Tel Aviv travel guide
Tel Aviv is a vibrant modern city that is best known for its sun-drenched beaches, pumping nightclubs, designer shopping, crowded street markets and high culture. What it lacks in antiquities, Tel Aviv makes up for in commerce. One third of Israel's population have made this bustling metropolis home. Over weekends, residents from nearby towns head to Tel Aviv looking for entertainment and relaxation and city-slickers spill out onto the city's beaches to soak up the Mediterranean sun along a six-mile (10km) stretch of golden sand. The diversity of the population is reflected in the architectural variations and influences, such as the Yemenite Quarter and the Vodka cafes of Allenby Street. Tel Aviv also provides an ideal base from which to explore other parts of Israel, including Jaffa, the Galilee area and Caesarea.
Go rock-climbing, browse street markets, dine on seafood in the Old Port, party the night away, sunbathe on the beach or tour a top museum. These are just some of the diversions available on a holiday in Tel Aviv, which, like New York, is a 'city that never sleeps'. The vibrant commercial centre of Israel, Tel Aviv is hip and happening. A holiday in Tel Aviv is great for families looking for fun in the sun, shopaholics who lust for its many malls and markets, and young travellers who revel in the nightlife and young vibe of the city.
Tel Aviv Museum of Art
The Tel Aviv Museum of Art has boasted the country's leading exhibition of modern art since its inception in 1932. It also has, unsurprisingly, one of the best collections of Israeli art in the world. A permanent collection of European and American art features prominent Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings by Chagall, Dali, Cezanne, Vincent van Gogh, Jackson Pollock, and Monet, among others. The museum showcases numerous mediums including painting, sculpture, print, drawing, photography, film, design and architecture. The museum aims to be a cultural hub in Tel Aviv and offers an active program of changing exhibitions, as well as exciting cultural programs such as music and dance performances, cinema screenings and public lectures. To get an idea of what's on at the museum during your visit check the website below. The museum is consistently rated highly by visitors and is a must for art lovers spending time in the city. It houses a very extensive collection and will probably command your attention for a few hours so allow yourself some time. There is a cafe on site.
Address: 27 Shaul Hamelech Boulevard
Transport: Bus 9,18, 28, 70, 90 or 111
Eretz Israel Museum (The Land of Israel Museum)
All exhibits are accessible for the disabled. Photography is permitted but only for private, non-commercial use and flashes and tripods are not allowed. There is a special museum shop at the entrance which sells clothes, jewellery and all sorts of souvenirs created by talented Israeli designers. You can also buy a wide range of replicas here. There is a cafe for refreshments and the Planetarium is right next door - it is possible to buy combined tickets. On hot days the air conditioning is a big bonus!
Address: 2 Haim Levanon Street, Ramat Aviv
Museum of the Jewish Diaspora (Beit Hatefutsot)
Although the museum is extremely well-loved and impressive as it is, the Core Exhibition is undergoing an extensive renovation and the new museum will open completely in 2017. It seems, however, that in the interim the museum will still be open to visitors - check the website below to confirm it is open before planning your trip.
Address: Tel Aviv University Campus, Klausner Street, Ramat Aviv
Opening time: Open Sunday, Monday and Tuesday 10am to 4pm; Wednesday and Thursday 10am to 10pm; Friday 9am to 1pm. Closed on Saturdays and Jewish holidays.
The Carmel Market (Shuk Ha'Carmel) will entrance all visitors to Tel Aviv with its bustling atmosphere and fine selection of goods and produce. Located in the 'trendy side' of town (just off Allenby Street), the Carmel Market is basically one long alley, jam-packed with shoppers and vendors loudly advertising their wares. Although you can buy almost anything at the Carmel Market - from clothing and footwear to flowers, trinkets and cell phone accessories - and usually at better prices than you'll find elsewhere in the city, the real attraction is its mouth-watering array of fresh produce. Shop for the freshest fruit and vegetables, cheeses and baked goods, while soaking up the typically Middle Eastern market atmosphere. The market is frequented by locals and is not designed for tourists which makes the experience feel exciting and authentic. Many of the vendors will give you samples to taste if you enquire about fruits and vegetables you are unfamiliar with. You are expected to bargain for anything and everything! The Carmel Market operates every day of the week except Saturday. Friday mornings are the busiest time and if you want to experience the full impact of the place this is a good time to visit.
Address: Near the Hatachana Complex and Allenby Street
The best beach for swimming in Tel Aviv is the Hilton Beach, while Gordon Beach is popular with tourists and has some good bars and cafes. Drums Beach is popular among backpackers and bohemian types (there are frequent evening drumming sessions, as the name suggests), and gay travellers will feel especially at home at Atzmout Beach. For surfers, Hilton Beach South has some renowned waves, and those who love dogs will enjoy Hilton Beach North. Givat Aliya Beach is great for kids because it is a protected bay with calm water, a shallow ocean pool and a children's playground. For those who prefer a quieter, less crowded beach, Trumpeldor is a good option but be aware that this beach doesn't have lifeguards or much in the way of facilities.
