Short break to Tel Aviv

Kedumim Square, Old Jaffa

My 3 night itinerary:

Day 1 Saturday evening: arrived in Tel Aviv
Day 2 Sunday: pre-booked Jerusalem and Bethlehem tour
Day 3 Monday: explore Tel Aviv city on foot
Day 4 Tuesday morning: Jaffa Old Town

Jaffa Port

Post written by Laura

All of the information I had read while planning my recent trip suggested Israel to be a safe destination for a solo woman traveller, so I hadn’t given safety too much thought and had been planning to travel around in my usual manner on public transport e.g. trains and buses.

However due to the murder of the Iranian General Qasem Soleimani a week before my planned trip and concerns from anxious friends and relatives I kept a close eye on the FCO’s Israel webpages.

I was slightly uneasy to read advice on the FCO website that “violence on buses” is common in Tel Aviv and to “remain vigilent at all times” so on this occasion especially as I would be arriving in the evening in the dark I pre-booked an airport transfer to my hotel.

A few days before there had also been threats to “flatten Tel Aviv” but as a citizen who works in Central London, the threat of terrorism is always there and it doesn’t stop 10 million Londoners getting on with their lives. With this perspective in mind, I looked forward to my trip.

The focus of this post is Tel Aviv so it covers days 3 and 4 of my trip.

Day 3 Exploring Tel Aviv on foot

Jerusalem Beach


Tel Aviv is situated on the Mediterranean coast directly alongside a fabulous stretch of soft golden sand.

After breakfast, in slightly dubious weather I set off from my hotel in Jaffa, the old historical part at the south of Tel Aviv and made my way towards Jaffa port and then the coastal path.

Weather was a bit grim to start with

This wide and well maintained promenade covers the entire stretch of the Tel Aviv coastline and with the sea to my left and the city to my right I walked for 3 miles as far as the Hilton Hotel.

After about 20 minutes I was caught out in a small rain shower but thankfully this soon cleared and I had sunshine for the rest of the day.

I passed all of the well known beaches as mentioned in the guide books including Banana Beach, Jerusalem Beach and Frishman Beach.

There are many beach bars and there is plenty of shade which I guess is helpful in the summer when temperatures must reach 40 degrees. Swimming in the sea wasn’t permitted due to there being no life guards on duty.

Tel Aviv Marina


Even in January the outside bars overlooking the marina were open and with the sun now shining and one of them was playing 70’s classics, I resisted the temptation to stop and get a margarita!

Hilton Beach

As mentioned I walked as far as Hilton Beach which, after 3 miles along the promenade I turned right and made my way past the Hilton Hotel and into the city. Following Google Maps I headed towards the Art Museum.

Ben Gurion Blvd

My route took me along the Ben Gurion Blvd, a really pleasant and safe walkway. The pedestrianised footpath is clearly marked in the middle of the road. There is a separate cycle path too. There are several benches as well as bikes and electric scooters that you can hire. There are also play areas, benches and outdoor cafes. These all make it very easy to get around the city on foot!

Tel Aviv Art Museum
Entrance 50 shekels (£11)
This is the largest art museum in Israel and has three separate parts to it. There are paintings and sculptures from both Israeli and famous artists from around the world, a photography exhibition and there was also an exhibition on climate change.

Just a thought about some of the paintings… maybe I’m uncultured or missing something or just not artistically minded enough but I do struggle to understand how a few swipes with a brush can be considered a priceless masterpiece… heyho… I guess art is about interpretation…

Habima Square

Next up was Habima Square, a large plaza in the centre of Tel Aviv and surrounded by cultural institutions such as the National Theatre. It has a sunken garden and a well known sculpture, the Three Circles by an Israeli artist.

Rothschild Blvd

Leading down from Habima Square is Rothschild Blvd, another pedestrianised street and one of the most popular in Tel Aviv. Like Ben Gurion you walk down the pedestrianised centre, next to the cycle lanes. There is lots of shade and cafes and a pond!

While this street makes it easy to walk through Tel Aviv its probably not worth making a special trip but it was on my route and pleasant to walk along.

Halva

Carmel Market

I turned off Rothschild Blvd and made my way to Carmel Market, the largest market in Tel Aviv. Full of clothes, fruit, vegetables, bread, nuts, spices and baklava type cakes it was interesting to walk through and very busy for a Monday afternoon in January!

