Travelling to Tel Aviv for the Eurovision song contest this weekend? Here’s some tips to help you make the most of a weekend in Israel’s cultural capital.
What to do:
With a stunning beachfront, a thriving art and food scene and a dynamic nightlife, Tel Aviv has plenty to keep you occupied while you’re waiting for Eurovision to begin.
The best way to explore the city is on foot. Tel Aviv is made up of several unique neighbourhoods, each with their own distinctive character. Start with the old art district of Neve Tzedek, where you’ll find boutique shops, artists’ studios and plenty of cafes, restaurants and bars. Then stroll down Rothschild Boulevard, with its tree-lined streets, kiosk street cafes and elegant houses. Walk through the ancient port of Jaffa, which boasts a rich history, as well as lively flea markets and street food stalls. For a more bohemian site of the city, explore Florentin, with its edgy cafes and bars and eclectic street art.
Tel Aviv is famed for its markets, where you’ll find everything from fresh produce and spices to jewellery, clothing and homeware. Take in the vibrant colours, smells and sounds of the bustling Carmel Market, the city’s central street market where you can find just about anything (but mostly food – and lots of it). Nearby is Nahalat Binyamin crafts market, which is open on Tuesdays and Fridays, and features jewellery and craftwork from artisans across the country. You’ll need cash for these markets, and don’t be shy about haggling with venders to secure a decent price.
For a spot of culture, the Tel Aviv Museum of Art houses an impressive collection of both Israeli and international art, including works by Cezanne, Dali, Monet and Picasso. The Sommer Contemporary Art Gallery, the Rubin Museum and the Chelouche Gallery are also well worth a visit. However, much of the city’s best contemporary art can be found on its streets. Keep your eyes peeled for murals as you wander through Florentin, Jaffa, or along the beachfront.
With great weather and a 14-km long beachfront to explore, you can easily spend a day lying in the sun, getting your surf on and making use of the many beach bars and restaurants along the coast. Tel Aviv has 13 beaches to choose from, but we’d recommend Metzitzim (good for families), Gordon and Hilton (best for atmosphere and for water-sports) and Jaffa (best for escaping the crowds).
If you have time, head to Jerusalem for the day. It’s easily accessible from Tel Aviv by bus, and offers a truly unique cultural experience.
What to eat:
A culinary melting pot of North African, Middle Eastern and Mediterranean influences, Tel Aviv has a thriving food scene, with restaurants like Mashya, Kitchen Market, Abraxas North, Herbert Samuel and Messa drawing in foodies from across the world.
Israeli specialities include Shakshuka (eggs poached in tomatoes and spices, the best of which can be found at Dr. Shakshuka in Jaffa), and Sabih: a fluffy pitta stuffed with aubergine, egg, potato and tahini. Hummus and falafel are Israeli staples, and can be found on most street corners. Jaffa’s Ali Karavan Abu Hassan is widely considered to serve the best hummus in the city (and, many would argue, the world). Another great, inexpensive hummus spot is Hummus Magen David, nestled in the depths of Carmel Market and thought to be a former synagogue (although actually just decorated like one). While you’re in the market, other Israeli delicacies to try include schawarma (Israeli-style kebab meat), boureka (a savoury cheese pastry) and halva (a Middle Eastern sweet treat made using tahini).
With its chickpea and veg-heavy diet, Tel Aviv is a great city for vegetarians. With over 400 vegan-friendly restaurants, it has been dubbed the ‘vegan capital of the world’.
How to pay:
The local currency in Tel Aviv is New Israeli Shekel.
The market rate is £1 = 4.57 NIS (as of 16/05/19 – check online for the latest rates). So £50 will get you 228.50 shekels.
Cards are accepted in all shops, restaurants and bars, but you’ll need cash for markets.
ATMs are easy to find throughout the city, but aren’t refilled during Shabbat (Friday-Saturday), so may be low on cash on the weekends.
Taxis are cash only, but you can also use Gett, the Israeli equivalent of Uber, which takes digital payments via an app.
Buses are cashless, and can be paid for using either a Rav Kav card or the Hop On app.
Tipping isn’t mandatory in Tel Aviv, but is common practice. Here’s roughly how much to tip for different services:
- Restaurants: 10-15%
- Bars: 10-15%
- Guides: 10 NIS-20 NIS
- Housekeeping at hotels: 10 NIS-20 NIS
- Taxis: round up the fare price
- Taxi ride: 45 NIS
- Museum admission: 50 NIS
- Beach deckchair rental: 6 NIS
- Cappuccino: 13 NIS
- Beer: 30 NIS
- Falafel or hummus: 20 NIS
- Three-course meal for 2 at a mid-range restaurant: 250 NIS
How to save money:
Tel Aviv is a wonderful city, but it definitely isn’t cheap. Here are some tips to keep costs down:
- Make use of the city’s free wifi and save on expensive data roaming fees
- Avoid taking taxis (which, despite being required by law to use a metre, often overcharge tourists) and instead explore the city by foot. The city is also incredibly cycle-friendly, with plenty of cycle paths, and a bike rental service with docking stations scattered throughout the city that costs 70 shekels for a weekly hire, or 48 shekels for three days. Public transport is also quite cheap, with a multi-pass option for bus tickets (Israel’s bus system is cashless as of January, so you’ll need to get a ‘Rav-Kav’ card or use the Hop On app).
- Restaurants in Tel Aviv can be expensive, but some of the city’s best food can be found on its streets: pick up some a boureka at Carmel Market, or some falafel at a Jaffa food stall. You’re also much better off buying fruit and veg at markets rather than supermarkets, where food is fresher and much more affordable.
- Visit Cofix: a café where everything is six shekels
- Don’t wait until you get to the airport to get your shekels. For the best rates, order your currency in advance or load it on a prepaid travel card. You’ll be able to use your bank card when you get there (apart from markets, they’re accepted almost everywhere) and take cash out at ATMs, but you’ll have to pay a transaction fee each time, so having some cash in your pocket when you arrive is always a good idea.