The top five things to do in Tel Aviv‘s historic Jaffa neighborhood.
Tel Aviv and the neighboring ancient port city of Jaffa were merged into a single municipality in 1950, and your Tel Aviv vacation wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the city’s hip and southernmost neighborhood.
Historically associated with quite a few Biblical settings and tales of Napoleon’s conquests, nowadays Jaffa is populated by Jews, Christians, and Muslims alike and is of great significance to all three religions, making Jaffa one of the most diverse, colorful, tasty, fun, and fascinating parts of Tel Aviv.
Below, find five things you won’t want to miss when you visit Jaffa.
Enjoy a Pastry by the Clock Tower
The Clock Tower and St. Peter’s Church are two must-see local landmarks built during the Ottoman period in Jaffa. The Clock Tower, standing in a tiny little square surrounded by restaurants and little shops, is the heart of Jaffa. Sitting in the square while munching on a sweet sesame bagel or a sambusaq (a fried or baked pastry with a savory filling) from Abuelafia, the Arab bakery opposite the tower, is a great way to soak up the atmosphere. If you visit Israel in December, you can see the huge Christmas tree, which is lit in the square right in front of the tower every year.
Wander the Old City and St. Peter’s Church
The northwestern part of Jaffa that borders Tel Aviv situated on a hill above the sea is called the Old City. The visitor’s center will help you find your way around in the area, but even without it, if you walk through the picturesque narrow alleys of the Old City you’ll be sure to stumble across galleries, artisan workshops, theaters, sculptures, archeological ruins, and various places of worship. Be sure to bask in the green serenity of Gan HaPisga (HaPisga Garden), which has a beautiful view of the Tel Aviv-Yafo shoreline, and make a wish on Gesher HaMazalot (Wishing Bridge). All you have to do is walk on the wooden bridge, put your hand on your zodiac sign (carved on the banister), look out to the sea, and make a wish. According to legend, it will come true.
Within the walls of the Old City sits beautiful Franciscan Roman-Catholic basilica St. Peter’s Church. It was built in the 17th century and is located in the Old City above the ancient port of Jaffa in Kedumim Square. It is open to visitors and brimming with Christian history and religious significance.
Shop at Jaffa Flea Market
This flea market (Shuk HaPishpishim in Hebrew) truly has something for everyone, whether you’re the type to rummage through rusty old junk spread out on mats or look for vintage clothes, collectibles, antiques, or unique souvenirs. The market is divided into a few different areas depending on what you’re looking for and is surrounded by a gentrified area, full of cute boutiques, ice cream parlors, fresh juice stands, restaurants, and cafes.
The port of Jaffa is mentioned in the Bible and is one of the most ancient ports in the world. It has been used since at least the Bronze Age. Nowadays, this historic location serves as a tourist destination and fishing port. Tours of the port will fill you in on all you need to know about the place and its history. Of course, the port is the perfect destination for seafood lovers, with quite a few seafood restaurants and bars to choose from. The Old Man and the Sea is one of many great options in the area.
Eat at Dr. Shakshuka
Apart from Hummus Abu Hassan, another of Jaffa’s culinary landmarks is Dr. Shakshuka. The doctor is chef Bino Gabso, famous for his North African home-cooking style. The restaurant’s eponymous dish is the shakshuka, a North African skillet of eggs in tomato sauce. At his Jaffa establishment, Gabso serves shakshuka in a personal frying pan, along with dishes like couscous, mafroum (stuffed potatoes), and chraimeh (spicy fish) in an enchanting atmosphere.