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Tel Aviv courtesy Dana Friedlander for the Israeli Ministry of Tourism

Tel Aviv city guide: Travel writer Rebecca Underwood spends 5 nights in Israel’s second city

By Rebecca Underwood on 17th April 2020

For those considering their next holiday, once things settle down and travel restrictions are lifted, Tel Aviv, which translates to ‘tell of spring’, is a bustling cosmopolitan city and it’s simply bursting with joie de vivre.

Nestled on the glittering waters of the Mediterranean and with nine miles of pristine beaches it has been recognised, by National Geographic, as one of the world’s top ten best beach-cities. Israel has the largest GDP throughout the Middle East, attracts more than 2.5 million visitors annually, and of course there is much to explore and admire.

Founded by the Yishuv (a Jewish community) in 1909, Tel Aviv was once a neighbourhood on the periphery of Jaffa, where archaeological finds provide evidence of human settlement dating back to approximately 7,500 BC. The ancient port of Jaffa, known as Yafo, is referred to in the Hebrew Bible as the border of the land given to the Tribe of Dan as they entered the Promised Land. Jaffa is mentioned again as the landing port for the cedars of Lebanon, which were used for the construction of Solomon’s Temple and the Second Temple of Jerusalem, and it was also Jonah’s embarkation port when he set sail for Tarshish, rather than Nineveh, in defiance of God’s will.

Tel Aviv is one of the most vibrant cities in the world with a world-class nightlife, a buzzing cultural scene, tasty food and UNESCO recognized architecture

My explorations in Tel Aviv began with a leisurely stroll along the wide promenade, which follows the shoreline for 14 kilometres, and whilst breathing in the salty air, the enticing golden sands of Gordon Beach emerged and I spotted the salt water swimming pool, surrounded by verdant lawns. Perched on a comfy bench, I took the opportunity to watch a lively game on the volleyball court and I was most fortunate to witness an impressive group of surfers riding the crashing waves with ease.

Keen to experience the true ‘vibe’ of the city and to become part of the local community, if only for a short while, I opted to stay in a trendy two bedroom, air-conditioned apartment, which covers 90 square metres and is featured on the HomeAway website. Located in the Isrotel Tower on Hayarkon Street, the property is in the heart of the action. I immediately settled into the stylish apartment with its spacious lounge and plump sofa and the furnished balcony with its spectacular view overlooking the Mediterranean proved to be the ideal spot for an afternoon tipple. The kitchen features every appliance including a dishwasher and a washer/dryer and all the utensils needed for whipping up a quick breakfast after a restful sleep in an ultra comfortable bed. The property’s amenities include access to the seasonal rooftop swimming pool and gymnasium and parking is provided.

Tel Aviv Museum of Art courtesy of Dana Friedlander for the Israeli Ministry of Tourism
The Tel Aviv Museum of Art is Israel’s largest art museum, with a large collection of permanent exhibits as well as temporary exhibit. Image credit: Dana Friedlander for the Israeli Ministry of Tourism

Up with the larks I made my way to Carmel Market and blending in with the locals I purchased my groceries and browsed along the stalls. This is surely the heart of Tel Aviv, the hustle and bustle, the colourful flower and fruit displays, the enticing aromas emanating from the heaps of fresh spices, freshly baked bread piled high and an electric atmosphere, which is intensified by the plethora of traders beckoning shoppers to approach their stalls.

Considering a tranquil setting where I might enjoy my newly purchased snacks, I hopped on a local bus bound for Yarkon Park. Covering an area of 3.5 kilometres the park is named after the Yarkon River, which flows gently through it. Features include one of the largest rock gardens in the world with more than 3,500 plant species. I followed the trail to the tropical garden, along a wooden corridor and, shaded by the rustling fronds of the tall palm trees, I paused to admire the most beautiful collection of orchids. A perfect seating area came into view and whilst I sat beside the river devouring my tasty titbits I decided to spend the afternoon at Tel Aviv’s Museum of Art on Shaul HaMelech Blvd. The extensive collections of contemporary works date from the mid-nineteenth century to the present and include the world’s largest collection of Israeli art.

