Lonely Planet Local Dan Savery Raz has been living in Tel Aviv for almost 10 years. Initially attracted by the beaches, bars and general bustle of Tel Aviv, he stayed for the freewheeling, spontaneous lifestyle and family-friendly atmosphere. Oh, and the Middle East’s most diverse culinary scene might have also had something to do with it...

Sunbathers at Hilton Beach, Tel Aviv. Image by Fotokon / Shutterstock
Saturdays are for sunbathing at Hilton Beach © Fotokon / Shutterstock

On Saturdays, I... head to the beach like the rest of Tel Aviv. My favourite is Hilton Beach, on the city’s northern coast, which includes TLV’s unofficial gay beach and a dog-walkers' beach. Off-season it’s a tranquil stretch of sand to walk my dog, Boots, and on-season, it’s party central, filled with tanned sun-worshippers and locals throwing frisbees. Right behind this beach is Independence Park, an often overlooked green space that offers spectacular vistas of the Mediterranean and even Old Jaffa to the south.

My children love going to… Park HaYarkon, where they can run around grassy parkland and play to their heart’s content at one of the many playgrounds with slides, wooden climbing frames and swings. For a grand day out with the little ones, we head out of town to Safari Ramat Gan, famous for its drive-through area and zoo.

Eating a falafel in Tel Aviv. Image by Dan Savery Raz / Lonely Planet
Dan's top tip: don't leave Tel Aviv without trying the falafel © Dan Savery Raz / Lonely Planet

No trip to Tel Aviv would be complete without… tucking into a messy falafel. Although said to have originated from Egypt, this fried chickpea ball, usually served with salad in pita bread, has become synonymous with Tel Aviv. Falafel stalls can be found on almost every major street corner, and a manna (‘portion’) costs less than 20NIS. Other street food favourites include shawarma (kebab meat in a large wrap) and sabich (fried aubergine with egg) – all of these can be found at HaKosem.

The best way to cool down is… by sampling the world-class ice cream at Arte, which serves up bona fide Italian gelato, including a whole range of vegan varieties on Nahalat Binyamin St. The frozen yogurt at Tamara on Rothschild Blvd also offers healthier sweet options of tapioca or granola with fruit.

Shoppers at the Carmel Market in Tel Aviv, Israel. It's one of Israel's oldest outdoor marketplaces offers a wide variety of foods and merchandise. Image by Andrey Bayda / Shutterstock
Shop in the heart of Tel Aviv at Carmel Market © Andrey Bayda / Shutterstock

When my parents are in town… we take a stroll around the city’s markets, including the Jaffa Flea Market (home to antiques, jewellery and carpentry), Carmel Market (a loud food market that’s the main artery of town) and Nahalat Binyamin Crafts Market (my mum’s favourite place with its handmade artefacts and paintings). After some leg-tiring shopping, we’ll have a rest in the quiet quarter of Neve Tzedek, the city’s oldest neighbourhood with its choice of cafes and wine bars.

Breakfast means just one thing... Benedict. When friends or family visit, we have a tradition of taking them for a slap-up breakfast fit for a queen at this 24/7 breakfast cafe. Much more than bacon and eggs (though apparently they do offer fine ‘un-kosher’ pork), I normally splash out on the ‘Royale’ with poached eggs, salmon, salad, as-much-as-you-can-eat bread basket and a mimosa cocktail – now that’s how to start a day in style.

A crowd of people march in the Pride Parade in the streets of Tel Aviv, Israel. The pride parade is an annual event of the gay community. Image by RnDmS / Shutterstock
Gay Pride in Tel Aviv is one of the city's biggest parties © RnDmS / Shutterstock

One thing I love about Tel Aviv is… its air of freedom. Unlike its older sibling, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv is an open, cosmopolitan city. Each summer it plays host to the largest Gay Pride party in the Middle East. In the grungy neighbourhood of Florentin, you’ll find inspiring graffiti and underground pubs playing Arabesque beats. Politicians and religious leaders are viewed with suspicion by locals, who prefer to put the world to rights over a cappuccino or beer.

One thing I hate about Tel Aviv is… the pollution caused by litter and excessive food packaging. The good news is Tel Aviv has a restaurant every five metres. The bad news is that this creates one hell of a mess. The city’s beautiful beaches, peaceful parks and bustling street corners are often tarnished by overflowing dustbins and recycling is not always readily available. If in town, please respect the environment and take your rubbish with you if there’s no dustbin nearby.

A man rides a bicycle at the old Tel Aviv Port Area in Tel Aviv, Israel. Image by ChameleonsEye / Shutterstock
Cycling is one of the best ways to get around Tel Aviv © ChameleonsEye / Shutterstock

I know I’m a real Tel Avivian… because I reach a kind of otherworldly euphoria when I find a car parking space in town. Unfortunately, driving in Tel Aviv is pretty chaotic, and parking space is at a premium, so expect to hear more than a few drivers beeping their horns in frustration. In short, it’s better to hire a bicycle and explore Tel Aviv on two wheels.

For a fun night out with friends… I’ll hit a few bars in the centre of town, including Bicicletta, a buzzing patio garden bar; Port Sa'id, the heart of town for hipsters and Rothschild 12 – a live music venue that also has great breakfasts if it’s getting near daybreak.

Get more travel inspiration, tips and exclusive offers sent straight to your inbox with our weekly newsletter.

Explore related stories