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top five guide: tel aviv, israel

Updated: Aug 18, 2023

Florentin Tel Aviv Israel Yellow Corner Building 2022

Tel Aviv was an unlikely hero for me. To be completely honest, my first impression wasn't stellar, and it left me feeling unsure of how to best navigate this busy and edgy city.

But Tel Aviv grew on me very quickly. By the end of our eight day stay, Alex and I both agreed that this city is, without question, the coolest place we have visited. The cafés, street art, well-dressed people, and carefree energy effortlessly achieves something that so many other cities try in vain to manufacture. It's truly something special that you simply need to experience yourself.

here are my top five tips for a trip to TEL AVIV:

Florentin Tel Aviv Israel Outdoor Cafe Patio 2022

1: where to stay

Tel Aviv prices are no joke. To save money, we chose to avoid the pricey beachfront high-rises and instead stay in the hipster epicenter of town: Florentin (pictured). If you have tattoos, love cool coffee shops, and wear Docs, look no further. We enjoyed the local energy and would stay there again, but it might be a bit too rough around the edges for those with traditional tastes. In that case, I suggest staying a bit further north in the Lev Hair neighborhood (The Rothschild Hotel is lovely). This area feels similar to parts of Miami Beach with a vibrant walkable boulevard and Bauhaus-style buildings.

Hakosem Chicken Shawarma Hummus Tel Aviv Israel 2022

2: eats & drinks

I could easily live off of hummus, shawarma, and falafel alone, and I basically did in Tel Aviv. For a casual but insanely delicious lunch, Hakosem (pictured) should be at the top of your list (we went twice and honestly could have gone every day). Other daytime favorites were Tony and Esther, Shmuel, and Garger Hazahav. Cafe culture is very strong here, and I loved the natural, airy vibe at P.O.C. Cafe and the energy at Nabi Yuna. For a truly unique night, you can't miss a visit to Teder.FM, which is part art exhibit, part bar, part music venue, part restaurant, part pizzeria…just go see for yourself.

Church of the Holy Sepulchre Jerusalem Israel 2022

3: jerusalem day trip

While Tel Aviv is thriving with modern life, the most important historical, religious, and archaeological sights are about one hour's drive away in Jerusalem. With so much to do and see there, I recommend taking a guided tour so that you don't miss anything. We took a day trip with Tourist Israel, which gave us the opportunity to learn about the fascinating history of Old Jerusalem sites like the Western Wall and Church of the Holy Sepulcher (pictured), as well as visit Yad Vashem, Israel's Holocaust memorial museum.

Tel Aviv Beachwalk 2022

4: scenic strolls

Tel Aviv is one of the most expensive cities we have ever visited outside of the USA (only Switzerland was pricier). That said, there are plenty of free delights for you to enjoy in this city that can help keep your travel budget in check. My favorite free activity is simply a pleasant walk, and some scenic places to explore by foot (or bike) are Rothschild Boulevard, beachside Tel Aviv Promenade (stop for an ice cream at Golda, a local favorite, before watching the sunset), and through the arty Neve Tzedek neighborhood.

Stalls at Carmel Market Shuk Tel Aviv 2022

5: markets

Markets will forever and always be one of my favorite ways to get to know a new city and its culture. Carmel Market (or shuk) is the largest of the markets in Tel Aviv, making it a fun (albeit touristy) visit and a great place to sample new foods or buy souvenirs. Levinsky Street is a smaller food market with a more local feel that is also lined with some of my favorite restaurants in town. For a more modern experience, head to Sarona Market, an indoor food hall with stalls to satiate any craving (the burger spot there is actually pretty great).

You can't always do it all, so one thing we didn’t do but wish we had:

Visit the Dead Sea. There are so many excellent day trip options from Tel Aviv that it can be tempting to spend more time outside of the city than in it! We wanted to truly get to know Tel Aviv, so for that reason we didn't have enough time in our schedules to add on trips to popular sites like the Dead Sea or Ein Gedi. That still remains on the bucket list!


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