The first modern city founded by the Jewish community in Israel, Tel Aviv is the country’s second-most populated city, and the most populous city in Gush Dan, Israel’s largest metropolitan area, which contains 42 percent of Israel’s population. Located on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, Tel Aviv is a coastal town, with a happening beach scene rivaling those at South Beach and Fort Lauderdale. It is also a very international city, being home to most foreign embassies.
Tel Aviv is located adjacent to the ancient, mostly Arab-populated port city of Jaffa, which is a tourist draw all its own, with landmarks dating back to Biblical days. The two cities are so close, the area is often referred to as Tel Aviv-Jaffa. Arab/Middle Eastern influences can be seen everywhere in Tel Aviv, from the plethora of eateries offering Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine for all budgets to the loud and boisterous Shuk HaCarmel (Carmel Market), which, like the market depicted in the Disney classic Aladdin, offers anything and everything shoppers could want at a discount, if one is willing to haggle of course.
And as far as food goes, Tel Aviv is home to a variety of national and international food types, including the increasingly popular sushi, with more than 100 sushi restaurants to try, the third highest concentration in the world.
For those who enjoy historical architecture, the White City (Hebrew: Ha-Ir HaLevana) is not to be missed. It refers to a collection of over 4,000 Bauhaus, or international-style, buildings built by German Jewish architects in Tel Aviv during the 1930s. Tel Aviv has the largest number of buildings in this style of any city in the world. In 2003, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) declared Tel Aviv’s White City a World Cultural Heritage site, with The Bauhaus Center in Tel Aviv regular organizing architectural tours.
Besides being a major metropolis, Tel Aviv is also an economic hub and Israel’s financial center, home to the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange, corporate offices and research and development centers, and a major performing arts and business center. As a matter of fact, Tel Aviv has the second-largest economy in the Middle East after Dubai, and is the fifth most-visited city in the Middle East and Africa. Like New York and Miami, it is known as the city that never sleeps due to its thriving nightlife and young atmosphere. Culture can be found in Tel Aviv 24 hours a day.
And speaking of culture, Tel Aviv is a major center of culture and entertainment, with 18 of Israel’s 35 major centers for the performing arts located in the city, including five of the country’s nine large theaters. These include the Tel Aviv Performing Arts Center, home of the Israeli Opera and the Cameri Theater; the Frederic R. Mann Auditorium (Culture Palace), the city’s largest theater and home to the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra; Habima Theater, Israel’s national theater; Enav Cultural Center, one of city’s newer additions; the Gesher Theater and Beit Lessin Theater; and Tzavta and Tmuna, smaller theaters that host musical performances and fringe productions, along with Simta and Notzar in Jaffa, which specialize in fringe as well. Opera and classical music performances are held daily in Tel Aviv, with the city having hosted many of the world’s classical music leaders.
Concerts are also a big draw in Tel Aviv, with pop and rock shows in venues such as Hayarkon Park, Israel’s most-visited urban park; the Israel Trade Fairs & Convention Center, the Barby Club and the Zappa Club. Film festivals can also be found in Tel Aviv as well, at the Cinematheque, which shows art movies, premieres of short and full-length Israeli films, and hosts the Festival of Animation, Comics and Caricatures, the Icon Science Fiction and Fantasy Festival, the Student Film Festival, the Jazz, Film and Videotape Festival and Salute to Israeli Cinema.
Named the gay capital of the Middle East, the city is home to Tel Aviv Pride, the largest annual pride parade in the Middle East and Asia, attracting over 100,000 attendees. Additionally, Tel Aviv also hosts an annual LGBT Film Festival.
Fashionistas will be thrilled to know that Tel Aviv has become an international center of fashion and design, with a multitude of malls, like Dizengoff Center, Israel’s first and largest mall, and the shops at Allenby Street. In 2011, Tel Aviv hosted its first Fashion Week since the 1980s, featuring Italian designer Roberto Cavalli as a guest of honor.
And history buffs will be happy to hear that Israel has the highest number of per capita museums of any country, with three of the largest located within its borders: Eretz Israel Museum, known for its collection of archaeology and history exhibits, the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, and Beth Hatefutsoth, a museum dedicated to the Jewish diaspora housed on Tel Aviv University’s campus. Batey Haosef Museum specializes in Israel Defense Forces military history, and the Palmach Museum near Tel Aviv University offers a history of the Palmach, the elite fighting force of Israel’s underground army during the British Mandate.