A hip young city, Tel Aviv is known for its lovely Mediterranean beaches, fun nightlife and colourful markets. The city does have an impressive arts and culture scene too and some of the most rewarding and popular attractions in Tel Aviv are museums. Using Tel Aviv as a base you also have some wonderful destinations on your doorstep: escape to the gorgeous holiday resort of Eilat on the Red Sea for great scuba diving and snorkelling; explore the ancient port city of Jaffa, thought to be 4,000 years old; take a trip to the magical Underwater Observatory Marine Park to see the Red Sea flora and fauna up close.
Museum lovers are unlikely to run out of things to see and do in Tel Aviv. Three of the city's best museums are the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, an absolute must-see for art fanatics; the Museum of the Jewish Diaspora (Beit Hatefutsot), which tracks the history of the Jewish people all over the world; and the Eretz Israel Museum, which is a kind of exhibition park with several different pavilions housing their own distinct collections. If you enjoy theatre, don't miss out on attending a show at the Nalagaat Centre which is renowned for its performances and atmosphere.
For those keen to enjoy sun and sea, Tel Aviv's beaches won't disappoint. Some favourites with tourists are Hilton Beach and Gordon Beach, and for those travelling in Tel Aviv with kids Givat Aliya Beach is wonderful. The old Tel Aviv port area is becoming increasingly popular with tourists, combining the industry of the harbour with cultural attractions and some good restaurants and bars.
The entrance to the Old Town is marked by the Ottoman Clock Tower, a prominent landmark and meeting point. The Old Town still has an ancient and magical atmosphere and is the main draw for visitors. Jaffa has become a popular tourist attraction filled with interesting shops, Mediterranean-style restaurants and sun-drenched cafes. There are artist quarters, studios and galleries as well as shops specialising in Judaica and archaeology. There are also some splendid markets in Jaffa - be sure to haggle! At night the historical walls are illuminated, revealing a beautiful architectural backdrop offset against the soft lapping of the sea against the ancient port walls. For an exploration into Jaffa's history pay a visit to the Jaffa Museum, which contains a dazzling collection of artefacts. The museum is located at 10 Mifratz Shlomo Street, Old Jaffa.
A lesser-known activity in Eilat is bird-watching, as more than one billion birds navigate between the Mediterranean coast and the Jordan Mountains, making the area one of the best places to watch migratory flight. The Timna Valley National Park is located just north of Eilat and is a wonderful excursion for those wanting a day in the desert on camel-back or by jeep, while the more active can enjoy hiking in the desert mountains. The Red Canyon is a dramatic and beautiful feature of the area which attracts many hikers and provides fun for the whole family. Another popular Eilat excursion for children is a visit to the Hai Bar National Biblical Wildlife Reserve, a kind of zoo which collects and protects endangered animals from the Bible.
Transport: The best way to travel is by plane from Tel Aviv; otherwise, the journey time is approximately four hours by car from either Tel Aviv or Jerusalem.
The Underwater Observatory Marine Park
Visitors to the Underwater Observatory Marine Park, just south of Eilat and conveniently close to Tel Aviv, can enjoy viewing all kinds of fantastic marine life in the gigantic 360,000-litre seawater aquarium. Animals such as eels, sharks, turtles and stingrays can be seen, while the rare fish aquarium is home to some exquisite (and poisonous) fish. The Red Sea is renowned for its colourful reefs and rich marine life and the most unique facility of the Marine Park are the two one of a kind Underwater Observatories which allow visitors to really immerse themselves in the underwater world and see the reefs and animals in their natural environment. There are daily feedings to look forward to; the most popular of these is the daily hand-feeding of the sharks which is a big draw for lovers of predators. You can also witness the feeding of the turtles, the baby turtles, the rare fish and the stingrays. All the feedings are accompanied by some information on the species and their eating habits - check the website for details on all the different feeding times. The Marine Park also has a kids club for younger visitors where they can learn about the wonders of the ocean and enjoy all sorts of fun activities.
Tel Aviv is the irrepressible social hub of Israel, and has a great selection of trendy bars, grinding clubs and pubs with enough loud music, dancing and merriment to keep any party person happy. The saying in Israel goes 'Haifa works, Jerusalem prays, Tel Aviv plays', and this should give visitors some idea what they're in for.
During the summer months, kick things off with sundowners at one of the many beach bars, such as the popular Jerusalem Beach or Banana Beach. The nightlife in Tel Aviv doesn't usually get going until around 11pm, so it's best to ease into the swing of things by going out for dinner before hitting the bars and clubs. Even on Friday nights during Shabbat the locals go wild, while Thursday nights are another big night out in Tel Aviv.
