A trip to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem is an experience with a capital E to do once in a lifetime. The Holy City is one of the most exciting and diversified destinations in the world, cradle of great religious faiths and crossroads in the history of immense cultural and architectural heritage.Tel Aviv is instead more dedicated to beach and recreational tourism, with sandy beaches, lively nightlife and aperitif spots, perfect at any time of year.
Why not mix sacre and profane? If you are planning to visit Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, we leave you a little reminder with safety travel tips, documents, info and useful tips on what to do and see to best organize a trip to Israel.
- Tel Aviv and Jerusalem: What a trend!
- Is it dangerous to visit Jerusalem?
- Documents needed to travel to Israel
- When to go to Jerusalem and Tel Aviv: Weather and religious holidays
- Shabbat in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv: What is the day of rest?
- How to dress when you visit Jerusalem?
- What to see in Jerusalem: Between the Old City and modern areas
- Old City of Jerusalem: The Roots of Faith
- Wailing wall, a touching experience
- Saint Sepulchre or Church of the Resurrection
- Temple of Jerusalem: the sacred Temple Mount
- The Bible hill of Jerusalem and the Church of Saint Peter in Gallicantu
- Jerusalem alternative: Hidden tunnels, markets and windmill
- Jerusalem and surroundings: From Dead Sea mud to Banksy murals
- Tel Aviv: What to see in the "Miami Beach of the Mediterranean"
- Tel Aviv and the sea: The most beautiful beaches
- Tel Aviv alternative: Bauhaus style, waterfront and nightlife
- A Bauhaus soul: Hipster Neighborhoods and Old Jaffa
- The markets of Tel Aviv
- Top Tel Aviv nightlife spots
- Trips outside Tel Aviv: Ein Gedi Oasis and the Golan Heights
- How to move between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem
- From Tel Aviv Airport to Jerusalem
Tel Aviv and Jerusalem: What a trend!
According to the Euromonitor International report, in 2018 Jerusalem was confirmed as one of the "Hottest Cities for Travelers in the world", which is one of the fastest growing tourist destinations in the world. The trend seems to continue also in 2019, as well as the increasing demand for Tel Aviv, a leisure and summer tourist destination, ideal for a young target. In this regard, the New York Times has renamed it as the "Mediterranean Capital of Entertainment".
Is it dangerous to visit Jerusalem?
In spite of the tensions caused by the transfer of the US Embassy from Tel Aviv, the political situation in Jerusalem is decidedly more stable. That has contributed to increase the percentage of trips to Jerusalem, the Holy City.
Excluding the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and surrounding areas, terrorist acts against tourists and pilgrims have rarely occurred. That said, for those travelling in Middle East we always suggest to keep a high attention and to have a prudent behavior.
Some recommended warnings for tourists:
- Limit travel to the desert areas bordering Sinai to the bare minimum.
- Use caution in public places and avoid big crowds.
- Wear appropriate clothing in places of worship and ultra-religious villages.
- Inform the Embassy of your country in Tel Aviv about your presence.
Documents needed to travel to Israel
What documents do I need for a trip to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem? A passport valid for at least 6 months from the date of entry into the country is required. Not required, instead, the entry visa for tourists who stay in the country less than 90 days.
- If you want to travel to Palestinian territories after Jerusalem, you will necessarily have to pass through the borders controlled by Israel. Upon your arrival in the Israeli state you will be given a coupon with visa and traveler's details, to be shown in the Palestinian territories.
When to go to Jerusalem and Tel Aviv: Weather and religious holidays
There are two aspects to consider when organizing a trip to Israel: temperature and religious or national holidays.
If Tel Aviv is beautiful all year round, from a climatic point of view, in Jerusalem there are only two seasons. Summer climate from April to October, with very hot and dry days; winter from November to March, generally very rainy and with low temperatures. Best time to travel are March and October. Avoid July and August because of strong heat waves. Pack your windbreaker, sunglasses and a light sweater for cooler evenings.
As for the religious holidays, consider that Israel is a Jewish state so the most touristy months are the Easter period and the Rosh Hashanah, religious New Year's Eve which in 2019 falls from the evening of 29 September until the evening of 1 October.
Shabbat in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv: What is the day of rest?
In Israel, the holy day of the week, Shabbat, is Saturday. More precisely, Shabbat falls from Friday sunset to Saturday sunset. Unlike those who prefer to spend Sundays between museums and shopping malls, in Israel everything stops, literally: public offices and commercial activities remain strictly closed and public transport stops circulating.
"Jerusalem prays and Tel Aviv has fun", says an Israeli proverb. If in Jerusalem Shabbat is strictly celebrated, in Tel Aviv it is a little less taxing; in the capital you will find some bars and restaurants open and public transport, even if in a very restricted way, provides some journeys. Anyway, I recommend you the taxi to get around or the sherut, a hybrid between shared taxi and bus, the only means of transport always available in the city in those hours.
