Tel Aviv is often dubbed “the city that never sleeps.” People hang out in the local cafes, sunbathe on the beautiful beaches, go party till the early hours of the morning. There’s always something going on. It’s the most vibrant city in Israel. It’s also very liberal and open-minded, with one of the largest pride parades in the world taking place every June. And for vegetarians and vegans, it’s a paradise boasting over 400 vegetarian and vegan eateries.
Tel Aviv was established in 1909 as the first Hebrew city in the Land of Israel. After the establishment of the State of Israel, Tel Aviv was unified with neighboring Jaffa, a much older city dating from Biblical days. So, there’s also some history to see. I love to wander around the Old Jaffa, which also has a charming artists’ colony.
This travel guide to Tel Aviv includes everything you need for a perfect visit. And I’m updating it all the time. So, if you plan to visit Tel Aviv soon, check it out.
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Table of Contents
5 top things to see and do in Tel Aviv
Explore Old Jaffa
Old Jaffa (also known as Yafo) is one of the oldest port cities in the world. Therefore, it lies right next to the seaside. If you love history, art, and food, it’s a great place to explore. You can start your visit at the famous clock tower, dating from 1903. Then, look for antiques and taste some local food in the Flea Market. Walk the narrow streets, visit the beautiful galleries, and stop at some historical points. Christians will also find some interesting spots connected to the beginning of Christianity. There are tons of things to see and do in Old Jaffa. While you can explore the place on your own, it’s always better to walk around with a tour guide.
Go to the beach
Tel Aviv is the perfect destination for beach lovers. The Tel Avivian coastline spreads over 14 kilometers and offers plenty of fun activities along the Mediterranean Sea. In the summer, you can soak up some sun, splash around in the water, or learn to surf. Just before you enter the sea, make sure to check the jellyfish forecast. In the winter, you can walk or cycle on the seaside promenade from Old Jaffa to Tel Aviv Port, meditate in front of the water, or play matkot on the sand. Beach chairs and umbrellas are available for rent on several beaches. There are also many cafes and restaurants along the coastline, so you can enjoy a nice meal and drink facing the stunning Mediterranean.
Make sure to come to the seaside at sunset to view the magnificent sun as it goes below the horizon!
Enjoy the food and ambiance at the Carmel Market
The Carmel Market (“Shuk HaCarmel” in Hebrew) is one of Israel’s most popular marketplaces, first opened in 1920. It’s the largest market in Tel Aviv, with dozens of stores and stalls selling everything from food to clothing and electronics. It’s best to come here in the afternoon when the place is bustling. But if you want to avoid the heavy crowds, don’t come on Thursdays or Fridays, when people are getting groceries for Shabbat. Walk the narrow alleyways, soak in the colors and scents, and experience the ambiance of this busy Israeli market. Ah, and don’t forget to grab something to eat!
The market is open from Sunday to Thursday between 7:30 AM and 7 PM. On Friday, it’s open from 6:30 AM until two hours before Shabbat.
On Tuesday and Friday, you can find an artists’ fair right next to the market, on Nahalat Binyamin pedestrian street.
Visit Tel Aviv’s top museums
Tel Aviv is Israel’s cultural center. So, if you like museums, you’ll find plenty of options in Tel Aviv. Art lovers will probably love the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, which showcases both Israeli and international artworks. History lovers might prefer the Eretz Israel Museum, where they can view some of the archeologic findings from Israel. There’s also the impressive Yitzhak Rabin Center, where you can learn the history of Israel through the life story of Yitzhak Rabin, Israel’s fifth prime minister. Rabin was assassinated by a right-wing extremist following the signing of the Oslo Accords. Another museum worth visiting is the Palmach Museum, which tells the story of the elite Jewish fighting force during the British mandate. However, you must order a visit in advance. Whichever museum you choose, it’s going to be a fascinating experience!
