Looking to explore Tel Aviv, Israel, like a local? Epicure & Culture caught up with Laila Arad-Allan, born and raised in Tel Aviv and the founder of the free walking tour nonprofit, Tel Aviv Greeter. Here are her suggestions on how to get to know the city beyond the typical tourist sites.
1. A special cultural experience in Tel Aviv occurs every Friday at noon. This is when the city prepares for the coming Sabath. The city streets are bustling with people doing their shopping for Sabath, the markets are swarming with locals purchasing goods, and the atmosphere is unique – nowhere in the world does it exist. You really have to see and experience it to understand this special day.
2. For some Israeli tradition, try folk dancing. Every Saturday morning on Gordon Beach there is a gathering of many people who enjoy folk dancing together. They arrive from all over town to participate, and for three hours they dance to Israeli folk music. There are the regulars who come every Saturday regardless of the weather, and those who just pass by and decide to join in. The music blasts. At times it’s scorching hot and dancers are dripping and perspiring, but nothing deters them. There are onlookers galore — fans of the folk dancing who dare not join in, but rather sing along, clap and cheer. It’s a sight every tourist should try to catch.
3. No trip would be complete without savoring the culinary culture. For this, a do-not-miss meal is hummus at the “Syrian’s” on Peduim Street in Tel Aviv’s Yemenite Quarter. This small but truly authentic restaurant only offers hummus, but don’t let your eyes deceive you – it is a full meal. The place is frequented by locals and people coming from all over Israel to experience it. Situated in the tiny shaded alleys of the Yemenite Quarter, with seating literally within the ally itself, the place offers a unique atmosphere rain or shine, not to mention one of the best hummus in the Middle East.
4. Get a truly local travel souvenir in Jaffa’s Flea Market, which is a neighborhood in the southern part of Tel Aviv. The market offers everything from junk to high quality artifacts. A nice souvenir is a Mezuza or a Hamsa. Another location for souvenirs is the Nahalat Binyamin arts and crafts market near the Carmel Market. This market hosts stalls with local artists selling jewelry, paintings, leather and wood artifacts.
5. Take in a spectacular view of Jaffa along the city’s beaches. From the other direction, a beautiful view of Tel Aviv can be seen from the highest point in Jaffa near Kdumim Square, situated on a small hill, or from the Jaffa port.
6. To get away from the touristy attractions, enjoy the city’s amazing beaches.
7. Get tipsy with the locals at Ha-Shoftim Pub on Even Gvirol Street #39. This family-run venue is ideal for lunch or to grab a beer in the evenings. Specialties of the place include an aromatic winter goulash, as well as the soused herring, pickled sardines, and a plate of fried spicy peppers and sausages which are a perfect fit with a pint a beer.
8. A local celebrity every visitor should meet is Bar Rafaeli – the world renowned Israeli fashion supermodel, television host, actress and businesswoman. Bar is not only strikingly beautiful, but also very much an outgoing person. She walks about a lot in the city stopping to talk with people, and can be seen quite frequently at the Dizengoff Center shopping mall.
9. Nature in the city can be enjoyed in Hayarkon Park, a large public urban park in Tel Aviv. Bounded by Rokach Boulevard on the north and Bavli neighborhood on the south, the park includes extensive lawns, sports facilities, botanical gardens, an aviary, a water park, two outdoor concert venues and miniature lakes. It’s a perfect spot for family outings and picnics.
10. Experience the local music scene at the Ozen Bar in King George Street # 48 holds concerts from a diverse range of local performers from rock and alternative, to funk, hip-hop, and groove. The Ozen Bar’s impressive line-up often includes multiple concerts per day, and it’s a venue which hosts both big local names as well as smaller up-and-coming artists.
11. And to truly immerse yourself in local Tel Aviv, Tel Aviv Greeter provides free walks in the city with local residents who want to share their Tel Aviv with visitors from all over the world. Our Greeters walk with visitors around the city in places that they themselves love and want to share with others. These are usually off the beaten track places that usually tourists do not know about, nor can they learn about them through standard tourist guides.
About The Author
Laila Arad-Allan was born and raised in Tel Aviv, Israel. After having worked for more than two decades in the tech industry, Laila decided to take a break from the frantic lifestyle and do what she loves most: show off her city to travelers from around the world. In 2012 Laila founded and is currently managing Tel Aviv Greeter, a non-profit urban project that aims to develop the city’s worldwide image while fostering cultural exchange and boosting tourism. Laila is married with two children and lives in Tel Aviv’s Yemenite Quarter.
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