For your first visit one full day is likely enough to enjoy the city’s major sights.
Distances are mostly walkable.
Worthy attractions: Old Yafo; ANU Museum of Jewish People.
Left for another visit: Tel Aviv Museum of Art and a number of other smaller museums.
Last visit: August 2022.
Tel Aviv served as the base for our Israel stays for over three weeks in total. In between day trips, we managed to explore it well enough without spending too much time in museums. From the tourist point of view, just a couple of days of walking is more than enough to get a good feel for a city of 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 exceptionally eye-catching spots in the city, although a 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 Rothschild 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). To the south of it, Florentin ♥ is one of the lively pockets for dining and nightlife.
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 as well as art galleries. You can take 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 too 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.
Museums were largely neglected in our itinerary in Tel Aviv, but one of them deserves a significant allocation of time. ANU Museum of Jewish People ♥♥♥ is a fantastic fairly new establishment on the grounds of the University of Tel Aviv. There are many interactive exhibits, lighthearted videos highlighting different aspects of Jewish life, an incredible amount of information, many displays that can only be called “cool”. The 3rd floor is about aspects of Jewish life and achievements, the 2nd floor is about the history and different Jewish peoples, and the 1st floor is home to the Hall of Synagogues (models of famous ones). You easily need five hours to properly see it all, while half that time will allow you to hit the highlights.
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 in the lower portion of town near the Clock Tower and has an artisan section and also a large flea-market section. One other frequently recommended market, Levinsky managed to never fit into my schedule.
There are many beaches along Tayelet; 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. Conversely, Charles Clore Beach ♥ is to the south of Tel Aviv center and therefore stays a bit less crowded. All amenities are on site. The sea floor is sandy and a bit shallow.
Catching a sunset ♥ on a Tel Aviv beach is a nice diversion.
Places to Eat
In the summer of 2022, as a family, we dined most of the nights in the Florentin core. Among our choices for meals were Dede Bar ♥♥, Lenny’s Bar ♥, Florentine 10 ♥, Choco Lulu ♥.
We also had a couple of lunches at Baba Yaga ♥ near Banana Beach. A bit on the pricey side, but nonetheless a good choice.
Please note that Friday night even in Tel Aviv is not as active as other nights. A number of places close for Shabbat, so this is the day when dinner reservations might be more necessary.
In the fall of 2019, I also had a few meals in Tel Aviv as a single traveler. The one that is worth recording was at Old Man and the Sea ♥ in Jaffa port, famous for twenty or so small salads that are brought to the table as soon as you sit down. They are at no charge if you order the main course.
Derbi Bar ♥ is not located in Tel Aviv-Yafo, but rather in Herzliya marina, about 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. Pretty good grilled fish for the entrée. The service is a bit uneven, but the place is no less popular because of that.
In the summer of 2022, we rented an apartment at 3 Ma’on somewhat confusingly called “By Beach Apartment” ♥♥ (link). The beach is 15 minutes of city walking away, but the apartment itself was pretty nice, suitable for 5-6 people, with 3 large bedrooms, 2 large bathrooms, nice living space, and a large balcony (mostly looking at neighbors, but with some view). Location a few steps away from the core of Florentin is great. The check-in was not the easiest, since to open the garage gates you need first to get into the apartment and find the dedicated “garage-opener” phone; the instructions to find the key to the apartment were incorrect; I had to call the management company and walk me through all of the steps live, after sneaking into the garage behind another entering car. The guy speaking with me was very helpful and then checked in on us a couple of times later. There were some minor other inconveniences in terms of stocking the apartment, but overall, location-wise, space-wise, and amenities-wise, it was a very good choice.
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 the 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 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 a 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, the marina in Herzliya being the standout.