Rent a bike
When walking around Tel Aviv, you’ll notice bikes everywhere. The city is flat, and there’s not a lot of parking, so cycling has become a popular form of transportation. If you want to feel Tel Avivian for a while, you can rent a bike and cycle around the city. The best places to cycle are on the coastline promenade or through Yarkon Park. You’ll find Tel-O-Fun (now Metrofun) bike rental stations in various locations throughout Tel Aviv.
All you need to do is download their app, pick a bike, and release it from the station. Bike rental is possible only for people aged 16 and above. You will need to scan your ID in the app in order to prove you are above 16 years old. Prices start from 27 ILS for an hour + an unlocking fee of 5 ILS. The prices are higher on Shabbat and if you want to unlock an electric bike.
You can also rent a bike in various stores throughout the city.
Free walking tours in Tel Aviv
Tel Aviv is so much different with a guide because you don’t just see buildings – you hear the stories behind them. If you can’t afford a Tel Aviv private tour or a paid group tour, you can search for “free tours” in Tel Aviv. Here are two options:
- Tel Aviv Greeter – I heard about it years ago, and it seems like a beautiful program. It links travelers and local people from Tel Aviv, who show you around the city for free. All you need to do is fill in the Greeter Request Form, and they’ll try to find you a match.
- Abraham Tours’ Free Tour of Jaffa – Abraham Tours offers a free 2-hour walking tour of Old Jaffa, which could be a great way to get to know the old part of Tel Aviv. I’ve joined some of the their paid tours in the past and they were great.
How many days to visit Tel Aviv?
You can experience the ambiance of the city in one day. But if you want to visit a museum or two, spend time on the beach, and take it easy, 2 to 3 days would be better. Take into consideration that a tour of Old Jaffa takes about half a day.
When to visit Tel Aviv?
It depends on what you want to do in Tel Aviv. If you’re coming for the beaches, the weather is perfect from May to September. But if you’re not a beach-lover, maybe it’s better to avoid summer because the Tel Avivian summer is extremely hot and humid. In general, the best time to come is during spring, from February to May, when the weather is usually pleasant. Also, if you want to avoid crowds, it’s best to avoid weekends (Fridays-Saturdays) and holidays. Check the dates of the main Jewish holidays here. They change each year because they are celebrated according to the Hebrew calendar.
If you want to experience some festivals, you can check out the time of Tel Aviv’s top annual events.
Where to stay in Tel Aviv?
To get the most out of your visit to Tel Aviv, I recommend staying close to the historical city center, near Rothschild Boulevard. From there, it is about 30 minutes on foot to Old Jaffa. It’s also very close to other attractions in Tel Aviv, such as the Carmel Market, Florentin, and the Tel Aviv Museum of Art. And if you want to party, all the top bars and clubs are there.
There are many hostels and Airbnb properties near Rothschild Boulevard. If you want to be close to the beach, there are also some hostels near the coastline. And for a quieter, more unique stay, you can try to find places to stay in Old Jaffa.
For more info about recommended places to stay, check out my post – Where to Stay in Tel Aviv.
Where to eat in Tel Aviv?
There are many places to eat in Tel Aviv. Your best bet would be to go to one of the markets. Carmel Market is the largest one, but you can also go to Levinsky Market, Hatikvah Market, and the Jaffa Flea Market. You’ll find a lot of street food in those markets, like falafel, shawarma, and sabich. But you’ll also find well-established restaurants offering a wide variety of food options. There are also some great restaurants along Rothschild Boulevard and in the Florentin neighborhood.
If you observe Kosher, make sure to check if the restaurants are Kosher. Tel Aviv has many non-Kosher options.
Money-saving tips for Tel Aviv
Tel Aviv is pricey, as is most of Israel. You can expect to pay about 200-300 ILS (60-90 USD) per day, including food and accommodation. But if you’ll follow these money-saving tips, you can lower your budget:
Take advantage of the Secret Tel Aviv VIP Card.
