A BIRD´S EYE VIEW OF TEL AVIV
You don´t have to be Phileas Fogg to get a bird´s eye view of the world from a giant hot air balloon - you can have that wonderful experience in Tel Aviv.
The famous character of Jules Verne´s book never got the chance to fly over the skyline of the Israeli metropolis or watch the sunset over its Mediterranean beaches, but you can!
The TLV Balloon hot air balloon in Tel Aviv takes you up to 400 feet, and you can take your whole family as the basket can carry up to 30 people of all ages.
Even though it is a spectacular experience, this kind of experience can be pretty expensive.
That´s why a group of enterprising young Israeli aerostatic enthusiasts came up with something much more affordable: to offer the inhabitants and visitors of Tel Aviv the experience of ascending in a hot-air balloon connected to the ground by a cable, reaching the same height as a normal one. The idea took shape in the TLV Balloon, which today goes up to the sky over Tel Aviv´s HaYarkon Park.
This attraction aims to give you the feeling of a real balloon ride with a breathtaking 360° view over the city and the Judean Mountains.
The journey lasts 15 minutes from take-off to landing, reaching a maximum height of 120m.
There are no seats in the basket. You can move around freely, taking photos and admiring the scenery in all directions, always paying attention to the principles of the staff on board.
The Tel Aviv Balloon is registered in Israel as an aircraft and carries the safety certification of the National Flying Authority.
You will have to go through a security check as required by Israeli transport regulations. The balloon operators are specially trained and will accompany you throughout the flight to ensure that your experience is safe and unique. You will be given a brief technical briefing about the craft, Tel Aviv, and the surrounding area during the ride.
The activity is subject to wind speed limits. There may be sudden changes in the schedule or periods of inactivity.
Address: TLV Balloon, Hayarkon Park Ganei Yehoshua parking lot, Tel Aviv-Yafo
THE DELICIOUS NATIONAL DISH CONTENDER
Tel Aviv is famous for the quality of its cuisine. From the exquisite dishes on offer in all kinds of restaurants and the delicious food available at street stalls.
Indeed, Israel doesn´t have a universally recognised national dish, but many think it should be falafel.
These delicious fried balls made of chickpeas, spices, and herbs are the quintessential street food found all over the country and in Tel Aviv. Many claims that this is where the best falafel in the Middle East is made. There are falafel stalls dotted all over the city, all delicious and prepared in different ways, so it´s worth trying some to find your favourite.
The origins of falafel are not known with any certainty. The most widely accepted hypothesis originated in Egypt in the middle of the first millennium, a.D., prepared with beans.
Falafel was probably developed by Coptic Christians as a Lenten alternative when eating meat was forbidden. Later, the dish spread northwards to the Levant, where it was prepared mainly with chickpeas.
Falafel is a dish known throughout the Middle East.
In Israel, it was common among Arab residents, and in the 1930s, it also became popular among the Jewish community.
Israelis adopted the Lebanese version of falafel made with chickpeas, the popularity of falafel increased, and it became popular and relatively inexpensive.
Traditionally falafel is fried in oil and served with salads, pickles, onions, tahini (sesame sauce), hot sauce and amba (a spicy mango sauce).
In Tel Aviv, it is typically eaten on a sandwich with fresh pita bread.
The glass counter often facing the street will show you a good variety of salads and pickles to go with it.
The street vendor will demonstrate his art by stuffing freshly cooked falafel and the salad of your choice into the pita bread without breaking it. These balls are usually drizzled with tahini sauce, and forget the cutlery when eating it in pita bread. Just make sure you have plenty of napkins nearby to wipe off the sauce that will drip down your chin, especially if it´s your first experience.
This meal is perfect for vegetarians and vegans, although it´s not precisely the dietary dish it´s often made out to be.
Don´t forget that falafel can also be found on many restaurant menus and also on hotel buffets.
THE MARKET THAT STIMULATES YOUR SENSES
During your walk around Tel Aviv, be sure to immerse yourself in the hustle and bustle of the Carmel Market, where traders sell everything from fruit, vegetables and other groceries to clothes, jewellery and handicrafts. It´s the city´s most vibrant market, a great place if you want to buy oriental spices or Middle Eastern sweets.
