Sabi Phagura visits Tel Aviv, Israels’s 4th largest city, to explore its sights, sounds and culture
Mention Tel Aviv and most people will either not know much about it, or tell you it’s renowned for its party image. But one trip to this vibrant Israeli city, and you’ll realise it has many faces, and the party scene is just one small aspect of it. And the kindness of strangers will help you get around this innovative place with an incredible sense of feeling both welcome and safe.
I spent five days exploring the different neighbourhoods, but I could have easily spent another five. Tel Aviv is abuzz with creative flow and energy. It feels completely disconnected from war-torn neighbour, Syria. No one really wants to engage in any talk of the conflict with Palestine as they insist on concentrating on peace.
You will learn very quickly, that like most major cities, Tel Aviv doesn’t sleep much either. And with its amazing temperatures all year around (low 20s, even in the winter) it makes for pleasant walking. In fact, I would encourage lots of it to see Tel Aviv up close and personal. The balance of old and new is very striking. You can mesmerise yourself in the historical icons in the Port area while being just a few yards away from the trendy restaurants and bars which have recently cropped up. Watching the waves lashing on the shore as you sip a cold glass of beer is a great way of passing the time.
Shoppers can rejoice by taking a stroll along Dizengoff Street for its offering of clothes, shoes and jewellery. Be sure to try out some of the different restaurants and eateries dotted around. If you like a good bit of bartering, then head to Carmel Market in Kerem HaTeimanim. But be prepared for lots of shouting, banter between the traders and customers, and impromptu singing. Here you can find fresher than fresh colourful fruits, vegetables, spices, delicious halva and various knick-knacks. The market is huge, and you may think you’re getting lost, but you really can’t. Sometimes that’s the beauty of exploring.
One of the most historic parts of Tel Aviv is Jaffa. It’s an ancient port city and famous for its association with the biblical stories of Jonah Solomon and Saint Peter. Today the city has been renovated and turned into a tourist attraction featuring restored buildings, art galleries, souvenir shops, restaurants, cafes and promenades. It’s no surprise then that it is also popular with artists wanting to move there.
A visit to the flea market is a must for a treasure trove of antiques, handmade and second-hand items. This is the place to go for that unique one-of-a-kind no-one else has got items. And there are plenty of restaurants and coffee shops to stop by at when you need to take the weight off your feet.
Moving further afield, you can pop into unique shops, art galleries and organic juice bars (which are everywhere). Shabazi is one of the main streets where you can get a real mix of the action, with people wandering around ducking and diving into shops, bars and restaurants. Established and aspiring chefs will be delighted to explore the Levinsky spice market. The aromas from this area are enough to make anyone want to try their hand at experimenting in the kitchen. Rothschild Boulevard and Sheinken Street again are great for fans of retail therapy.
Tel Aviv is awash with culture and has various museums dotted around the city. The Tel Aviv Museum of Art holds an impressive collection of Old Masters like Rubens, Van Dyck, and Rigaud. But don’t miss the Illana Goor Museum. The artist of the same name who never studied art or design formally developed her artistic technique from an early age. Her work encompasses sculptures, furniture, lighting fixtures, jewellery and fashion items. The museum was bought to house the amazing collection but also doubles up as Illana’s home.
The city is a real foodie’s dream. Whether you want to have a falafel and hummus from a street vendor or want to eat in a nice restaurant, you won’t be disappointed, Seriously, it is that good. I had one of the best dining experiences at the Kimmel restaurant where we all shared a number of dishes. Indulging in soups to salads, and fish to meat cooked in various spices, it was a real party for the taste buds. There’s not a dish I can single out as being the best as they were all as scrummy as one another.
In Tel Aviv, there are plenty of hotels to stay in. We were lucky enough to reside at the boutique Yam Hotel which is dedicated to the beach culture. Most of the 43 rooms offer much-welcomed views of the sea and harbour and is a great setting to wake up to before going out to explore one of the most exciting cities in the world.
Israel and Tel Aviv – Where and How?
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