Tel Aviv is a very enticing city. Our short time in Tel Aviv was really enjoyable. It is a laid-back city with lots of young people, a hipster crowd, and party vibe. It was very hot when we went in June this year — the beaches were packed with locals cooling off. The city reminded me of the California aesthetic with palm trees, beautiful sand and water, and good-looking locals roaming the streets, except less superficial. Even though it is really hot it can get pretty windy by the beach which keeps you cool. We wanted to take it easy for this leg of the trip because we had spent the previous three and a half weeks travelling around Europe, so we kept our itinerary to a minimum. Tel Aviv seems to be pretty sheltered from the political struggles between Israel and Palestine. We did not feel unsafe there once, and people in the city seem carefree without any worries of danger. Many tourists visit Israel without any issues.
Tel Aviv sits on the western shore of Israel facing the Mediterranean sea. North is Beirut in Lebanon, and in the south of Israel is the Gaza Strip, territory of the Palestinians.
Our Airbnb was in Florentin, a neighborhood with a hipster bohemian energy. You can find a lot of street art and graffiti here. We found a Berlin bar called Berlin in Florentin which took us back to our days in Berlin. In certain ways Tel Aviv reminded us of Berlin – the young crowd, party culture, historic buildings, eclectic people. The prices however were definitely nothing like Berlin. Israel is a very expensive place to travel to. While in Jerusalem we kept our pockets tight by cooking at our Airbnb, but in Tel Aviv we let our hair down (literally the both of us) for the few days we were there and splurged (within reason).
Florentin is near Neve Tzedek which is a small stylish mecca with curated shops and trendy cafes. It is the oldest district in Tel Aviv and has since been restored.
Jaffa is the old town of Tel Aviv, which started out as a port city. It’s a busy part of town but also where you can get some great food and drinks. You can find lots of street art and market stalls that sell jewelry, carpets, antiques, uniquely-patterned clothing, and decorative home-ware. The winding cobble-stoned streets are typical of old towns yet somehow make this area of Tel Aviv refreshing and hip.
Tel Aviv Street Art
The city of Tel Aviv fulfills their artistic expressions through street art.
Here is a propaganda-esque mural depicting Israel’s love for America.
If you want to try some street food, pastries, and shop around for produce, spices or knick-knacks, Carmel Market is the right hectic destination for you. Bustling with locals and tourists you can simply wander around and try different types of food or pick up some souvenirs.
We tried some classic Mediterranean and Middle Eastern desserts.
The Mediterranean waters at the coast of Tel Aviv beckons you with forceful might when you are baking in the city’s intense heat. We spent a lot of time at the beach, either swimming, relaxing near it, scootering on the nearby promenade, or having a beer and watching the sunset.
There is a long stretch of beach along the western coast of the city so there’s plenty of space for everyone. For a fee you can get a lounge chair and umbrella. We found the turquoise water to be calmer north of the coast and more wavy closer to the south. Scooters are very common in Tel Aviv, but not the manual kind you would’ve used as a kid. These are heavier electric scooters which are easy to use and glides you around the city. We mostly used them along the wide promenade which runs along the beach. It feels like every citizen of Tel Aviv is whipping by you on their scooter when you walk that promenade. You need to download an app (we used Lime) to unlock the scooters and start using it. Definitely one of the more fun things we did on this trip!
We just happened to be in Tel Aviv during Gay Pride week and witnessed the hundreds of thousands of visitors showing their support (by partying) for the LGBTQIA community. The parade took place by the promenade at the beach. We saw some awesome costumes!
Since there was not as much sightseeing to do in Tel Aviv, except to relax and enjoy the beaches, including old town, we made an effort to try as many local dishes as we could.
Sabich is a traditional Israeli sandwich. The pita is stuffed with eggplant, eggs, hummus, veggies, tahini sauce, and various herbs. We had this one from Sabich on Tchernikhovski street. It looks small but it is packed with ingredients, so bring your appetite because it’s very filling.
