Famed for its sunny beaches and vibrant nightlife, Tel Aviv is also home to a host of first-rate museums, including a sprawling complex with contemporary masterpieces and a gallery-bar that showcases the wonders of whiskeys from around the world.
A first stop on any cultural journey through the city should begin at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art. Located on Sha’ul HaMelech Avenue in the heart of Tel Aviv, this world-class institution houses an extensive collection of modern and contemporary Israeli and European art displayed throughout several wings. At the entrance, you can catch a glimpse of pop-art icon Roy Lichtenstein’s giant mural created especially for the museum. As part of the permanent collection, visitors can view masterpieces from major art movements, including German Expressionism, Post-Impressionism, Cubism and Fauvism. Among these are paintings by Pablo Picasso from his Blue and Late Periods, portraits by Amedeo Modigliani and Surrealist works by Joan Miró. The Tel Aviv Museum of Art also houses one of the world’s most extensive collections of Israeli art, including pieces by Igael Tumarkin, Tsibi Geva and Michal Na’aman. Don’t miss out on the eye-catching architecture of the new Herta and Paul Amir Building, which opened in 2011, adjacent to the main wing. Notable artists who have exhibited here include Andy Warhol, Marc Chagall, Jeff Wall and Louise Bourgeois.
Situated in the northern Tel Aviv suburb of Ramat Aviv, the Museum of the Jewish People at Beit Hatfutsot is a global institution for people of all faiths and of all ages. With a heavy focus on education, inclusivity and religious pluralism, this museum presents objects, videos and interactive displays that tell the story of the Jewish people in Israel and the diaspora. Permanent displays take visitors on a journey through history and introduce them to important Jewish figures. Models of synagogues from around the globe, as well as artefacts connected to Jewish life, make for an enriching (and child-friendly) multimedia experience. There also five additional galleries for temporary exhibits; among them, one explores Jewish humour and another looks at the immigration of Ethiopian Jewry to Israel. Beit Hatfutsot remains open despite the fact that it’s currently undergoing extensive renovations, which are expected to be completed in 2020 when a new 66,000-square-foot (over 6,000-square-metre) permanent exhibit will be unveiled.
For those interested in Israel’s archaeological and cultural heritage, look no further than the Eretz Israel Museum. Founded in 1953, the museum focusses on antiquities and modern historical artefacts. Hundreds of thousands of items spread out across 15 buildings make this Israel’s third-largest museum. Each section is dedicated to a different medium: ceramics, coins, ancient relics, mosaics, copper and glassware, to name but a few. In the Nechushtan Pavilion, visitors can discover fascinating objects from the Chalcolithic period and late Bronze Age, such as a rare bowl furnace from the fourth millennium BC. Another fascinating section is the Glass Pavilion, which takes visitors on a journey going back thousands of years to uncover the development of glassware in the Middle East. In the sections focussing on modern history, visitors can see an exhibition of rare black-and-white photographs documenting the history of the Rothschild family in Israel. The Eretz Israel Museum is closed on Sundays.
Dedicated to the legacy of the late Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, this must-visit museum and research centre in North Tel Aviv examines the history and development of the State of Israel inspired by Rabin’s biography. Rabin, who signed several landmark agreements with the Palestinian leadership as part of the Oslo Accords, was assassinated in 1995 at a political rally in Tel Aviv by a right-wing extremist. In 1997, the Parliament of Israel (Knesset) decided to establish the Yitzhak Rabin Centre in his memory. The museum’s centrepiece exhibition is made up of 188 short documentary films providing insight into Rabin’s last days. Other displays look at the various conflicts and social issues Israel has faced since its establishment in 1948, presented via historical photographs, timelines and panels. Alongside these exhibits, you can also take in stunning panoramic views of Tel Aviv from the building’s terraces. Guided tours are available in several languages, including English, Arab, French and Spanish.
In a restored 18th-century building overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, in the historic Old Jaffa quarter lies the Ilana Goor Museum. Founded in 1995 by renowned Israeli artist Ilana Goor, the institution is unique for being both a museum and an artist’s residence. It presents an eclectic and highly original collection of 500 artworks and antiques that Goor has either created or collected from around the world over the past five decades. Of these there are around 300 sculptures from Israel, Africa and Latin America. Discover works by acclaimed Israeli artists such as Ron Arad and Fatma Shanan and contemporary artists including Henry Moore, Josef Albers and Alberto Giacometti. Goor’s sculptures draw heavily from found materials and are made of wood, stone and metal. On top of offering a rich cultural experience, the Ilana Goor Museum has unbeatable views of the city and the sea.
Head over to the Whiskey Bar and Museum, an unconventional museum and the perfect place for those wanting to combine an educational experience with food and drink. Located in the historic Sarona district in a building that used to be a wine cellar in the 19th century, this museum-bar-restaurant features more than 1,000 brands of whiskey from 13 different countries, as well as a selection of gourmet dishes – smoked meats and whiskey-themed desserts – that are designed to be paired with its drinks. In the main space is a wall with an impressive showcase of whiskeys from around the world, from Irish and Scottish classics to varieties from Taiwan and India. All bottles are available for tasting and purchase. Alongside the culinary experience, visitors can learn about the history of whiskey and attend workshops guided by an expert. From 12pm to 5pm, the Whiskey Bar and Museum operates as a museum, while from 5pm until closing, it functions as a restaurant and bar.
Perched atop a hill in the Old Jaffa quarter near the sea, this museum is located within an Ottoman-era building constructed on top of a destroyed 11th-century Crusader fortress. Inside are displays of ancient archaeological items alongside rotating contemporary art exhibitions. The artefacts showcase the rich and varied history of the civilisations that conquered Jaffa, beginning with the Stone Age and moving onwards to the Canaanites, Egyptians, Persians, Philistines, Phoenicians, Greeks, Hasmoneans, Romans, Byzantines and Ottomans. Among the highlights are an eighth-century BC transcription of Sennacherib, King of Assyria, and personal items belonging to a Jewish family who lived in the area during the Roman Empire 2,000 years ago. The Old Jaffa Museum of Antiquities is suitable for children and is wheelchair accessible. It’s best to call before visiting because the museum often hosts private events and is therefore closed to the public.