Tel Aviv is one of the world’s top destinations. This city-by-the-sea is consistently included by travel magazines among their best picks.
The Lonely Planet ranked it among its Top 10 action-packed cities and the world’s Top Three Cities.
National Geographic fell in love with Tel Aviv’s shoreline.
Conde Nast Traveler magazine highlighted the city’s unique Bauhaus architecture and heaped praise on its ice cream parlours and bars.
Tel Aviv holds the title for World’s Best Gay city. And Travelers Digest voted it a city full of beautiful people.
From beach boardwalks to green parks, trendy shopping to awesome nightclubs, museums to open-air markets, there’s more than enough to do in Tel Aviv.
Even better: There are oodles of free options in the city. Here are 13 of the best things to do in Tel Aviv without spending a shekel.
Tel Aviv’s west side is a 13-kilometre stretch of sandy beaches, prompting National Geographic magazine to call Tel Aviv “Miami Beach on the Med.” You can’t really go wrong no matter where you set down your towel.
Gordon Beach is one of the most famous, attracting tourists, locals, joggers and sun-tanners all year round. Stop by Saturday mornings in winter (11 a.m. to 2 p.m.) or evenings in summer (8 p.m. to 10 p.m.) and give public Israeli folk dancing a whirl.
Banana Beach, located on the southernmost edge near Jaffa, draws the bohemian crowds on Friday evenings for drum circles, singing and dancing.
Metzizim Beach draws a smattering of everyone to its sandy shores. Catch a game of matkot (paddleball) or bring your kids to the children’s playground.
Hilton Beach (near the hotel) is the gay beach, and Jerusalem Beach is also very LGBT friendly.
So pack your lotion, towel and good book to read – sandy Tel Aviv on the shoreline of the Mediterranean Sea awaits.
Tel Aviv-Jaffa Promenade
The Tel Aviv-Jaffa Promenade is a bustling walkway that connects Old Jaffa in the south to the northern neighbourhoods of the city. Come here for gorgeous sunsets, people watching, yummy food at one of the cafés or restaurants along the promenade, or to hear some of the best classical music buskers you’re likely to come across.
Known as the green lung of the city, this “Central Park of Tel Aviv” attracts some 16 million visitors every year.
The urban park’s 3.8 square kilometres boast walking paths, bike paths, dozens of children play areas, botanical gardens, extensive lawns, sports facilities, two mini zoos and artificial lakes.
The park also houses paid entertainment options including an aviary, a water park, a climbing wall, a children’s train and paddleboat hire.
You can follow the Yarkon River all the way from North Tel Aviv down to the Mediterranean Sea.
No visit to Tel Aviv is complete without a hop over to Old Jaffa. It is one of the world’s oldest cities and home to the oldest seaport in the world.
In the last decade, Old Jaffa has become one of the hottest places to be as designers, artists and gourmands move in. Come hungry because street food is abundant and delicious.
Don’t miss the famous Clock Tower, the flea market, restaurants, designer stores, galleries and museums, the Old Port and the NaLaga’at Center artistic complex operated by the Muslim-Christian-Jewish deaf and blind community.
Tel Aviv Port
Tel Aviv’s port is one of the city’s main entertainment hubs with trendy shops, bars, nightclubs, cafés and a bustling farmers’ market. Thousands of residents and tourists walk along the uniquely designed wooden deck promenade to take in the salty sea breeze, gorgeous sunsets and to feel the vibe of Tel Aviv.
There’s a huge sand pit for kids to play in. Weekends are busiest, with buskers and balloon artists keeping the crowds entertained. The port also hosts numerous outdoor festivals throughout the year.
This is not just another produce-and-clothing market; the Carmel Market is the heartbeat of Tel Aviv. You don’t have to come to shop. Instead, jostle past the colourful stalls and take in the smells and sights.
Some vendors are known to sing out the prices of their goods – which range from spices to dried fruits, fresh produce to fish and souvenirs. Trendy cafés and gourmet food stands are also part of the scene.
The market runs between the corner of King George and Allenby streets and the Carmelit Bus Station. It is open every day from 7 to dusk, except for Fridays when it closes one hour before the Sabbath.
The Nahalat Binyamin Arts & Crafts Fair takes place every Tuesday and Friday along the pedestrian mall. More than 200 Israeli craftspeople and artists set up stalls to exhibit and sell their unique and often humorous creations.
It’s an outdoor fair with street performers, clowns and musicians providing free entertainment for visitors. The market is open on those two days from 10 a.m. until sundown.
Neve Tzedek and historic train station (Tachana)
Neve Tzedek is one of Tel Aviv’s most beautiful neighbourhoods – and historically, was the first neighbourhood built outside of Jaffa. It’s perfect for a romantic stroll along the small streets and alleyways and past the beautifully restored buildings.
The Suzanne Dellal Center dance and theatre complex sits at the heart of this neighbourhood, and a visit to its courtyard is a must.
The neighbourhood has hip cafés and gourmet restaurants as well as designer stores, boutique hotels, and lovely shops.
On the southern edge of the neighbourhood is the historic train station known as the Tachana. This newly restored compound now serves as a cultural and shopping centre.
Tel Aviv boasts a treasure trove of exemplary architecture.
One of Tel Aviv’s nicknames is even the White City, thanks to its large number of white Bauhaus (International-style) buildings. In 2003, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) proclaimed Tel Aviv’s White City a World Cultural Heritage site.
Take a self-guided stroll down Rothschild Boulevard, Dizengoff Street, Bialik Street or through the Neve Tzedek neighbourhood to see the best buildings the White City has to offer.
Or, join a city-sponsored free walking tour of Tel Aviv focusing on the architectural styles of the 1930s.
Tel Aviv is Israel’s culture city. Most of the museums, orchestras, theatres, art galleries, dance venues and music halls come with an entry fee, however.
To get a taste of the city’s arts scene, head over to Culture Square at the end of Rothschild Boulevard. Here you’ll find the historic Mann Auditorium, home to the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, the recently renovated Habima National Theater and the Helena Rubinstein Pavilion for Contemporary Art – all facing a gorgeously designed public courtyard with a small flower garden, water fountain and dozens of families frolicking among them.
The pavilion showcases changing exhibitions, reflecting diverse fields and practices in contemporary Israeli and international art – and is free to the public.
Strolling down Dizengoff Street is a favourite pastime for many residents.
For great people-watching or just a place to take a break, park yourself on one of the benches around the Fire & Water Fountain. The fountain is located in Dizengoff Square, which shows off creations by young Israeli industrial, graphic, fashion and plastic designers every Thursday from 4-11 p.m., and an antique flea market every Tuesday and Friday.
Tel Aviv University’s Botanical Gardens
The magnificent Botanical Gardens are located at the heart of Tel Aviv University. Stretching across 34,000 square metres, the gardens serve as a meeting place for the world’s different species of flora and fauna.
Visitors are encouraged to take a closer look at the plant museum from Sunday to Thursday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. But call ahead (+972-3-640-9910) because the garden is also used as an outdoor class for students at the university.
The main plaza just outside City Hall is known as Rabin Square, named for Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin. He was assassinated on Nov. 4, 1995, after a peace rally in this square.
A monument to Rabin stands at the spot where he was killed. Israeli sculptor Yael Ben-Artzi used 16 basalt stones from the Golan Heights and sunk them into the earth to symbolize Rabin’s deep connection to the land.