Travel Destinations

Monday, June 12, 2017

What to Do With One Day in Tel Aviv-Yafo

Tel Aviv Beach Things to Do One Day in Tel Aviv

When we anticipated traveling to Israel, we imagined expansive deserts, ancient buildings and ruins, and cultures with histories going back millenniums.  But Tel Aviv is a little different.  Tel Aviv is as modern a city as it gets.  There’s still some old stuff, but a day in Tel Aviv is a day of exploring not only some of Israel’s ancient history, but also the new, vibrant, modern side of Israel.

Rothschild Boulevard Things to Do One Day in Tel Aviv

We experienced something in Tel Aviv that we’ve never experienced in a foreign country not on the North American continent.  Tel Aviv almost feels like it could be an American coastal city, minus the tiny streets of Neve Tzedek and Jaffa, the oldest port in the world. 

Jaffa Clock Tower Things to Do One Day in Tel Aviv

When we entered Tel Aviv’s city center on our taxi ride from the airport at night, we experienced a sense of déjà vu because the bridge crossing the freeway and the tunnel we passed through and the tall buildings surrounding us all looked very much like downtown Los Angeles.  Then, as we walked along the beach with the city skyline and the paddle boarders and the new construction with bright yellow that I’m not sure I understand but seems to be all the rage in construction, it felt like our hometown of San Diego. 

Pink Bauhaus Building on Rothschild Boulevard Things to Do One Day in Tel Aviv

The streets are wide, well-marked, with drivers that follow the rules of the road and even stop for pedestrians.  It might also have to do with Tel Aviv’s diversity of people.  Even though we were in the Middle East for our very first time, a place that many were concerned about us visiting, we had an immediate sense of familiarity and comfort.

96 Rothschild Boulevard Chorus Statue Things to Do One Day in Tel Aviv

If we had more time, our list of things to do in Tel Aviv would be much longer and possibly include museums and such, but since we only had one day in Tel Aviv, we spent our time strolling through this very walkable city, exploring its unique and varied neighborhoods, and drinking in our first experience with the Middle East.

Things to Do in Tel Aviv-Yafo

Rothschild Boulevard

Rothschild Boulevard Things to Do One Day in Tel Aviv

Rothschild Boulevard is a wide tree-lined boulevard that was first built in the middle of the twentieth century.  The vision for this boulevard was to provide a place of beauty for people to stroll.  This purpose still holds up for today. 

There are sidewalks on either side of the street, but the better place to walk is in the park-like space that runs down the middle of Rothschild Boulevard.  On one side there is a bike path and on the other a walking path, so you don’t have to worry about being run down by a bicyclist.  There are trees, grass, benches, little playgrounds, and coffee stands, all on an island running down the middle of the busy boulevard.

Rothschild Boulevard is also the location of many restaurants, bars, and shops, and some of Tel Aviv’s UNESCO World Heritage architecture.

Neve Tzedek

Neve Tzedek Things to Do One Day in Tel Aviv

While Tel Aviv is mostly wide streets and modern buildings, tucked away in a corner is the quaint little neighborhood of Neve Tzedek.  Tel Aviv-Yafo started with the old city of Jaffa.  Neve Tzedek started as a suburb of Jaffa, but turned into the beginning of Tel Aviv.  This old and historic neighborhood built in the late 1800s is a small area of narrow streets winding through one- and two-story buildings.  In addition to its calm and quaint feel in the middle of a big city, Neve Tzedek also offers one-off boutiques for a little shopping.

Old Jaffa

Old Jaffa Steps Things to Do One Day in Tel Aviv

Before we got to Tel Aviv-Yafo, I didn’t understand why it had that name.  Turns out Tel Aviv-Yafo is a dual city.  Jaffa is the original ancient port city.  Jaffa is the opposite of Tel Aviv, filled with cobblestone streets, buildings that are hundreds of years old, and a traditional flea market.

Jaffa Flea Market Things to Do One Day in Tel Aviv

We explored Old Jaffa on a walking tour, Sandemans New Europe free tour of old Jaffa, which we learned about through a pamphlet in reception at Abraham Hostels Tel Aviv.  The walking tour starts at the Clock Tower, wanders through the port of Jaffa, past old buildings, archaeological ruins, and ends in the Jaffa Flea Market. 

Jaffa Archaealogical Ruins Things to Do One Day in Tel Aviv

While walking through Old Jaffa, we learned about this old city, including facts like it is a large hill because as new people came in, they would build on top of what was already there, and that Jaffa might be the oldest port in the world and was the gateway for travelers to Jerusalem.

HaTachana Railroad Station

HaTachana Railroad Station Things to Do One Day in Tel Aviv

HaTachana Railroad Station is an example of where old is embraced and turned into something new.  This is Jaffa’s old railroad station that has been repurposed.  The station, platform, and tracks are still there, but now there are also boutiques, art galleries, and restaurants.

Lahat Promenade

Lahat Promenade Things to Do One Day in Tel Aviv

One of the nicest walks in Tel Aviv is along Lahat Promenade, a walkway that stretches from Jaffa up to the Tel Aviv Marina.  This long walk provides views of Jaffa, modern Tel Aviv, and the Mediterranean Sea.

White City

White City Bauhaus Architecture Things to Do One Day in Tel Aviv

From the Lahat Promenade, we turned inward and walked along Allenby, past the Opera Tower, and into what is known as the White City.  This area was named a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site in 2003.  

