We’ve really changed up venues. There’s a distinct smell of sea salt, sunscreen and ganga in the air and even away from the gorgeous beaches, every second person we walk past is either dressed in a bikini or has no shirt on. Worse, there’s a large proportion also dressed as hipsters. You’ve guessed it, we’re in Tel Aviv, baby.
Officially Tel Aviv is the second most populous city in Israel, after Jerusalem, and its actually called Tel Aviv-Yafo as a result of it being a unified city with the historic city of Jaffa. Whilst only supporting a population of approximately 500,000 it is an economic powerhouse in the region, punching well above its weight. After the indifference of other Israeli cities we’ve been to, it seems a much friendlier place, as you would be too if you seemingly had everything at your beck and call, from sublime beaches to UNESCO World Heritage sites, ancient ports and picturesque parks catering for nearly any sport you can think of. While Tel Aviv’s Bauhaus architecture, introduced in the 1920s and 1930s by German Jewish architects, has provided its official nickname as the White City, its beating nightlife makes the name the Non-Stop City, much more appropriate.
We’ve got four days here and straight away we’ve realised that it is far too little time and wished we’d booked for more. Nonetheless, here’s a breakdown of some of what we’ve experienced whilst we are here.
We were a bit worried when our taxi driver didn’t seem to know where our accommodation was. However, this isn’t so unusual in this part of the world and with the help of Google maps (actually, he was using Waze), we got close enough to get out and walk the last part. His issue was we’d entered a warren like maze of one way narrow streets that definitely discouraged any vehicle traffic. Whilst no good for him, it sounded perfect to us!
As it turns out, we’re sleeping right alongside the happening Carmel Market, which dates back to the 1920’s. Given we’re now in an era where shopping malls and large supermarkets have taken over, it is heartwarming to move and rub shoulders with locals and tourists amongst its throbbing narrow streets. Selling everything from electric appliances, clothing, fresh fruit, vege, bread and meat and alcohol galore, it really is your one stop shop.
If that’s not enough for you, there’s restaurants, mini (and not so mini) markets and lively bars that spill out and take over the entire street. The place is an experience not to be missed (except Saturdays when its closed) and we got to go every day we were here!
Tel Aviv is synonymous with the beach scene in Israel. With a staggering 14 kilometers of golden beaches, there is bound to be a beach to suit your style whilst looking at the bronzed flesh on display. At each of the official 13 beaches, there are lifeguards and changing rooms and chairs (6 shekels), sunbeds (12 shekels) and umbrellas for rent. Some even operate beach libraries, although when I perused these, the books were only in Hebrew.
We only visited the beach closest to our accommodation, Banana Beach (I secretly think Veronica was thinking it was named for a different reason than what it was). Also known as Aviv Beach, Chinky Beach, Banana Beach, Dolphinarium Beach and Drums Beach, supposedly this is the beach most frequently visited by people from India, Thailand and South America. Maybe we went at the wrong time, but all we saw were Israelis and the odd tourist.
We didn’t see a beach that didn’t look great, which is backed up by ten of the beaches in Tel Aviv-Yafo having received the coveted Blue Flag status, along with one of its marinas. The Blue Flag status provides a positive indication of a beaches high environmental and quality standards and if interested, you can see which ones have achieved this accolated here https://www.blueflag.global/.
Accompanying every beach are playgrounds. One for the adults, which gives them the excuse to generally be buff and show off on the various fitness quipment and another for kids.
Tel Aviv is home to about 4,000 modernist buildings. Now, I can’t tell my Art Deco, from my Art Nouveau from my Art Moderne, but I do know that there are loads of funky buildings just waiting to be discovered when out and about in Tel Aviv. The ones which get everyone talking at UNESCO are the white rounded buildings constructed in the 1930s in the Bauhaus (International) style and which gave Tel Aviv its nickname The White City.
Some of these can be seen in one of Tel Aviv’s most exclusive locales, the Neve Tzedek district, which is full of cafés, restaurants, bars, and designer shops. However, this part of town is more known for the hundreds of historic sandstone buildings that provide its unique flavour.
To be honest, it doesn’t really matter where you go in Tel Aviv, as the whole city seems to have interesting buildings at every turn.
Every now and then you stumble upon a little gem. I had been posting some of my runs up on Strava and a mate of mine from Abu Dhabi suggested that I should run through Yarkon Park instead of up and down the beach promenade every time. I’m glad he did, as the extensive park (it has six separate gardens) provided me with my first proper trail run in god knows how long.
Apart from the gardens and river which runs through it, I was able to watch people kayaking, rowing and sailing on its waters.
There was also a rock climbing facility, a rugby ground of all things, an aviary and a couple of artificial lakes. Illustrating just how amazing the place is, Britany Spears performed a concert to 70,000 people in 2017. OK, don’t let that put you off from visiting, as the place was actually very cool and the wide paths give you the greatest chance of not being bowled over by a lime scooter when out running.
All that we’ve done over past four days, however, only represent half the story of what we’ve seen. Up next we showcase the important biblical town of Jaffa which we visited not once, but three times.