It’s 6:30 in the morning. Actually, I had thought I would have the wide sandy beach for myself, but I didn’t expect Tel Aviv to be up and about. This city never sleeps!
Beachlife in Tel Aviv
Early morning joggers more or less light-footed run past me on the wide beach promenade and a few daring ones plunge into the waves to start the day swimming. Old and young are active and on their feet early.
Tel Aviv pulsates by day and night. I don’t know any other city that is as easy-going as Tel Aviv. A feeling of lightness that manifests in the creativity of its inhabitants. After all, Tel Aviv is one of the hotspots for start-ups.
“While the people of Jerusalem have the burden of 3,000 years of history to carry on their shoulders, the people of Tel Aviv do not have this burden”, says Jizhak, my tour guide. Tel Aviv, which translates as “spring hill”, was only founded in 1909. In the beginning it was a suburb of the ancient port city of Jaffa, which is now the south-western quarter of Tel Aviv.
Tel Aviv nestles on the 14 km long beach of the Mediterranean Sea, which limits the city to the west. Especially in the afternoon the beach is well frequented. Sun worshippers, surfers and swimmers meet here. “My old school is very close by. We used to spend most of our time at the beach, especially in the summer months. We studied “oceanology”, says grey-haired Jizhak with a mischievous grin.
Obviously, not much has changed since then. A large part of urban life seems to take place on the beach or in the numerous restaurants and cafes that line the promenade.
If you want to keep up with Tel Aviv, it’s best to grab a bike. Some hotels are offering them for free and there are rental stations all over the city. Since I personally find the city traffic somewhat chaotic, I decide to cycle alongside the beach and get caught by the general ease. The wind in my hair, my view of the sea, a cheerful bustle around me and in the background the glass facades of the big city.
Normally that would be more than enough for me. But Tel Aviv has so much more to offer. It would be an outrage to leave the rest of the city on the side.
A breath of the Orient in Jaffa
My exploration of Tel Aviv begins in Jaffa. On weekdays (not on Shabbat) there is a flea market near the clock tower with a colourful hustle and bustle.
Small market stalls line the street, a backer with a tempting smell from his bakery and some small counters with freshly squeezed pomegranate juice. A delicious refreshment that should not be missed!
A breath of the Orient blows through the streets of Jaffa. The Arabian quarter forms an exciting contrast to the elsewhere very Eurpoean city.
From the small amphitheatre you have a fantastic view over Tel Aviv. The Wish Bridge is very close by. If you touch the symbol of your zodiac sign on the railing of the bridge and look towards the sea, you can make a wish and your wish will come true. Try it out! Maybe your dream will come true…
In the restored part of Jaffa, near the port, narrow streets lead through the sand-coloured walls of houses. Numerous small galleries have settled here and it is worth getting lost in the alleys.
With a bit of luck you will find the floating orange tree. Unfortunately the name Jaffa Orange is not protected and so today Jaffa Oranges do not only come from Jaffa, but from all over the world. But at least the orange has brought Tel Aviv the lovely nickname “the Big Orange”.
Unfortunately, it’s Saturday. Shabbat. Many shops and markets are closed and even public transport does not operate before sunset.
Oriental Carmel Market
On weekdays a visit to the Carmel Market is highly recommended. Here local culinary delights are offered and you dive deep into the Orient.
The Carmel Market has been one of my favourite places since my first visit to Tel Aviv. You should stroll through the stalls with lots of time and try what the delicious Israeli cuisine has to offer. It has so much to offer!
Enjoyment hotspot Tel Aviv
The Israeli cuisine is one of the best in the world. No other country serves vegetables so creatively and tasty. This makes it easy even for confessing meat eaters like me not to regard a meal without meat as a compromise.
Usually a meal begins with small mezze, starters that are simply shared in the round. Hummus, a paste made from chickpeas, is always part of it. Eggplants in a wide variety of different preparations are also always part of the mix – and fresh salad. Then come the main courses. Fresh fish in a spicy tomato sauce is a real temptation and the desserts are also very tasty. (Restaurant recommendations at the end of this article)
An oasis in the city: Neve Tzedek
I’m heading to the Neve Tzedek quarter. Neve Tzedek, is one of the oldest parts of new Tel Aviv. Its roots are about 20 years further back than those of Tel Aviv. It was founded by families seeking a peaceful oasis outside the then densely populated Jaffa. Jaffa was not a safe place at that time.
Neve Tzdek is still an oasis today. Surrounded by skyscrapers, it has retained its typical village character. Once the home of writers and intellectuals at the beginning of the 20th century, the quarter fell into disrepair for many years. It was only in the 80’s that the potential slumbering in a Sleeping Beauty’s sleep was recognized and kissed awake. Even today, renovation work is still in progress in the neighbourhood. Pretty little boutiques, restaurants and bars have settled here.
