This Israeli city is the secular and business capital of the Jewish state. Hugging the Mediterranean, and boasting a coastline of lovely (if crowded) beaches, incredible Bauhaus architecture and lively markets, Tel Aviv lives up to its reputation as a religion free zone – unless, of course, your faith happens to be hedonism.
Tel Aviv is a relatively compact city, which makes it perfect for exploring by foot.
Running from Neve Tzedek to the celebrated Habima Theatre, is leafy Rothschild Boulevard – ideal for viewing the famous Bauhaus buildings.
Tel Aviv was granted Unesco World heritage status in 2003 because of its abundance of Bauhaus architecture – a pre-World War II German school of Modernist design characterised by rounded corners, elongated balconies and a functional, unadorned style.
These 4,000 or so pale and pastel buildings account for the city’s nickname, ‘The White City’.
Shopping in the markets
The slightly crazy HaCarmel Market is where locals come to pick up fruit, veg, household goods, cheap clothes and anything else you can think of.
HaCarmel is basically one long covered alleyway with dozens of brash stallholders vocally pushing their wares.
Bohemian Nahalat Binyamin Market (open Tuesday and Friday only) is where artists sell gorgeous handmade works.
Hit the beach
Tel Aviv is a great summer city as there are loads of beaches to choose from.
Metzitzim Beach is the city’s most northern patch of sand and arguably its most trendy, attracting young, slightly boho, sun worshippers.
Nearby, the high walls of Nordau Beach, offers separate bathing areas for religious men and women.
Further on is the Hilton beach (positioned in front of a certain hotel), part of which has become Tel Aviv’s unofficial gay beach.
Gordon and Frischman beaches are probably the most quintessential of all Tel Aviv’s water spots. Bronzed men spend hours playing the much-loved Israeli paddle and ball game of matkot.
Tel Aviv’s Old Port
North of the city is the Old Port, now a redeveloped hub packed with shops, waterfront restaurants, cafes, bars and wooden promenades with spectacular views.
Jaffa’s Old City
Just a few kilometres from modern Tel Aviv is one of Israel’s most wonderful ancient and charming towns.
Predominately Arab, Jaffa’s Old City and port is like stepping back in time, although these days the cobbled streets are more likely to be lined with tranquil galleries and restaurants than visiting Babylonians or Persians. Head slightly inland, however, and the hustle and bustle of ‘modern’ Jaffa is soon apparent.
Be swept away to another time at the fabulously authentic Shuk Hapishpeshim (flea market) where you can purchase your very own distinctive blue and white amulet against the evil eye.
Got to try…
That most Israeli of national dishes – falafel. Make sure you say ‘yes’ to all salads, extra tahini and chips. But go easyon the red harissa paste – it’s seriously spicy stuff.
Essential information on visiting Tel Aviv
WHEN TO GO: Anytime, although the summer can be meltingly hot and humid.
GETTING THERE: British Airways and El Al fly direct from Heathrow to Tel Aviv. EasyJet flies direct from Luton.
GETTING AROUND: Take the brand new train from the airport into central Tel Aviv. Once in the city, you can get around on foot, by bus, sherut (private minibuses that %u2028run the bus routes) or taxi.
VISAS: Free tourist visas are issued at the airport on arrival.
CURRENCY: Israel New Shekel. 1 GBP = 5.7 INS.
LANGUAGE: Hebrew, although English is widely spoken.
GOING OUT: A beer costs £5.
ACCOMMODATION: A dorm room in a hostel costs from £13. A room in a basic hotel costs from £50.
GET MORE INFO AT: visit-tlv.com
Words: Samantha Baden