Top 10 hidden pleasures of Tel Aviv- Part 2
BY Joel Haber DATE 01/07/2015
After exploring Tel Aviv’s diverse neighborhoods, markets, nature and art, via Part 1 of this TLV Top 10 list, this post will help you learn the top Tel Aviv spots in 5 more categories:
Tours in Tel Aviv
The best way to explore any new city while traveling is by hiring a local tour guide. And licensed guides in Israel are all top notch; as one myself, I would be remiss if I didn’t at least give a shout out to my peers! But there are also a number of great (albeit non-customized) regularly scheduled tours in Tel Aviv, for the more cost conscious traveler.
One of the best known is the White City Tour of International Style architecture, run by the Bauhaus Center store. UNESCO recognized Tel Aviv as a World Heritage Site due to its high concentration of buildings built using this famous architectural style. There is an English tour given every Friday at 10:00 AM, and other options are available from the store as well.
If you’re spending a bit longer in Israel, you might want to take a tour that will help you improve your Hebrew language skills. StreetWise Hebrew tours will help you learn the language and culture via street signs, graffiti, bumper stickers and the like. All of this while visiting different areas of Tel Aviv in a fun and relaxed atmosphere.
Tel Aviv Lifestyle
Shopping is as much a pastime for Tel Avivians as for most urbanites, and tourists love to explore the city’s shops and boutiques as much as its residents do. While there are plenty of great places to shop throughout the city’s streets, visitors may also want to take advantage of one of Tel Aviv’s lifestyle centers.
The international trend in recent years away from indoor shopping malls to more diversified outdoor mixed-use venues has not missed Israel. Tel Aviv has four such areas, wisely situated in different parts of the city and focusing on different target patrons. Each took a historic site that had fallen into disuse and transformed it into a vibrant new place for people to spend their time. The first three were the “Namal” (the old Tel Aviv port), the “Mitcham HaTachana” (the old train station complex) and the “Namal Yaffo” (the Jaffa port).
But the newest is also the best of the bunch. Located right in the center of the city, near the national military headquarters and the old school Azrieli Center mall, Sarona is a beautifully transformed lifestyle center in what was once a village populated by German Templers. This interesting group of Protestants came to Israel in the 1860s, and built seven different settlements. Sarona was their second in what is now called Tel Aviv.
The complex has a great mix of mid-range stores, restaurants and cafes, historical buildings and outdoor spaces for play, relaxation and art appreciation. Good signage throughout the complex reveals the site’s storied past, and tours and mini-museums further this. Finally, the lush lawns and pleasant landscaping make Sarona one of the most pleasant spots for a midday stroll in Tel Aviv.
Museums in Tel Aviv
Israel has been recognized as having the most museums per capita of any country in the world. So while Tel Aviv features the sizable Eretz Israel Museum and Beit Hatfutsot – The Museum of the Jewish People, the wise tourist will take advantage of some of the small, less-known museums scattered throughout the city.
For those interested in military history, the Palmach Museum tells the story of the elite commando unit that was instrumental to the efforts of the Jewish fighters before and during the War for Independence. Design enthusiasts will appreciate the tiny Bauhaus Museum (21 Bialik Street, 03-620-4664, no website), which focuses on furniture, lamps and other items designed by the famous German Bauhaus school, rather than the architecture that brought it its fame. Finally, two small museums in Tel Aviv are dedicated to the works of famous individual artists. The Rubin Museum and Nahum Gutman Museum of Art focus respectively on these particular artists, who both lived and worked in Tel Aviv.
The History of Tel Aviv
Though the city of Tel Aviv, unlike other cities in Israel, is only a little over 100 years old, it still manages to encompass a number of important historical sites. Some are significant to the history of the modern State of Israel, while the municipality also encompasses the small town of Jaffa, one of the world’s most ancient ports.
Old Jaffa is a great place to start. Since there have been only limited archaeological excavations here, the history that you experience in Jaffa is more connected with the stories of famous characters – from Jonah, Hercules and Andromeda to St. Peter and Napoleon – who are connected with this town. Along the way, you can visit the port area itself, a monumental church, a house associated with the story of St. Peter and a visitors’ center located beneath the central square of Old Jaffa.
Independence Hall is located on Rothschild Boulevard, inside the former home of Meir Dizengoff. It is in its central hall that the State of Israel was born on May 14, 1948. After the museum moved in 1971, the building was turned into a spot dedicated to the historic event that took place there. It is well worth a visit to experience the truly moving program the museum’s guides provide.
Rabin Square was renamed after it became the site of one of Israel’s most tragic episodes, the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin on November 4, 1995. Just off the square, on the side of the Tel Aviv Municipality Building, a monument marks the spot where the assassination took place.
Food and Restaurants in Tel Aviv
Tel Aviv is clearly the culinary mecca of Israel, with the most cutting edge restaurants and forward-thinking chefs. So for serious foodies, there are more than enough options to try.
Dan Hotels of course is proud of its own refined culinary experience at Hayarkon 99, in the Dan Tel Aviv Hotel. But when you’ve finished your meal there, take advantage of all that Tel Aviv has to offer and explore its many other restaurants. This may seem like a cop-out answer for a “Top 10” list, but it would honestly be foolish of me to single out any one or two restaurants.
One good place to start researching the options is the TasteTLV website, which features many reviews of the top eateries. You must also be encouraged to not only frequent the upscale chef restaurants; to truly taste Tel Aviv, make sure you also visit some of the older yet still well-reviewed ethnic restaurants that dot the city’s streets.
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That’s it! Enjoy your stay, and most of all, be adventurous in exploring new sites, tastes and experiences!
Written by Joel Haber