Explore Tel Aviv, One of the Great Mediterranean Cities

Avatar By Drew Gough / 27 March 2017

Explore Tel Aviv, One of the Great Mediterranean Cities

Avatar By Drew Gough

All cities on the Mediterranean have a certain sameness, reasoned Paul Theroux in his brilliant round-the-Med odyssey, The Pillars of Hercules. The cities on the sea shared more with each other, he argues, than with cities in their own countries that weren’t on the coast: Latakia on the Syrian coast is more akin to Dubrovnik than Aleppo, that sort of thing.

It’s true of most cities on the Mediterranean, with the notable exception of Tel Aviv, and even there it’s mostly true anyway. The architecture, the lovely breezy streets, the Crusader fortifications: it could be coastal Turkey or Greece, or even southern France. There’s that telltale slow-moving traffic of a Mediterranean city, the old town with cobbled, winding streets, the mouthwatering seafood, the miles of pristine beach.

But Tel Aviv is unmistakably in Israel, and shares more with Jerusalem or Haifa than with Beirut or Bodrum.

Houses in Tel Aviv, Israel
Photo credit: Drew Gough

Getting settled in Tel Aviv

Tel Aviv is a remarkably easy city to get settled in. Taxis are ubiquitous and easy to find on the main arterial roads, but the central part of the city is small enough to walk around and more interestingly explored on foot.

The bigger (and international chain) hotels are concentrated in the northern section of the city, close to the beach, and boutique hotels or AirBNBs are easy to find in the denser residential neighbourhoods between the central bus and train station and the old port at Jaffa.

Coastline of Tel Aviv, Israel
Photo credit: Drew Gough
View of Jaffa in Tel Aviv, Israel
Photo credit: Drew Gough

Restaurants and bars are of course peppered throughout the city, but the best, along with the best boutique clothing and interior design shopping, can be found in the intimidatingly cool Neve Tzedek district, and in particular along Shabazi Street. Leafy, pedestrianized Rothschild Street is also lined with restaurants and some decent bars, and the local hipsters swear by the tiny Florintin district (just a 10-minute walk from Neve Tzedek) as the best neighbourhood in Tel Aviv. For a fully gentrified experience, visit the HaTachana, Tel Aviv’s old railway station turned into al fresco cafes and shops including the excellent Gaya, a wooden puzzle shop that’s worth the trip on its own. (There’s also one in the gentrified old train station in Jerusalem if you miss it in Tel Aviv.)

In with the old

Coast line of Tel Aviv, Israel
Photo credit: Drew Gough

Even on a short trip, the old port is well worth a visit. Tel Aviv is a remarkably modern city, with early 20th Century apartments slowly being eclipsed by reflective-glassed condos and a host of hipster food obsessions (hot dog carts, taco stands), so it’s easy to forget that this is an ancient place.

And when talking about Jaffa, we mean really ancient. It dates back about 7,000 years and, like most things around here, has biblical significance: Jonah departed from here before being gulped down by a whale. It’s still used as a fishing port, but the restaurants and galleries make it an interesting wander from the central part of town. And instead of the flat, even sidewalks of downtown Tel Aviv, Jaffa is cobbled streets and steep, winding staircases.

The streets of Jaffa in Tel Aviv, Israel
Photo credit: Drew Gough
Sculpture in Jaffa, Tel Aviv, Israel
Photo credit: Drew Gough

Eating and drinking in Tel Aviv

Carmel Market in Jaffa, Tel Aviv, Israel
Photo credit: Drew Gough
Fresh bread in Tel Aviv, Israel
Photo credit: Drew Gough

Few cities in the world have this many good restaurants and bars in such a small area, so finding a good bite to eat or a nice cocktail is pretty simple work. The exception to this is Old Jaffa, the ancient port city, which is more dedicated to large-scale restaurants for tour groups. Some of the beachfront options have surprisingly good food, especially the excellent hummus and falafel (an Israel-wide phenomenon) at Banana Beach restaurant, complete with beach loungers, umbrellas, and a selection of local micro-brew beers.

Coffee shops and lunch spots are best along Shabazi, Rothschild, and Allenby Streets, as are some of the best bars. In winter and spring, follow your nose to the mulled wine in Neve Tzedek, where even the dive bars are friendly and make a mean negroni. In summer, it’s hard to beat the cocktails in the sunshine along the waterfront, the view more than makes up for the watery drinks.

Once the pattern is established, the morning bagel, walks in the sunshine, lunch by the sea, cocktails in great bar, the art gallery exhibit, Tel Aviv becomes a very difficult city to leave.

Air Transit flies from Montreal and Toronto direct to Tel Aviv from June to October.

Cover photo credit: Drew Gough

The comments and contributions expressed are assumed only by the author. The recommendations, intentions or opinions expressed are not necessarily those of Transat AT Inc. or its affiliates. See terms of use of the Air Transat website.

You might also like

Arts and culture Discoveries Food and Drink

5 reasons to spend a long weekend in Toronto

By Catherine Maisonneuve

Often described as the New York of Canada, Toronto is a vast multicultural metropolis that has been primarily known as a major business destination. But...

#Artsandculture, #Canada, #Discoveries, #FoodAndDrink, #NorthAmerica

On board Tips and tricks

Travelling in the age of COVID-19: Eight tips to enjoy your trip safely and with ease

It’s no secret that COVID-19 has changed the way we travel. Indeed, the various players in the tourism industry, from airlines to hotels...

#Onboard, #TipsandTricks, #Trucsetastuces

Discoveries

12 Most Beautiful UNESCO Sites in Europe

By Marie-Eve Vallieres

As the birthplace of many great civilisations and as the continent that colonised the New World and beyond, it goes without saying that Europe is...

#Belgium, #Croatia, #CzechRepublic, #Discoveries, #England, #Europe, #France, #Greece, #Hungary, #Ireland, #Italy, #Netherlands, #Spain

Arts and culture Discoveries

7 Things You May Not Know About the Pyramids of the World

By Marie-Julie Gagnon

It's not only in Egypt that pyramids spark curiosity. In Latin America, these mysterious constructions attract travellers from around the world. Here are some...

#Artsandculture, #Artsetculture, #Discoveries, #Mexico, #South

Activities Tips and tricks

Picture This: Tips on Snapping Amazing Vacation Photos

Our photographer reveals tips on snapping amazing vacation photos. Find the light The best times to catch good light is just after sunrise and before...

#Atmosphere, #TipsandTricks

Trending

Quiz: What Type of Traveller Are You?

Canadians listen to them every morning on the hit radio show The Roz & Mocha Show. But you know what they say: you don’t...

#Atmosphere, #Trending