Earlier this month, I traveled to Israel on a business trip. While the bulk of my time was spent in the office, I was able to explore Tel Aviv, dine at the best Tel Avivian restaurants and squeeze in a weekend trip to Jerusalem. This week, I am excited to share my Twinspirational Travels in Tel Aviv with you.
Israel is best known for its ancient cities, Jerusalem and Nazareth, but its modern city, Tel Aviv, is a blend of Western Europe and the Middle East. Tel Aviv has gorgeous beaches, kitschy markets, fabulous restaurants and exciting nightlife. I departed Newark on El Al’s nonstop flight to Tel Aviv. If you choose to fly El Al, I highly recommend arriving at the airport 3 hours early because of the airline’s higher security screening and interview processes.
when to go
Like many Mediterranean cities, Tel Aviv has mild, wet winters and hot, humid summers. Peak season is September through November and March through April when rainfall is likely, but not heavy.
how long to stay
I recommend at least 10 days to view the top destinations in Israel. You’ll want to explore Tel Aviv/Old Jaffa (2-3 days), visit the Old City in Jerusalem (2-3 days), float in the Dead Sea (1 day), climb Masada (1 day) and play water sports in Eilat (2 days). If time permits, you can also travel north to see the ruins in Caesarea (1 day).
where to stay
Tel Aviv is divided into nine districts. I stayed at the boutique hotel, Hotel Rothschild, which lies on the famous Rothschild Boulevard in the White City district. Upon arrival, I received a refreshing complimentary glass of rosé. The hotel rooms were recently renovated to perfection and include large flat-screen TVs, espresso machines and eco-friendly bath products. Daily happy hour is from 6-7pm on the patio and features the chef’s special paired with a cocktail. Each morning I enjoyed breakfast, which is known locally as one of Tel Aviv’s finest.
things to do
Historically, I planned my detailed travel itineraries through Excel. Just before my Israel trip, I discovered the free travel app, TripSmash, which is a savvy tech alternative to Excel. TripSmash helps you plan every detail of your trip from flights to activities to meals. The app pulls up Yelp reviews to help you organize your planning. I was on a solo trip, but this app works well for group travel too. You can share the itinerary and easily collaborate with your travel buddies. TripSmash gives you the flexibility to view and edit your itinerary on your computer and mobile device. Take a look at my week long Tel Aviv itinerary below. I passed along some feedback to TripSmash, (adding more icons such as drinks and taxis) and suggested integration with Splitwise. I can’t wait to use TripSmash on my next Twinspirational Travels, and highly recommend the app for your next trip too.
This trip, I did not have much time to site-see in Tel Aviv. Below are my recommended activities from my 2009 trip.
Jaffa is an ancient port city that sharply contrasts from the modern city of Tel Aviv. The Jaffa Clock Tower is a historical landmark at the entrance to Jaffa. The Flea Market is lined with Israeli and Middle Eastern antique shops and boutiques. You can also walk across the wishing bridge where the ancient legend states, anyone who holds their Zodiac sign and looks at the sea, will have their wish come true! From Jaffa, you can enjoy a spectacular view of Tel Aviv.
Carmel Market is the largest fruit and vegetable market in Tel Aviv. You can sample local specialties and purchase unique spices and souvenirs. The market is open daily except during Shabbat.
Frishman Beach is one of most popular beaches in Tel Aviv. Beach chairs and umbrellas are available for rent. You can also grab a drink in the evening when Frishman Beach lights up with lanterns.
Sarona Market is Israel’s largest culinary complex with 91 shops, stalls and restaurants. Much like Mario Batali’s Eataly in NY, you can purchase the best raw ingredients to cook a meal at home, enjoy a three-course gourmet meal, pick up a delicious pastry with espresso or grab a glass of wine with charcuterie.
( multi ) day trips
During my prior trip, I explored Jerusalem, the Dead Sea, Masada, Eilat and Caeserea with my travel companions, Shruthi, Brian and friend, Lori.
Jerusalem is the heart of the Holy Land. The major sites within the Old City include the Western “Wailing” Wall, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and the Dome of the Rock. Stay tuned for a more detailed post on my recent trip to Jerusalem in the coming weeks.