Even if you don´t intend to buy anything, visiting the Carmel Market is a fascinating experience. The bustle of traders and customers, the smells, the colours, and being the largest and most authentic oriental market in Tel Aviv makes it a place of interest to everyone. From first-time tourists to locals, who come to buy fresh fruits and vegetables and many other products at lower prices.
The market can be a little intimidating at first, as so many senses are stimulated at once: the smells of the fresh produce and its flavours, the shouting of the traders hawking their wares, the sight by looking at so many beautiful and tasty things...
The market, Opened in 1920, shortly after founding the city, is part of Tel Aviv´s history and identity. Despite modern shops and shopping online, Carmel is still immensely popular, especially on Thursdays and Fridays, the days before the Sabbath, when Tel Avivians buy products for family meals. Alongside the traditional stalls are small restaurants that use the market´s fresh produce.
El Carmelo is easy to find, and it is located on the street of the same name, which runs from Magen David square to the Carmelit bus station. There are plenty of stalls along 400 metres, and there are also smaller shops on the side.
In Hebrew, the name of the market is ´Shuk HaCarmel´ - if you need directions, it´s easier if you call it like this.
Finding your way around the market is also easy. The part closest to Magen David Square focuses on fashion, where you can find fun T-shirts, eccentric trainers, well-priced accessories such as sunglasses, costume jewellery and scarves, as well as many souvenirs. This part also focuses on electronics, while further down the street, you will find fresh produce and flowers.
Bargaining is part of the deal in any Middle Eastern market. In the Carmel Market, due to the westernisation of Tel Aviv, it is no longer so common for small purchases; however, it is still part of the experience for larger ones. While you shop and wander around, stop for a bite to eat at the local restaurants or food stalls in the market, the food will delight you.
The Carmel Market is open daily from Sunday to Friday, from early in the morning until around 19 h. On Friday, the eve of the Sabbath, it closes earlier, at 14 h.
Address: Shuk HaCarmel, HaCarmel st., Tel Aviv-Yafo
JAFFA, VIEWS AND CORNERS TO TAKE A THOUSAND PHOTOS
Jaffa, also known as Yafo, is the ancient port city from which Tel Aviv grew.
With its narrow streets and hidden courtyards, it is the most photogenic part of the entire urban design of the Israeli metropolis.
According to a Christian legend, Jaffa was named after Noah´s son Japheth, who built it after the flood, while others say the origin of its name is related to the Hebrew word ´yofi´, meaning beauty.
Archaeological finds and other ancient documents reveal that Jaffa has existed as a port city for 4000 years, having already been used by Egyptian and Phoenician traders in their maritime expeditions. Then came the Maccabees and later the Romans. In the VII century, the Muslims conquered it. In 1099, Godfrey of Bouillon took it during the First Crusade and in 1187 by Sultan Saladin. Richard the Lionheart occupied it without fighting in 1191. In 1516 it fell to the Ottoman Empire.
The old town is a jewel of medieval urban development, and the narrow, picturesque alleys still contain numerous carefully restored stone buildings from the Ottoman period. As you walk down streets such as Retsif ha-Aliya ha-Shinya, you´ll come across sandstone houses with beautiful blue doors that are very photogenic. Some of these alleys suddenly reveal breathtaking views of the Mediterranean.
It is also not uncommon to turn a corner and see a couple in wedding attire - many Israelis use Jaffa´s narrow streets as a backdrop for their wedding photos.
Jaffa was also important to Napoleon Bonaparte, who captured it in 1799 after six hours of artillery bombardment. From 1832, the Ottoman Empire was again ruled until the end of World War I, when the British mandate over Palestine was established.
Jaffa is a place of contrast and fascination, nothing better than getting lost in its winding streets and discovering picturesque corners that hide restaurants, modern art galleries and exclusive boutiques. It is an artists´ quarter with a bohemian atmosphere in a medieval setting.
