1- Have fun on the beach:
Tel Aviv is famous worldwide for its fantastic beachside, that stretches over a length of around 13.5 kilometers along the beautiful Mediterranean Sea. It is divided to 13 declared beaches, each having a different vibe. All include showers, changing rooms and toilets and are well maintained. Some beaches have sport facilities on them and some offer lounge beds or chairs during the season (April to October). So, if you want to enjoy the sun, the sand and the wonderful sea, you can just grab a beach towel and head to one of the beaches for a nice day on Tel Aviv’s beachside. It’s free!
I really love Charles Clore Beach, just a few hundred steps away from Old Jaffa. It’s a quiet beach compared to others, has a great view to Old Jaffa and a great bar-café on site. Other recommended beaches include Jerusalem Beach and Gordon Beach, which are very close to each other. Hilton Beach is a gay friendly beach, not far away as well.
2 – Explore the beautiful streets of Old Jaffa:
In my opinion, Old Jaffa is one of the most enchanting places in Israel. Jaffa is one of the most ancient settlements in Israel, but today is part of Tel Aviv. Actually, the people who established Tel Aviv in the early 20th century came out of Jaffa’s Walls.
But, as I said, Jaffa has a very long history. The first settlement began at the end of the Neolithic period and started expanding in the Canaanite period, about 3,000 years ago. One of the most famous Biblical figures connected to Jaffa is Jonah, who sets sail from Jaffa’s port on his flee from God’s mission. Jaffa has its ups and downs throughout history, but even when it was demolished by certain empires, it was re-built soon after. The last person to re-build Jaffa was Muhammad Abu-Nabbut, the local governor of the city during the Ottoman period. When you explore Old Jaffa, you can still see some buildings remaining from his time, including the Mahmoudiya Mosque near Jaffa’s Clocktower.
Take a full day to explore the streets of Old Jaffa. I recommend beginning at the Clocktower, which was built in 1903 in honor of the Ottoman Sultan Abdulhamid II and to commemorate his 25 years of rule over the empire. If you’ll proceed on Miprats Shlomo Promenade, leading west, you’ll soon see a beautiful view of Tel Aviv. Afterwards you’ll arrive at the plaza next to St. Peter’s Church, one of the most important churches in Israel, commemorating the time when Christianity began spreading to the whole world. Other things worth seeing is the Artists’ Street and the Old Jaffa Port, which is one of the most ancient ports in the world.
3 – Take a walk from Old Jaffa to Tel Aviv Port:
Linking between Old Jaffa to Tel Aviv Port is the magnificent Tel Aviv-Jaffa Promenade, stretching over 14 kilometers along the Tel Aviv beachline. Along the promenade are many restaurants and cafes and of course, beautiful views of the Mediterranean. The promenade extends beyond Old Jaffa, but I recommend walking from Old Jaffa to Tel Aviv Port, especially in the early hours of the evening. The walk takes about one hour and it’s a perfect way to relax, do some people-watching and explore the Tel Aviv beachside.
If you prefer biking, you can rent a bike through Tel-O-Fun (the green bikes that appear almost anywhere in Tel Aviv) and bike along the promenade. It isn’t free, but it doesn’t cost much (about 23 ILS for an hour) and it’s a great way to get around Tel Aviv.
More about Tel-o-Fun:
4 – Visit Rabin’s memorial at Rabin Square:
Yitzhak Rabin was the fifth Prime Minister of Israel from 1974 to 1977 and then was elected for a second term of office in 1992. In October 1994 he signed the peace agreement with Jordan. About a year beforehand, in September 1993 he signed the Oslo Accords with the Palestinians, a brave step that granted him the Nobel Peace Prize and later led to his assassination by a right-wing Jewish extremist who opposed the signing of the Oslo Accords. Rabin was assassinated on 4 November 1995.
The assassination of Yitzhak Rabin happened at the end of a peace rally, which took place in the Kings of Israel Square in Tel Aviv, today known as Rabin Square. If you’re in the area, you can come to visit the square. The City Hall of Tel Aviv is located at the top of the square and in the square are two pools and a beautiful memorial sculpture for the Holocaust, designed by Israeli artist Yigal Tumarkin.
Rabin’s Memorial is located on Ibn Gabirol Street, next to the City Hall. There are two memorials there, one more official than the other. The one on the wall preserves part of the authentic graffiti that people made on the City Hall’s walls right after the assassination. The big word says: “Sorry”. You can also see spots on the boardwalk, that indicate where Yitzhak Rabin stood at the time of the assassination.
