Tel Aviv

Quick Facts

Language: Hebrew

Currency: Israeli New Shekel

Area Codes: 03

Other Cities in this Region

Tel Aviv and Jerusalem share only one thing in common: they are both in Israel. Outside of that, the two cities are diametrically opposed in pretty much every way. Jerusalem's history goes back thousands of years, while Tel Aviv wasn't founded until 1909. Jerusalem is full of shrines, artifacts, and a vast history. Tel Aviv is full of beaches, theaters, and a robust economy. But each city showcases a different facet of Israel. Jerusalem is what Israel once was and a tie to the past. Tel Aviv is what Israel is becoming, with a look towards the future.

Tel Aviv's rise to prominence certainly didn't happen overnight. In fact, as recently as the 1950s, Tel Aviv was seen as not much more than a concrete wasteland, with dirty beaches and no true city center. But over the past half-century, the city has undergone a striking renaissance. The beaches were cleaned up and made more accessible from any point in the city, and theaters, museums, and restaurants popped up everywhere to cater to an ever more affluent populace.

When visiting Tel Aviv, you will want to start at the beach and head inland. Many of the most popular tourist attractions are located within a four-square-mile radius of each other right along the coast. As you head further off the coast, you'll find nothing but residential and industrial areas. People-watching is a popular Israeli pastime, and while sipping some coffee from your perch in Dizengoff Square, you will have a great opportunity to do just that. The Square is actually a circle above the always busy Dizengoff Street in the heart of the city.

Everywhere in Israel is touched by some kind of history, and Tel Aviv is no exception. The city has incorporated the ancient city of Jaffa, where the prophet Jonah once lived before he even thought about meeting a whale. As you stroll though Old Jaffa's streets, you can see ruins dating from the Crusades. The juxtaposition of ultra-modern Tel Aviv and historic Jaffa provides another interesting angle to this Israeli metropolis. Tel Aviv's diversity will interest any traveler, from the history buff to the beach bum to the people person.

Docking & Local Transportation

Cruise ships dock at the Port of Tel Aviv. There is easy road access from the port to the rest of the city.

Buses are omnipresent, and they are the best way to get around Tel Aviv. Bus number five will take you to Dizengoff Square, which serves as a good central meeting spot. Sheruts are small passenger vans that travel along the same route as buses. Their fares are usually a little lower than bus fare. Taxis are pretty easy to spot. Just head over to a major hotel, and you will have no problem finding a cab. Fares can be negotiated, but meters are available if you would feel more comfortable.

Local Interests

Tel Aviv is a cultured town, with museums and galleries dotting the landscape. The Eretz Israel Museum Complex (2 Chaim Levanon St., 03/641-5244) is a great way to learn a lot in a very short amount of time. There are eight separate attractions all found under one roof here. Among them are the Glass Pavilion, the Ceramics Pavilion, the Man and His Work Center, and the Lasky Planetarium. A new addition to the complex is a park called Landscapes of the Holy Land. The Tel Aviv Museum of Art (27 Shaul Ha-Melekh Blvd., 03/695-7361) has a vast collection of paintings, sculptures, and photography from Israeli artists as well as international works. If you visit on a Wednesday, guided tours are available in English at 11:30 AM. Safari Park (03/631-2181) in nearby Ramat Gan is home to a variety of African animals allowed to roam free over the park's 250 acres. Across the street is the Ramat Gan National Park and the new Man and the Living World Museum. For a nice picnic lunch, head over to Ha-Yarkon Park.

Jaffa more than makes up for its neighbor's lack of history. The Greek myth of Perseus' rescue of Andromeda from a sea monster was set here. Richard the Lion-Hearted built a citadel here, Napoleon passed through during his conquering days, and the British conquered the Turks in Jaffa at the end of World War I. Today, Old Jaffa has been restored as a haven from the hustle and bustle of Tel Aviv. There are restaurants and small craft shops that have been carefully built into the old city's ruins. You can still see Andromeda's Rock, and don't miss the Ilana Goor Museum, with rooms full of sculptures by one of Israel's finest artists.

Activities

Beaches

Tel Aviv's beaches are among the best and most accessible in the region. There is a promenade that runs adjacent to the shore for the entire length of the beach, and it's always filled with couples and families strolling along. The beaches are all open to the public. To know where the best beaches in town are, just look for the biggest hotels. The Sheraton and the Hilton have built their hotels on the finest beach spots in Tel Aviv. Gordon Beach is right near Gordon Street and is usually mobbed in the summertime. Hof Hadarim is right near the Hilton, and fairly popular among tourists. If you don't mind a short bus ride, Bat Yam Beach is about three miles outside of Jaffa.

Shopping

Haggling is the unofficial national pastime of Israel. Be prepared to haggle in every store you visit. If you are intimidated, you will not get the best price. But if you hold your ground, you can find some great deals.

Two shopping malls are becoming increasingly popular in Tel Aviv. The Opera Tower, which features a great selection of clothing and gifts, is on Allenby Street right near the water. The Dizengoff Center Shopping Mall is just south of Dizengoff Square. It's usually packed with people, and the American stores are really popular here.

For an array of ever-changing gift ideas, visit Dervish (21 Dov Hoz St., 03/524-8852). The owners of the shop are constantly bringing in new inventory, and they serve coffee and tea while you browse.

Dining & Nightlife

Olive Leaf (115 Ha-Yakron St., 03/521-1111), inside the Sheraton Hotel, serves an excellent menu of dishes. The Cajun steak is exquisite, and the dessert choices are expansive. Picasso (88 Ha-Yakron St., 03/510-2784) has become a hot dining spot due to its synergy of eclectic menu options and hip ambience. The mussels are especially good here.

Capot Tmarim (60 Ahad Ha'Am St., 03/566-3166) is unique because the menu changes daily. No matter what is being served, you are sure to delight in this restaurants atmosphere and hospitality. Spaghettim (18 Yavne St., 03/566-4479) has over 50 sauces to choose from, and some excellent chocolate for dessert. Indian food is rare in Israel, but if you're in a hurry for some curry, Tandoori (2 Zamenhoff St., 03/629-6185) will take care of you. The chicken skewers are particularly good, as is the Indian ice cream. Ming Ming (94 Dizengoff St., 03/522-5636) serves up delicious Chinese food.

Tel Aviv absolutely pulses with activity at night. People watching is a popular Israeli pastime, and there is no better place to do it than Dizengoff Square. The square is absolutely packed most nights, especially on Saturdays. But if you want to be more than a passive observer, there are more than enough bars and nightclubs to entertain you. Hamisba'a (344 Dizengoff St., 03/604-2360) is always packed. Don't be afraid to dance on the tables, you won't be the only one! Terminal (Gordon and Ha-Yakron, 03/544-0585) is another hot spot, although the crowd skews a little younger because it's located in a youth hostel.