As it is perched on a hill, the views over the sea are stunning, and next to the XVII century St. Peter´s Church, you have a gorgeous picture of Tel Aviv washed by the Mediterranean. With the sun setting on the horizon, many couples come here to sit by the sea to enjoy the beautiful sunset. You can take romantic pictures of backlit silhouettes.
The harbour promenade has been revived in recent years and is a great attraction for visitors and a good place for pictures, especially at sunset when the light is softer. Many restaurants, bars and cafes invite you to relax and enjoy Mediterranean food.
Jaffa is a fantastic place to take photos. Get lost in its medieval alleyways exploring its photogenic corners, and discover beautiful views of the Mediterranean. You´ll see how many beautiful shots you can accumulate.
Address: Jaffa Quarter
THE AMAZING PAGODA HOUSE
Located in the Lev Ha´ir neighbourhood, in a relatively anonymous square, the Pagoda House is one of the unique buildings in the city, although few guidebooks mention it.
The architectural style is difficult to define, a mixture of eclecticism, modernism and oriental motifs. If you like original-looking buildings, head to Tel Aviv´s King Albert Square, and you won´t be disappointed.
In 1924, twenty years after emigrating to the United States, Morris Bloch, a wealthy Jewish widower, returned to Palestine to establish his home in the new Tel Aviv.
Alexander Levy, a prestigious architect, was initially commissioned to design the residence, but Bloch didn´t like the version he made. His friends in America recommended an American architect. Still, the Tel Aviv municipality did not accept the project for a building without balconies, as was the style in the United States. The plans were passed back to Alexander Levy to adapt the structure to local standards. He transformed the façade of the house and added balconies while emphasising the eclectic design of the ensemble.
Looking at the house carefully, you will see that each floor has a different architectural style. Thus, the arches on the ground floor resemble medieval basilica. The first balcony is reminiscent of Islamic architecture, while the second-floor one has Doric columns like those of a Greek temple. The top stage is an open pavilion surrounded by rectangular pillars with arches in the style of Moorish palaces. A rooftop this in the form of a stepped pyramid that unmistakably resembles an oriental pagoda, hence the house´s name.
The house was too big even for the wealthy Bloch; the widower lived on the first floor of the wing facing Rue Montefiori, as well as Mrs Mandelbaum, the nurse who cared for him. The other branch was the residence of the Polish consul, and the third floor housed the Polish consulate.
Other private residents lived in rented accommodation on the first floor. In 1935 the first lift for people in Tel Aviv was installed in this house and caused a great sensation.
In 1942 Bloch died, and the house changed owner, but in his will, he expressed that Mrs Mandelbaum could remain in her flat for the rest of her life. When Mrs Mandelbaum died in the 1990s, she was already the last tenant, and after this, the house fell into disrepair and complete neglect.
In 2003 it was bought by the Swedish-Israeli tycoon Robert Weil who transformed it into a luxury villa. The owner does not live in the house all year round, and he only comes for Christmas. The rest of the time, a Jewish family lives there and takes care of it.
Address: Beit HaPagoda, Nachmani 12-20, Tel Aviv-Yafo
LEARN HOW TO WATER SKI IN THE LAKE
Would you like to learn how to water ski? What about practising new jumps and drills? Then don´t miss LAKE TLV, Israel´s most important and leading water ski centre offering a variety of experiences related to this fun sport.
Lake TLV water ski resort is located in Menachem Begin Park (also called "Darom Park"), south of Tel Aviv. Furthermore, the park offers other facilities and activities for the whole family, including gyms, well-marked bike paths, large grassy areas and playgrounds for the little ones.
The 50-hectare artificial lake designed for cable water skiing was excavated in the late 1980s. Since its opening, most of Israel´s water-skiing championships have been held here. In 2013 it underwent a renovation, and today the venue is one of the world´s leading ones hosting national and international competitions throughout the year.
The resort cooperates with the Israel Water Ski Association, where Israeli national teams have achieved noteworthy accomplishments, including European Championships and medals at the world championships.
