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How To Spend Two Days in Jaffa, the Oldest Quarter in Tel Aviv

Jaffa is Tel Aviv’s oldest neighbourhood
Jaffa is Tel Aviv’s oldest neighbourhood | © adam korzeniewski / Alamy Stock Photo
Jaffa, Tel Aviv’s oldest district, is perfect for a two-day visit. There’s plenty to see here, including a quaint fishing port, an Ottoman-era clock tower and a host of buzzing flea markets.

Jaffa offers much to see and do over 48 hours. Famous for its central clock tower, flea markets and one of the oldest ports in the world, Jaffa also has a vibrant dining and art scene. Visitors to this part of Tel Aviv escape the non-stop action of the city to weave through art galleries, marvel at historic architecture and enjoy first-class cuisine.

Day one

Morning – Embark on a free walking tour

The first day in Jaffa should be about getting a feel for the neighbourhood, and there’s no better way to do that than with a free walking tour. A highly recommended option is the two-hour tour run by Sandemans that explores the city’s major landmarks. Highlights include Jaffa Light, St Peter’s Church and the opportunity to learn about the 1921 Jaffa riots and the rule of the British Mandate. A local guide leads the group through Tel Aviv’s alleyways, which are among the oldest streets in the world, and regales walkers with tales from the city’s rich history and ancient cultures. Tours depart daily at 10am from the clock tower, and there is also a late afternoon tour that starts at 5pm.

Get a feel for the neighbourhood by exploring Jaffa Light © Danita Delimont / Alamy Stock Photo

Afternoon – Explore the Old City’s art scene

After the walking tour has looped back to its starting point, take a brief 10-minute walk from the clock tower to Casino San Remo on Nehama Street 2. Grab lunch at this popular local haunt, which rests on the cusp of Jerusalem Boulevard. A relaxed dining spot, it serves a mix of Italian, Turkish and Middle Eastern dishes, including burgers, vegetable medleys and a good choice of cocktails. Casino San Remo also hosts regular pop-up art exhibitions and live music in its quirky interior and outdoor spaces, which are brimming with plants and pink flamingoes.

After lunch, walk to the Ilana Goor Museum in the Old City. Founded by Israeli artist Ilana Goor in 1995, the museum lies inside a 300-year-old building on Mazal Dagim Street that was once a hostel for pilgrims and a soap and perfume factory. The artist and her husband have since restored the building to its original glory. Today, it displays more than 500 pieces from around the world, including those by Goor. The artist lives in a private apartment on the premises, but the rest of the house is open to the public, including the rooftop sculpture garden. The museum closes at 4pm Sunday to Friday and at 5pm on Saturdays.

The thriving art scene in Jaffa makes it the perfect place for an art gallery crawl. Stroll along the stretch of galleries lining the Old City’s alleyways and the port. Make sure to check out contemporary artwork specialist Artnova on Kaufmann Street, Har-El on Elisabeth Bergner Street for gallery prints and Frank Meisler Gallery on Mazal Arieh Street, which houses a range of interesting sculptures.

The Ilana Goor Museum in the Old City houses more than 500 pieces of art © V. Dorosz / Alamy Stock Photo

Evening – Dine in the Greek Market

Book a table at Jericho in the Greek Market, one of the latest additions to the city’s vibrant culinary scene. Run by acclaimed chefs Idan Peretz and Tomer Agay, who previously headed two upscale restaurants in Tel Aviv, Jericho serves up typical delicacies such as grilled shrimp, beef tartare bruschetta and white fish mullet skewers. Sit inside or at the tables spilling into the courtyard, and watch a live music show while sipping fine wine.

Jericho serves up local specialities such as grilled shrimp © Yakov Oskanov / Alamy Stock Photo

Night – Drink among art

End the night with a drink at Cuckoo’s Nest, a bar and gallery located inside an antiques store in the heart of Jaffa. The bar hosts regular pop-up art exhibitions and live music, and offers quick bites, a decadent cocktail list and a great beer menu. Grab a table among the displays or head to the second floor to discover quirkier works of art.

