I always made the experience that either I fall in love with a city instantly, or I will never. Falling in love with a city for me means enjoying the vibe, feeling comfortable, and the idea of living there feels good.
Tel Aviv is one of these cities. I arrived during the afternoon heat, but even though everyone was busy getting from A to B, I always found someone who told me if the train I was waiting for was the right one, where my bus would stop or how to pay in a sherut. I never had the feeling of being insecure or stranded.
During my first part of the travel I stayed at Beachfront Hotel, a hostel just across the promenade that seperates the city from the beach. 14 kms of beach, to be precise, and this might be also the reason why I enjoyed the lifestyle there so much ;) Tel Aviv is an expensive place, so I chose a girls dorm for my first nights. I really can recommend the Beachfront, it has all you need: free wifi, clean (but small) rooms with own bathrooms (cleaned every day), free beach towels, a fresh towel every day, coffee, tea and water all day long and for free and the most important thing: a super nice location with rooftop terrace where you can hang out with a beer and catch up with other travelers (like I did, and this is very important if you are traveling solo). The view from there is stunning and if you compare this to more expensive hotels, the price performance ratio is amazing. They don’t serve breakfast, but you can buy reduced vouchers for the cafe next door (with a wonderful shakshuka) or coupons for other restaurants. I did Air B’n’B during my last two nights – I will write about it during the next weeks.
So what to do in Tel Aviv? In my opinion, the best thing is to stroll around the quarters and enjoy the life there. Talk a walk (or better bicycle ride, because it is reaaaaally a long way) along the beach from the port down to old Jaffa. There you can climb the ancient walls or shop in the little shops close to the sea. There’s an easy bicycle rental service offered by the city, where you can rent the green bikes for a few shekels with your credit card and give it back easily everywhere in the city. Old Jaffa offers wonderful views over the city and the beachfront, where you will definitely be impressed by all the tall buildings. There is a lot of construction going on to build and rebuild flats, offices and hotels.
I walked back to my area from Old Jaffa via the flea market and carmelit market in Jaffa and enjoyed the busy time before shabat. And I walked along Dizgenhoff until the famous Dizgenhoff Square, and took a little rest in the big shopping mall (well actually I just wanted to drink something cold in the air conditioned area after hours of walking ^^). You can find great architecture everywhere: the famous Bauhaus style with the white, clean and rounded houses. There is Neve Tzedek, a busy, young quarter with bars and restaurants (I will write a bit about the culinary sensations of Tel Aviv another time). Enjoy a walk along Rothschild Blvd. or Allenby. Just slip into comfy shoes, take a bottle of water and your camera with you and enjoy the busy time. There is a row of free city walks with different focus topics, so if you want to take part, inform yourself at the tourist info. There is awesome food around every corner and you will always get a fresh exotic fruit juice whenever you are thirsty. There is beautiful street art and you will find it everywhere, as long as you open your eyes. The city obviously is inspiring to a lot of people.
Tel Aviv is also a cultural mix with people from all over the world. Enjoy meeting someone from a different country every hour and the influences the different cultures made on that place. Everywhere you will find pieces that will remind you of the turbulent history Tel Aviv and also Israel had to deal with in its past. Nowadays, it is a huge metropolitan area with a western touch. It is rather safe and also as a woman you can enjoy your time without fear – but be aware, that all kinds of peace are fragile and in a country like Israel, you might use your brain a little bit more often that somewhere else.
The best thing after hours of walking (on my first day there I was walking around approximately 6hs in 40° C heat) is – guess what- yeah! The beach! There are several beaches where you can stay, some for families, some for dog owners, some for sporty guys, and even one that is separating women and men, some with bars, some offering beach beds. If you want to swim in a pool – no problem. Just visit Gordon Pool and swim there. There is even wifi on some beach areas, so it’s easy to make your friends at home jealous with some beach pics ;-) You will also find showers and water tabs to wash away sand and salt, drink water tabs, beach libraries, playgrounds, fitness areas and restaurants, bars and cafes everywhere. Definitely not a lonely beach – but a lively place to meet people.
You won’t stay lonesome for too long, there is always someone to talk to. And by talking I mean not only flirting, but also really enjoy vibrant and interesting talks. You will also easily find a group of people who will keep an eye on your belongings while you swim . The good thing on the beach is also the fact, that there is an unbelievable amount of beautiful people in Tel Aviv and all of them are wearing only a little bit of clothes ;-)
Absolutely recommended: First – watching them play matkot. This ball game seems to be the national sport in Israel and the beach without the famous pop-pop sound of the ball getting smashed by the bats wouldn’t be the same. Second – grab a beer and watch the sunset. I can’t describe the feeling of sitting on a warm rock or the warm sand after an exhausting day of city sight seeing and enjoy the sunset there. The beach gets quiet then and you feel that the heartbeat of the city slows down. A bit. Because as soon as it’s dark, everyone’s heading to the bars and clubs and restaurants to enjoy the famous Tel Aviv nightlife.
So to conclude, Tel Aviv is the city of love. The love between men and women, between men and men, between women and women, between humans and their dogs (never saw so many big dogs in a city before), between people and food, between sun and sea and sand, and most of all, between all Tel Avivians and their relaxed, chilled lifestyle. And hey, I was at home for a few days and already making plans to return in May. So ooooh yes – I also fell in love with this city!