Tel Aviv is the second largest and the second most populous city in Israel. Located on the Mediterranean coast, it lies some 60 km northwest of the country capital, Jerusalem. The city’s official name is Tel Aviv-Yafo.
Its name is derived from Theodor Herzl’s novel Altneuland, Old New Land. The city name Tel Aviv is a combination of ideas of antiquity and newness; ‘tel’ means ancient site and ‘aviv’ springtime. The city is a mixture of old and new; diverse neighborhoods exist side by side.
The city is not even 100 years old. It was founded in 1909 when a group of Jewish families moved here from the nearby Arab town Jaffa. The city emerged with surprising speed.
Tel Aviv is a sophisticated city, full of energy and activity. The city is a fusion of high culture, modern shopping malls, beaches, restaurants and bars. The city also boasts the world’s largest assortment of Bauhaus buildings, a pre WW II architectural style. These are now being restored to its original brilliant white color. In 2003 the ‘White City’ was proclaimed a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The city is also a great nightlife destination. It boasts the biggest abundance of bars, clubs and restaurants in Israel, and the entertainment is revolving around the clock.
Tel Aviv is a beach city. There is a sandy beach extending 10 km along the sea shore. It is very popular with visitors and locals alike, and is packed on weekends.
The nearby city of Jaffa is also a must-see. It offers an abundance of art galleries, restaurants, and antique shops and makes a nice place to stroll around.
Jerusalem and Caesarea are also ideal day trips from Tel Aviv. In addition, the Dead Sea is only a two-hour drive away.
Tel Aviv has a subtropical climate. It has hot summers (average temperatures around 25 °C) and mild winters (around 14 °C). The wet season lasts from approximately November to April but relative humidity is high all year round.
January average temperature 11.6 deg Celsius, 139 mm rainfall February average temperature 13 deg Celsius, 88.9 mm rainfall March average temperature 15 deg Celsius, 61 mm rainfall April average temperature 19 deg Celsius, 20.3 mm rainfall May average temperature 20.5 deg Celsius, 2.5 mm rainfall June average temperature 24 deg Celsius, 0 mm rainfall July average temperature 25.5 deg Celsius, 0 mm rainfall August average temperature 25.5 deg Celsius, 0 mm rainfall September average temperature 25 deg Celsius, 0 mm rainfall October average temperature 23 deg Celsius, 27.9 mm rainfall November average temperature 18 deg Celsius, 73.7 mm rainfall December average temperature 14 deg Celsius, 144.8 mm rainfall
There is a convenient train connection. The train station is located near Terminal 3. Transfer to the city is inexpensive. Trains run from 4:45 am – midnight (it does not operate on weekends). Other options include taxi, shared taxi and car. In normal traffic conditions it takes about 20 minutes to reach the airport/city, but during rush hours allow at least 45 minutes. Buses are also convenient and cheap but, like trains, do not operate during weekends and at night.
Israel has modern highways and Tel Aviv is well served by a network of freeways. Highway police are strict and speed limits are enforced. Driving conditions in Israel are much better than in the rest of the Middle East.
There are good bus connections to every part of Israel. Tel Aviv is home to one of the biggest bus stations in the world. Note that services do not operate during Sabbath (from Friday afternoon until Saturday after sunset). Tickets can be bought from the bus driver or at the station.
Trains are fast and comfortable, and serve major cities as well as several smaller ones. Trains tend to get crowded during rush hours and on Sundays. http://www.rail.co.il/EN/Pages/HomePage.aspx
The city’s bus network is modern and extensive, run by the company Dan. The services operate from 5:00 am to midnight. Most drivers speak English and are happy to help. www.dan.co.il/english/
Taxis can be hailed in the street or ordered by telephone (extra charge). The use of meters is obligatory. Note that there is an extra charge on Friday night and Saturday.
Van-sized taxis are often faster and cheaper than bus and they operate longer hours.
The city’s sandy beaches attract thousands of bathers from May to September. The best time to visit one of the beaches is during the summer, on Friday afternoon. This is the time when the city population hits the sand for barbecues, playing drums and watching sunsets.
