Thursday, May 3, 2012
Tel Aviv wasn’t what I thought of when I thought of Israel. After a great stay in traditional, religious Jerusalem, I kind of expected more of the same. But when I traveled to Tel Aviv by sherut, or shared taxi, I discovered a place as cosmopolitan and trendy as any beachside city on the Mediterranean.
I had heard tell of Tel Aviv’s beautiful beaches and great nightlife, but it wasn’t until I got there that I understood just how true the stories were. The beaches stretched all down the coast, offering no shortage of pristine sand.
On my first evening in the city, I walked along the waterfront promenade, taking in the atmosphere, the beach bars, and the beautiful sunset behind the tall masts in the harbor.
On my first full day in the city, I hit the sand once again. A fellow London travel blogger introduced me to some of his friends in Tel Aviv via Twitter, and off we went to Mezizim Beach. It was one of the first spectacularly warm weekends of the year, and locals and visitors alike flocked to the shore.
After sunbathing, we headed over to a beachside bar called Mike’s Place. It was popular with the American and British expat crowd, not least because it aired the games and matches of those countries’ popular sporting teams. That night it was a soccer game, and the place was packed with punters.
After the match we ventured out into the warm evening to experience more of Tel Aviv’s famous nightlife. We made our way to a bar called Mate on Dizengoff, where we spent the evening drinking local beer and playing pool.
The next day I was up early to explore some of Tel Aviv’s historic areas. Despite the city’s stylish flair, I knew that it—like Jerusalem—had its share of cultural treasures.
One of those was Jaffa. Located at the southern end of the city, the port of Jaffa is one of the oldest in the world. Today the area is home to a mix of historic buildings, contemporary shops and restaurants, and bustling markets.
I walked around for a bit before sitting at an outdoor table at Sifo, a seafood restaurant in Jaffa that came recommended by one of the people I had met the day before. My lunch consisted of a two salads and a large portion of fresh fish. It was the perfect seaside meal.
After lunch I walked up the high hill overlooking Jaffa before heading back into the city to see another of its gems: the Carmel Market. The bustling food market offered everything from fruits and vegetables to sweet baklava and fresh juices. The streets around it were packed with trendy cafes where Tel Aviv’s beautiful people sat sipping drinks and watching the world go by.
As I went by, I made my way to the famous Rothschild Boulevard, which was famous for its Bauhaus architecture, wide pedestrian path, and abundance of cafes. It was there that I spent my last hours in Tel Aviv, and the beauty of the surroundings made it worth my while.
Soon I was on the train from Tel Aviv to the airport, where I checked in for my flight back to London. I was surprised at how little trouble the border agents gave me given that I had stamps and visas from so many of Israel’s neighbors in my passport. Both on the way in and the way out, I breezed through without any problems.
After having such an easy time at the border, I knew I wouldn’t hesitate to travel to Tel Aviv again in the future. That is true not least because I now know that the city offers an amazing mix of the cosmopolitan and the historic. And that’s to say nothing of the sun. Given that it has been pouring rain in London for the past month, my next visit might come sooner than later!