along a number of streets in the city center. The central Rothshild Boulevard ♥ shows off interesting Bauhaus and other architectural details here or there.
Neve Tsedek ♥ is the most quaint of Tel Aviv’s neighborhoods, with narrow streets, picturesque houses, and a bohemian vibe. Nearby is the Old Train Station, another mild highlight, with galleries and restaurants (but no more than a dozen establishments in total).
I purposefully stayed away from museums while in the city, but I heard good things about Tel Aviv Museum of Art, which will be a target in the future.
Old Jaffa ♥ (or Yafo, which is the proper Hebrew name transliteration) is a city with 4,000 years of history. Its core is pretty small, with a tiny network of narrow passages and stairways, plus a couple of elevated viewpoints to the city, a few cute decorative elements, and several minor points of interest. You can take the an iconic look at Old Jaffa itself if you walk out along the pier in its port.
You can visit Jaffa with a daily free Sandemans tour. I actually was disappointed with it – too much socializing and lame jokes from the guide, some lecturing stuff, and very little walking and seeing. But that may be the factor of my expectations; most of the people I know who ever took a Sandemans tour are fans.
One of the biggest attractions in Tel Aviv is the markets. Nahalat Binyamin ♥♥ artisan market is nothing short of delightful, with many interesting stands, well worth perusing its half a dozen blocks of vendors. Nearby Shuk Ha’Carmel ♥ covers several blocks in length and width, and is busy to the point of being suffocating, although at times colorful, selling everything there is to sell. It has a less touristy feel than, say, Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, but also in places more of a feel of just a large market that could be anywhere.
Jaffa market spans several streets as well, and has an artisan section and also a large flee-market section. I did not find it as interesting as others. One other frequently recommended market, Levinsky, is not open on Friday, which meant that it did not fit into my schedule.
There are many beaches along Tayelet, but the best ones tend to be in the northern part of the promenade. On good beach days, they get quite busy and may even run out of lounging equipment. If you want to use a lounge chair or an umbrella, come no later than mid-morning. The sea floor is sandy and a bit shallow.
Places to Eat
My schedule in Israel was such that I only had meals in Tel Aviv on less than a handful of nights. Here are brief notes, all from the Fall of 2019.
Old Man and the Sea ♥ in Jaffa port is famous for twenty or so small salads that are brought to the table even before ordering; they are at no charge if your order main course. The grilled fish for the entrée was pretty good. I walked by the place on Saturday night and it was packed, with the line waiting to be seated; on Monday night, it was much less busy, with seating available immediately.
Also in Jaffa, Aladin ♥ is at the edge of the upper level of old town. I sat on the terrace with great view towards Tel Aviv skyline. The food was not bad, the cost includes an implicit premium for the view.
On Bat-Ami street a few blocks from the Jaffa Clock Tower, Casino San Remo ♥ had the advantage of being in a pedestrian enclave around the corner from the apartment I was staying in. The food selection was ok, and the service nice, plus the cost of the meal among the least expensive I had in a full-service restaurant during my stay.
Italkia Betahana ♥ at the Old Train Station was, conversely, somewhat expensive, and a large tip was added to the bill directly without asking (asking is a norm in Israel) on Saturday night. The experience was positive: nice menu, good food, friendly service, relatively quiet main square of the complex.
Fishermen ♥ is not located in Tel Aviv-Yafo, but rather in Herzlyia marina, abut 20 minutes by car from the center of Tel Aviv. They also offer a selection of salads and starters ahead of the main course, although on demand rather than automatically and of the variety that is smaller but also was more to my liking on average. I also had a pretty good grilled fish for the entrée. The service was a bit uneven, but the place no less popular because of that.
In the fall of 2019, I rented an Airbnb apartment ♥♥ (link) in the Florentin neighborhood, just a few blocks from where Jaffa meets Tel Aviv. The apartment on the 5th floor is on the smallish side, sufficient for a couple or a solo traveler. It has not been refurbished in some time, but has all necessary amenities. The balcony does not offer exceptional views, but was very pleasant to use in the evenings. The designated parking spot in the garage under the building is the key feature. For those who want the absolute peace and quiet, this place may not work: the area is not too lively but the noise from the busy road below does not completely go away even at night; Bloomfield Stadium, home of the local Hapoel football team, is a few blocks away – on a game night, the noise from the stadium will reach the balcony very easily. None of that was much of a problem for me.
While visiting relatives, I spent short time in both Herzliya and Rishon Le’Zion, to the north and the south of Tel Aviv respectively. The time there was not sufficient to form opinions or state recommendations, but there are pleasant walkable parts to both.