How to spend 48 hours in Tel Aviv

·6-min read
In the 1970s Beirut was known as the Paris of the Middle East; today Tel Aviv is the region’s Berlin and should not be missed  (Alex Tiffany)
In the 1970s Beirut was known as the Paris of the Middle East; today Tel Aviv is the region’s Berlin and should not be missed (Alex Tiffany)

Sun-drenched and bohemian, Tel Aviv stretches out along the eastern Mediterranean coast, offering its effortlessly cool, young and party-loving inhabitants - and their visitors - days on the beach and all-night raves.

The packed city boasts a 14km stretch of white sand, open-air Middle Eastern-style markets, rooftop bars for sundowner drinks, and narrow streets lined with famed Bauhaus buildings, tiny galleries and quirky shops. In the 1970s Beirut was known as the Paris of the Middle East; today Tel Aviv is the region’s Berlin and it should not be missed.

Here is how to get a taste of the action in 48 hours…

SEE

Tel Aviv is split into distinct neighbourhoods with their own feel. To make the most out of a short time, pick up an e-scooter and explore.

First head to the hipster haunt of Florentin, the Shoreditch of Tel Aviv. The artists who transformed this destination from a seedy industrial area can no longer afford the rent, but it has retained its laid-back vibe and ever-changing street art.

Wander around and grab an ice cream at local favourite, Anita, (anita-gelato.com) before walking through the American-German colony to see 19th century European architecture, and visit The Noga artists’ quarter (nogagallery.com) to find small independent art galleries.

From here, fashion fans looking to emulate Tel Aviv style should head west to Shabazi Street in neighbouring Neve Tzedek for a top range of independent boutiques to browse.

It is essential to spend an afternoon at the southern tip of the city where Tel Aviv blends into the ancient port city of Jaffa (Yafo) / Alex Tiffany (Alex Tiffany)
It is essential to spend an afternoon at the southern tip of the city where Tel Aviv blends into the ancient port city of Jaffa (Yafo) / Alex Tiffany (Alex Tiffany)

Definitely spend an afternoon at the southern tip of the city where Tel Aviv blends into the ancient port city of Jaffa (Yafo). Goods have been traded here for thousands of years - including Jaffa oranges, the inspiration for the Jaffa Cake. Walk up inside the still-inhabited city and enjoy panoramic ocean sunset views from its walls built from iconic golden Jerusalem stone.

DO

Allow enough time to spend a long morning on the beach.

Central options (Jerusalem Beach, Frishman Beach, Banana Beach) are ideal for watching matkot matches (beach tennis played by young and old) and surfing the waves, and make sure not to miss Hilton Beach - an LGBTQ+ focal point of the huge annual Tel Aviv pride celebrations.

The city’s markets are also a must-see. Tel Aviv’s largest Middle Eastern-style “shouk”, Carmel Market, has been running since 1920. (shuktlv.co.il) Here the Israeli reputation for gruffness might be intimidating, but don’t be afraid to ask for a bargain. Buy everything from souvenirs to craft beer and small bags of fresh rogelach - the traditional small, intensely sweet and dense mini croissant pastries.

For a calmer experience, head to more modern Sarona Market (saronatlv.co.il) to pick up handmade slabs of halva to take home as ideal gifts.

Walk through the American-German colony to see 19th century European architecture (Alex Tiffany)
Walk through the American-German colony to see 19th century European architecture (Alex Tiffany)

Even if the sun is shining all weekend, make sure to stop off at The Bauhaus Museum/gallery in the UNESCO-listed White City area (bauhaus-centre.com).

It is the world’s largest collection of Bauhaus style architecture - plain, often asymmetrical with balconies and distinctive pillars - constructed by architects who fled antisemitism in Europe and moved to Israel in the 1920s and 30s, and wanted to recreate the café culture and style they had left behind.

