Israel is among the countries every person has to visit at least once in their lifetime. May it be for its biblical and religious importance, for its history or for its stunning landscape, Israel has so much more to offer than one may first anticipate.
Here is a full guide on how to plan your trip and create your Tel Aviv itinerary for 1, 2 or 3 days. I have gathered the most important things to do and places to see in all of Tel Aviv, as well as an extra day trip recommendation not too far from the city, which is soo worth it.
So let’s get into it!
How to get to Tel Aviv?
How to get to Tel Aviv from Ben Gurion Airport:
Ben Gurion is the main airport in Israel and it offers many options to get to Tel Aviv. The cheapest and fastest way is to take the train, which would cost you about $4.5 and takes 12 minutes. Be sure to keep your train ticket until your final destination, as you will need to use it in order to exit the station. Bear in mind trains do not run on public holidays.
Another option is taking a bus (more like a shared shuttle), which costs about $8 and takes half an hour to get to Tel Aviv. Buses run 24/7 and the waiting time does not go by schedule, but rather by how quickly the bus fills up. You pay directly at the driver and the convenience of this option is that they will drop you off at whichever stop you request.
How to get to Tel Aviv from Jerusalem:
If your first stop was Jerusalem and next you want to get to Tel Aviv, this is a very easy task. You can do this either by bus or by train, and both run very regularly.
You can take a bus from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv from Jerusalem’s Central Bus Station (“Tachana Mercazit”). The buses can be taken from the third floor of the mall, the price is approximately 18 NIS ($5) and the ride takes between 45-60 minutes, depending on the traffic.
We opted for the second option, which is a direct train from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv. The trains run Sunday to Thursday, from 6:20-21:30 and the ride takes about half an hour. The ticket costs between 20 and 25 NIS ($5 – $7) and can be bought from the ticket offices or machines directly at the station.
How to get around Tel Aviv:
Even though the city is not that big, it is still rather long and you might waste a lot of precious time if you try to walk everywhere.
The smartest and most convenient way to explore the city of Tel Aviv is definitely by bicycle. What we did is we used the local bike rental service Tel-O-Fun to rent bikes on a daily basis. The bike stations are located everywhere around the city (we got a city map with all the stations marked on it from the tourist info centre and it was so convenient).
You decide whether to pay for a day (17 NIS – $5), 3 days (48 NIS – $13.5), a week (70 NIS – $20) or more. What you need to keep in mind is that you can rent the bikes as much as you want to for the amount of time you choose, but only ride them for half an hour at a time. If you exceed those 30 minutes, you’d have to pay a bit extra for every half an hour after that.
If you need the bike for longer than 30 minutes and don’t want to pay an extra fee, just make sure you return the bike at the next station and grab another one. Then the next 30 minutes will start counting.
Be sure to always check your bike before proceeding to use it, since we were warned by a local that sometimes they may have some defects.
By public transport:
Buses operate regularly from 5:30 am till midnight (except on Shabbat). A single ticket costs 6.90 NIS ($2), a daily ticket – 13.50 NIS ($4), and a weekly card – 64 NIS ($18).
As of 2019, every passenger needs to have a Rav Kav card with a preloaded amount of money in order to travel by public transport. An anonymous Rav Kav card costs 5 NIS ($1.5).
As of recently it is impossible to buy a ticket on most of the buses in Tel Aviv. This is why it’s important to purchase your Rav Kav card at the designated points (central bus station, any train station, as well as many local shops).
The most useful app for public transport in Israel is Moovit – it provides timetables, maps, routes and everything you need to get around.
After getting all this out of the way, let’s look into the most important and interesting things to do and see in Tel Aviv!
A complete Tel Aviv itinerary – How to spend 1, 2 or 3 days in Tel Aviv
Take a Free walking tour
As someone who likes to learn as much as possible about a new place, I always recommend taking free walking tours wherever you travel.
Tel Aviv was no exception and we were so glad we could go on a free tour around this old and beautiful city with a local guide.
We booked our tour through this company. It is recommended to book it in advance on their website, however they did not check that upon arrival, so I guess that it would not be an issue if you just turn up. Unless there are way too many people.
The tour took about 2 hours and covered the area of the old city of Jaffa, as well as a thorough explanation of Tel Aviv’s history.