How to dress when you visit Jerusalem?
In the religious places such as a mosque, a synagogue or even the Wailing Wall or Western Wall, I recommend you to cover your arms and legs: no to bermuda or short skirts. Women should also wear a shawl or a shoulder cover.
What to see in Jerusalem: Between the Old City and modern areas
If you want to well understand how to approach during a trip to Jerusalem, start from the following guide. The biblical city of David is divided into four large areas: the Old City, which is located within the walls and houses most of the historical and holy sites, including the Wailing Wall, the Holy Sepulchre and the Temple. According to tradition, the Old City of Jerusalem has eight main gates, one of which is a wall.
The western part of the city is more urban and modernstyle. The eastern area, with a great concentration of Muslim and Christian populations (worth a visit but also the area in which to pay particular attention) and the Me'a Shearim is populated by Jews and ultra-orthodox.
Old City of Jerusalem: The Roots of Faith
The Old City is the main reason for a trip to Jerusalem and, in general, to Israel. Incredible holy sites to see, intense and immersed in a deeply religious atmosphere, even if you are not a believer.
Wailing wall, a touching experience
Touching the Western Wall of Jerusalem (or Wailing Wall) will be one of the most incredible emotions ever experienced in your life.
Don't look at it from above only but get close to it. Entry is free, there are thousands of people, of different faiths on any day of the year, even during the Shabbat or in the middle of winter, with cold temperatures.
If you get there by public transport, the main entrance is from the porch "Dung Gate", Mughrabi Gate. There is a checkpoint at each entrance, so you have to put your backpacks and bags down before you go on to the wall.
Access to the Wall for men and women is separate. In the women's sector there are only chairs and not desks with sacred scriptures, as in the area reserved for men. Many leave notes between the cracks in the wall with prayers or requests for grace. To get away from the wall you go back, without ever turning your back on it.
Saint Sepulchre or Church of the Resurrection
Situated on the hill of Calvary, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem is born, according to religious tradition, in the same place of crucifixion, burial and resurrection of Jesus.
The atmosphere is not exactly ideal to stop for a prayer, despite being in such a sacred place. Too many people in every corner and at any time of day.
Expect very long queues to enter each area of the Church.
In general, group tours are organised from Calvary to the burial site. It is exciting to admire the various chapels scattered throughout the Church, to be in front of the Calvary Rock as well as to touch the Stone of the Angel, the fragment of rock that is believed to have sealed the tomb of Jesus. We recommend to climb up to the roof from the Greek Orthodox Patriarch courtyard to enjoy a spectacular view of Jerusalem.
Temple of Jerusalem: the sacred Temple Mount
You need to pass the Wailing Wall and cross the steps of the wall itself to get to the Temple Mount of Jerusalem (or al-Aqsa Compound).
It is possible to access the plaza after rigid controls, the site is super guarded even during the visit.
What you feel is a sense of peace and quiet: beautiful is the first impact with the gold dome (Dome of the Rock) appearing to your sight as you approach.
Useful information: access to the interior of the Temple is allowed ONLY to Muslims, unlike the surrounding area, which is accessible to all. Go early in the morning, when the queue at the controls is not very long, and make sure to be informed about any days of closure (such as Friday or Saturday and during the Ramadam).
The Bible hill of Jerusalem and the Church of Saint Peter in Gallicantu
On Mount Zion, the sacred hill above Jerusalem, there is another interesting site worth a visit. It is the Church of St. Peter in Gallicantu, built in the place where Peter denied Jesus three times before the cock crow - hence the name of the Church.
The most interesting part of the tour, includes the crypts and the church, surrounded by archaeological excavations.
Do not miss the panoramic view over the Mount of Olives. For a break in the area, you will find a great café where you can stop.
You can also reach these sites independently, but in our opinion the best option is to buy a guided tour, whose stories and anecdotes adds to the experience the sense of a real visit and takes you to places that you might never have visited alone. There are many interesting tours in Jerusalem, we would like to suggest 3:
- Tour on foot of the three religions of Jerusalem, 4000 years of history in a 4 hour experience. You will go from the Temple Mount, to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the Al-Aqsa Mosque and all the most important religious sites of the Holy City.
- If you are looking for something more adventurous, choose the Tour in the Biblical city of David. Walk down through ancient tunnels and stroll through the excavations and ruins of an old citadel, perfect for history lovers.
- For a lighter experience, book the tour in Segway that takes you between the old town, off-hand trails and the Judean desert.
Jerusalem alternative: Hidden tunnels, markets and windmill
After a visit to the Old City, you may want to experience the cool side of Jerusalem, outside the walls. Gourmet restaurants, terrace bar with views, boutique hotels and many fun things to do with the family or with friends.