After this, grab an iced coffee from any stand you pass (sugary frappuccino-style drinks available everywhere in Tel Aviv), and take a look at the imposing Great Synagogue nearby (tlvgreatsynagogue.org)

EAT

Eating is a big thing in Israel, and the biggest debate in Israeli food is where to find the best humus and pita. Near Carmel market is Shlomo & Doron Humus (@shlomodoronhummus), which constantly competes with Abu Hassan Hummus in Jaffa for the title. Both usually have long queues, so get there ahead of the lunch rush to get your chickpea fill.

You will never look at a tub of supermarket hummus in the same way again.

Head to Meshek Barzilay in Neve Tzedek for the gourmet meat-free eatery’s uniquely Israeli dishes (Meshek Barzilay)
Head to Meshek Barzilay in Neve Tzedek for the gourmet meat-free eatery’s uniquely Israeli dishes (Meshek Barzilay)

Shakshuka is the traditional Israeli breakfast dish, which thanks to Yotam Ottolenghi has made it to most London brunch menus. Try a spicy version at Cafe Yom Tov (@yomtovcafe) by Carmel Market, or head to Meshek Barzilay in Neve Tzedek (meshekbarzilay.co.il) for the gourmet meat-free eatery’s uniquely Israeli dishes, such as fig carpaccio and a RAW Tishrei dessert; a layer of nuts and date, mixed berry cashew and guava cashew cream.

Meat-reducers can find an eye-opening, successfully experimental seven-course tasting menu (350 shekels- around £80) and the best glass of Israeli wine in Tel Aviv - an oaky chardonnay grown in the desert - at Opa (opatlv.co.il). Founded by twin sisters and almost entirely staffed by women, the seasonal menu is created with organic ingredients sold by friends or grown on the roof.

Head to bar Teder.fm to find the best local hotspot (Alex Tiffany)
Head to bar Teder.fm to find the best local hotspot (Alex Tiffany)

DRINK & DANCE

Head to bar Teder.fm (teder.fm) to find the best local hotspot. Hidden behind an unassuming graffitied door in South Central Tel Aviv, the former pop-up bar now occupies a closed-off courtyard where bands play live followed by late-night DJ sets.

It remains buzzing in the early hours with beers flowing (the cheapest local is Goldstar) and a welcoming crowd. Thin-crust pizzas for post-beer munchies come courtesy of the bar’s attached Romano restaurant (ontopo.co.il) run by Israeli celebrity chef, Eyal Shani.

Other spots worth checking out include weekend-only venue Mondo 2000 (@themondo2000) above Levinsky Market in Florentin, which sees disco and funk music run all night, and Holy Bar in Neve Tzedek (@holybar) for bespoke cocktails and great atmosphere.

If you are willing to part with around $200, Eager Tourist tours (eagertourist.com) say they will guide you to the best local scene any night of the week.

STAY

Airbnbs can be expensive and non-air conditioned so be thorough when booking, or opt for one of the major hotels near the beaches as they can offer competitive room rates.

The Lighthouse by Brown Hotels (brownhotels.com) near Jerusalem Beach boasts a well-known rooftop bar with a panoramic view over the city, and a breakfast terrace created from an old nightclub providing perfect boozy brunch fare.

Those looking for an oasis of calm in complete but non-stuffy luxury should book in at high-end boutique hotel The Drisco (thedrisco.com).

Built in 1866 and steeped in history, it offers a 24-hour roof terrace and the best breakfast I have ever eaten (try the Jaffa Benedict, juicy dates and slabs of fresh halva) in the heart of The Noga. It also happens to be just around the corner from tucked-away coffee gem, gourmet roastery Cafelix (cafelix.co.il). Suites offer sea views.

Those looking for an oasis of calm in complete but non-stuffy luxury should book in at high-end boutique hotel The Drisco (Assaf Pinchuk)
Those looking for an oasis of calm in complete but non-stuffy luxury should book in at high-end boutique hotel The Drisco (Assaf Pinchuk)

DETAILS

A return flight in November for is currently being offered by British Airways for £271 (britishairways.com), and by WizzAir (wizzair.com) / EasyJet (easyjet.com) for £241.

Tip: Get the train (around £5) from Ben Gurion Airport into Tel Aviv - airport taxis charge around £50 per ride.

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