- Beach / Seaside Resort
- Place or Historical Monument
- Unesco World Heritage
I took my first steps in Tel Aviv on a June evening just after landing at the Ben-Gourion airport. I had reserved a room in a hotel on Allenby street, one of the main streets in the city, peppered with bars and restaurants, and very popular with young people.
I knew it before I arrived but Tel Aviv, as much as it might be the economic capital of the country, is without doubt first and foremost a city of pleasure and frivolity. I have obviously not walked along all of the 14km of beaches on which the sun casts its light 300 days of the year, but I did grant myself a little stroll, from the port to Jaffa, the old city, by walking the length of one beach to another (one of them being reserved for orthodox Jews and therefore protected by a screen).
I also learnt by flicking quickly through a copy of Lonely Planet that as it was only built a century ago by the first Jewish colonists, Tel Aviv is not a city where you go to admire ancient synagogues or churches from the first age of Christianity.
However there is Jaffa, as I mentioned above, which should figure in your itinerary for a visit to Tel Aviv, no matter how short. With its old streets, ottoman buildings and its clock tower, without doubt the most emblematic of its monuments, it offers a striking contrast to the immense (and often ugly) buildings on the sea front.
There are also some Bauhaus-style houses in the centre of the city which imperturbably bare their white facades and curved angles. It is for this reason that Tel Aviv was named a World Heritage centre. I have been more surprised to find these buildings in a state of abandon.
With the itinerary of my trip to Israel being fairly inflexible, I only stayed two days in the 'White City'. I set aside the last few hours to make some purchases in the Carmel market , which bathes in its own popularity.
Tel Aviv is one of those towns that leaves nobody indifferent. You either love it or hate it, and I have to admit that it's not an easy place to visit. In fact, most travellers limit themselves to the sea front and the adjacent streets, or, if they are brave, Jaffa. It's understandable. When you are taking a trip to Israel for the first time and have very little time, it's hard to stay there more than two days.
The town has a lot to offer but only if you don't limit yourself to the usual criteria (old buildings, museums, historic sites, etc.) More than anything, Tel Aviv is about atmosphere. You need to bathe in it by meandering down streets looking for Bauhaus buildings, lazing on the terrace of a cafe, or listening to the improvised concerts of percussionists on Dolphinarium beach. In brief, by taking the time to live.
Tel Aviv is a hedonistic town that you won't appreciate unless you let go a little.