The Secret Tel Aviv community has created a VIP card with special offers and discounts at leading restaurants, bars, and businesses. There are also some tours and activities included in the card. For more information about pick-up options and the special offers, check out Secret Tel Aviv’s official website.
Do the free things.
There are tons of free things to do in Tel Aviv! If you want to experience Tel Aviv without spending too much money, you can skip the museums and other paid attractions and just walk around Old Jaffa, hang out on the beach, or explore the historic neighborhoods.
If you want to save money on accommodation, Couchsurfing is a great option. For some countries, they have started charging an annual subscription, but it’s still worth it. Couchsurfing is a platform that connects travelers with local hosts who are happy to host free of charge. This way, you save money and also get to know the local people! Couchsurfing is very popular in Israel, so it’s easy to find a host. Just make sure to read the references before you send a request and stick to the safety basics.
There’s no need to rent a car for Tel Aviv. Public transportation is very efficient, and there is even transportation on Shabbat! If you are staying near Rothschild Boulevard, you can easily reach Old Jaffa, Florentin, the main markets, and the beach on foot. So, save money by walking from one place to another! The weather is usually pleasant, and all you need are comfortable shoes. In the summer (June-September), when it gets very hot, you can use the public buses and sherut (shared) taxis.
Make your own meal.
An average meal costs 30-50 ILS. So, to save money, it’s best to purchase supplies in a local supermarket and make your own meals. If you’re staying in a hostel, you can use the shared kitchen. The local markets might also be ok for getting supplies, but don’t forget to haggle if you feel the price is too high. For the best prices, come to the market near its closing time. The vendors will want to get rid of the products and will be happy to give discounts.
Drink during Happy Hour.
Alcohol is expensive in Israel. In the supermarket, a bottle of beer costs about 10 ILS, depending on the type. In a bar, prices range around 30-35 ILS! So, if you want to hang out in one of Tel Aviv’s bars but also save money, come for Happy Hour. The nightlife scene starts late, around 10-11 PM, so you’ll find Happy Hour deals earlier, around 5-8 PM. This way, you’ll get more for less. You can also join a pub crawl in Tel Aviv, which will take you to the best places and also offer great prices.
Haggle at the marketplaces.
Most shops in Tel Aviv have fixed prices. But in the marketplaces, prices are usually negotiable. Vendors will typically ask for more than what the product is worth, so you should haggle. Tell them it’s too much and ask if they can give a discount. It’s also good to walk around the market, look for the same product in other places, and compare prices.
Use the free WiFi.
Instead of using a phone plan for an internet connection, you can take advantage of the free WiFi network in Tel Aviv. The network is available at 80 locations throughout the city, including many tourist locations. The name of the network is FREE TLV WiFi. Here are all the locations.
How to get around Tel Aviv
You can walk from Old Jaffa to Yarkon Park in about 2 hours. Those are the two edges of Tel Aviv’s tourist area. So, if you want to save money, walking is definitely an option. You can also rent a bike starting at 32 ILS for an hour. But if you want to save time, you might want to use Tel Aviv’s public transportation. There’s a light-rail train, a lot of bus lines, and sherut taxis (shared service taxis).
To use public transportation, you will need a Rav-Kav public transit card. It is available at the airport or in designated offices. You can also pay through public transportation payment apps like Moovit and Rav Pass. By using the apps, you don’t need to preload money. You can just pay whatever you need to pay. Payment is done on the buses and sherut taxis. To find the best route in the city, you can use the Moovit app or Google Maps.
To learn more, read our full guide to public transportation in Israel.
Unlike other places in Israel, there’s also public transportation on the weekends and during public holidays. The Tel Aviv municipality has created seven bus lines that operate during Shabbat when the regular lines are not available. And the good news is that it’s a free service!
