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Winter Adventures in Israel – Episode 4: Why Visit Tel Aviv?

If you were not convinced by the first three episodes of this wonderful story, where we talk about how to get to Israel, about the ancient city of Jaffa and about Jerusalem – a crossroad between worlds, we will bring you today some more arguments so that you won’t hesitate any more to plan a dream vacation in the “Holy Land”.

Tel Aviv – a very tourist-friendly city

We were very impressed by a series of things that go beyond what we have seen in other places we visited so far and that can be a good example to follow by the countries and cities considered more „touristic” than Tel Aviv.

First of all, everyone speaks English. And when we say everyone, we talk about 99% of the people we have interacted with. Sales persons from shops or flea markets, random people on the streets, employees of restaurants and tourism landmarks, law enforcement representatives – people of all ages and social classes – they all speak English almost perfectly. This is a huge advantage for tourists, especially in a country where the alphabet and the official language are totally unknown to you.

Another aspect that caught our attention and made us appreciate this place even more, were the hundreds of benches and resting places installed everywhere in the city. Wherever you are, in any moment, you can sit down to relax after a long walk, to take a look at the map or just to admire the view.

The highlight of resting places is the park in the middle of Rothschild boulevard, where, in a busy urban area, there is a green oasis with benches and even chaise-longs and bean bags.

Also, there are lots of wells and water fountains with free drinking water for the pedestrians. Certainly you cannot walk thirsty in this city or be forced to buy bottled water. And if the authorities look after the people, to be sure they are hydrated, they also take care of the public toilet part of the problem – there are lots of them too, all clean, with toilet paper, hot water, soap, paper tissues, special places to change the babies… and yes, you have guessed it, they are all free!

Israel doesn’t just care for the comfort of humans, but is also friendly towards four-legged tourists, or paws to be more precise. There are many playgrounds for them, water bowls, showers on the beach for doggies, and they are allowed inside most public spaces and shops along with their owners.

The Florentin district of Tel Aviv

The Florentin neighborhood is one of the most appreciated areas of Tel Aviv by young tourists, artists, hipsters and people alike.

Although it is not an area with many landmarks or spiritual edifices, the district is a sort of nest for the artists who do not conform to mainstream standards, there is even more graffiti on the walls than in the rest of the city, bizarre artistic expressions are exposed where you expect the least.

The pubs and coffee shops accurately reflect the specificity of this place, with creative and interesting decorations and very unique customers.

Tel Aviv – a modern metropolis

In stark contrast with the old buildings, impregnated with history, from the narrow streets covered in graffiti, the business center of Tel Aviv impresses with high rises made of metal and glass, sky-scrapers and modern bridges that connect the buildings and streets.

Tel Aviv is considered one of the 3 great technological hubs of Europe, besides London and Berlin. Also, the financial sector here is very strong, almost all the important corporations have offices here.

The business area with glass and steel buildings is the Diamond District, which evolved from a jewelry neighborhood in the past to a zone comparable to Manhattan now.

One of the very tall buildings there, Azrieli Tower, has a luxury restaurant with panoramic view on the top floor. The place can be visited without being a client, by entering from the third floor of the mall from the base of the building, taking a very modern elevator from there which almost teleports you upstairs, climbing the 49 levels in just a few seconds. The visiting tax can be paid at the office near the elevator. The view from up there is extraordinary, an experience worth every penny.

The colorful markets of Tel Aviv

Israel’s abundant markets are a special experience for the travelers. If you are looking for bargains and souvenirs or just want to explore the places and cultures, you definitely will not say that it wasn’t worth it after going through such a place.

Furniture, clothes, jewelry, traditional artifacts, spices and various foods are all tempting you on the stalls and it is very difficult to resist.

Sweets are present everywhere and they welcome you to try at least a little from each one of them, We could not resist the baclava and tried a few kinds – it was tasty and we recommend it.

The markets we’ve passed through are: Carmel, one of the biggest and probably the most representative of them, located between the city center and the beach; Levinsky, which is actually an area with a few streets with many small shops on them, in the bohemian Florentin district; Sarona, located in the business side of the city, next to the governmental offices, which is actually an open-air mall, with more pretentious buildings and higher prices; about the Jaffa market we have told you in the first episode.

