Israel: History Meets Culture in Tel Aviv
Israel’s unique significance to many different cultures make this young nation
a must-see for spiritual travelers and history buffs. From Tel Aviv, a diverse array of sites welcome travelers into Israeli life: historical delights and a great nightlife scene greet you in the city, and day trips to the grand world heritage sites of Jerusalem, the rejuvenating delights of the Dead Sea, and several other nearby locations make this the perfect trip for history lovers with a taste for adventure.
Tel Aviv by Day
The heart of modern Israel, Tel Aviv is both the nation’s capital and its largest city. Start with recent history at Ben-Gurion House, where visitors can get a sense of what life was like in 1948 when Israel was founded through the eyes of its first Prime Minister. Then, take a 2km stroll down Tayelet, a paved beachside pedestrian lane leading back to the past and Jaffa Old City. Here, wanderers will see Jews, Christians, and Muslims living in harmony, delight in the abundant photo opportunities among the hilly cobbled streets of this historic old town, and shop and dine with local artisans and restauranteurs.
Tel Aviv by Night
Tel Aviv city is particularly known for its thriving nightlife scene. Start at the spot that made the city’s nightlife famous, Rothschild 12, and then venture on to the chic art exhibits and outdoor patio at Kuli Alma. Finish your night with a cocktail at Speakeasy, the rooftop bar famous for the best view in Tel Aviv (reservations recommended), or dance until dawn at The Block, known for its hip vibe and rotating cast of local and international DJs (157 Shalma Road).
No visit to Israel would be complete without an exploration of Jerusalem, an easy day or weekend trip from Tel Aviv. One of the world’s best-known historical sites, travelers can experience direct links to biblical and world history. Start with a walking tour of the Old City to get your bearings before embarking on one or two more in-depth historical visits. The Dome of the Rock is perhaps the city’s most recognizable site: the oldest Islamic monument, this gold-topped dome is believed to be the site of Mohammed’s ascent to heaven. Secular and religious visitors will appreciate the history, architecture, and the sweeping views of the city. One of the city’s most famous and popular destinations is Western Wall. Dating back to roughly 19 BCE, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is believed to be the last remnant of the Second Temple encompassing the Temple Mount, making it one of the world’s holiest places to both Jews and Christians. Expect long lines and a quick trip through a metal detector before approaching the wall itself, and as with many sites of religious significance, be prepared for the (mild) dress code (no shorts or bare shoulders). Women and men approach the wall in separate areas, so after your visit, it’s a good idea to reconnect with your party over a delicious meal at The Quarter Café nearby. Try falafel, perhaps the most famous Israeli dish, consisting of fried balls of chickpea served in a warm pita stuffed with salad and hummus.
From Tel Aviv, there are several excellent day trips available. Spiritual and historical travelers will enjoy visiting Bethlehem, the historic site of Jesus’ birth; Qumran, home to the caves where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found; Mt. Zion, including King David’s Tomb, the Hall of the Last Supper, and the Church of Dormition; and Jericho, the oldest (and lowest!) city in the world. Ready to rest your feet after all that walking? Take an afternoon visit to the Dead Sea: spa-lovers and history buffs alike can float in the salty water and rejuvenate in the mineral-rich mud at this lowest point on earth – resorts line the shores and spa packages are available at all price points.
When To Go, How to Get There, Where to Stay
Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport welcomes direct international flights from most major cities daily, and hotel options at all price points are abundant. Whether seaside or city view is preferred, there are excellent 3-, 4- and 5-star options in the $150-$200/night range. Getting around this tourist-friendly city is easy via taxi, Uber, or on foot, and English is widely spoken. Visit in the Spring or Fall, when temperatures are mild and prices are low.
History buffs and adventurers of all types are sure to enjoy a trip to Israel centered around Tel Aviv, where modern life and history meet.