Munch your way around Tel Aviv’s markets before feasting your eyes on art, architecture, and coastline views.
1 - Carmel Market
The food in Israel is outstanding, created from the freshest fruit and vegetables and catering for sweet-toothed locals and tourists alike with favourites like baklava and halva. Avoid your hotel breakfast and head off to Carmel Market. Once there, weigh up whether your luggage has room for a selection of dried fruit – dates, prunes, figs, apricots, raisins, cranberries, peaches and mangoes are all good, then get distracted by a dozen-plus varieties of olives.
While you decide, have a boureka, a baked pastry with a variety of fillings though most often a combination of cheese, spinach, potato and mushrooms. You can buy for take away and eat while you walk or find a café – Kiortosh (11 HaCarmel Street) is a good bet, and you can watch the baking taking place through the window. kiortosh.co.il
2 - Levinsky Market
Close to Carmel is another market, running along Levinsky Street. It offers a similar range of produce to Carmel market, but with perhaps a greater emphasis on spices – check out the Tavlinsky store (tavlinsky.co.il) – as well as Iranian food.
If you are thirsty, try Gazoz Cafe at 41 Levinsky. ‘Gazoz’ means sparkling water, but here it is taken to a different level, with a range of soft drinks created by charismatic entrepreneur, Benny Briga. Fizzy water (soda or seltzer, in other words) combined with fruits – both fresh and fermented, plus spices, herbs and homemade syrups, served over ice. bennybriga.com
3 - Yemeni bread
Yemenite Jews immigrated to Israel in various waves throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, eventually numbering 400,000 in Israel. The largest influx was in 1949 when a series of airlifts – eventually known as Operation Magic Carpet – brought some 50,000 Yemeni Jews to Israel in just a few months.
Today the area where many settled is known as the Yemenite Quarter (Kerem HaTeimanim), and there is nowhere better to taste some lahoh, a sort of spongy Yemeni bread, not unlike thick pancakes, baked on the spot with a variety of fillings. Aim for the Yemeni Bakery, and if you want an expert guide for these markets, try local company the Eager Tourist. eagertourist.com
4 - Bauhaus Centre
Tel Aviv is a modern city, with origins in the 1920s and 1930s and with a noticeable Bauhaus and International Style to its central commercial and residential area. Visit the Esther Cinema, now the Cinema Hotel, on Dizengoff Square. This was designed by female architect Genia Averbuch (born in Ukraine), who won a competition for the design of the square and surrounding buildings in 1934.
Tel Aviv was declared a UNESCO site in 2003, and ever since the ‘White City’ has been marketed as the place where European architects came to create a new world free from persecution. It’s actually a more complicated and political story, so drop into the Bauhaus Center. They have guided and self-guided audio tours, books, maps, posters, tea towels and models – perfect for presents for those back at home. bauhaus-center.com
5 - Modern art
Tel Aviv has a burgeoning art scene, and a visit to the Tel Aviv Museum of Art is a must. There are also dozens of private galleries where you can view art for sale, with more opening every year. One new gallery is Nassima Landau, established by a former curator of both the Israel Museum and the Tel Aviv Museum, and Steeve Nassima, a collector and expert on the works of Yayoi Kusama. Its exhibitions present contemporary international art in several rooms, a short walk from the shaded ficus tree-lined Rothschild Boulevard. nassimalandau.com
6 - The beach
Tel Aviv is best known for its beach, and whatever the time of year a walk along Shlomo Lahat Promenade is a real eye-opener. You don’t have to be young and gorgeous to jog, roller skate or e-scooter wearing next to nothing, but it certainly helps and the evidence is clear that Tel Aviv is LGBTQ-friendly (and home to the largest Pride parade in the Middle East and Africa).
There are open-air gyms on the beach, but better to watch others playing beach volleyball while you find somewhere serving drinks to watch the sun set into the Mediterranean and plan your next day. If you still have energy, you could head ten minutes south and check out the night markets of Jaffa, or perhaps leave that for another day…