How to get to certain attractions
Here are some popular destinations and how to get to them by public transportation from Rothschild Boulevard, the city center:
Old Jaffa: Take bus number 18 from Allenby/ Montefiore station (אלנבי/ מונטיפיורי). The station is on Allenby Street, which goes out of Rothschild Boulevard, on the western side of the street. Get off at the Shuk HaPishpishim/ Yeffet station (שוק הפשפשים/ יפת). It takes about 20 minutes. On weekends, you can take bus number 706 from Rothschild Boulevard/ Nachmani station (שדרות רוטשילד/ נחמני), on the western side of the street.
Tel Aviv Museum of Art: Take bus number 142 or 70 from Rothschild Boulevard/ Balfur Station (שדרות רוטשילד/ בלפור), on the western side of the street. Get off at The Opera/ King Shaul Boulevard station (האופרה/ שדרות המלך דוד) and walk a short while to the museum. It takes about 10 minutes. On the weekends, take bus number 706 from the Rothschild Boulevard/ Mazah station (שדרות רוטשילד/ מזא”ה) and get off at Ichilov Hospital/ King David Boulevard station (ביה”ח איכילוב/ שדרות דוד המלך).
Tel Aviv Port: Take sherut taxi number 5 from Rothschild Boulevard/ Mazah station (שדרות רוטשילד/ מזא”ה), on the eastern side of the street. Get off at Dizengoff/Nordau Boulevard station and walk a short while to the port. Walk north-west, towards the beach. It takes about 25 minutes to arrive at the port. On the weekends, take bus number 708 from Allenby/Ahad Ha’Am station (אלנבי/ אחד העם) and get off at Dizengoff/Ben Yehuda (דיזנגוף/ בן יהודה). Then, walk about 10 minutes to the port.
Annual events and festivals in Tel Aviv
Tel Aviv Marathon
Usually in February.
The Tel Aviv Marathon is one of Israel’s largest running events, with thousands of runners participating from around the world! There are many running routes fit for all levels and styles. To participate, you need to register and pay the registration fee in advance.
For more information, enter the official website of the Tel Aviv Marathon.
Check out this video by Shave Tiul:
Usually at the end of May.
Docaviv is the leading documentary film festival in the Middle East, featuring the best Israeli and international documentaries in both English and Hebrew. Each year, it screens over 130 new documentary films.
Check out this video by Docaviv:
Tel Aviv Pride Week
Usually in June.
Tel Aviv is dubbed as the Gay Capital of the Middle East. Tel Aviv Pride Week is the most vibrant and colorful week in Tel Aviv, with dozens of events, parties, and concerts for the LGBTQ community. People outside the community are also welcome! At the end of the week, there’s the famous Pride Parade, which is one of the largest in the world.
Check out this video by Relaxing WALKER:
Recommended day trips from Tel Aviv
Tel Aviv lies on the Coastal Plain and is often referred to as “the center of Israel.” Jerusalem is only 40 minutes away by train. Here are some more suggestions for day trips outside Tel Aviv:
- Caesarea National Park: Only 1 hour by bus, Caesarea National Park is a magnificent archeological site with relics from the Roman-Byzantine time, about 2000 years ago. It was once one of the main port cities in the ancient world. Read more about it in my post – A Walk Through Ancient Caesarea.
- Bnei Brak: About half an hour by bus, you’ll reach Bnei Brak, the largest ultra-orthodox city in Israel. In Bnei Brak, you can learn more about the ultra-orthodox way of life and taste some Jewish dishes. Read more about it in my post – Bnei Brak: A Glimpse into the Ultra-Orthodox World.
- Holon: About half an hour by bus, Holon, “the Children’s City,” is a great place to go if you have kids. It has several great museums, including the Design Museum, the Israeli Cartoon Museum, and the Dialogue in the Dark, where you can experience the life of blind people.
Before coming to Tel Aviv, I recommend watching some enriching videos that will tell you more about the city. Here is my recommended watch list:
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