Halva is a popular sweet made with tahini paste. Its available with all kinds of nuts such as pecan, cashew and walnut and also sweet flavours such as coffee and chocolate.

I headed back towards the beaches and finished my route by crossing through the Charles Gore Park and back along the promenade towards Jaffa which is in the distance to the right of the photo!

Jaffa Old Town

Jaffa, an ancient port, is the oldest part of Tel Aviv and is mentioned in the bible as ‘Joppa’. Jaffa is known as ‘Yafo’ in Hebrew.

I reached Jaffa at about 3.30 pm and had a late lunch of hummus, falafels and pita bread in a great little restaurant in Kedumim Square, the main square in the heart of the Old Town.

Tel Aviv from Jaffa

Before returning to the hotel I had a walk around the narrow stone streets of Jaffa which, with the sunlight fading and the stone walls and streets turning golden and its little jewellery and art shops had a Bohemian feel. All in all I had walked about 8-9 miles!

Wishing Bridge
Suspended tree
Painting for sale
Kedumim Square
Jaffa oranges

Day 4: Jaffa morning stroll

Keen to explore more of Jaffa I set off and spent the morning making my way once more around the Old City. The street next to my hotel was lined with orange trees and yes, this is where Jaffa oranges come from! They were packaged up and shipped off all over the world from the Jaffa port.

Jaffa street art
Jaffa Flea Market

Jaffa Flea Market
This famous market sells antiques and all manner of stuff, the personal items of Jaffa locals. Interesting to see but not my thing so rather than having a rummage I continued towards the old port area.

Jaffa Port
Kedumim Square
Ilana Goor museum

Ilana Goor museum

As I meandered through the narrow historical streets I stumbled across the awesome little Ilana Goor museum and gallery. The entrance was 30 shekels and it was packed full of collections of paintings, sculptures and art from around the world.

Sculpture on the roof terrace of the Ilana Goor museum

The building and its wonderful collection has masses of character and I enjoyed my visit here more than the big Art Centre of Tel Aviv the previous day.

Hotel and logistics

I spent my three nights in the fabulous Margosa a boutique hotel in Jaffa Old Town. I had booked through Booking.com and chose this place mostly based on the excellent reviews. And what a choice! This was one of the best stays I’ve ever had and well worth the maximum 10 rating that many people give it. Here’s why:

  • Amazing breakfast of freshly cooked local dishes
  • Free wine and free snacks 24/7 available in the bar area. As well as good coffee, tea and soft drinks you could help yourself from bottles of decent red and white wine at any time. There were also fresh pastries, fresh and dried fruit and savoury snacks available.
  • Friendly and helpful staff, immaculately clean, comfy bed, a quiet room with a balcony and amazing shower. And a complementary bottle of wine in the room
  • Great location
Jaffa Clock Tower

Flights

I booked my return flights with EasyJet and flew from Luton. Arriving into Tel Aviv international airport was straightforward. Rather than getting a stamp in your passport (which is a good thing as an Israeli stamp can cause issues when entering certain countries) you are given a little slip of paper which is your visa. You are not charged for this and need to keep this 3 month visitors visa safe with your passport.

It is advisible to arrive in plenty of time to get your flight home and I experienced long queues at the arrivals and again at the bag check.

Costs

Israel is not cheap! For example my hummus, falafel and pita lunch with one drink (admittedly an Aperol spritz) was £19. My taxi (one way) to the airport was 160 Israeli shekels, just over £35.

More logistics

Plug socket: I had several European sockets in my room so charging my phone wasn’t a problem.

Time difference: in January Israel is 2 hours ahead of the UK

Weather: January is one of the rainy months however I was fortunate that my few days were mostly sunny. There was a heavy rainstorm one evening (while I was in the hotel) and the shower during the morning of day 3. The temperature was between 12 – 19 degrees and ‘tee-shirt’ weather on the last day.

Summary

I loved it! I had a fantastic time and it was an ideal short break with a fab mix of ancient sights and ancient culture together with new and modern culture and wonderful beaches. Jaffa has stack loads of charm and character and even in January, while probably much quieter than other times in the year, most places were open and there was enough people around to provide a relaxed atmosphere.

In hindsight I would have booked another day i.e. and made it 4 nights and would have slotted in this extra day to have visited Haifa.

And finally, laid back Jaffa Old Town was the perfect base for me as a solo traveller although a group may prefer a beach hotel nearer to the famous Tel Aviv nightlife and party scene especially in the warmer months.

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