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Israel Day 10-12: Brassy, Sassy Tel Aviv

The tail end of our Israel journey saw us returning to the city where it all began, Tel Aviv. Checking into the Shenkin Hotel at 21 Brener Street once again, we were welcomed back like old friends and given a room upgrade. Lovely!!

Unable to grasp the essence of Tel Aviv on our first day of arrival, Peter and I were determined to discover the city's charms in the three nights and days that remained of our stay. My decision to withhold judgment on Tel Aviv before we got to know her better was a wise one. What we found was a city full of surprises and many faces. 

Here were the aspects of Tel Aviv that we loved:

Tel Aviv is located on the Israeli Mediterranean coastline, in Israel’s central-west. It is the second most populous city in Israel, after Jerusalem. Being on the coastline, it’s Tel Aviv Beach that is the major draw card of the city and a 15 minute walk from our hotel, The Shenkin, via the Carmel Markets. Bright and pristine during the day, the gorgeous sandy beach is even more alluring at sunset, when you can kick off your shoes and dig your toes into the cool sand with a beer or glass of wine in your hand. A paved beachside walkway, called the Tayelet, provides a 2km path between Tel Aviv and Jaffa. 

A 5 minute stroll from The Shenkin, the Carmel Market gave us a taste of the real Tel Aviv. Starting at the Allenby Street end, we wandered past various clothes stalls to get to the market’s epicenter, the food and spices. Soaking up all the amazing colors and smells, half the fun was listening to the stall vendors hawk their goods.

Neve Tzedek is located not far from the sea, between the Carmel market and Jaffa, and was one of the first Jewish neighborhoods outside of the city of Jaffa. Filled with character-filled, narrow winding streets, it has become a lively and trendy neighborhood of renovated pastel houses, designer boutiques, and cafes, especially along Shabazi Street, which ends where the HaTachana complex begins. 

* It was in Neve Tzedek where we enjoyed a scrumptious lunch at an atmospheric restaurant named Dallal, and a coffee and pastry indulgence at its Boulangerie around the corner.

One of Tel Aviv’s major streets, Rothschild Boulevard is certainly it’s most famous. A tranquil, leafy avenue that comes alive at night time, it’s the financial center of Israel’s only metropolis, a culinary hotspot, a café Mecca and has the city’s largest concentration of quality bars. For lovers of history and architecture, it has a glorious collection of Bauhaus structures that are in and of themselves pieces of the city’s and the country’s history. One of the most expensive streets in Tel Aviv, municipality rules prohibit making any changes in the exterior of the boulevard’s buildings that form part of the “White City,” recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. Our favourite eateries on Rothschild were:
  • Benedict - A breakfast restaurant, Benedict have around 10 different breakfast “sets,” from mueslis, sandwiches or a shakshoukas to New York style breakfasts and Eggs Benedict. You get a free drink with breakfast and a basket of warm buns with spreads which can be refilled. It is open 24/7 and is so popular that you’ll have to queue on Friday and Saturday lunch times.
  • Social Club - The Social Club’s scene is about signature drinks, upscale dining and  remixed jazz. With an outside terrace as well as indoor seating, the vibe gets livelier the later it gets.
HaTachana, the Hebrew name for the old Jaffa railway station, has recently been transformed into one of Tel Aviv’s smartest public spaces. Located between the Tel Aviv Beach and Neve Tzedek, HaTachana has a brilliant selection of cafes, restaurants, and interesting fashion and homeware boutiques ranging, all in an enviably realistic historic setting. Built in 1892 as the terminus for the Jaffa-Jerusalem railway, the site fell into decay when the railway closed. Located in a piece of prime real estate, it has transformed into one of the city’s hot spots without ignoring its heritage.
  • Vicky Cristina - Vicky Cristina is a new tapas and wine bar located in a spacious patio under an antique Ficus tree at HaTachana. With a distinctly Spanish vibe, seating is on high bar stools around a garden of mosaic covered sculptures. With great food and the best Latin rhythms, the vibe is fabulous. 
Old Jaffa is a historic and romantic neighborhood, brimming with boutiques and Arab shops, cafes, restaurants, flea markets, and gorgeous views of the Tel Aviv skyline. Jaffa played an important role in the maritime trade, and served as a permanent naval station in the eastern basin of the Mediterranean. The sea and the port of Jaffa are mentioned in many written sources, like in the legends of Greek mythology and in the Jewish and Christian traditions. The Bible recalls Jaffa port as the port from which the prophet Jonah left for his journey and was swallowed by the whale. And speaking of swallow, we cannot recommend the following restaurants in Jaffa highly enough: 
  • Dr Shakshuka  - This courtyard restaurant’s serves up the best version of Shakshuka in Israel, shwarma, and Libyan-style couscous.
  • Rokach Yam - A food and wine bar situated in the heart of the culinary area, in the market of the new Jaffa Harbor, Rokach Yam's menu is based on fish and seafood served tapas style. The restaurant vibe is vibrant and breezy.
After 11 nights in Israel, it’s off to Turkey for us tomorrow. Rather than saying goodbye, I prefer to say Shalom and L'hitraot (Peace and see you soon) to Israel, an energetic and progressive country, where the ancient sits comfortably side by side with the young and innovative. From where I stand, that’s what makes Israel, and the Israelis, so fascinating and a travel destination well worth exploring. With one foot firmly placed in its historic past, the other strides confidently forward into the new Millennium. I’m so glad I came.

Posted by Victoria Ugarte on 18th September, 2014 | Trackbacks
Categories: Israel

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