Tel Aviv is a city with many opportunities for jogging, cycling and walking. If you are used to exercise on a regular basis you will have no problems here. The locals usually exercise in the Yarquon Park or at the beach.
Tel Aviv is home to the Maccabi, one of Europe’s top basketball teams which plays live every Thursday night at the Nokia Sports Center against other European teams.
The most popular sport in Israel is soccer. Hapoel and Maccabi are Israel’s best teams. The Derby match played by both teams is the country’s most popular sporting event and games tend to be really intense.
Neve Tzedek is Tel Aviv’s first neighborhood, built around 1887. Today it is a stylish place featuring interesting old buildings, quiet streets, and great atmosphere. It is a charming place of cultural importance, where numerous notable authors used to live, including the Nobel Prize winner Shemuel Agnon.
Visit the Beit Hasofrim (house of writers), which has now become the Nachum Gutman Museum.
The Suzanne Dellal Center for Dance and Theatre (6 Yehieli Street) featuring a lovely garden and piazza is also worth visiting. The area is home to the first cinema in Tel Aviv.
THE WHITE CITY
Address: between Allenby Street, Begin Road and Ibn Gvirol Street
The ‘White City’ is an area of Tel Aviv, characterized by its international architectural style known as Bauhaus. The building begun in 1930s and continued until the establishment of the state of Israel, during which time some 4,000 buildings were erected. The buildings were designed by Jewish architects who studied in Europe before migrating to Israel. The city’s design is marked by asymmetry, functionality and simplicity, with balconies, building pillars, flat roofs and "thermometer" windows being key trademarks.
The White City was proclaimed a UNESCO World heritage Site in 2003.
Old Jaffa is a charming old city, which offers numerous picturesque alleys, museums, and lovely galleries. The area also offers nice restaurants. Do not miss the city’s charming old port, one of the oldest still active ports in the world. You can easily spend a few hours at the beautiful Givat Aliya Beach. Do not miss the flea market, which is at its liveliest on Fridays. The best time to visit is late morning, when vendors put up their stalls.
The museum encompasses history, culture and art of Israel spanning 3,000 years. The museum’s many pavilions are clustered around the mound of Tel Kasile where archeological work is still ongoing.
THE CARMEL MARKET
Wander around the Carmel market and immerse your senses in colors, aromas and atmosphere. Its stalls are offering fresh fruit and vegetables, meat, fish, cheese, and flowers. Pay a visit to the small shops hidden in alleys behind the market where you will find such delicacies as smoked cheese and meat, salted fish, as well as halvah and other sweets. The genuine bazaar yields a great insight into the city’s soul.
Tel Aviv is a cosmopolitan city with a wide range of restaurants and eateries. The cheapest fare can be found at street stalls selling falafel and shawarma.
Restaurants offer a range of world cuisines: from local Israeli food, to international cuisines. There are many international fast food chains present as well. Kosher restaurants are harder to come by in Tel Aviv than in Jerusalem, but if you stick to hotel restaurants you should have no problem finding one.
The Mediterranean influence in Tel Aviv is influences its dining hours. Diner is usually eaten quite late – around 10 pm. Restaurants can be found all over the city, particularly around Sheinkin Street, Rothschild Street, Basel, Ibn Gvirol Street, and the Old Port. The most upscale restaurants are located in the Arena Mall, in the Marina.
The festival offers a rich cultural program consisting of music, theatre and dance. It is held in the picturesque square of the Old Jaffa. Stages are set up in the streets and the audience can enjoy a wide variety of cultural events.
TEL AVIV INTERNATIONAL DANCE FESTIVAL
Date: October 5 – November 6 Location: various
The International Dance Festival takes place in 4 different venues throughout the city and offers a great program of modern dance performances.
Date: November 9 Location: various
The event commemorates the events of November 9, 1938. German Jews were terrorized by Nazi gangs, who looted their homes, destroyed synagogues and businesses. The ‘Night of the Broken Glass’ is now thought to mark the beginning of holocaust, as afterwards 26,000 German Jews were sent to concentration camps. The festival is celebrated throughout Israel, as well as in Germany and other European countries.
