While planning a trip to Israel many people think about Jerusalem, Nazareth, the Sea of Galilee and other biblical sites. Clearly, they are all Bucket List items in their own right but Israel offers so much more. Why not get a glimpse of modern Israel too? Take a couple of days of your itinerary and follow this list of things to do in Tel Aviv to get a completely different view of the Holy Land.
Tel Aviv is an absolutely fascinating city. Young people from across the nation strive to live and work in Tel Aviv. It’s the Israeli version of New York City, if you like. Known as “The City That Never Sleeps” Tel Aviv is where it’s all happening. If you want to make it in the media, the fashion industry or get into the heart of the Israeli business world, Tel Aviv is “it”.
Just over a century old, Tel Aviv is a toddler in terms of Israeli cities. After all, Jerusalem has been inhabited for the past 7,000 years! Yet, there’s history in Tel Aviv too. If you’re interested in the history of the Zionist movement and of the early days of Israel, you’ll find plenty to things to do in Tel Aviv. I’ve included some of them in this list.
- A word about this list (and about Jaffa)
- Top 11 Things To Do in Tel Aviv
- 1. The White City
- 2. Sheinkin Street
- 3. Neve Tzedek Quarter
- 4. Sarona
- 5. The Beaches of Tel Aviv
- 6. Independence Hall Museum
- 7. The Great Synagogue
- 8. Nahum Gutman Mosaic Fountain
- 9. Yarkon River and Park Hayarkon
- 10. Palmach Museum
- 11. Tel Aviv Port
- In conclusion of my list of things to do in Tel Aviv…
A word about this list (and about Jaffa)
This list is anything but all-inclusive. These are just 11 suggestions to get you started. They include a synagogue and a mosque but are otherwise focused mostly on the history of Tel Aviv. I did throw in two favorite local places where you can just hang out and have fun – Hayarkon Park and The Tel Aviv Port. In the end, that’s really the spirit of Tel Aviv – a city where people have fun, day and night!
I didn’t include Jaffa even though technically it is part of the same municipality. Jaffa is simply very different and in some ways it’s the opposite of Tel Aviv. Yes, you can walk from Tel Aviv to Jaffa (it’s a lovely walk by the way, along the beach!), but once in Jaffa, you’re in an ancient Muslim city. Beautiful and totally different from young modern secular Tel Aviv. It’s worth a post in its own right but since many ways it’s similar to Nazareth and Jerusalem, I didn’t include any Jaffa attractions in this list of things to do in Tel Aviv.
With that out of the way, let’s take a look at the list itself!
Top 11 Things To Do in Tel Aviv
1. The White City
In a nutshell, the White City is an area in Tel Aviv which covers more than original 4,000 buildings designed by German Jewish architects during the 1930s in the unique Bauhaus style. In 2003, UNESCO (United Nations Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organization) recognized Tel Aviv’s White City as a World Cultural Heritage site. You can book a local guided tour in the area or just go there and walk along the neighborhoods.
Seeing the White City should be on the top of your list to do in Tel Aviv simply because it’s so accessible. Just take a bus to Rothschild avenue and wonder around, keeping note of the Bauhaus buildings. We visit the area a lot – lots of nice restaurants there too – so I actually posted my own guide about the White City of Tel Aviv. Check it out to learn more about the area and see the recommended walking routes.
Location: You can start at the visitors center located at 77 Dizengoff St., Tel Aviv
Opening Hours: The houses are always there. The visitors center is open 10:00 A.M. to 7:30 P.M. Mondays through Sundays
2. Sheinkin Street
Tel Aviv isn’t just about history. On the contrary, it’s a lively vibrant city that’s known as “The City That Never Sleeps”. Sheinkin street offers a great place for seeing just that so do make sure it’s on your list of things to do in Tel Aviv. This street was once an ordinary street but young adults started to move into the neighborhood and it became one of the most colorful streets in Tel Aviv. During the 1980s, the Shenkin Street was also a home to alternative music, theater, and dance groups and that vibe “stuck”.
Sheinkin Street is famous for being colorful, vibrant and even peculiar and avantgarde. In terms of art and fashion, you can find anything in this area of Tel Aviv, mostly in small boutique stores. There are shoe shops, jewelry stores, and even second-hand ones with great finds. Many Israeli designers have small shops here so tourists can get a taste of the fashion sense of Israelis in this street.
It is best to avoid Shenkin Street during Fridays because the crowd tends to get thick during this day of the week.
Location: Sheinkin Street, Tel Aviv
3. Neve Tzedek Quarter
Neve Tzedek Quarter is the oldest neighborhood in Tel Aviv. The first occupants of this area were European-Jewish settlers sometime in the 1880s. These houses remain well-preserved in the form of cafes, boutiques, art shops, and restaurants. The Neve Tzedek Quarter is also home to the Rockach House, a small sculpture gallery, and the Nachum Gutman Art Museum, which showcases paintings of an Israeli painter.
