As good little flight attendants, my friends and I learned how to explore cities fast. Twenty-four hour layovers seem too quick to experience a destination, but with a few shots of espresso and a nap in the upper crew bunks on a 787 Dreamliner?
Anything is possible!
1. Israel’s second most populated city, following Jerusalem, feels like “Miami Beach meets Mediterranean food”. The conservative air of religious sites hangs back inviting clubbers, beach goers, and revelers to this city by the sea.
Prepare to be impressed.
2. Bike. Much like LimeBike, Tel Aviv’s Tel-o-Fun offers a scan-and-go bike rental app that opens quick passage to the ancient port of Jaffa nearby, the spice markets of Carmel, or simply to any of the beaches lining the Med. Past Jaffa, the bike path clings to the seawall closely enough to get pummeled if the waves are high enough.
3. Breathe, barter, and binge at Carmel market. Open daily save Saturday for Shabbat, the market is piled with jewelry representing the Evil eye, colorful with mounds of spices, loud with bartering shop keepers and patrons. Find some cheap Dead Sea cosmetics among the booths, the spices to make Falafel, or fields of fresh produce.
4. Refuel with some sugary Halva before heading to your next market. The mysterious hive-shaped mounds abound at many a market stall. Crumbly, this confection made from Tahini sesame paste can be a snack, part of a meal, or a dessert.
Recipes for Halva date back to the 13th century, so it must be good.
5. On your Halva sugar high, bike or Uber to Sarona Market, an indoor food emporium that harkens curiously to Chelsea Market in Manhattan. It became a culinary destination after opening in 2015, offering high end products like specialty liquors, infused oils, and yes, more Halva.
6. Choose between heading inland or back to the sea. While tours, elevators, and most technology slows on Shabbat, there is always a way to get to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv. Tours arranged by the hotel concierge ensure guests experience as many of Jesus’ haunts as they can. More expensive tours even cart guests across the border to the old Palestinian town of Bethlehem. In Jaffa, one can find walking tours offered by a man parked in an Airstream camper atop the hill of the port. Rumor has it, his hours change with the weather.
7. For a day by the Mediterranean, snag a picnic on the way back to the shore at any local grocer. Be pleasantly surprised by the affordability of cuisine that is pricier stateside. Stock up on cheap, fresh hummus made in-store with a pound of Black Mission Figs on the side.
8. Surf, stand-up paddle or just lounge alongside the Mediterranean sea. The waves are fickle, but small and fun for a surf. Many a surf shop like Israel Surf Club on the sidewalk offer competitive rates and rush guards with their boards.
9. For guests undecided between an ancient or seaside afternoon, Jaffa is the happy medium. A natural harbor used since the Bronze Age, these stone walls once loomed over the Bible’s Jonah launching to Tashish, were conquered by Pharaoh Thutmose III, and received the cedars of Lebanon for Solomon’s temple. Today, it houses great restaurants like the Old Man and the Sea with waterside views.
10. As the day ends, catch a timeless sunset over the Mediterranean from the dinner table on the beach, spread with even more fresh hummus.
Scan the horizon sailed by many an army of the ancient world.
With nightfall, return to today’s Tel Aviv. Go find a club.