Those who want to escape from the busy city life are in the right place in Neve Tzedek. Here I let myself drift and experience how the residents of the beautifully renovated houses meet on the street for a chat – a small village in the city.
Bauhaus architecture on Rothschild Boulevard
Old and new merge in many places in Tel Aviv and together they form something exciting new. My discovery journey continues towards Rothschild Boulevard, one of the main streets in Tel Aviv’s city centre. White Bauhaus-style houses are reflected in the facades of the modern city. The quarter between Dizengoff Platz and Rothschild Boulevard has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2003.
On the run from the burgeoning National Socialism in Germany, architects who had studied Bauhaus in Germany settled here and created a Bauhaus quarter from the typical cubic buildings in the 1930s.
There’s a lot going on on Rothschild Boulevard. I join the strolling crowd under the shady tree avenue in the middle of the boulevard. While restaurants, cafés and galleries attract the crowds during the day, the area turns into an absolute hotspot for night owls after sunset. Tel Aviv is a city that never sleeps!
Not less trendy is the north-eastern part of Sarona. Here, too, the city is characterised by the symbiotic combination of renovated old buildings that were built at the beginning of the last century by the Knights Templar, Germans and Swiss living abroad, and modern office- and residential buildings in the background. Today Sarona is the epicenter for gourmets.
In the covered market of Sarona almost everything revolves around culinary delights. Especially on the Sabbath Sarona is a popular place for tourists as many shops and restaurants are open on this day.
Between the houses there is a colourful hustle and bustle. Families enjoy their day off and escape from the city within the city.
Tel Aviv, the city of a thousand faces, is one of my most exciting discoveries of recent years. This was my second trip to Tel Aviv and if my wish of the Wish Bridge is fulfilled, it will certainly not be my last visit.
With sunny regards
I was travelling with the Swiss tour operator Kuoni, who added Israel to their travel program in 2018. What is also new is that Kuoni not only offers package tours, but also takes individual wishes into account when planning the trip. Further information: Homepage Kuoni
More information about a citytrip to Tel Aviv
- El Al and Swiss Airlines fly directly from Zurich to Tel Aviv. The flight takes about 4 hours. For security reasons, a short interview will be held before departure.
- The suitcases must not be locked. Therefore I strongly advise you not to pack any valuables or electronic devices in your suitcase and also to use old suitcases! Unfortunately a Combo Hub for my labtop computer was taken out of my suitcase and my suitcase was destroyed. According to El Al, electronic devices like a combo hub must not be in the suitcase and will therefore be removed.
- Patience is required both on arrival and departure. Especially in Tel Aviv you have to schedule a lot of time for check-in and security checks. It is possible to book a VIP check-in via Kuoni. This will speed up the immigration and departure procedure.
- I was staying at the Hotel Tal by the Beach at the northern end of the beach promenade. A 4* hotel with a delicious and rich breakfast buffet ( on Shabbat there is only filter coffee) and good restaurants within walking distance. The complimentary bicycles available to guests are cool.
- If you like it much more upscale, you are in good hands at the Drisco Hotel, which is a member of the “Leading Hotels of the World”. The hotel was built in 1866 by the Drisco brothers as “Luxury Hotel Jerusalem” and has been faithfully renovated. (Here I have only had a quick look)
- Restaurant Yulia in the Port of Tel Aviv, Tel Aviv Port Building 2, Arrival via Habakkuk Street.
Very good national cuisine, great mezze and nice, modern ambience.
- Restaurant Abrage, in Jaffa, near St.Peter’s Church, 6 Kudmin Square, Old Jaffa.
Cosy, traditional restaurant with typical local food.
- Kitchen Market near the port in the north of the city, Hangar 12, Tel-Aviv Port, Farmers Market 2nd floor.
The modern restaurant is located above the Farmers Market. Here an excellent, creative and fresh cuisine is served. My top recommendation for Tel Aviv.
- Ideal travel times are autumn and spring, but even the winter months the climate remains mild.
- In the summer months of July and August it can get quite hot. Ideal for a relaxing beach holiday.
I personally felt safer during my time in Tel Aviv than in some European cities, although I have to admit that a feeling of security is always something very individual. I therefore recommend that you read the travel recommendations of the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs in advance: EDA Israel
From sunset on Friday to sunset on Saturday evening is Sabbath. There is no public transport during this time. Most shops and markets are closed. During this time there may also be restrictions in the hotels (limited buffet etc.).
Israel is a high-priced country. Restaurant prices correspond approximately to our prices in Switzerland.
One Israeli Shekel corresponds to approximately CHF 0.25 (as of December 2018). I recommend that you withdraw cash at the airport. It is not easy to find ATMs in the streets.
- time shift:
Tel Aviv is one hour ahead of Switzerland in the winter months.
Disclosure: This research trip took place at the invitation of Kuoni. My opinion remains unaffected.