Tel Aviv is one of the most exciting and fun cities I’ve visited so far. It is modern, vibrant and cosmopolitan. A city with a very special vibe, 24-hour pulse – combining beautiful sandy beaches with amazing nightlife, incredible vegan/healthy food and a unique cultural scene. Its uniqueness and special atmosphere is hard to understand when you haven’t been there yet – you just got to experience it yourself.
I’m very grateful to have been able to experience such an awesome city for quite a long period of my life. I’ve lived in a small beach city in the north of Tel Aviv for more than 1.5 years and spent another 6 months living in the heart of the city itself. And even now that I live in Cyprus, I continue to visit Tel Aviv almost every 2 months and get to experience all the good parts this city has to offer. 🙂
After posting a lot of pictures and videos during my last visit in Tel Aviv on my Instagram, I got a lot of requests about where to go, what to do, where to eat, etc. so I though I’d best summarise my stay and idea in a blog post.
Here is a list of 10 things to do when first visiting Tel Aviv:
Visit Shuk HaCarmel and buy all the goodies.
Shuk Ha’Carmel (shuk means market in Hebrew) is the biggest and most famous of Tel Aviv’s market places. You will find everything the heart desires, ranging from a vast amount of beautiful ripe and juicy seasonal fruits and veggies from the region, to handmade pastries, spices, legumes, nuts, dried fruit and so much more in bulk. Apart from this, in recent years more and more trendy bars, coffee shops and restaurants have settled alongside the main market road.
It is one of my absolute favorite places in the city and I love to just stroll around the main road and back streets surrounding the market looking for the cutest coffee shops, talented musicians, adorable street cats and the yummiest food. If you’re staying for longer in Tel Aviv and are on a budget it is also one of the best places to find cheap seasonal veggies, fruits, legumes, etc. Especially if you go in the evening or Friday noon before the market closes, as all the sellers want to get rid of their fresh produce for the day – that’s when you’ll get the best deals.
Even if you don’t want to buy huge quantities it is a great place to just mingle and talk to the locals. I’ve found that the sellers are mostly super friendly and even gave me food for free. Last time I visited I literally spent hours in the market, taking pictures and talking to people, without even buying anything, and still ended up completely full afterwards as you can just shamelessly try things or people will gift you fruits, veggies, nuts and pastries for free if they like you.
If you are completely new to the region and have never travelled in the Middle East before you will be surprised by the great variety of unknown dishes and pastries, ranging from baklava to Yemeni jachnun, hummus and French pastries or simply a freshly squeezed fruit juice. Having said that, not all dishes are vegan, so you better ask before. But even if you don’t find a vegan version of what you want to try at the shuk, you will surely find it somewhere else in Tel Aviv as the amount of restaurants specialising in or carrying vegan food is immense.
My biggest recommendation would be to always buy a big batch of fresh ooey-gooey Medjool dates and spices at the market as they are usually much more expensive in other countries. Plus they are super easy to transport and even take in your carry-on luggage. You will find that especially the dates are not even much cheaper but also as juicy and delicious as you have never tasted before – so make sure you stock up on these goodies!
Take a minute to play with the adorable street cats.
Tel Aviv is full of street cats. You will find them everywhere you look. As Tel Aviv is unbelievably animal-friendly, most of them are somehow taken care of by residents. In the summer you will find posters and stickers around the city asking people to put out small containers with water wherever they live so that the animals won’t suffer from thirst in the crazy summer heat. Most of the cats are used to people and being fed by them, hence they are very friendly and eager to cuddle.
I could make a full series of photos on the amazing street cats, but I’m sure there is other photographers out there that have already done that. 🙂 No matter how short your visit in the city will be, you’ll definitely come across a bunch of these cute fur balls, so make sure you show them some love and affection… 😉
Stroll through the back streets of Neve Tzedek & the market.
As written before, an increasing amount of trendy coffee shops, pop-up restaurants and hip bars have settled around the market and in the neighbouring district of Neve Tzedek. Apart from that, you will find unique boutique stores featuring local clothes, jewellery and much more.
Neve Tzedek was the first Jewish neighbourhood to be built outside the ancient old city of Jaffa/Yafo. Hence it is one of Tel Aviv’s oldest districts and combines beautiful oriental architecture with narrow streets. In recent years, due to renovation efforts to restore its old beauty it has become highly fashionable and an oasis for artists, writers and small boutique stores.
Rent a bike and drive along the promenade towards Jaffa/Yafo.
Not only does Tel Aviv have a bike-sharing rental service called Tel-O-Fun but it also has an amazing promenade to ride it on. While I wouldn’t recommend doing this during the unbearable summer heat (July-August) it is a really fun activity and great way to get around the city. I’ve used this service so many times, and especially when my mum and brother were visiting it was a great tool to make our ways towards Jaffa while enjoying the beautiful beach view.