Clubs and bars are constantly changing, but the main areas stay the same. Allenby Street is a good place to start, with more than 20 clubs centred round the small area offering house, disco, funk and techno music. The Tel Aviv port and Rotschild Blvd areas are popular too; while those looking for a gay scene should head to the trendy Florentin district.
Expect traffic jams at 2am, as this city that never sleeps is capable of keeping you up way past dawn.
Tel Aviv undoubtedly offers the best shopping options for tourists in Israel. Whether you're looking for speciality items, high fashion, or some authentic Israeli souvenirs, you are bound to find what you're looking for in Tel Aviv.
There are three main types of shopping experience to be had in Tel Aviv. Firstly (and most memorably), are the city's wonderful, colourful market-places (shuks). These open-air markets bustle from dawn to dusk and, over and above the exciting things to buy from their noisy vendors, are tourist attractions in themselves, giving visitors a real taste of the Middle East. The biggest and busiest market is the Carmel Market (near Allenby Street), but the Flea Market (Rabi Nachman Street) is a great place for antique-hunters, and the Levinsky Market (on Levinsky Street) is the place to go for dried foods and spices.
Tel Aviv also has a fast-growing shopping mall culture, and if you're looking for international brands these establishments are probably a good place to start. Even if you're not a mall person back home, you might find yourself enjoying the air-conditioned interiors of these places more than the shopping that's on offer! The biggest and best shopping malls in Tel Aviv include Azriely, the Dizengoff Centre and Gan Ha'ir, all located near the city centre.
Tel Aviv also has a few remaining speciality shopping streets: for those seeking fashion deals, Dizengoff Street is a must; while those after arts, crafts, jewellery and Judaica products should head to Gordon Street. Haute couture junkies should try coincide their visit to Tel Aviv with the City Designers' Market, where twice a year (in February and August) the city's top designers present their latest creations to the admiring public.
Ben-Gurion International Airport
Location: The airport is situated 12 miles (20km) southeast of Tel Aviv, and 30 miles (50km) northwest of Jerusalem.
Time: GMT +1 (GMT +2 from the end of March to the end of October)
Contacts: Tel: +972 (0)3 975 5555.
Transfer between terminals: A free shuttle service operates between the two terminals at 15-minute intervals.
Getting to the city: Trains are the best option for getting into Tel Aviv; they're clean, fast and cheap. Trains run from Level S of Terminal 3 to Tel Aviv Savidor Station and a trip into town takes 20 minutes. Passengers arriving after midnight will have to wait until 3am for the first train of the day. Buses run from the nearby Airport City rather than the airport itself. Passengers can take the free Egged 5 Shuttle from the second floor of arrivals to Airport City.
Car rental: Avis, Budget, Dollar Thrifty, Eldan, Hertz and Sixt have facilities at the airport.
Airport Taxis: Taxis usually wait outside the arrivals hall. The trip into town is nine miles (15kms). There is an added fare surcharge at night and on Jewish holidays and the Sabbath.
Facilities: Airport facilities include currency exchange, ATMs, banks, public telephones and a post office, luggage storage, business facilities and VIP lounges, information desks, two synagogues, medical clinics, a police station, a VAT refund desk, special needs assistance services, a playroom and a mother and child room. There are also myriad shopping and dining options.
Parking: The area directly in front of the terminals is reserved for pick-up and drop-offs only. Short-term parking is available in the parking lot in front of Terminal 3. Rates for short-stay parking start at ILS 18 for the first hour, and go up by ILS 4 every fifteen minutes thereafter. The maximum daily rate is ILS 90. Long-term parking is available opposite Terminal 3. A shuttle bus runs from this parking lot to the terminal at 15-minute intervals. Long-stay rates are ILS 40 per day in the open area and ILS 70 per day in the roofed area.
Departure tax: The ILS 50 departure tax for leaving Israel is included in ticket prices.
The easiest way to get around Tel Aviv is on foot or by taxi. Taxi mini-buses (sheruts) follow the same routes as the public buses, often with more frequency, and are slightly cheaper on weekdays. The bus system itself is extensive with a fixed fare in the city centre. Taxi cabs are not of any particular make or model car, but do have rooftop signs and are plentiful. Fares are metered and more expensive at night.
Tel Aviv's climate is subtropical, with hot summers and mild winters. Although it is close to Jerusalem, Tel Aviv has quite a different climate because it is not as highly elevated, making it hotter and more humid. The average summer temperature in Tel Aviv is 77°F (25°C), and the average winter temperature is 57°F (14°C). November to April is the wet season, and humidity tends to be high year round. In winter rainfall comes in the form of heavy showers and thunderstorms; snow is extremely rare in Tel Aviv. Although summer is the hottest season, Tel Aviv can experience quite severe heat waves in spring. The city gets plenty of sun, even in winter. July and August are the busiest tourist months in Tel Aviv, and October is the month when Israelis tend to take vacations, so at this time prices will also go up and finding accommodation may be more difficult. The best time to visit Tel Aviv is in March and April or September.
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