Predominantly inhabited by Arab-Israelis, Jaffa has seen an influx of Jewish Israelis in recent years, who are seeking alternatives to the high housing costs in Tel Aviv. Today, it is an enchanting mix of cultures, ancient cobbled streets and buildings, bustling markets, boutique stores and trendy restaurants and nightspots.
Known as Shuk Hapishpishim in Hebrew, this colourful market is one of Jaffa’s main attractions. Here you’ll find an eclectic mix of goods (and a lot of junk), from Persian carpets, beautiful handmade furniture and vintage clothes. Meander through its streets, unearth some treasures, and get a taste of Israeli culture. Just don’t forget to bargain!
Less crowded than the tourist-packed Gordon Beach in Tel Aviv, Jaffa Beach is a tranquil place frequented by Arabs, Jews and dogs frolicking in the sand. Reminding you that you’re in the Middle East, you may also hear prayers beaming out from the nearby mosque. Above the beach at street level, you have wonderful views overlooking Tel Aviv’s shoreline. Come for sunset, when the views are particularly breathtaking.
Oh-So-Arty, founded by Tel Aviv resident Sarah Peguine, is a community of international art guides providing an insider’s view into the contemporary art world in 17 major cities. Their customized Jaffa tour is a must for art lovers: particpants will be taken behind the scenes by an experienced art guide into artist’s residencies, workshops, and hidden studios, where they will have direct interactions with the artists themselves.
For a meaningful and unconventional experience in Jaffa, head over to the unique NaLaga’at Centre (“Please Touch”) in Jaffa’s Port, a cultural centre staffed by blind and deaf Israelis, both Arab and Jewish. Catch a theatrical performance by the centre’s actors or grab a meal in total darkness, while being served by blind waiters.
Also in Jaffa Port, The Container is a well-established live music venue, restaurant and art space. Come for delicious fish, fresh from the adjacent dock, and an eclectic range of live music, from electro-Arab to African grooves.
There are so many fabulous eateries in Jaffa that 48 hours simply isn’t long enough. Here are Culture Trip’s top picks to get you started:
There are no frills or spills at this Jaffa institution. Regarded by many locals as the best hummus in Tel Aviv-Yafo (quite a feat), this small, simple joint run by Arab Israelis serves up plates of hummus with pita bread that will leave your soul and stomach feeling nourished in equal measure. Fresh and creamy with just the right amount of lemon and garlic zest to it, Abu Hasan is an absolute must for any excursion to Jaffa. After a morning of exploring the Flea Market, wander over for an early lunch (to avoid waiting for a seat, or them running out of hummus).
Abu Hasan, Ha-Dolfin St 1, Tel Aviv-Yafo, Israel, +972 3 682 0387
Another famed Jaffa establishment, you’ll struggle to find a cosier, more charming restaurant than Puaa in Tel Aviv-Yafo. Situated in a narrow street in the Flea Market area, Puaa’s eclectic and homey furniture, pleasant outdoor seating area, and consistently delicious food ranging from schnitzel to Arab salads and Indian curries, makes this a perfect spot for lunch or dinner.
Puaa, Rabbi Yohanan St 8, Tel Aviv-Yafo, Israel, +972 3 682 3821
A quintessentially Jaffa restaurant – young, trendy, unpretentious – Farouk Bashuk in the Flea Market area serves up Middle Eastern and Mediterranean dishes that will have you running back for more. From a chicken-filled pita bread to match the famed Miznon joint in Tel Aviv, to a herb and lentil salad packed with all kinds of delicious goodness, this Jaffa gem is a superb option for lunch or dinner in a pleasant al fresco atmosphere.
Farouk Bashuk, 6 Rabbi Nahman Street, Tel Aviv-Yafo, Israel, +972 54 576 7950
No one ever leaves The Old Man & The Sea hungry. In this south Jaffa institution, run by Arab Israelis, you will be taken to your seats in the unpretentious and spacious set up and within minutes you are bombarded with endless small plates of salads, nibbles, and dips. Then come the main courses (fish is their specialty), which are sure to leave you nodding your head in delight. Come hungry.
The Old Man & The Sea, Kedem St 85, Tel Aviv-Yafo, Israel, +972 3 681 8699
Jaffa’s Flea Market is peppered with lively, trendy nightspots with chairs sprawling out onto its narrow streets. By day, many of these establishments offer scrumptious and creative Middle Eastern dishes and are excellent spots to sit and people watch. At night, expect Mizrahi music, shots of arak, and good-looking Israeli millennials. Akbar, Shaffa Bar and Margoza Bar are all excellent choices, located minutes apart from each other within the confines of the Flea Market.
In the Greek Market, nearby Jaffa’s Port, lies Ramesses, one of the area’s most happening nightspots where you can eat divine Middle Eastern and Mediterranean dishes al fresco while enjoying a cocktail and live DJ performances.
Anna Lou Lou is a hidden gem: a cultural institution and political statement as much as it is a dance bar where Israelis and Palestinians, gay and straight, go to dance the night away to its eclectic mix of music, from Latin and Arab tunes to old school hip-hop and Israeli songs.
Jaffa is a mere 20 minutes on the bus from central Tel Aviv and even less by bike, so you can easily stick to accommodation in Tel Aviv. If you’re keen to experience hospitality in Jaffa, then the Old Jaffa Hostel and the Overstay Hostel come recommended. For those with a larger budget, there are numerous stunning Airbnb options, or alternatively you can enjoy a majestic sea view from the Casa Nova Boutique Hotel.