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As the old and industrial neighbourhoods of Tel Aviv continually undergo extensive renovations, the city is becoming a more exciting place to explore than ever before. It’s a destination worthy of a visit, even if only for a day.
The sun-soaked city of Tel Aviv is known for its beautiful beaches, booming food scene and internationally renowned architecture. With only 24 hours to spare, visitors may be hard-pressed to fit everything in, but this handy Culture Trip itinerary lays out the perfect plan for a stress-free day trip.
Have breakfast in Neve Tzedek
Neve Tzedek is among the most beautiful neighbourhoods in Tel Aviv and the best place to relax before a busy day in the urban city. Adjacent to Rothschild Boulevard, this small suburb-like area is brimming with restored houses from the end of the 19th century.
Stroll down Shabazi Street, filled with cafés and boutique shops, and stop for breakfast at Dallal. A classic French restaurant with Mediterranean influences, it perfectly suits the European flair that the neighbourhood offers. The extensive breakfast menu includes freshly baked goods (such as croissants, brioches and bagels) from the restaurant’s bakery situated next door, as well as delicious salads and omelettes. The patio, decorated with rustic furniture, lush vegetation and exposed-brick walls, has the feeling of a French countryside bistro. For those on a budget, Suzana, a café located right across the street, offers drinks and meze (small vegetarian dishes) on a big, shaded terrace.
Pro tip: Shakshuka, poached eggs in tomato sauce, is a popular breakfast meal and a must-try while in Israel.
Wander through the White City
After breakfast, stroll down Rothschild Boulevard towards the neighbourhood of Lev Ha’ir. Packed full of the incredible architecture that first propelled Tel Aviv to international status, Lev Ha’ir is the city’s largest neighbourhood and the location of the ‘White City’.
Bordered by Dizengoff Square, Rothschild Boulevard and the Bialik Complex and granted UNESCO World Heritage status in 2003, the White City is an area made up of more than 4,000 buildings designed and built in the Bauhaus style. Also known as the International Style, Bauhaus architecture favours functionality and is defined by clean, white aesthetics, rounded corners (particularly on balconies) and symmetrical patterns. While rows upon rows of these gorgeously designed residences dot the area, Nahmani Street, Shenkin Street and Ahad Ha’am Street are of particular interest.
Shop at Shuk HaCarmel
From Bialik House, it’s a five-minute walk to the entrance of the famous and perpetually busy Shuk HaCarmel (Carmel Market). Stretching along HaCarmel Street, this open-air market has everything, including street food, sweets, beauty products and souvenirs. Saunter down the main street and try local delicacies such as halva (a sweet made from processed sesame seeds) or freshly squeezed pomegranate juice. As an alternative, escape the crowds and head to the bordering Yemenite Quarter, comprised of small, charming alleyways and occupied by young residents. Meat lovers can enjoy a lunch at M25, a small butcher and restaurant serving delicious burgers, steaks and pita bread filled with beef, vegetables and tahini.
Pro tip: Close to Shuk HaCarmel is Nachalat Binyamin Market, where designers sell handmade decorative art and fashion items. The market is open on Tuesdays and Fridays.
Cycle to the beach
At the end of the market, near the Carmelit bus terminal, hire a bicycle or an electric scooter – rental services such as Bird, Lime and Mobike are scattered all over the city. Cycle over to the Tel Aviv Tayelet, an urban promenade stretching along the beautiful coastline. Stop for a swim or a game of matkot, a sport similar to beach tennis and an Israeli favourite (a matkot set can be purchased at Shuk HaCarmel). Spread a towel on the golden sand, enjoy your spoils from the market and soak up the last of the sunshine.
Pro tip: For those who enjoy surfing, at the southern end of the Tayelet is Dolphinarium Beach – a favourite spot among amateur and professional surfers. Boards are available for rent from one of the many nearby clubs.
Explore the street art of Florentin
After a relaxing siesta on the beach, it’s time to check out the trendy Florentin neighbourhood – a 10-minute bike ride from the Israel Surf Club, a 20-minute walk or a short bus or taxi ride away. In recent years, young locals have opened small shops and cafés in this former industrial location. However, Florentin is best known for the colourful murals adorning its buildings. Explore them via a guided tour, which will provide you with an opportunity to learn about each artist’s story and the neighbourhood’s fascinating history. Abraham Hostel offers 1.5-hour tours on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays, while Alternative Tel-Aviv specialises in private tours.
After checking out the urban art scene, cool down with an Instagram-worthy drink at Café Levinsky 41, a tiny venue filled with mason jars of kombucha, chia seeds and dried tropical fruits. Order their unique gazoz, a flavoured sparkling-water drink made with fresh fruit, herbs and spices.
Pro tip: Public buses require a pre-ordered travel card (‘Rav Kav’), which can be obtained in every train station in Tel Aviv. Alternatively, stay near popular areas, such as Dizengoff Square or Rothschild Boulevard, where attractions are within walking distance.
Have dinner in Jaffa
After sunset, hire another bicycle, electric scooter or grab a taxi and head to Jaffa, the ancient port city south of Tel Aviv. Stop to marvel at the Jaffa Clock Tower, a monument that dates to the beginning of the 20th century when the Ottoman Empire ruled the region, before having dinner.
Café Puaa is a local favourite set in the vibrant flea market area. The indoor and outdoor seating areas feature vintage furniture and decorations, while the menu offers a variety of dishes, from vegetarian lentil salad to chicken curry. After dinner, have dessert at the popular HaMalabia, which serves malabi, a milk-based sweet pudding topped with nuts and pink rose water. With affordable prices and an overall casual atmosphere, it is the perfect place to start a fun night at the market.
Pro tip: Tel Aviv has a growing vegan food scene. While in a restaurant or a café, try asking if a certain dish can be “veganised”, i.e. have some of its ingredients replaced with tofu or chickpeas.
Get drinks at the flea market
The flea market comes alive at night when merchants close up their shops and chatty clientele fill bars tucked in the small alleys. Stroll around the cobbled streets and you might run into an occasional music gig or an open gallery night – both are especially popular during the summer.
There are many fantastic bars in the flea market area as well as the nearby Greek market. However, two standout places are Shaffa Bar (a trendy and casual bar offering small Mediterranean dishes and cocktails) and Cuckoo’s Nest (a hangar-like bar with temporary art exhibitions and occasional performances and DJ sets). Party through the night with a drink of grapefruit juice and arak, an Arabic anise spirit.
Pro tip: Israeli supermarkets stop selling alcohol after 11pm; however, this does not apply to bars and restaurants.