The skiers are towed by cables attached to several masts and powered by a stationary motor, in contrast to the traditional method of pulling by boat.
The cable allows everyone to enjoy the sport, from children as young as nine years old, provided they can swim, to low-risk sports fans.
Lake TLV has a great team of experienced and professional instructors (some of them are even members of the national team) and provides you with all the necessary equipment: lifebelt, helmet, skis, wakeboard, and surf suit (in winter).
Each lesson lasts two hours. The first hour is dedicated to getting to know the sport. The instructors show you basic techniques and how to use the equipment, and the second one is in the water. You can experiment with different types of skis. Remember that falling is also crucial as the instructor will use them as examples to explain how to avoid them in the future; a beginner falls an average of four times at first.
Of course, while sailing, the trainees are always under supervision. Each participant receives a personal treatment adapted to their skills. The brave ones can sign up directly for an hour of regular skiing without instruction. If you are one of them, rent your equipment and jump straight into the water!
Those who don´t dare can enjoy the show from the on-site café. There are also benches and extensive gardens ideal for picnics scattered around the lake.
Address: LAKE TLV, Menachem Begin Park, Tel Aviv-Yafo.
THE CHARACTERS BEHIND THE TOWER
It is an iconic monument and a landmark in the city. You are likely to pass by it several times on your walks around Tel Aviv, especially when you make your way between the Tayelet Promenade and the Old City of Jaffa. Despite being a monument so closely associated with the city, many details of its history are unknown to the people of Tel Aviv.
They will probably tell you that a wealthy merchant in the city had the tower built to get rid of the annoying passers-by who kept coming into his shop to ask the time. Due to the opening of the Jaffa-Jerusalem railway, many passengers on their way to the station would enter the shop without buying anything. This eventually annoyed the merchant, so he built the tower with two clocks, one showing European time and the other Arab time.
The Clock Tower was built in 1903 to mark the 25th anniversary of the rule of the Ottoman Sultan Abdul Hamid II. The idea was to commemorate this anniversary with some critical work. The tower was undoubtedly erected on the initiative of a wealthy merchant, Yosef Moyal, a notable Jew of Moroccan descent who inherited and successfully managed the family fortune by trading in oil and grain on his father´s death.
He eventually became the leader of the Maghrebi Jews of Jaffa, the largest community among the city´s Hebrews. Moyal maintained good relations with the Ottoman authorities and with representatives of foreign powers. Among other honours, he was appointed deputy consul of Spain in Jaffa, probably one of the first Jews to receive such a post since the expulsion of the Jews of ancient Sepharad.
The tower, built with contributions from Arab and Jewish inhabitants, marked a cultural change in the city. Until then, the only bells that rang were in the towers of churches and mosques; the clock tower symbolised a shift in civil society.
The first clockmaker to operate the mechanism was Nathaniel Markovich, who owned a clock shop in a nearby street. Tradition has it that the chime announcing the hours of the clock was so loud that Markovich was asked to slacken the machinery so that it would not silence the chanting of the muezzin from the nearby mosque.
In 1917 during the expulsion of the Jews from Tel Aviv-Jaffa by the Turks in World War I, Markovich received special permission from the Ottoman governor to remain in the city and operate the clock.
After many years of neglect, with no sounding of the carillon and no movement of its hands, the tower was renovated in 2001. During the restoration, the original clock mechanism and bell were found.
Address: Migdal haShaon Yafo, Yefet 14, Tel Aviv-Yafo
THE MOST FAMOUS BOULEVARD AND THE PERFECT END
It is one of the most important streets in the city and is named after Baron Edmund James de Rothschild.
If you feel like strolling along a comfortable pedestrian walkway while exploring Tel Aviv´s city centre and discovering its interesting architecture, don´t miss the city´s most famous boulevard, Rothschild Boulevard.
You can start your stroll at Habima Square, the northern part that runs through the White City, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and is characterised overall by the Bauhaus style, created by Jewish architects who had to flee Germany to escape persecution.
