Tel Aviv Then and Now
This picturesque, recently restored part of old Tel Aviv offers a quiet, intimate look at the city’s first neighborhood. Home to artists and writers before falling into disrepair as the new Tel Aviv raced northward and upward, Neve Tzedek was restored to its former grandeur earlier this decade, and the artists have returned — along with galleries, cafes, boutique hotels and beautifully restored homes. The neighborhood also includes the Suzanne Dellal Center, one of the city’s prime venues for performing arts.
Just north of Neve Tzedek, craftsmen set up on the pedestrian mall of Nachalat Binyamin on Tuesdays and Fridays to sell their wares, ranging from pottery to jewelry. If you’re not in the mood to shop, street performers and clowns provide entertainment. Old and new mix on Lilienblum Street, which runs between Neve Tzedek and Nachalat Binyamin. Here, 90-year-old recently refurbished buildings share space with bars and restaurants that stay open late into the night, including the infamous Nanuchka, a Georgian restaurant where if you’ve called ahead to reserve a spot at the bar, you can drink under a portrait of Stalin and watch patrons dance on the bar.
Beach & Tel Aviv Port
Tel Aviv’s beach is the quintessential symbol of this Mediterranean city. Flanked by a row of hotels and the entire city behind it, the beach is the city’s main selling point for locals who ride its waves, jog its shoreline or bask in its sun daily. Among the best beaches: Hof Frishman and Hof Gordon. North of the beaches and the city’s marina, the new boardwalk along Tel Aviv’s northern port has transformed a derelict area into a thriving neighborhood of restaurants, nightclubs and shops — all within earshot of the Mediterranean’s waves. Fine for a stroll, the boardwalk is also an excellent place to see all the elements that define Tel Aviv’s character: the beach, the food, the shops and the people.
Walk south along Tel Aviv’s beach and you’ll find yourself in the ancient stone alleyways of Old Jaffa, where art galleries, mosques and even a synagogue are hidden among its narrow streets. From dining on freshly caught fish in restaurants where you’re liable to be sprayed by the Mediterranean surf to watching the sun set from atop the city’s stone walls, Jaffa provides a historic counterpoint to the ultra-modern skyscrapers of neighboring Tel Aviv.
Three must-sees are the Tel Aviv Museum of Modern Art, the Land of Israel Museum and the Diaspora Museum on the campus of Tel Aviv University. Together they encapsulate the different forces at work in the Jewish state. But don’t miss Tel Aviv’s smaller museums, from the Jabotinsky Museum on King George Street to Independence Hall on historic Rothschild Boulevard, where David Ben-Gurion proclaimed the independence of the new State of Israel on May 14, 1948.
Yarkon Park and the Yarkon River
This thousand-acre urban park is Tel Aviv’s place of recreation and outdoor concerts. It includes sports facilities, botanical gardens, a small zoo and several artificial lakes. The last leg of the Yarkon River runs through the park, attracting bikers and joggers to the riverbank. The Luna Park amusement park is opposite the park.
The shops around this relatively spare public square is where Israel’s wealthiest set do their shopping. Lined with designer stores, it’s a far cry from the city’s early days as an austere, socialist-minded city. The best time to visit is during the day; at night it empties out.
Tel Aviv’s main public square is a gathering place for rallies, protests and demonstrations, and the site where, on a November night in 1995, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated after addressing a massive peace rally. The site of Rabin’s killing has become a shrine to the slain prime minister, and an exhibition at the site shows exactly how he was shot.
Sheinkin Street and Rothschild Boulevard
Sheinkin Street in central Tel Aviv is bustling with trendy cafes, boutique clothing shops and an outdoor market, Souk HaCarmel, where you can buy everything from used clothing to Turkish desserts. Not far away, tree-lined Rothschild Boulevard offers a slice of life in the city. In the garden that divides the avenue, yuppies walk their dogs, hipsters eat at tiny cafes and fruit stands, the elderly sit on park benches and strangers strike up conversations with each other.
It’s not quite the Empire State Building, but the view from the Azrieli observatory atop the Azrieli Towers (three and counting) offers a unique, bird’s-eye view of this UNESCO World Heritage city and the surrounding areas. You’ll see at once how big Tel Aviv is and how small Israel is, with the Samarian hills visible in the distance. Azrieli also puts you right in the heart of modern Tel Aviv, flanked by skyscrapers and Ramat Gan’s diamond exchange on one side and Tel Aviv’s army base and Defense Ministry headquarters on the other. At the bottom of the towers is a large shopping mall; the top features a good restaurant.