Since Tel Aviv is situated on a beach, the best way to get a geographic feel for the city is by using the Mediterranean coastline as a reference point. Head south along the beach from Tel Aviv and you will arrive in the ancient port town of
There is a demographic split between Tel Aviv's north and south. North Tel Aviv is known for being affluent, European in outlook and a little snobbish. South Tel Aviv is poor and working class. However, there has been a certain level of gentrification in recent years, and neighbourhoods such as
The main roads in central Tel Aviv all run parallel to each other, which makes finding your way around easy. Going back to the coastline as a starting point, the beach is a highway of sorts, with walkers, joggers and cyclists breezing past. It is here that Tel Avivians come to relax: be that meditating, doing yoga at the water's edge, juggling, playing beach tennis, watching the waves, lying in the sun, flying kites or playing soccer. The
The road by the beach is Hayarkon (later Herbert Samuel Boulevard) and it is here that all of Tel Aviv's luxury hotels are to be found, along with many other accommodation options. There are also a sprinkle of eateries aimed at tourists. One street back from the beach road is Ben Yehuda Street. It is here you will find travel agents, backpacker facilities, souvenir shops and more eateries. As the road goes southwards, it becomes Allenby Street. This street is known for its seediness, liveliness and bargains and is packed with strip bars, pre-clubbing hang-outs and cheap and cheerful stores. Allenby Street is a corridor to many interesting places. It intersects with the Carmel Market, the Nahalat Binyamin craft market and the fashionable Sheinkin Street, where the cappuccino-sipping crowd come to see and to be seen.
The third major road back from the street is Dizengoff Road. In its heyday, it was the Champs Elysees of Tel Aviv. A verb even existed in Hebrew, "To Dizengoff," meaning to window shop with friends and have coffee. Today's Dizengoff Street has suffered somewhat with the advent of the shopping mall. However, there are still coffee shops and clothes shops aplenty, with designer name shops located at the northern end of Dizengoff. The street also has a large concentration of bridal outfitters. Towards the southern end of Dizengoff Street are the landmark
About a 10 minute walk away from the beach (some 5 minutes beyond Dizengoff Street), you will hit Ibn Gvirol Street, which is also a major thoroughfare. City Hall and
There are many distinctive neighbourhoods in and around central Tel Aviv. Kikar Medina in north Tel Aviv is the Rodeo Drive of Israel with designer stores located around a circular park. Also to the northern edge of town is Basel Square, a quiet, café lined square with a Continental feel.
The Greater Tel Aviv area is home to 384,000 of the country's seven million occupants, so many faces of Israel can be found in this central part of the country. The poor areas of Hatikvah and the neighbourhoods surrounding the Central Bus Station are home to a large population of migrant workers, which gives the areas an ethnic, developing world feeling. Bnei Brak on the outskirts of Tel Aviv is home to ultra-Orthodox Jews and is couched in old world values. The seaside neighbourhood of Bat Yam is popular with immigrants from the Former Soviet Union.
At first glance, the concrete architecture of Tel Aviv may seem both old and tired, but start exploring and you will soon discover the city's vibrancy and energy.
As Tel Aviv is both a holiday resort and Israel's leading business center, there is a plethora of accommodation options to choose from. Hostels to deluxe five-stars, from self-catering holiday flats to business hotels.
All of the deluxe accommodation, with the exception of the Sheraton City Tower (which is in the business district of Ramat Gan) is on the coast. Hotels such as the Dan Panorama, Sheraton, Crowne Plaza and Hilton are right on the beach and a sea view room is recommended. The higher the floor, the better the view.
These hotels offer wonderful Israeli breakfast buffets, where there is enough food on offer to keep you going through until dinner: salads, custom made crepes and omelettes, fish, cakes and fruit. In addition, these upmarket hotels also offer health clubs, a variety of eateries and swimming pools. The newest deluxe hotel is the David Inter-Continental, which is located toward Jaffa. The Dan Panorama is right next door. These two hotels are well located for travelers wishing to spend time in Neve Tsedek and Jaffa. It is also worth noting that the Dan Panorama offers an early check-in facility for travellers departing on various airlines (among them Turkish Air and Air Italia).
The top end hotels are all multi-purpose and multi-service and are equally suited to the needs of both business and leisure travelers. The mid-range accommodation is just behind the seafront, either on the other side of Hayarkon Street or in the roads leading away from the beach. The Metropolitan, Astor, Basel and City hotels all fall within this range. These hotels are all in very accessible locations.