The boulevard was and still is the cultural centre of Tel Aviv and is part of the economic heart of Israel, being one of the main streets of the country´s most important business district.
Despite being immersed in the bustling metropolis, Rothschild Boulevard has a wide, tree-lined strip in the middle, with pedestrian paths and a bicycle lane. Alternatively, you can rent a bike and cycle comfortably along the route. In addition to the trees, the course includes benches, landscaped areas, playgrounds, and many kiosks that function as small cafés. Here people stroll, play, chat and relax.
As you walk along, the large, heavy-branched ficus trees that create a European atmosphere are replaced by sycamores and palm trees that give the boulevard an oriental style. Along the promenade, many sculptures and works of art are integrated into the landscape design. Apart from the permanent sculptures, there are often temporary exhibitions of a wide variety of themes and nature.
From the intersection with Betsal´el Yafe Street, the spectacular mansions from the beginning of the last century merge harmoniously into a landscape of steel and glass towers.
Rothschild Boulevard is one of the most expensive residential areas in Israel.
Additionally to the impressive architecture and lively cafes, the boulevard includes an extensive collection of historical sites and cultural institutions such as the Independence Hall, where the proclamation of the state of Israel took place. The monument to the Founders of the City, the Bar-Ilana art and science centre and the Defence Museum.
And if you feel like continuing your stroll, there´s nothing better than going on to the Neve Tzedek neighbourhood, one of the most beautiful in all of Tel Aviv, the first Jewish district to be built outside the ancient walls of Jaffa.
Today it is an elegant and lively place, with galleries and restaurants lining the streets and small cafes and art studios creating a bohemian atmosphere.
If you want to go shopping, there are beautiful boutiques and speciality shops.
Neve Tzedek is one of the most charming and culturally diverse areas of Tel Aviv, perfect to end your stroll along the famous Rothschild Boulevard.
Address: Boulevard Rothschild y barrio Neve Tzedek.
A GREEN LUNG FULL OF ATTRACTIONS
HaYarkon Park is to Tel Aviv what Central Park is to New York. It is the green lung of Tel Aviv and runs along both sides of the Yarkon River, in the north of the city. Apart from the sheer beauty and tranquillity of the manicured lawns bordering the peaceful river, the park offers other exciting attractions.
It was not until 1950 that the idea of providing Tel Aviv with a large public park began to take shape. The following year, tree planting started near the connection of the Ayalon River to the Yarkon. Today HaYarkon Park in Tel Aviv´s most famous park, with locals enjoying the extensive walking paths and leafy trees for their daily strolls. At the same time, many visitors are surprised by the number of attractions the park offers.
In the eastern part, there are beautiful gardens, including the Rock Garden, one of the largest of its kind in the world, which showcases Israel´s geological diversity as there are explanations on every type of rock, as well as 3,500 species of plants and fantastic views of the lake.
The Cactus Garden is an area with over 3,000 varieties from all over the world.
You will love the Tropical Garden, with a microclimate-like rainforest that includes palm trees, vines, an orchid greenhouse, and a lake home to fish and waterfowl.
HaYarkon Park also offers different entertainment facilities such as children´s play areas, a petting zoo, an artificial lake with boats, a skating rink, a famous sports centre, a climbing wall and a rowing centre. Israel´s largest water park is within its perimeter, with water slides, a wave pool, and another for children.
There is also a bicycle rental centre. Cycling through this green area is easy due to the flat and accessible trails, and it is a great way to visit the place and an alternative activity to escape the hustle and bustle of Tel Aviv.
You will also find some Ottoman-era flour mills preserved as historical monuments. Another point of interest is the saddle-shaped mound which rises to 38 metres above sea level and offers a panoramic view in all directions.
Finally, HaYarkon Park is where the most important musical events, concerts, and music festivals attract tens of thousands of people. It has hosted performances by international artists such as David Bowie, The Rolling Stones, Queen, Madonna, U2 and many, many more, and concerts by the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra and the Israel New Opera.
Address: Hayarkon Park, Rokach Boulevard, Tel Aviv-Yafo
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