If you only have one day in Tel Aviv, or even two or three days, I certainly recommend doing a walking tour first thing when you arrive. You will not only get a great overview of the city and it’s main sights, but you can also get useful information about other interesting places to visit, food to try or restaurants to eat at.
Explore the Old Jaffa
One of the main tourist attractions in Tel Aviv is the Old City of Jaffa – the historic area of Jaffa. Nowadays it is considered a neighbourhood in Tel Aviv, but Jaffa used to be its own city up until 1950 when the two were merged together.
Old Jaffa is famous for its numerous museums, restaurants, theaters, art galleries, night clubs and more. The area impresses with its charming cobbled streets, artsy vibes and mediterrenean charm.
See the Jaffa Port
The Old Jaffa Port is said to be one of the oldest ports in the world and it is very much responsible for the growth of the city. It has also been mentioned in the Biblical story of Jonah and the Whale as the port from which Jonah set off.
Nowadays the port is still in use, however mainly by local fishermen. Larger ports have been recently built in the south of Tel Aviv and north of Haifa, and they are now being used more extensively.
The Old Port is a huge tourist attraction due to its historical and cultural background, and it’s certainly not one to be missed. Besides, from there you get a beautiful view to the city of Jaffa and Tel Aviv.
Visit the Jaffa Flea Market
One of the highlights of the Jaffa area is certainly the flea market. Make your way through the narrow streets and experience the nature of local markets – vendors trying to catch your attention from left and right, offering you everything from jewelry, old thrifted items, clothing, souvenirs etc. Bargaining is a huge part of the experience, so don’t hesitate to try and bring prices down – it works pretty much every time.
Check out the beaches
The beaches are a huge part of the vibrant Tel Aviv life. As the temperature is very mild throughout the whole year, people are always at the beach enjoying the warm weather. Swimming, playing beach volleyball or just enjoying the sun rays – it’s up to you.
Strolling along the promenade is a great way to catch the unreplicable vibes of the city. We would ride bikes on the bike roads next to the beach, and it was such a pleasant experience. We even got to see one of the most stunning sunsets over Tel Aviv and its Mediterranean coastline.
Stroll along Rothschild boulevard
One of the main and most important streets in Tel Aviv is the Rothschild boulevard. Here you will find major institutions and cultural buildings, as well as many cafes and restaurants. Walking along the Rothschild boulevard is a great way to take in the atmosphere and enjoy the architecture of Tel Aviv. Even though this is a major city boulevard, there is a designated walking area for pedestrians, which makes the experience even more enjoyable.
Discover the Neve Tzedek district
At the end of the Rothschild boulevard you will find yourself in the Neve Tzedek district – one of the city’s oldest districts. There is no way not to include this area on any Tel Aviv itinerary. It was built back in 1887 as the first Jewish neighbourhood outside the old city of Jaffa. Even though it is that old, it has been renovated and turned into a modern and charming area, full of many boutiques, coffee and ice cream shops, galleries and more.
Enjoy some ice cream at Anita
Tel Aviv is known for its high temperatures, so a quick ice cream break is very needed! According to a local, this is the best ice cream place in town, offering a big variety of flavours for each and every taste. Anita is located in the Neve Tzedek district, so be sure not to miss it while wandering around.
Bargain at the Carmel Market
The Carmel Market (otherwise known as the Shuk Hacarmel) is not only Tel Aviv’s most popular open-air market, but also the largest and most diverse one. No wonder it’s on every Tel Aviv itinerary out there! Here you can find everything from food, clothing, souvenirs, jewelry and other miscellaneous items.
Do not forget to bargain your way through everything. Locals will ALWAYS reduce their prices just because this is the way their culture is.
The market is open from Sunday till Friday from early in the morning until about 7pm. It does close earlier on Fridays because of the Shabat. Getting there towards the end of the day may result in some great deals, as sellers try to get rid of their daily fresh produce last minute.
Take a day trip from Tel Aviv
There is no way I wouldn’t finish a Tel Aviv itinerary without a suggestion for a day trip.
The most important tourist attractions of Tel Aviv can be explored in about 2 days, or even less, hence why I highly suggest adding more places to visit to your list. The country of Israel is in fact quite small, which makes it also very accessible.