Tel Aviv's Yarkon Park courtesy of Dana Friedlander for the Israeli Ministry of Tourism
The Yarkon Park (Ganei Yehoshua) is a huge stretch of greenery in the center of Tel Aviv. Image credit: Dana Friedlander for the Israeli Ministry of Tourism

I must confess that I spent the majority of my time in the galleries dedicated to European art, dating back to the sixteenth century, and I was utterly enthralled with Ruben’s Portrait of Madame de Vicq, dated 1625, which is displayed in the main gallery. I then made my way to Rothschild Boulevard in the heart of the ‘White City’, which is much admired for an abundance of properties reflecting the Bauhaus architectural style. The area was awarded UNESCO World Heritage Site status in 2003 and it’s the perfect place for an evening stroll.

Alas, time was racing ahead and it was time to return to my apartment and rustle up a dinner. I admit that my cooking skills are rather limited and rather than to do battle in the kitchen, I decided to visit Jaffa Port. The myriad of alleyways feature intriguing little shops selling all kinds of delightful trinkets, trendy art galleries, and busy bars and restaurants all vying for attention with the subtle aim of persuading those passing by to part with a few Israeli Shekels. Searching for a more unique gift, I headed for the Jaffa Flea Market, which is the ideal spot for rummaging through stalls displaying all manner of goods. I spotted a few antique stalls and practiced my bartering skills to secure a bargain. 

Jaffa is an alleyway waiting to be explored. Image credit: Dana Friedlander for the Israeli Ministry of Tourism

I then embarked on a long walk to Yefet Street, the site of St Peter’s Church, and I passed by the imposing limestone Clock Tower, which was built in 1903, and dedicated to the last Ottoman sultans. St Peter’s Church was originally built in 1654 but in the 18th century it was destroyed. Rebuilt in the 19th century and renovated in 1903, it is the largest structure in Jaffa and with its high vaulted ceiling, magnificent stained glass windows and marble interior with panels reflecting the life of St. Peter, it is absolutely mesmerising. The church was constructed on this site due to the area’s links with Christianity as it was in Jaffa that Tabitha, one of the disciples, was raised from the dead by St. Peter, as recorded in the Acts of the Apostles.

My final night in Tel Aviv was drawing to an end and I stopped at a local restaurant and ordered a tasty serving of falafel, hummus with roasted pine nuts and fresh pita bread and a generous portion of sweet dates. I reflected on my time in this wonderful city and held my glass of fresh Jaffa orange juice aloft and I proposed a toast; ‘Shalom Tel Aviv and Toda (thank you)!’

Book a luxury apartment in the city at HomeAway.co.uk

Factbox

‘Top tip’: Flights

Fly from Luton, Stanstead and Gatwick direct to Tel Aviv. For more information, visit easyjet.com.
 
Top tip: Accommodation

For more information on the featured property and more across the world, visit HomeAway; the most trusted holiday rental company.
  
‘Top tip’: Markets

Experience the tastes of Tel Aviv’s markets including HaCarmel and the Jaffa Flea Market with a Yalla Basta Bite Card. For more information visit yallabasta.com.

‘Top tip’: Wine Tastings

The Covenant Israel Winery is the Israeli arm of the renowned Napa Valley boutique winery of the same name. Covenant produces premium Israeli wines from select vineyards located in Upper Galilee. The Tel Aviv tasting room is located in the chic Neve Tzedek neighbourhood and provides private wine tasting in an intimate setting with a beautiful view overlooking the Mediterranean Sea For appointments and more information, contact info@covenantwines.co.il.

Image at the very top of the article: Tel Aviv courtesy Dana Friedlander for the Israeli Ministry of Tourism