White City Tiled Building Things to Do One Day in Tel Aviv

The White City gets its name from its high concentration of Bauhaus buildings.  The architecture consists of pastel colors, geometric forms, roof gardens, vertical staircases, and balconies.  My favorites were the buildings covered in small shiny tiles that looked like inverted showers.  Our path through the White City took us through Bialik Square, Meir Garden, Hashmonaim Street and Rothschild Boulevard. 

Restaurants in Tel Aviv-Yafo

While the plan had been to immerse ourselves in traditional Israeli food, we quickly sidetracked from that idea since Tel Aviv is such a melting pot of cultures and cuisine.  While we only had one day in Tel Aviv, we were easily able to taste why Tel Aviv is known for its food.


Benedict Restaurant Things to Do One Day in Tel Aviv

Abraham Hostels Tel Aviv offers a free breakfast to its guests, but we wanted to have a nice, big, filling breakfast on our first morning in Israel and try to get over that pesky jet lag.  Benedict was the perfect choice.  Benedict is a cute white-tiled breakfast restaurant on Rothschild Boulevard (though there are other locations in Tel Aviv). 

Benedict Restaurant Israeli Breakfast Things to Do One Day in Tel Aviv

Starting our enjoyment of Tel Aviv’s melting pot of flavors, Benedict’s menu is inspired by the best breakfasts from around the world, including Israel.  Rome went for the New York flavor of the restaurant’s namesake, eggs benedict.  I chose the classic Israeli breakfast with a collection of homemade spreads, including avocado hummus.

Hasoania Balkan Kitchen

Hasaonia Balkan Kitchen Things to Do One Day in Tel Aviv
Hasoania Balkan Kitchen Entrees Things to Do One Day in Tel Aviv

Continuing with our food journey around the world, we ate lunch in Jaffa near the flea market.  Even though we were in Tel Aviv-Yafo on a Saturday, meaning the Jaffa flea market was closed, we could still get the old world feel of the neighborhood, with slightly less hustle and bustle, by eating outside, table and chairs set in the middle of a narrow cobblestone street, at Hasoania Balkan Kitchen.  As the name suggests, Hasoania Balkan Kitchen serves Mediterranean dishes inspired by the Balkan Peninsula.


Taizu Restaurant Things to Do One Day in Tel Aviv
Taizu Shanghainese Dumplings Things to Do One Day in Tel Aviv
Taizu Restaurant Lamb Shank Skewer Things to Do One Day in Tel Aviv

Taizu may be one of the best restaurants in Tel Aviv, and it was just a short walk from Abraham Hostels Tel Aviv.  Taizu features Asiaterranean cuisine with some very inventive flavor combinations.  The best item on their menu when we dined at Taizu was the Shanghainese Dumplings, a play on soup dumplings filled with veal cheeks, beef soup, pistachio masala, and pomegranate broth.

GOLDA Ice Cream

GOLDA Ice Cream Things to Do One Day in Tel Aviv

For a sweet treat, we ended our day at GOLDA Ice Cream, which has a location right across the street from Abraham Hostels Tel Aviv.  GOLDA is a cute little ice cream shop with black and white tiled floors and super delicious ice cream.  I had my first taste of halva ice cream, swirled with pistachio. 

Where to Stay in Tel Aviv-Yafo

Abraham Hostels Tel Aviv

Abraham Hostels Tel Aviv Common Area Things to Do One Day in Tel Aviv

Hotels in Tel Aviv are very expensive and, from what I’ve heard from others who have traveled to Tel Aviv, many of the hotels aren’t really worth the price.  We decided to try something out that was very new and extremely foreign to our travel style for our trip to Israel.  We decided to stay at hostels.

Abraham Hostels Tel Aviv is one of the three hostels run by Abraham Hostels in Israel.  Their Tel Aviv location is their newest.  We stayed in a private room that was sparse, as one would expect from a hostel, but it was big, it was clean, and it was comfortable.

Abraham Hostels Tel Aviv Rooftop Things to Do One Day in Tel Aviv

The hostel has many other amenities to recommend it, as hostels go, like a kitchen and dining room, breakfast served every morning, a bar at night, common spaces with games and hammocks, television rooms, a laundry room, and a rooftop that looks out over the city.  The best thing about the hostel is its location.  It is centrally located in a good neighborhood near attractions and restaurants.

While we spent our one day in Tel Aviv-Yafo exploring on our own, Abraham Hostels also offers tours of Tel Aviv through Abraham Tours.  For the rest of our trip, we took tours with Abraham Tours and stayed at all of the Abraham Hostels locations around Israel.

White City Architecture Things to Do One Day in Tel Aviv

Israel provided us with a number of varied experiences.  The experience Tel Aviv gave us, even in just one day, was that of a completely modern city that feels like it can be any place in the world.  A safe city, despite its reputation.  A diverse city, with a mix of cultures and flavors.  And most importantly, a city to which we would like to return.

Thank you to Abraham Tours and Abraham Hostels for hosting our trip to Israel and making this post possible.  As always all opinions are our own.

Travel the World: What to do with one day in Tel Aviv-Yafo, Israel, including restaurants and accommodations.

Katherine Belarmino and Romeo Belarmino are the authors of Travel the World, a travel blog for the everyday working stiff. They work full-time in non-travel related jobs, but take every opportunity they can to travel the world during their limited vacation time.