The Hebrew name literally means “Oasis of Justice” and it originates from a psalm in the Book of Jeremiah referring to a place rebuilt after exile. Neve Tzedek is touristy in the most positive sense of the word- offering lovely streets and alleys where you can walk and enjoy the architecture.
Location: Aim your GPS at Shalom Shabazi Street Or Hevrat Shas Street, Tel Aviv
Sarona is a small neighborhood right in the heart of Tel Aviv that is absolutely worth a visit. Stroll along the beautifully landscaped small streets and enjoy the gardening and the water features. Then, head into Sarona Market – a large shopping center with stores by leading fashion brands and a variety of culinary delights.
I have a soft spot for this beautiful place because I was there to witness the massive change it went through in the last 20 years. Next time I’ll be visiting Sarona, I promise to take lots of pictures and return with a detailed post about this gem of place. In a nutshell, what you’re seeing is 150 years old buildings – rich in history – that were literally moved around and re-organized to create this unique attraction.
Location: Kalman Magen st., Tel Aviv
Opening hours for the culinary market: Sun-Thursday 9AM-10PM / Friday 8AM until one hour before sunset / Saturdays 09:00-23:00
5. The Beaches of Tel Aviv
When the first settlers decided to create the first Jewish city here, they held their historic meeting on the beach. They actually used seashells to hold a raffle for the available lots. So, you could say that Tel Aviv was born on the beach!
The Mediterranean still plays a crucial role in the life of the city. You can walk all the way from the Yarkon River and the Old Port (mentioned in my next items) to Jaffa, along a vibrant and very active promenade overlooking the sea. Or grab a bike in one of the city’s rental stations and ride to Jaffa and back (it’s only 3.5 miles in each direction).
If you’re visiting during summertime, definitely bring your swimsuit and head for the water. Tel Aviv has 13 official beaches with lifeguards on duty. Free of charge, a dip in the Mediterranean is a perfect way to cool off in summertime. Anytime between July and October, you’ll find the water to be surprisingly warm! Some days, the water is actually warmer than the air, so it feels like you’re in a hot springs spa.
Location: West of Tel Aviv
Lifeguards are on duty during summertime between 7AM and Sunset (or close to that time – it varies along the months). Wintertime, your best best is Yerushalaim Beach – the other beaches don’t have lifegaurds on duty between December and March.
Admission fees: It’s free but you can splurge and rent a bathing chair or get something to eat/drink in one of the beach cafes
6. Independence Hall Museum
If you want to know more about how Israel became an independent state, add the Independence Hall Museum to your list of things to do in Tel Aviv. Originally called the Dizengoff House, this is the place where David-Ben Gurion proclaimed and signed Israel’s Declaration of Independence.
The original declaration in Ben Gurion’s voice plays when you visit Independence Hall Museum. If the history of modern Israel is close to your heart, this one could very well send shivers down your spine. Inside, you will find the hall, just as it had been set on the day of the declaration, simple – even spartan – yet festive and moving. After you finish viewing the hall, the attendant will let you into a room where you can watch a short movie about the event that changed this region forever.
If you’re not familiar with the story of the declaration of Israel, do watch this short video before visiting the Independence Hall –
Location: 16 Sderot Rothschild, Tel Aviv 66881, Israel
Opening hours: Sundays through Thursdays: 9:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M./ Fridays: 9:00 A.M. to 2:00 P.M.
7. The Great Synagogue
Whether you’re a religious Jewish person who wants to visit a temple to pray or just a traveler looking for things to do in Tel Aviv, don’t miss seeing this massive and hard-to-miss piece of architecture. Yehuda Magidovitch designed it about a century ago – and the construction ended in 1926 – and it’s one of the more impressive synagogues in Israel. Mind you, synagogues are not cathedrals so don’t be expecting a Notre Dame here. It’s just an architecturally interesting one as far as synagogues go.
The Great Synagogue is at Tel Aviv’s business and financial center so only a small number of people still pray there on a daily basis. More worshippers frequent The Great Synagogue on holidays and special occasions. This place is also popular with local celebrities and public figures as a wedding venue.
Things to keep in mind while visiting the Great Synagogue in Tel Aviv
- There is no formal admission fee but this being a synagogue, the regular worshippers donate to keep it running. As a visitor, you’ll be expected to do the same.
- Even if you’re willing to make the donation, they may ask you to stay outside if there’s a private event taking place.
- If you finally make inside, keep in mind that women and men use separate areas of a synagogue so if you’re in mixed company, you’ll have to split up.
- Last but not least, dress appropriately. My post about what to wear in Israel tells you everything you need to know about how to dress when visiting a synagogue. Remember that both men and women may be asked to cover their head in addition to dressing modestly.