We did the Masada Sunrise, Ein Gedi and Dead Sea Tour
One tour that was strongly recommended to us by friends was a day trip to Masada fortress and watching the sunrise over the desert. After some digging, we found Tourist Israel – a reliable and affordable company, which offers daily Masada tours, as well as many other tours around Israel and Jordan.
What does the tour include?
The Masada Sunrise, Ein Gedi and Dead Sea tour that we took included pick up and drop off from both Tel Aviv and Jerusalem (depending on where you’re staying), organised transport to the tourist attractions, as well as free entry to the Dead Sea (which normally costs around 60NIS).
What was our experience?
We had to leave in the middle of the night in order to be able to see the sunrise (which was so worth it!). The group gathered at a central location from where we got picked up and driven to our first stop for the day – the Masada fortress. The entry to the fortress has to be paid upon arrival, so make sure you have cash on you (31 NIS – $9).
Even though I knew that we had about a 40-minute hike in the desert ahead of us, the climb was extremely challenging. It might have been the lack of proper sleep, or just the lack of physical activity in my life for the past months. Keep in mind that it is tough, so put on some comfortable shoes and don’t bring too much stuff with you to carry.
After about 40-50 minutes of climbing, we finally reached the top of the fortress – just in time to watch the gorgeous sunrise. I had never been in a desert in my life, let alone seen a sunrise with such a view. It was mesmerizing. I will just let the photos speak for themselves.
We spent about 1.5 hours at the top, and then we had to head back down to drive to our next location for the day – the national reserve of Ein Gedi. Once again, the entrance fee has to be paid directly there (28 NIS – $8).
Ein Gedi is a nature reserve and an oasis located on the shore of the Dead Sea. It is considered one of the most popular nature sites in hiking spots in Israel thanks to its interesting landscapes, diverse flora and fauna, beautiful sights and warm temperatures.
After a couple of hours in Ein Gedi, it was time to head to the Dead Sea – something I was extremely excited for. I had previously only heard about the Dead Sea – the lowest point on earth, the saltiest sea on the planet and so on.. But now I was about to experience it for myself.
As I mentioned, the entry to the Dead Sea is included in the price, so got in without having to wait. There are changing rooms and lockers located directly after the entrance, as well as a few shops in case you need to stock up on beach towels, sandals, souvenirs or anything like that.
There are also chairs and sun beds for free use at the beach, which was quite convenient.
Once you’re there, do not forget to cover yourself with mud from the shore, which is known for its numerous health benefits like treating acne, soothing chronic pain, reducing skin impurities etc. I was literally covered from head to toe with this mud, and after washing it off my skin felt smoother than ever.
So here we were, floating in the Dead Sea in mid February, while a big part of the world is still freezing at winter temperatures. It was honestly incredible, and it’s an experience I’d recommend to every single person visiting Israel.
If you are coming on your own and not with an organised tour, you can even try to find the salt island tree in the Dead Sea.
Would I recommend booking an organised day trip in Israel?
Sure, you could rent a car and drive to all those places. But the convenience of having a local take you to the right places at the right times, without you having to worry about anything, is just unbeatable.
When is the best time to visit Israel?
Israel is famous for its warm to extremely hot temperatures all year round. The summer lasts between June and August and unless you want to be sweating your face off, I would not recommend booking your trip to Israel during those months.
Many online guides suggest spring (April and May) and autumn (September and October) as the best time to visit Israel. While the temperatures may be a bit more bearable, local guides told us that this is the busiest time in terms of tourism throughout the whole year. Israel already has quite a lot of visitors during the rest of the year, but during these months the streets and sights are so crowded with tourists, that it is close to impossible to enjoy your vacation.
Winter in Israel lasts from November till March and this is when the country has its coldest temperatures. We visited mid February and it was the best decision we could’ve made. The crowds were at its minimum, the accommodation costs were also at its lowest, and the temperatures were extremely pleasant (between 10 and 20 degrees). We even got to float in the Dead Sea, where it was way warmer than other places, so walking around in bikini in February felt like summer.
If I were to do a trip to Israel again, I would definitely opt for either November/December or February/March as my top months to visit.