For an "ethnic" experience among pastries, spicy dishes and an unmissable cup of coffee (it's not bad, we assure you!) take a walk in the crowded Machne Yehuda market. If you want to taste the best hummus of the city, go to the historic restaurant "Abu Shukri", located in the Arab-Christian village of Abu Gosh.
Enter the Museum of Islamic Art to admire one of the largest watch collections in the world or test your lion's heart on one of the many "hidden" tours in the underground tunnels of the Old Town. Bring out your courage and be careful not to bump your head!
On hot days, cool off at the fountains of Tisch Family Zoological Park, the Israeli zoo with biblical animals and endangered species.
What to do on a stroll in the town centre of Jerusalem? Here are more things to do: get on the light rail that runs from north to south of Jerusalem. Plan a visit to the characteristic districts of Yemin Moshe and Mishkenot Sheananim.
You won't believe it, but even in Jerusalem there is a windmill! It is the Montefiore Windmill, built in 1857 in the style of European mills. It is not working but remains a monument to the modern progress of Israel and next to it, it houses a museum dedicated to its builder. You will find it in the fine district of Yemin Moshe.
Jerusalem and surroundings: From Dead Sea mud to Banksy murals
Thanks to its geographical location Jerusalem is an excellent base from which to leave for a day trip out of town. While it is difficult to choose from the many tours to do in the city, it is also true that there are cultural sites that are absolutely worth a visit just a few hours from Jerusalem. We recommend the most popular itineraries and tours:
- Many tourists choose Jerusalem as their starting point to reach Masada and the Dead Sea, the lowest point on Earth 400 meters below sea level. Ideal excursion for a therapeutic mud bath or if you want to swim in waters rich in minerals.
- From Jerusalem you can take one of the tours heading to the Negev desert, between canyons, nabatee cities and kibbutz.
- Consider a whole day to visit Bethlehem. In addition to a visit to the Basilica of the Nativity or Church of the Nativity, if you like street art you should see the Israeli West Bank Barrier or Wall and the works of Banksy. On site you will find detailed descriptions, including maps, to organize an itinerary on foot between the murals and the wall.
- From Jerusalem you can reach the Holy City of Hebron in the West Bank. The area is divided between Israeli and Palestinian sites so the tour, although beautiful, may be subject to changes in the itinerary. It is forbidden to children under 12 years.
Tel Aviv: What to see in the "Miami Beach of the Mediterranean"
Probably the best contrast nearby Jerusalem. Lively, liberal, considered one of the 10 best seaside towns in the world. This description could be enough to explain the "cool" side of Tel Aviv. Beach walkways, full marks sea, hipster cafes, nightlife, shopping boutiques: the cosmopolitan Tel Aviv knows how to attract crowds of young people all year round.
Tel Aviv and the sea: The most beautiful beaches
If you plan to organize a seaside holiday with aperitifs on the beach and have an evening in the nightclubs, with a trip to Tel Aviv you can't go wrong.
The National Geographic declares itself in love with its 13-km-long coastline, calling it the "Miami Beach of the Mediterranean". With an average of 318 days of sunshine per year, you can easily understand why.
Any corner is perfect to leave your towel and dive into the water but, for more special treats, check the following list of the most beautiful beaches in Tel Aviv:
- Gordon Beach, one of the most famous in the capital. Tourists, cafés and good life all year round. In summer early evenings stop for a drink with sea view while in winter the events are concentrated in the late morning.
- Banana Beach, more bohemian and alternative. On Friday nights, young people of all nationalities enjoy cocktails, drums and midnight baths.
- Hilton Beach, the LGBT beach in Tel Aviv near the famous hotel chain. You should know that Tel Aviv holds, among many awards, also title of "best gay city in the world".
- Metzitzim Beach, velvety white beach. Full of clubs and children's activities, this is an area where you can go to the sea, stroll and relax in almost any season. Especially recommended if you travel with the family.
Tel Aviv alternative: Bauhaus style, waterfront and nightlife
Not just sea. Lonely Planet has included Tel Aviv in the list of the top 3 cities in the world also for the several experiences that the Israeli capital can offer to its visitors.
What to see? Don't come back from Tel Aviv without stopping off at Yarkon Park, the city's green lung. Immense green expanses where to simply walk or organize a picnic, paths, bike paths and botanical gardens including the Rock Garden with its impressive selection of cacti. There are also plenty of activities for children in the park, including outdoor climbing or paddle boat renting in a water park.
A Bauhaus soul: Hipster Neighborhoods and Old Jaffa
Tel Aviv owns the most Bauhaus buildings in the world. The modern architectural movement finds its greatest expression in the "White City", an area of the capital completely built in the Bauhaus style.
It is absolutely worth taking a tour in this area, Unesco Cultural Heritage since 2003, even if you are not passionate about architecture.