Location: Allenby St 110, Tel Aviv-Yafo, Israel
8. Nahum Gutman Mosaic Fountain
Artist Nahum Gutman created this famous mosaic in the heart of Tel Aviv. This work of art includes twelve mosaics which surround the fountain in front of Tel Aviv’s Old City Hall and tell the story of the State of Israel. Nahum Gutman was an Israeli painter, sculptor, and author and a famous Tel Avivian. Aside from his artworks, he also had a number of popular children’s books and short stories loved by many.
You’re free to walk around and enjoy this mosaic and the fountain itself. Grab a felafel from a nearby stand and stop for a quick cheap lunch. A perfect stop while walking around the city, following your list of things to do in Tel Aviv.
Location: Bialik Street, Tel Aviv, Israel
9. Yarkon River and Park Hayarkon
Parks are always great to visit especially when you are travelling with your family. Dog walkers, joggers, cyclists, mother and kids, and many more people frequent the Hayarkon Park, also called Ganei Yehoshua Park. The Yarkon River flows through the park so the scenery is all the more calming.
You can visit this park for free – as many people do daily. Alternatively, you can choose to pay and visit one or more of the gardens and attractions. One of the paid activities you may enjoy is renting an electric bike for you to easily go around the park. But really, on a nice sunny yet cool day, this park is perfect and can be enjoyed for free. As you go near the river look out for the local jackals. They are entirely harmless, just don’t approach them or feed them – keep wildlife wild!
Physical Address: Rokach Blvd, Tel Aviv, Israel
10. Palmach Museum
This unique museum is dedicated to the Palmach, the strike-force of the pre-state underground defense organization. After the establishment of the state, Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben Gurion, basically turned the Palmach into part of the Israel Defense Forces.
The museum opened in the year 2000 and it commemorates the contributions of the Palmach towards the creation of Israel. This is the kind of modern museum that offers an immersive experience rather than just looking at displays. As you walk in, you join a group of young Palmach soldiers seated around a hearth. You then follow them during their training and eventually, their participation in the war of Independence.
It is very well done – we’ve been there several times and usually end the tour wiping a few tears. It’s kinda heartbreaking to follow these fictional characters along the story, watching some of them die in the end. While the characters are fictional, they represent true stories that really did happen.
Things to know before visiting the Palmach Museum
Note that you must call in and make reservations before going there. They will assign you to a group in your language of choice. If you don’t call in advance, they may or may not be able to fit you in if they have any cancellations on a specific slot. This museum is run by the Ministry of Defense and your guides are real Israeli soldiers in uniform. Since this is an official defense building, they won’t let you in without a security checkup in which you’ll have to show a valid ID so bring your passport along.
Location: 10 Haim Levanon Street, Tel Aviv
Contact Number: +972 3-545-9800 (I’m including it because you should call to make reservations for your tour)
Opening hours: Sundays through Tuesdays – 9:00 A.M. to 3:00 P.M / Wednesdays: 9:00 A.M. to 1:30 P.M. / Thursdays: 9:00 A.M. to 3:00 P.M. / Fridays: 9:00 A.M. to 11:00 A.M.
Admission Fees: Adults – $8, Children – $5
11. Tel Aviv Port
The old port area is one of those fun vibrant places to visit in the City That Never Sleeps. If you want to get the vibe of this city, include this spot in your list of things to do in Tel Aviv. Remember Hayarkon Park (number 8 on this list)? It ends (or begins) here, in the old harbor along the shores of the mediterranean sea. Visiting both places for a nice fun walk along the river that ends with ice cream by the sea is my definition of a perfect Tel Aviv afternoon!
What you’ll find here is It is a 14,000-square meter deck where you can walk around and enjoy the beautiful scenery. And the scenery is a great combo of the Mediterranean sea and the Yarkon river. The Tel Aviv Port was built in the 1930’s to be a gateway for the young Hebrew city of Tel Aviv. Shut down from 1965 through 1985, the area deteriorated and then, in the 1990’s it was renovated and turned into a thriving commercial hub.
Here’s a lovely short video that captures the look and feel of the Port area –
There are fairs, festivals, and Jazz concerts at the port and it is best to go there during summer months to witness these events (summer in Tel Aviv is pretty much anytime between March and November…). If you go during the day, wear comfortable shoes and a hat to protect you from the glare of the sun and the waves.
Location: Nemal Tel Aviv, Tel Aviv, Israel
In conclusion of my list of things to do in Tel Aviv…
So, there you have it. Perhaps with the exception of the Palmach Museum, you can actually see these places in a single day. The tour of the Palmach museum will take you approximately 3 hours from start to finish. It’s also located away from the city center so overall, you should probably allocate half a day for that tour.
And if you have more time, keep exploring! There are several good museums and other attractions around Tel Aviv, and plenty of shopping centers, markets and other attractions.
Have you visited Tel Aviv? Leave me a comment and let me know what your favorite attractions! And as always, I’m happy to help out if you have any more questions!