The Dead Sea borders Israel and Jordan and is the lowest, saltiest body of water in the world. We floated in the water, covered ourselves in mineral mud and relaxed during massages. Remember to bring casual flip flops because you must step on the salt formations to get to the water.
Masada is a remarkable fortress that was constructed in 30 BC by King Herod. Masada can be reached by foot or by cable car. I recommend climbing Masada at sunrise to get a spectacular view of the Moab Mountains and Dead Sea. We took the cable car down and treated ourselves to a refreshing glass of freshly squeezed orange juice.
Eilat is the southernmost city in Israel (~5 hour drive from Tel Aviv). I highly recommend snorkeling or scuba diving at Aqua Beach, visiting the Underwater Observatory Marine Park to view the underwater world of the Red Sea and touring the Red Sea on a boat.
Caesarea is an ancient port city located on Israel’s Mediterranean Coast. The city was dedicated to Caesar Augustus by Herod the Great over 2000 years ago. Today, Caesarea is a national park with ancient harbor ruins and beautiful beaches.
where to eat
This trip to Tel Aviv focused on work (and food). The food in Israel is diverse in color, flavor and spice. My coworkers and friends took me to their favorite restaurants. If you are looking for dining recommendations in Tel Aviv, please check out Tel Aviv Affordable Dining.
HaKoSem (City Center) literary means “the Magician.” According to locals, HaKoSem serves the best falafel in Tel Aviv. While perusing the menu, you receive a fresh falafel ball to sample. I enjoyed my falafel with pita bread, hummus with tahini, eggs and fried eggplant slices and pomegranate juice.
Pankina (City Center) is a high-end Italian kosher dairy restaurant. The locals call it the best Italian in Tel Aviv. While you won’t find any of your favorite meat dishes here, you will be amazed by the delicious risotto balls, pastas, pizzas and desserts. The kitchen is managed by two Italian chefs both with over 30 years of experience.
Night Kitchen (Neve Tzdek) provides its patrons with a unique dining experience with its laid back ambiance, phenomenal menu and friendly staff. I started with the ceviche, followed by fish tapas. By the time I got to my next course, the decadent gnocchi, there was little room left in my tummy. Somehow this night owl finished her meal with a creme brûlée lollipop and arav shot.
Ha’achim (City Center) translates into “The Brothers. This local favorite is known for its contemporary Israeli cuisine. The menu features a variety of house-made salads, kebabs and Israeli classics with a modern twist. We shared a mix of appetizers, including eggplant, labane, masabaha, tahani and tabouleh salad. My Israeli burger was spiced and cooked to perfection. Reservations are highly recommended on Thursday nights because that’s the start of the weekend in Israel.
Kitchen Market (Tel Aviv Port) is my first market-to-table dining experience. The restaurant is conveniently located above the farmers’ market in Tel Aviv’s Port Namal. The chef selects the finest, freshest ingredients directly from the market. Sunset reservations are highly recommended to enjoy breathtaking views of the Mediterranean Sea. My dining companions were vegetarian and our waiter helped us put together a lovely vegetarian meal: ricotta salad, porcini mushroom brûlée, artichoke pizza,and mushroom gnocchi. We cleansed our palate with ice cream!
Cafe Puaa (Jaffa) is charming restaurant in the heart of Jaffa’s flea market. The ambiance is colorful with antique ornaments and comfy couches. Puaa embodies the spirit of its surrounding flea market. Every piece of furniture is even for sale. The menu features unique Mediterranean dishes. I highly recommend their famous curried pumpkin dumplings and eggplant appetizer.
Bellboy (Hotel Berdichevsky, City Center) transports you back to the Prohibition era with its 1920s speakeasy vibe. The cocktail bar serves delicious and creatively presented cocktails that you will be photographing all night. You may also spot a baby stroller offering shots. The cocktails cost ~50 shekels. I highly recommend reservations during happy hour (6-8PM) where you can enjoy 50% off cocktails.
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“Traveling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller” – Ibn Battuta