Continue your tour of the most characteristic districts of the city. Start from Old Jaffa, the old town of Tel Aviv. Points of interest include the famous Clock Tower as well as galleries, museums and art centers. Push on to the Harbour area for a walk along the seafront famous for its unique design. Walking around you'll find bars, cafes and restaurants where you can stop for dinner. Top panorama and sunset for souvenir photos!
For a romantic walk, go to Neve Tzedek, one of the most beautiful districts of Tel Aviv. For the evening we suggest the mega Tachana shopping centre, located near the old railway station. Today it houses a complex of cafés, intimate gourmet restaurants and designer shops for shopping.
And then there is the Florentine, the kingdom of the Hipsters, considered as the Soho of Tel Aviv: in the neighborhood you find the first Israeli street-art gallery and the famous Levinsky Market, typical shuk of Tel Aviv. Stop and taste the burkeas, typical pastries while sipping Ouzo, a distillate of grape must and aniseed.
As we suggested for Jerusalem, a guided tour of Tel Aviv could be the best way to explore its neighborhoods.
- Aficionado of urban art? The tour between Street Art and Murales that tells you about the constant artistic evolution of Tel Aviv.
- For a different hour, book an entertaining Segway visit in the Jaffa district until you get to the Old Tel Aviv Port area and the fantastic city seafront.
The markets of Tel Aviv
Regarding markets, in the Old Jaffa you will find the famous Flea market that offers vintage objects and all sorts of goodies.
The Carmel Market (Shuk Ha'Carmel) deserves a separate discussion, beating heart of the city and institution of Tel Aviv. It's the classic, chaotic Arabic-style market where you can find everything; various goods, handicrafts, spices, street food and fruit juices. Experience to do, recommended!
We advice to go there early in the morning, since at lunchtime it becomes very confusing, you would not enjoy it to the full. Better go early. Watch out for the merchants who will manage to sell you practically everything!
Top Tel Aviv nightlife spots
Tel Aviv's vibrant nightlife offers evenings for every taste with its diverse bars and clubs. In one of these you could even take a stroll:
- Kuli Alma, voted as the best club in all of Tel Aviv. Underground bar, rooftoop, live music and big temporary exhibitions. Beautiful murals decorate the walls.
- Teder. Fm, The Mecca of the hipster world. Perfect meeting place for an unpretentious and affordable evening; outdoor tables, beer served in jars, good music and, icing on the cake, pizza!
- Spicehaus, called the "Cocktail Bar Pharmacy". Barmen dressed as pharmacists and cocktails served in bottles in different "doses". One of the trendiest places in Tel Aviv!
- Are you fond of jazz and rock'n'roll? Go to the Imperial Cocktail Bar, elegant atmosphere in the style of London's aristocratic district.
- The Little Prince, great drinks and rooftop with city views.
Trips outside Tel Aviv: Ein Gedi Oasis and the Golan Heights
If you organized a long trip to Israel, maybe taking advantage of one of the many public holiday bridges offered since 2019, you could plan a trip out of Tel Aviv of a couple of days.
The most popular cultural sites to visit from Tel Aviv, are generally four:
- A daily tour between the UNESCO World Heritage site Masada, which houses the majestic fortress, the oasis in the desert in the nature reserve of Ein Gedi and the beaches of the Dead Sea.
- Jericho and Bethlehem, Jesus' life most cited places in the Bible, from the Cave of the Nativity to the temptation in the desert.
- High Golan, between golden volcanoes and ancient villages such as Katzrin. Generally, this destination also includes a walk along the Jordan, the river where Jesus was baptized.
- Jerusalem tour from Tel Aviv can be done easily through daily guided tours (the two cities are just under 70 km apart).
How to move between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem
It is possible to organize a trip from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem without particular difficulties. Israel's two most important cities are quite close together and you have several travel options.
- Car rental, the perfect solution if you prefer not to be subject to public transport timetables. It will take you an hour, to avoid traffic try to leave after lunch before 15:30 or otherwise wait after 18:30.
- By bus, through Egged Company. Buses leave from the central bus stations of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Tickets can be purchased at the ticket office or on the bus in cash.
- Travel by train, taking advantage of the new railway line Tel Aviv - Jerusalem. The train leaves from Tel Aviv - Savidor Center station and stops at Jerusalem's Navon train station, opposite the central bus station.
- Private transfer or taxi from Tel Aviv Airport - Ben Gurion.
From Tel Aviv Airport to Jerusalem
Tel Aviv - Ben Gurion is Israel's most important and busiest airport, a good starting point for traveling to the city center but also to get directly to Jerusalem or other places such as Haifa, Be'er Shiva or the Dead Sea. For convenience and low prices, the airport transfer is the most chosen means by tourists to reach their destination.