A day in Tel Aviv can be spent in many different ways. One can take a cultural tour, have a religious experience, relax by the beach, shop for hours, experience history, eat new and exciting or old world traditional food. One can do a little bit of everything. Choose the pace you wish to go: do you want to take in the smells, the sights, the sounds of a place or do you want to see as many things as you can, choosing what you like best to go back and revisit later?
One day out of your trip to Tel Aviv should involve a little bit from the above. Energy, followed by relaxation. Culture, followed by history. Shopping and eating, with beach time. It can be done.
Start your day off at the Carmel Shuk, which spreads southward from King George Street and Allenby. The shuk is an amalgam of smells, surprises, delights and food to whet and satisfy your appetite. Produce is surprisingly cheap; people travel from surrounding areas to purchase the fresh flowers, herbs, vegetables, fruits, dried fruits, nuts and meat available in the shuk. You can buy clothes, souvenirs and other things you might need for the beach or something to give your coworker at home who brought you the key chain from Hawaii when he was on his honeymoon. There are sunglass stands, watch kiosks, jewelry racks, and even more within the buildings. On my last visit alone I bought a recipe book, a shower curtain, two pairs of leggings, candied pecans, strawberries, flowers for my future mother-in-law and a new pair of sunglasses. I only spent 120 shekels($31).
- In addition to all the things you can buy, there are juice stands, the best in Tel Aviv, and colorful personalities ready to assist(and accost) you as you peruse their merchandise. Helpful phrases: “Kama zeh oleh?”(How much is this?)
“Lo toda”(no thank you)
Your accent will give you away as American and they will probably answer you in English. If they do not, tell them: “Ani Medeber Anglit(if you are a male) or Ani Medeberet Anglit(if you are a female). This tells them that you speak English. They do too and will tell you the price of the item. Sunglasses are roughly 20 shekels, scarves are 15, pants are 35 or 3 for 100, flowers are 10 shekels for a small bunch, fruits and nuts get weighed by gram. Even if they up the price because you aren’t Israeli, you’re still getting an incredible deal for your dollar’s worth.
Wednesdays are a great day for the shuk, it is less crowded with people.
Keep your eyes to one side of the shuk and when you get to the end, turn around and check out the other side. You won’t miss anything this way and it’ll get you back to the beginning.
Buy something to snack on, such as dried nuts or candy and a freshly squeezed cup of pomegranate juice, before you head to lunch.
Once you’ve finished with the shuk(it should take about an hour), cross Allenby and turn left from King George. The second restaurant on your right is Jacnoun Shel Ima(Mother’s Jacnoun). It is a Yemenite restaurant specializing in Fatout. I decided to be ambitious and ordered the Savory Fatout. Before I could take a picture, I smelled the dish and dove in. I remembered halfway through that travelers to Tel Aviv might want to see it before they tried it. My friend ordered hummus. We tried each other’s dishes and ending up sharing. Hummus and Fatout is a perfect meal for two. Jacnoun Shel Ima is a family-owned restaurant that will leave you full for hours.
Take time to digest your meal and if the owner has a minute, he’ll tell you about his family and how they came to run the restaurant(I won’t ruin the story for you here).
Once you’ve finished, be sure to tip at least 10 percent of the total cost of the bill(that’s standard in Israel). Head North on Allenby and turn Right on Pinsker. Walk for about 7 minutes and turn left on Trumpeldor. On the right side of the street, you will see the Old Cemetery.
Many important Israelis have been buried there including: Sheinkin and Nordao, and some famous poets and writers, like Tshernichovski and Ahad Ha’Am. I recommend printing out information about the courageous people buried in Trumpeldor while walking through the cemetery. If you find the grave of Arlozoroff or Weizmann, knowing what each sacrificed for Israel and how will bring you a sense of honor at being there to remember them.
Once you’ve finished at the cemetery, filled with a sense of Tel Aviv’s history, full of great Yemeni food and arms full of things bought at the shuk, it’s time for you to take a rest. Head away from Pinsker on Trumpeldor and follow it to the beach. Here, find any available chair to rent for 12 shekels, put some sunscreen on and relax. For the next hour or two you’ll hear lots of Hebrew, laughter and children, as well as the waves cascading over the incredibly hot sand. If you are visiting the beach between late May and early September, do not take your sandals off to walk to the chair. I repeat, do not take your sandals off to walk to the chair. You will lose a layer of foot skin. You can rent an umbrella for a few shekels more, and I recommend you do so. The sun here gets very very hot, and even the sea isn’t enough of a respite to fully cool you down or save you from a nasty sunburn. Even if you tan well, reapply sunscreen every hour or so. The late afternoon sun isn’t as devastating as the midday sun, so by the time you’ve reached the beach, you’ll have a few lovely hours in the sun, followed by a gorgeous sunset.
From here, head back to your hotel, wash up and get ready for a night in one of the world’s sexiest cities: TEL AVIV, ISRAEL.