Many streets of the city are filled with shops and can be explored by food, such as the Dizengoff boulevard, which ends with a large commercial center where we found the cheapest supermarket in town.

Beaches and parks in Tel Aviv

Up until a couple of decades ago, Israel was an almost exclusively religious tourist destination. But in the last years they invested more and more to transform the country (and especially Tel Aviv) in a mainstream tourism area, for those who want to visit a beautiful Mediterranean metropolis.

In our first day there we were a little disappointed by the beaches in the southern part of the city, we thought they were rocky and dirty. The next day, after walking along the sea shore to the north of the city, where Yarkon River flows into the sea, we totally changed our opinion. In fact, they started to renovate the areas next to the beach from the north towards the south and the shore next to Jaffa was going to be worked on next.

The beaches in the north look great, with fine sand, all the necessary amenities, walking paths with palm trees and benches, public showers and toilets, places for taking photos, many terraces and souvenir shops. In only a few years, Tel Aviv managed to become a very nice destination for summery tourism!

Until recently, at the northern end of the beach there was the commercial port of the city, but now the industrial activities were moved and the area is totally transformed, being another good example of urban renewal. The old halls of the port are now outlets, restaurants and office spaces. The alleys were greened, playgrounds were built and on the shore besides the old cranes there are now stylish terraces and tourists walking and taking pictures.

On the other side of the river there is Yarkon park, the biggest one in the city, which is an exceptional achievement. It rains very little in Israel, so all the green areas of Tel Aviv are irrigated.

Next to each tree you can see a thin plastic pipe, coming out of the ground and dripping water to its root. And the park is huge, there was an enormous amount of work done there to create such a big green space, totally dependent on the human ingenuity!

We walked here between trees, flowers and ducks and we admired a… hot balloon parking area, from where the enthusiasts were getting off the ground to take a better look at the beautiful nature.

Food in Israel

The culinary experience is also different in Israel compared to European destinations. Most of the food you will find here is kosher, which in Hebrew means “good”, “decent” or “suitable” – the food suited for Jews to eat. In the Jewish religion, there are some rules to establish if the food is kosher or not. It is accepted to eat only certain types of animals, birds or fish, and the method by which they are killed should be “humane” – not inflicting suffering and pain. So it is allowed for consumption only the meat of animals that are chewing their food and have split hoofs, of fish with no fins or scales, of birds that do not hunt or eat cadavers. Also, all the milk and eggs should come from kosher animals and birds and it is forbidden to eat at the same meal meat products and dairy products. These and many other rules define the kosher food. You will find even fast food restaurants and even McDonald’s with the “kosher” sign on them. Of course, you can buy non-kosher food from the supermarkets, but it is harder to find and more expensive.

Another aspect we found to be very different from European countries and it positively surprised us was the large number of booths and shops selling fruits, vegetables, natural juices and fruit salads. The same way you see in our area many kebab shops and fast food restaurants at every street corner, in Israel you can buy a fresh juice or a fruit salad almost anywhere and enjoy them directly on the street. Probably this is one of the reasons for not seeing many obese or overweight people here.

We did not eat many traditional dishes. We tasted hummus and tahini, which we already knew from our own country and we tested a few local sweets. Otherwise, we limited ourselves to our usual menu and junk food.

Safety in Israel

Many people are under the impression that Israel is a dangerous place. Probably this perception comes from the fact that we only see negative things in the news about this country: wars and terror attacks. In fact, Tel Aviv is one of the safest cities you can visit. There is little police on the streets, but there are security checks at the entrances of large supermarkets, railway and bus stations and public buildings. There were very few terrorist incidents in the last years here, and the high-tech protection systems (for example, the Iron Dome rocket interception system) are protecting the large cities from attacks with rockets from outside.

Therefore, as long as you do not go to the disputed areas, such as Gaza or West Bank, you don’t have reasons to worry. The Palestinians living in Tel Aviv are reasonably well integrated and they have the same rights as all the other Israeli citizens. There are Arabs in the Parliament, and the mosques are calling the believers to prayer on loudspeakers even in the areas where Muslims are a minority.

Conclusions

Are we recommending Israel as a vacation destination? Of course! Was it a wonderful experience with many new elements, many things learned and many unforgettable memories? Of course! Will we come back to Israel to explore more and have new beautiful experiences? Of course!

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