The beach end of Allenby Street and the top end of Ben Yehuda Street are known as being the places to find cheap accommodation. It is near these areas that Tel Aviv's travel agencies and backpacker services are to be found. However, this is a shabby end of town and a stay here will leave you with the impression that Tel Aviv is an ugly, polluted, seedy city. Unfortunately, the peep bars and sex shops of Tel Aviv are located smack in the middle of the cheap accommodation district.
However, there are much more pleasant budget options in other areas. For those looking for an intimate hotel, try Galileo in the Yemenite Quarter. If you are after a friendly and clean hostel, there are various recommendations. Hayarkon 48 is right opposite the beach and is bright and well-maintained. The Dizengoff Square Hostel, on Dizengoff Street is housed in a beautifully restored Bauhaus building and has a roof terrace. But the most charming budget option of them all is the Old Jaffa Hostel and Guest House. This Ottoman building is architecturally beautiful and it is evident that the owner has put a lot of love into the hostel. The hostel is dedicated to the owner's parents and the stairways and bedrooms are full of turn-of-the-century photos of the owner's family and Tel Aviv-Jaffa as it was then.
Many of the hostels offer a mattress on the roof at a cheap rate in the summer months. Here visitors can enjoy '1,000 star accommodation' (as the Israeli joke goes) with the twinkling night sky as a bedroom ceiling.
Being the lively city that it is, Tel Aviv offers all kinds of cuisines around the clock. Unlike Jerusalem, which is more religiously observant, Tel Aviv's restaurants are open for business on Friday nights and Saturdays.
Tel Avivians tend to eat later in the day, so if a restaurant seems a little empty at 8p, chances are that by 10p it will be buzzing. Restaurants and cafés are often open to 2a and beyond. Some never shut their doors.
Tel Aviv is a city you will never have to worry about going hungry in for lack of open eateries. It is also a city where you will never complain that the offerings at restaurants are monotonous. A good place to sample the many kinds of food available is the weekly Homebaking Food Fair at the Dizengoff Centre, which takes place on Thursdays and Fridays. Here, vendors set up stalls with homemade food. All kinds of Jewish foods are available, from the cholent of Eastern Europe (a thick stew with beans) to the malawah of Yemen (a fried pastry served with tomato relish).
In terms of other international cuisines, there is Asian, Arabic and South American to try. The yearly Ta'am Ha'Ir food festival at Hayarkon Park also offers a chance to get acquainted with the culinary offerings of Tel Aviv. At this event, held in June, top restaurants set up booths, offering small sample portions of their cuisine for reasonable prices.
Café-restaurants in Tel Aviv are very popular. The seats normally spill out onto the pavements allowing dining al fresco in both summer and winter (heat lamps are installed next to the tables). These places do a brisk trade all day, starting with breakfast customers and staying open until the early hours of the morning. Typical fare will include coffee, freshly squeezed juice and a selection of alcoholic drinks. Most main course dishes are big enough to share. Expect to see well presented salads made with fresh, healthy vegetables. As a country with a good climate and a big agricultural industry, Israel's fresh produce is exceedingly good. This is not the land of limp lettuce leaves, although be advised that this was not always the case, so in Israel, "salad" usually means a sort of salsa made out of tomato, cucumber, and onion. Other standard café food includes toasted sandwiches on large bagels and a range of Continental-style desserts.
You will not have to saunter far to find a typical Tel Aviv café. Try Café Basel, on Basel Square, for a refined experience; London Café on the beach, for a table beside the waves; and Sheinkin Street, Rothschild Boulevard or the cafés opposite Rabin Square if you want crowds and commotion.
The range of non-Kosher options in Tel Aviv is huge compared to Jerusalem. There are restaurants such as Mika with large seafood menus, barbecue heavens like Papagaio, and most Asian restaurants have pork dishes on their menu.
For strictly Kosher travellers, there is still an array of options, especially in the areas around the deluxe hotels. Shangrila serves upmarket Thai food, China Lee is a Glatt Kosher Chinese restaurant and the majority of falafel stands have Kashrut certificates.
Israel has a fascination with the East and this is reflected in the popularity of its Asian restaurants. There are several Japanese eateries in town, including Moon, a revolving sushi bar. In terms of Chinese food, Yin-Yang offers all kinds of dishes with rice and noodles. Giraffe is a trendy noodle bar and Thai House offers inexpensive and very tasty dishes.
In Tel Aviv, Italian restaurants and steakhouses are also easy to come by. The city has a mix of old, established restaurants and newcomers, which come and go with dizzying rapidity. Generally you do not have to walk more than a few hundred meters to bump into an eatery as this is a city that loves food.
