Tel Aviv is perhaps the world's most surprising urban destination. Facing the sea, it is much more modern than expected and more progressive than imagined. It's a sophisticated world-class city that never sleeps and, with its fine weather and urban assets, you really don't want to stay indoors.
With inventive restaurants and shops, beach bars, nightclubs, and the warm Mediterranean waters at your feet, there is an admirable energy in this city. Considering the political and cultural tensions in this part of the world, you would think the last thing Tel Avivians would do is party. But they do, and they sure know how to.
As a cultural and commercial capital, it is also multicultural and open-minded, with a young population creating a city bursting with creativity and style. Neighborhoods are gentrifying and neglected buildings are being preserved, particularly in the Old Jaffa district and Tel Aviv Port. Elsewhere, in between the World Heritage Bauhaus architecture and ultramodern skyscrapers is a city buzzing with a strong café scene and club culture.
Tel Aviv offers a unique experience while displaying a little of New York and Miami attitude. This is truly a city for escapism and enjoyment. Who'da thought?
What to See and Do in Tel Aviv
Decide what you really want to see in Tel Aviv based on your interests -- whether that's art, architecture, street life or simply snapping a few photos by the main landmarks. We highlight the best attractions in different categories and, to help you plan, link you to their location on Google Maps () or to their official website or tour options ().
- The Landmarks, Icons, and Instagram Spots
- Modern and Contemporary Art
- Classic Art and Top Museums
- City Life and Main Streets
- Eating and Drinking
- Tours and Day Trips
The White City district has the world's largest number of Bauhaus buildings, and has been recognized as an UNESCO World Heritage Site. There are about 4,000 of them dating from the 1930s to 1950s, many well preserved and many others awaiting facelifts. If you're interested in getting more information about them, head to the Bauhaus Center which not only sells artwork and souvenirs, but also organizes tours.
The permanent collection of the Tel Aviv Museum of Art includes some outstanding Impressionist works together with 20th-century art by artists like Picasso, Matisse, Miró, and Pollock. There is also a good collection of Israeli art, a sculpture garden, and space for temporary exhibitions.
The Eretz Israel Museum is really a complex of pavilions dedicated to different subjects, from glass to ceramics to folklore. Everything focuses on the culture and history of Israel, and there are also related temporary exhibitions.
When the weather is warm (and it usually is throughout most of the year), join the tanned bodies under the Mediterranean sun. Tel Aviv's beaches are clean and safe, and offer freshwater showers and changing rooms along the promenade. You can get a good swim here, but do pay attention to the flags (black means swimming is forbidden, red means it's risky, and white means it's perfectly safe). You'll have to share your space on the sand with large crowds on the Shabbat. At night, the seaside bars are also popular hangouts.
Wander along Nahalat Binyamin St., a rejuvenated street filled with trendy cafés and arty shops. It's a pedestrianized area where you'll also find Carmel Market and its stalls of fresh fruits, vegetables, and clothing.
While the center of Tel Aviv looks and feels like a contemporary metropolis, walking along the shore takes you to Old Jaffa, the historic Mediterranean port to where Tel Avivians escape for a weekend brunch. Enjoy the sea views and feel the laid-back atmosphere as you stroll through its streets and lively flea market filled with interesting pieces and antiques.
Back by the shore, Tayelet is the Mediterranean promenade with its series of beaches where tourists join practically every local on the sand both day and night.
You can walk from there all the way to Tel Aviv Port, the old port that's once again new, thanks to a makeover in the new millennium (in 2002). It's now home to upscale restaurants in renovated warehouses and there's a wide boardwalk for a stroll with the fresh air of the sea.
When they're not there, everyone's on Sheinkin Street, Tel Aviv's hippest hangout lined with cafés, restaurants, and boutiques.
More shopping is found on Dizengoff, the city's main commerical area for brand names and independent boutiques.
Tel Aviv has several shopping areas which include streetside markets and designer boutiques. Shopping is a great way to soak up the city's streetlife and exuberant atmosphere, although doing it indoors at the malls is an equally popular activity among Tel Avivians. Dizengoff Center is the favorite shopping mall, with national brands opening their flagship shops there, as the building is located in the city's main commercial street.
The trendiest street is Sheinkin, known for its cafés but also for shops that are popular with the youngest and hippest crowds. Those who enjoy markets should not miss the flea market in Old Jaffa and Carmel Market for its stalls of fresh produce and cheap clothing.
Tel Aviv has an easy-going café culture. Cafés act as second homes to sit outside and enjoy the usual good weather while meeting friends or reading a book. In addition to their coffee they also have their light meals, and are usually just steps from the beach (you'll also discover your favorites down the trendy Sheinken St.) For fuller meals, the more recent high-end restaurants offer refined cuisines and spaces where you no longer simply expect falafels or hummus, but artfully-presented dishes with international flavors. Tel Avivians are proud of their new and sophisticated restaurant scene, flocking to the latest hotspots as soon as they open. Some don't survive the new competition, while others are inspired by it and try hard to keep things interesting.
Most travelers to Israel don't leave the country without also visiting Jerusalem. You may rent a car to get there or use the Sherut, the shared taxi service. They are 13-seat minivans and are faster than buses. They depart frequently from outside the central bus station but only when they are full, which rarely takes more than 20 minutes. To return to Tel Aviv, head to the corner of Harav Kook St. and Jaffa Rd. in Jerusalem to find your Sherut back.