We tried some excellent hummus in Jaffa, and it was the cheapest meal we bought in all of Israel. The restaurant is called Abu Hassan which was recommended by a friend. When we arrived at the restaurant we were immediately seated, our order was taken and the food was served. They make big batches of different spreads in the morning to be served throughout the day. The food is so delicious that you finish it within minutes, and it’s time for the next customer. Along with the hummus, ful, and masabacha, we got a plate of pita bread and onions. Hummus of course, is made with chickpeas, tahini, oil, lemon juice and garlic. Ful is a spread made with fava beans, cumin, oil, and various herbs or spices. And masabacha is a variation on hummus with whole chickpeas. We ordered a combo plate which had all three. It was the perfect amount of food for us! You dip the pita into the spread like a spoon and scoop it into your mouth. Same goes with the onion which elevates the flavors even more. In total, it was 20 NIS (about 6 USD).
The first Falafel sandwich we tried was in the old town of Jerusalem. We were so hungry before we sat down to eat that we immediately bit into it and devoured it ravenously, and therefore forgot to take a picture. It was a very photogenic sandwich too — colourful veggies popping out into the spotlight of the camera.
This is the Falafel sandwich we tried in Jaffa town, and although not as photogenic, it was damn delicious. The Falafel’s were freshly fried and they melted in our mouths.
This is pretty much our favorite dessert now since coming back from Israel. It is a milk and rose water pudding which you drizzle with a pomegranate and rose water syrup. You can add as many toppings to it. We tried one with coconut shavings and pistachio. This is from Akbar Bar & Restaurant in the old town of Jaffa.
I wanted to try the curry dish when we stepped into Cafe Puaa, a Mediterranean restaurant in old town Jaffa. Mainly because this region is familiar with Indian spices in their cooking and I figured they would probably make a decent curry. They had a vegetarian curry option which were pumpkin dumplings with coriander and coconut, served with a plate of rice as a side dish. The dumplings were soft and tender. They went a bit mild on the spices so the coconut milk overpowered the taste, but the flavor was still tasty.
Early afternoon, after having missed our breakfast due to a late night, we grabbed breakfast on Rothschild Boulevard, called Benedict. If you walk down this street you will find higher end shops and cafes. It’s a lovely area with wide streets, and has a cleaner, rich finish to it compared to Florentin where it’s more grungy. With every order comes a free drink – a hot drink, juice, or mimosa! I got the Shakshuka — cooked tomatoes and peppers in a hot pan with spiced eggs. On the side it came with a garden salad, tahini, eggplant spread and pickled lemon paste. I added Merguez sausages to my Shakshuka, and off course ordered us some mimosa’s.
I think we took advantage of the happy hour every evening while in Tel Aviv because why not? The city is well-versed in cocktail mixing. By the way, the happy hour in Tel Aviv is incredible! It typically runs from 5-8pm (sometimes 9pm) and you can get 2 drinks for the price of 1. WAY better than the happy hour deals we find in Vancouver where happy hour ends at 6pm, and you usually only get a couple dollars off the price of the drink.
Our favorite was at Bicicletta, a bohemian type restaurant with patio seating west of the Lev Hair district. The food was not all that great, very pricey, and came in small portions. The tuna bruschetta I ordered tasted bland, and Chris’s flatbread was flavorless. The only food I enjoyed there were the olives.
However, the cocktails were interesting and very delicious!
The cocktails at Akbar Bar & Restaurant were amazing as well!
If you want craft beer then Beer Bazaar is the bar to visit in Tel Aviv (or in Israel in general). We went to the one in old town Jaffa where they served us some popcorn along with our drinks. I had their Fat Cat Pale Ale, and Chris had the Esser, Tripel Belgian.
When in Tel Aviv, try the fruit juices. They are being sold anywhere in the city by street vendors (similar to old town in Jerusalem). We tried the pomegranate juice, and who knew that something so simple could be so decadent and sweet with flavor.
What did you think about Tel Aviv? Would you go again? Share your thoughts!
Copyright © Beyond Here 2019
Guide to Israel’s Jerusalem
A major holy site populated with pilgrims fulfilling their journeys, Jerusalem is home to the largest religions in the world – Islam, Judaism, and Christianity. There are many historical sites to visit in the old town of Jerusalem as well float on the amazing salty waters of the Dead Sea. Check out our guide and make Jerusalem your next travel destination.