All that is left to say is 'Betayavon' (Bon Appetit).
The tale of Tel Aviv begins in the time of Bible stories and legends. It was on the shores of Jaffa that the whale spat up Jonah. And at the spot where Andromeda's rock stands, Andromeda of Greek mythology was kept captive until Perseus came on his winged horse to rescue her. At 4,000 years old, Jaffa is the oldest port in the world. Built during King Solomon's time, the materials used for making the Temple in Jerusalem were shipped in through this harbour.
In 1468 BCE, the Israelites lost the port to the Egyptians. However, Jewish sages and scholars remained in the area up to the thirteenth century, when the Mamaluks killed the city's inhabitants. From the eighth century through to 1917, Jaffa was under Arab rule, apart from a short spell when the Crusaders took power. The old city of Jaffa owes much of its quaint charm to the many powers who settled there over the centuries.
Jews began to resettle in Jaffa in 1840 and by the end of the century, because of the birth of Zionism and anti-Jewish pogroms in Eastern Europe, boatloads of immigrants were arriving. The late nineteenth century also saw American, German and Russian Christians establishing communities here.
The overcrowding in Jaffa encouraged some Jews to move out in 1886 and build a new neighbourhood to the north, Neve Tzedek. This historic district became popular with artists and intellectuals and today is a sought after address. The landmark clock tower in the centre of Jaffa was built in 1906 to mark the 25th year of the Turkish Sultan Abdul Hamid II. However, eleven years later the Turks were driven out by the British, led by General Allenby.
In 1909, sixty families bought a plot of land stretching from Neve Tzedek to the banks of the Yarkon River, some six miles away. The land consisted of sand dunes overlooking the Mediterranean. The families called their new town 'Housing Project'. However, after a year they renamed it Tel Aviv, which means 'Spring Hill'. The first modern Jewish town had been born. Its first mayor was Meir Dizengoff, who remained in charge of the city from 1910 to 1937. Today he has a street, a fountain and a shopping mall named after him.
In 1921, anti-Jewish riots broke out in Jaffa in response to the growing number of Jewish immigrants. This convinced many Jews to leave Jaffa and settle in Tel Aviv. By 1926, Tel Aviv's population had swollen to 40,000 residents and the first town hall had been built. By the 1930s, it was home to over 100,000 inhabitants.
Many of those who arrived in the 1930s were German intellectuals who were escaping from Nazism. Among them were architects who had been influenced by the Bauhaus school of architecture. They were responsible for the look of early Tel Aviv. Along roads such as Rothschild, Bialik and Allenby there are over 3,000 buildings built in the Bauhaus style.
Throughout the war years, Tel Aviv was a center for Zionist resistance against Britain's anti-immigration policy. Shiploads of Jewish refugees fleeing from Nazi occupation were refused entry. Along the beach, there are many plaques marking where immigrants were either successfully smuggled in or where the British opened fire on the boat. The Haganah Museum , The Etzel Museum and The Jabotinsky Institute detail the story of the resistance fighters' struggle against British authority.
In 1947, the UN voted to give Jews a homeland in Israel and on 14 May, 1948, Israel declared its statehood at 16, Rothschild Boulevard, the home of Meir Dizengoff (today known as Independence Hall). The very next day, the British High Commissioner went home. War began, and many of Jaffa's Arab population fled. In 1950, the Tel Aviv municipality united Tel Aviv and Jaffa as joint cities.
The 1950s saw the building of the Mann Auditorium to house the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra, and the founding of Tel Aviv University. By the mid-1960s Tel Aviv had a population of 400,000, many of whom were Jewish immigrants. The Diaspora Museum is an interesting place to learn about how Jewish communities, in places as far afield as India, Yemen, Morocco and Zimbabwe, continued their traditions during 2,500 years of exile.
In 1995, tragedy struck when Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated at a peace rally outside City Hall, by a student who was opposed to his principles. The spot where he was killed was renamed Kikar Rabin (Rabin Square). There is a memorial and the site is used for weekly and annual memorials.
Tel Aviv is very much the polar opposite of Jerusalem. It is a secular, hedonistic city, more liberal in its politics than Jerusalem and a city which lives on the cutting edge of the here and now. It is here that Israel's celebrities and yuppies live.
If you go to the Azrieli Observatory and look at the sprawling panorama of Tel Aviv, with its skyscrapers and never-ending suburbs, you can take in the miracle that is Tel Aviv, as 100 years ago none of this was here. There were no funky shops on Sheinkin Street, no Carmel Market hubbub and no Azrieli Centre with its soaring glass towers. Just undulating sand dunes and wilderness.