Love Parade is a giant, annual manifestation of love, peace and tolerance that takes place on the beachfront road Hayarkon and attracts thousands of people. The partying on the streets includes a procession of huge floats, each equipped with its own sound system.
The Jaffa Gulf has been home to a port for over 4,000 years, making the Jaffa port the oldest in the world. The Israelites lost the port to the Egyptians in 1468 B.C. but some Jewish scholars remained in the area until the 13th century when they were killed by the Arab Mamaluks. From the 8th century to 1917 Jaffa was under Arab rule.
Jews began to settle in the area during the 1840s. The settlement activity intensified during the late 19th century due to the anti-Jewish Pogroms (riots) that occurred in Eastern Europe.
Tel Aviv was settled in the 1880s due to overcrowding of Jaffa. A new neighborhood, Neve Tzedek, emerged around 1886. In 1909 sixty families bought a stretch of land extending from Neve Tzdek to the Yarkon River, naming it ‘the Housing Project’. In 1908 a surge of building activity started in Tel Aviv. In 1910 the settlement adopted the name Tel Aviv, meaning ‘Spring Hill’. Anti-Jewish protests begun in Jaffa in 1921 due to the rising numbers of Jews and many Jews were killed as a result. Many Jews moved from Jaffa to Tel Aviv quickly increasing its population. The city outline was designed in 1925 by Patrick Geddes and was based on a framework of central routes and boulevards.
During the 1930s many German Jews fleeing the Nazi persecution arrived. Around 4,000 new buildings were designed in the Bauhaus style, which the refugees brought from Europe. The UN Partition Plan of 1947 anticipated a partition of Palestine into Arab and Jewish states. Tel Aviv was to be a part of the Jewish state, and Jaffa was to be an Arab enclave but hostilities emerged immediately. Many Arabs fled Jaffa during the 1948 Independence war.
MODERN (20TH CENTURY)
Israeli independence was proclaimed on May 14, 1948 in Tel Aviv, and the city served as the provisional capital. In April 1949 Tel Aviv and Jaffa were united into one municipality, together with the surrounding villages, Tel Aviv thus grew to an area of 42 square kilometers. In 1950s the Mann Auditorium, home to the Israeli Philharmonic was built, and the Tel Aviv University was established.
Tel Aviv today is a cosmopolitan, hedonistic, liberal city, standing in sharp contrast to the conservative Jerusalem. Tel Aviv is home to the Israeli celebrities and chic crowd, and also a lively nightlife hub.
Do not photograph any military or police personnel, building or installation.
It is advisable to be discreet when taking photographs in Jewish Orthodox areas. Israel is a religious country and religious customs should be respected. Indecent behavior is not tolerated - offenders can get arrested or heavily fined.
Tel Aviv is a safe city to visit, but keep in mind Israel in general has a significant risk of terrorist attacks and travelers should remain vigilant in all crowded areas such as bars, nightclubs, markets and buses. Visitors should monitor current developments. Situation in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank remains very tense and all travel to the area should be avoided.
Petty crime is rare. However, beware of pick-pockets who mostly operate in HaCarmel Market, Nachlat Binyamin market, both, the old and the new central bus stations, the beach promenade, the flea market, and the entire Jaffa.
It is advisable to carry identification with you at all times, as security checks are frequent for both tourists and Israelis. The security checks are hassle-free and are mostly carried out when entering shopping malls, markets, many hotels, restaurants, cafes and the central bus station.
It is wise to keep away from parks in the southern neighborhoods at night, especially if alone.
Always swim at beaches patrolled by lifeguards as many people have drowned due to strong currents off Tel Aviv coast. Beach safety in early summer includes watching out for jelly fish.
July and August are the peak season and tend to be very busy. This is the time of school holidays and many Israelis have vacations as well. It is advisable to visit Tel Aviv off-season when crowds are smaller and accommodation prices are lower. Weather-wise Tel Aviv is a year-round destination. The period from May to September experiences virtually no rain, but many prefer the low season (November to March) for cooler temperatures and more affordable prices. Prices go up during local holidays of Passover (early April) and Sukkoth (late September to early October). If you plan to visit during these periods plan and book well in advance.