Tel Aviv is a magical place. A lively and welcoming city with more restaurants you can shake a stick at, culture by the bucket load, a strip of shimmering seashore, 24-hour bars, and glorious nightlife all coming together in amongst gorgeous architecture that shines a lot on the city’s history as well as looking forward. It’s the contemporary hub of Israel; a culinary mecca, a hub for independent makers and a modern, liberal oasis.

If you’re looking for a city break with beach days thrown in, all while eating the most insanely delicious food, Tel Aviv should be next on your list. Here’s what you need to do…

1. Explore the Old City of Jaffa

The Run-Down: Jaffa (also known as Yafo and Joppa) has history running through its very walls. Following archaeological digs and ancient papyrus documents, it has been revealed that Jaffa existed as a seaport more than 4,000 years ago, and is deemed to be the world’s oldest harbour in continual use. Fast forward to now, and Jaffa is a small town which blends the past with the present. Part of Tel Aviv’s urban tapestry, the windy, stone-walled streets are lined with galleries, boutique shops as well as The Mahmoudiya Mosque (the largest in the area), and several synagogues.

We advise spending a day wandering around Jaffa as there’s so much to see (and eat). Aside from the shopping, there’s a number of dining institutions to visit. Our tour guide waxed lyrical about Abu Hassan, claiming this place knocked out the best hummus in Tel Aviv. And he wasn’t wrong. Silky smooth, beige goodness. Fancy it is not, but you don’t worry about the decor when you’re dunking fluffy pitta into the restaurant’s chickpea masterpiece.

Don’t Miss: The weekly flea market, Shuk Hapishpishim. There’s knickknacks aplenty – think Persian rugs, tiles, kitsch goods, clothing and jewellery. Remember: always haggle. The flea market itself is open Sunday through Thursday (10 am – 6 pm) and Friday (10 am – 2 pm), but even if you miss the market, there’s a vast selection of bars and restaurants that are worthy of a visit.

2. Discover Tel Aviv’s Food Scene

The Run-Down: If you want to expand your culinary horizons, Tel Aviv is the place to do it. The city is home to an eclectic mix of dining options; from high-end haunts to roadside restaurants, and the ever-popular grab-and-go hatches. Israeli cuisine exemplifies the true melting pot that is Israel. There’s elements of Middle Eastern influence alongside flavours from the wider Mediterranean region, and ingredients such as olives and olive oil, wheat, chickpeas and yoghurt play a starring role here.

For falafel, you can’t go wrong with a visit to Miznon or HaKosem for the tastiest spheres of crispy chickpeas in town. If you’re after something a little more upmarket, Vicky Christina is the place to head to. A Spanish Mediterranean tapas and wine bar, it’s located in a spacious, fairy light strewn patio under an antique Ficus tree in The Station area of Neveh Tzedek. Delve into small plates of gorgeously chargrilled leeks in butter with herb oil; onglet with artichoke cream, red wine and leek chips; and the zingy and fresh red tuna carpaccio, all served alongside wine, cocktails, and sangria. For your shakshuka fix (a heavenly dish of eggs poached in a sauce of tomatoes, olive oil, peppers, onion and garlic), swing by Dallal, a classic spot in the enchanting Neve Tsedek neighbourhood. 

Don’t Miss: Sabich at Sabich Tchernikhovski. A glorified shack with queues snaking around the corner, as the name suggests this family-run business only sell one thing: Sabbich. Sabich is a pita filled with hard-boiled eggs, slices of fried eggplant, chopped salad, tahini, sauces and salad of your choosing. It’s superb.

3. Attend Tel Aviv Pride

The Run-Down: Hailed as the Gay Capital of the Middle East, Tel Aviv is a generally liberal city where lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people can live freely and openly. Despite the progressiveness, however, same-sex couples are still unable to marry in Israel.

Tel Aviv Gay Pride Week takes place every June, with a shedload of gay-friendly events taking place across the city, culminating on the Friday with the Pride Parade. We attended the Parade (the only one in the Middle East), and the streets were an explosion of colour, creative floats, music and energy. Make no mistake: in June Tel Aviv is hot, with temperatures reaching 40 degrees. With little shade on the stretch from Sportech Center at Rokach Boulevard, 42 to Joshua’s Garden, wear airy clothes and pack water. It gets sweaty. Since its inception in 1994, Tel Aviv’s Pride Parade has, year on year, turned into a bigger and bolder affair. Promoting community, togetherness, and inclusivity, the parade is an incredible experience to be a part of.

Don’t Miss: The unofficial gay beach, Hilton Beach. Look out for the colourful umbrellas in front of the Hilton Hotel and here you’ll find a sandy paradise.

4. Enjoy the Sights at Carmel Market

The Run-Down: When it comes to markets, Carmel Market, or Shuk HaCarmel, is the most famous of all Tel Aviv’s marketplaces. And it’s the largest too.

Rub shoulders with a cross-section of Israel; from chef-owned stalls piled high with produce including glossy, plump olives and soft, chewy Medjool dates to rows upon rows of spices; clothing to fresh flowers; and meats to household goods. Quanties are large and the prices tend to be low (put on your best haggling hat).

Don’t Miss: Shakshuka, a cosy cafe with counter seating located in the heart of Carmel Market. As the name suggests, this spot is egg-based heaven with various incarnations of the classic Shakshuka dish; from the Spanish version with salami, spinach and chickpeas to the spicy option with plenty of chillies.

5. Take a Day Trip to Jerusalem

The Run-Down: If you’re holidaying in Tel Aviv, a day trip to Jerusalem should be on your itinerary. It takes roughly an hour to get there, and you can hop on a bus for £6 each way, get a taxi if you’re feeling flush, or you can board a direct train from Tel Aviv Center to Yerushalayim/Yits’hak Navon.

There’s so much to do and see in Jerusalem, and we don’t have the word count to mention it all, but must-visits are the Dome of the Rock Islamic shrine, the Citadel (Tower of David), Armenian Quarter, Old City Walls and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which dates to the 4th century. The site has been continuously recognised as the place where Jesus died, was buried, and rose from the dead (if you’re into that kind of thing).

Don’t Miss: The Western Wall, commonly known as The Wailing Wall, is the most religious site in the world for  Jewish people, located in the Old City of Jerusalem. People from all over the world gather to pray here, and throughout the ages, the Western Wall has become a symbol of the Jewish legacy in Jerusalem. If you plan on visiting, wear modest clothing (cover up your shoulders and legs), and write your own wish or prayer note, which you can insert between the ancient blocks of stone.