Enjoy the city’s vibrant culinary scene and sample street food as you explore Jaffa © dov makabaw Israel / Alamy Stock Photo

Day two

Morning – Visit Jaffa’s Flea Market

Enjoy a morning of treasure hunting at Shuk Hapishpeshim, which has been casting its magical charm on the streets of Jaffa since the early 20th century. Browse through stores selling troves of antique furniture, jewellery, clothes, cosmetics and all souvenirs imaginable. For a mid-morning sweet treat, stop by HaMalabiya in the centre of the flea market to sample a Middle Eastern delicacy referred to by the local people as malabi, a thick milky pudding served with a sprinkled topping.

Browse through the stores and stalls at the vibrant flea market © Boaz Rottem / Alamy Stock Photo

Afternoon – Fine eats and art

For lunch, try one of Jaffa’s most beloved restaurants, Puaa. Located on Rabbi Yohanan Street, this restaurant has been a key component of the city’s dining scene since 1999. Its menu features home-cooked-style Mediterranean dishes that cater to meat-eaters and vegetarians. Highlights include traditional minced meat sandwiches, mung beans in raw tahini and fish plates with bonito, salmon and herring. Also, the restaurant embraces the atmosphere of the flea market. Almost every piece of furniture is available to buy, including the pictures, ornaments and antiques decorating the space.

From here, head to Jaffa Port, a 10-minute walk away in the direction of the Mediterranean shore. As one of the oldest working seaports in the world, it serves as both a fishing and yacht harbour. The area is the best vantage point for spectacular views of Tel Aviv’s beachfront. Head to the Jaffa Art Salon, housed in a spacious hanger by the port on Jerusalem Boulevard, for more art. Well-established Israeli and Palestinian artists founded the salon in 2010. It expanded its remit in 2012 to include pieces by young Jewish and Arab Israelis.

Walk along Jaffa Port, one of the oldest working harbours in the world © Danita Delimont / Alamy Stock Photo

Evening – Dine al fresco

Catch the evening breeze at Ramesses on the outskirts of the flea market on Ben Perachyah Street. It’s an outdoor restaurant and bar contained within a stretch of the Greek Market. Waiters sweep through the tables and chairs that line the streets to serve superb dishes inspired by the Mediterranean, such as raw fish and magi tomatoes, local fish skewers and grilled corn aioli with smoked paprika and parmesan cheese. Finish off with a decadent cocktail or two.

Enjoy dinner al fresco at one of the outdoor restaurants and bars around the Greek Market © StockStudio / Alamy Stock Photo

Night – Soak up the nightlife

Get a feel for Jaffa after dark with a stop at some of the district’s best bars. Shaffa Bar, on Nakhman Street, is a great spot for casual dining, cocktails and live music. For a more relaxed atmosphere, Paspartu on Rabi Khanina Street has a wide selection of craft beers and bar snacks. For a more decadent end to your two days in Jaffa, head to The Kishle Bar, which lies in the lobby of The Setai Tel Aviv and serves a range of fine wines and masterfully crafted cocktails. Offering spectacular views of the sea, the hotel, located on David Razi’el Street, was built within the walls of a 12th-century fortress.

Continue the evening with a drink at a bar © Alan Kolnik / Alamy Stock Photo

Where to stay

Jaffa’s burgeoning catalogue of accommodation options includes something for every taste and budget. Market House, a boutique hotel located close to the clock tower and flea market on Beit Eshel Street, was designed to reflect the authentic vibe of Jaffa. Guests can view archaeological ruins of a Byzantine chapel, which have been carefully preserved through the lobby’s glass floor, and dine on an Israeli-style breakfast buffet.

For those who prefer to connect with other like-minded travellers, Milk & Honey Hostel, situated on the crossroads of Shalma Road and Jerusalem Boulevard, offers no-frills accommodation with a choice of shared mixed dorms with bunk beds or private single and double rooms with shared bathrooms.

Take some time out in Jaffa © StockStudio / Alamy Stock Photo