When I was there a while ago I was stopped by some tourists, who wanted to know what I think about the political assassination and if I think it could happen again. I’ll leave those questions open.
The Square is about a half an hour walk from the seaside. Many Dan buses arrive near the Square.
5 – Take a stroll though the German Colony of Sarona:
The German Colony of Sarona is located a short walking distance from the Azrieli Mall (the three towers that are rectangular, circular and square). In my opinion, Sarona is one of the most beautiful parts of Tel Aviv. It is a modern-looking shopping center, situated in the original preserved houses of the 19th century German Colony. There is also a food mall nearby, but the prices are up high. If you’re not interested in spending a lot of money, I just recommend strolling along the shops and seeing the preserved buildings.
The history of the colony begins in 1871. The German Templars arrived to this part of Israel and decided to establish a colony here, after establishing one in Haifa. The Templars were very religious Christians and began developing agriculture and industry in the area. They were doing well under the British Mandate until September 1939, at the beginning of World War II, then they were declared as enemy nationals and exiled from the Land of Israel.
Later, Sarona was turned to a British camp, which was attacked many times by the Jewish underground forces. In December 1947, when the British were starting to pack their bags and leave the area, they passed the camp to the Jewish leadership, which turned it to a camp of the Jewish force, the Haganah. After the declaration of Israel’s independence in May 1948, the new government’s institutions settled in the houses of the German Colony. Today, as I said, it is a shopping and recreational center.
6 – Enjoy the atmosphere of Nachalat Binyamin Market:
This is another shopping area in Tel Aviv, situated closer to the seaside. Even if you aren’t planning to buy anything, it’s nice to stroll around and soak in the nice atmosphere. On Tuesdays and Fridays between 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM, this pedestrian street is filled with music, street performances and arts and crafts stalls. Read more about it in the official site: Nachalat Binyamin Market.
Nachalat Binyamin is about a 20 minutes walking distance from the seaside.
7 – Explore the Independence Trail:
The Independence Trail is a new trail in Tel Aviv, meant to take you back in time to the very beginning of Tel Aviv and to the very beginning of the State of Israel, from 1909 to 1948. The trail passes by the first buildings of Tel Aviv and important institutions, that tell the story of the city and of the country, like the Haganah Museum, the first branch of the Bank of Israel and the Independence Hall (originally the first mayor’s house), where the State of Israel was declared on May 14, 1948.
Coming Soon – a full guide to the Independence Trail
The starting point of the trail is at the first kiosk of Tel Aviv, which has been preserved. The kiosk stands on the crossroad between Rothschild and Herzl Streets. A short walk from there, on Rothschild 11, is the trail’s information center, where you can get the official map and all the information you need. Make sure to take the map and show it at every site, because whoever walks on the trail can access the different sites for free. I recommend starting the trail in the morning so that you will be able to see everything before most sites close at 4:00 PM.
The trail was created by the Tel Aviv Municipality together with the Tourism Department.
One last thing to be aware of – on Rothschild Avenue you need to make sure not to walk on the bicycle path (it’s lined out on the boardwalk). Many people ride electric bikes in Tel Aviv and it could be dangerous to walk there.
Read more about the trail in the official site: Independence Trail.
Independence Trail starting point
8 – Participate in one of Tel Aviv’s Free Tours:
If you want to discover Tel Aviv with a guide, but don’t want to pay too much, you can always join a Free Tour. But, keep in mind that not all Free Tours are really free. Some will expect you to leave a tip at the end, and the recommended amount of tip is about 50 ILS. So… which Free Tours do I recommend?
SANDEMANs have a Free Tour of Old Jaffa, which I participated in. It’s about two hours, the guides are certificated and interesting and you really get to see the main sites of Jaffa, so yes, I would recommend them.
Another option is to take Tel Aviv-Yafo Municipality’s free walking tours. I’ve been to the one about the international style buildings, Bahaus, and it was nice. To get info about their tours, you can check out their website.
(by the way, Yafo is Jaffa. For some reason, tourists say Jaffa, so that’s how I called it throughout the post…)
So, as I said, those were my top picks of free things to do in Tel Aviv. If you have any more suggestions, you’re free to type them in the comments or let me know through a message to my Facebook page – Backpack Israel.
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