The Tel-O-Fun is a service offered by a private company with the main goal to reduce traffic in the city, as well as reduce air pollution and encourage fitness and physical activity – something that has to be supported! 😉
You will find these green bikes all around the city and even in Jaffa. Best thing: It is free to use for up to 30 minutes. Hence if you just need to go somewhere quick and have a bike station near you, just grab one and ride along. And even if you need it for longer, 1 hours will only cost you $1.50 and there are daily and even weekly subscriptions available.
Go to the port for a sunset walk.
The beach promenade in Tel Aviv stretches all the way from Jaffa to the port in the north of the city. Hence it is perfect to enjoy daily sunset walks, to soak up the last rays of sunshine and the wonderful ‘Tel-Avivi’ beach vibe. So grab an ice cream or your favorite fruit shake and walk along! 🙂
While listening to the crushing waves you will probably also notice the dull sound of ‘Matkot’ – the unofficial Israeli national beach sport. It is a paddle ball game, similar to beach tennis and is played literally on all of the beaches! Even when travelling outside of Israel, a great way to recognise Israelis on beaches is to always look out for the ones playing Matkot! 😉
Take a day trip to the beach in Herzliya.
While the beaches in Tel Aviv are fun and have a very unique vibe it is definitely worth it to take a short trip north to the beach city of Herzliya. Named after Theodor Herzl, Herzliya is known for its start-up and entrepreneurial culture, as well as its pretty beaches. Depending on which area of the coastline you’ll go to you can find anything from family-friendly, dog-friendly and hippie-vibe beaches.
My personal two favorites would be the beach just next to the Sidney Ali mosque, and the secluded Arsuf beach. Both have a very special atmosphere to themselves but are equally stunning. While Sidney Ali is more mainstream, full of surfers (on windy days) and easily accesible, Arsuf is much more of a hidden gem, totally secluded and only accesible by climbing a few rocks. On Arsuf you will most likely always find a bunch of dogs roaming free, groups of talented musicians, dancers, other creative souls, and nudists enjoying sun-tanning and swimming the way mother earth has created them. If you’re planning for a day on either of these beaches, make sure to bring beach towels, enough water and food and ALWAYS clean up after yourself and don’t leave any trash behind.
Go for a run in the Park HaYarkon.
Tel Aviv is not only a great place to eat but also has a very active community of people exercising. In general I have found that Tel-Avivians are very health-conscious and into all kinds of physical activity (surfing, running, TRX, SUP, kite-surfing, paragliding, yoga, pilates, krav maga, etc.). Hence, while vacationing it’s an awesome place to keep up with your fitness routine. One of my favorite places to run and exercise (apart from the beach), is the Park Hayarkon. It’s the biggest park in Tel Aviv, located in the northern parts of the city along the Yarkon river. It includes extensive lawns, sport facilities, botanical gardens, lakes, a water park, concert venues and you will always find it full of athletes and families.
Relax at the beach and try SUP boards .
Visiting the beach in Tel Aviv is a must. not only is it very pretty and the water clear, but as much as the whole city, you’ll find a very unique atmosphere attached to it. You can try out all sorts of fun activities on almost all of the beaches, including regular SUP, yoga SUP lessons, etc.
There are even special secluded beaches for dogs, religious people and the LGTB-community (I think this one if unofficial but everybody knows). 😛
Go for drinks on the Rothschild boulevard.
Rotschild boulevard is one of the principal streets of Tel Aviv. It is one of the most expensive places to live but at the same time one of the major tourist attractions. It features a beautiful walk on a wide, tree-lined strip with pedestrian and bike lanes. Along the boulevard you will find everything from exquisite restaurants, to regular coffee shops, booths for book swaps, art exhibitions and so much more. So get yourself a soy frozen yogurt from La Legenda, and enjoy the walk!
Eat your way through the city.
As mentioned before, Tel Aviv is THE place to be when looking for vegan food. Veganism has rocketed in Tel Aviv, and the whole of Israel, in the past years. By now, about 5% of the Israeli population has transitioned to a vegan lifestyle (making it the world’s biggest vegan country per capita). With something over 450+ vegan or vegan-friendly places to eat, Tel Aviv is definitely among the best spots for vegan food.
Veganism is so heavily accepted in Israel and Tel Aviv, in particular, that the military had to adjust its menu and equipment, offering vegan meals and clothes. Tel Aviv even has its own vegan tasting tour and a variety of vegan foods that is almost mind-blowing. Because I love food, I’ve dedicated a whole blog post on where & what to eat in Tel Aviv, so make sure to → check that out ← ! 🙂
If you are planning on visiting this breathtaking city in the near future and have remaining questions, feel free to shoot me a message or leave a comment down below!