Visit Tel Aviv Like a Local

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Sometimes it’s fun to play the role of a tourist when you travel to other countries. But other times, you want to see the real city, the one that locals know and love.

These secret Tel Aviv tips are the key to experiencing this major Israeli city in a way that few tourists can.

Eat a True Israeli Breakfast

Known as a kibbutz, a true Israeli breakfast is something you simply can’t miss when you’re visiting Tel Aviv. In the past, field workers in Israel would eat a small snack very early in the morning, then head out to work in the fields for a few hours. They would return mid-morning to a feast that consisted of everything you can imagine except meat. Fruits, salads, breads, vegetables, pastries, breads, eggs, fish, and dairy foods satisfied their every craving.

Many hotels claim to serve a kibbutz these days, but often, these buffet-style breakfasts aren’t true to the concept. Try Manta Ray, a restaurant near the sea that will introduce you to an incredible variety of foods to start your day. While meat can never be served alongside dairy, and pork is forbidden altogether, fish and seafood can be eaten at the same meal as dairy products, and Manta Ray offers a range of seafood dishes that are as fresh as you’ll find in the country.

Enjoy an Outdoor Cafe

One of the simple pleasures of Middle Eastern and European culture is sitting at an outdoor cafe while you sip your coffee or tea or eat a simple meal. People watching and sharing your table with strangers are activities that people from the U.S. don’t really do very often. They are usually in a hurry and don’t have time to just sit and watch the world go by and sharing a table with people you don’t know has never been an American activity.

In Tel Aviv, if you want to experience the city like a local, find a cozy cafe like Cafe Castel, Zorik Cafe, or Lachmanina, pull up a chair, and just sit still for a while. You’ll see sites that you may have missed if you were busy trying to get from one attraction to another and you might just make a friend or two when you join them at their table.

Visit a Flea Market and Haggle With a Vendor

You will never get the true local experience in Tel Aviv if you don’t visit a flea market, find a treasure, and negotiate with the vendor for a lower price. Haggling isn’t something Americans do very often, unless they’re buying a car, but in Israel, talking a vendor into taking less payment for an item is an everyday activity. Jaffa’s Flea Market, located just south of Tel Aviv, is a trendy and vibrant outdoor market where you’ll find vintage kitchenware, kilim rugs, jewelry, old Persian tiles, traditional clothing, and, of course, Middle Eastern souvenirs.

The way to haggle like a local is to first inquire about the price. You should never pay the first price the vendor quotes because they expect you to negotiate and will give an expensive price. Politely say, “no thank you,” and walk away. It’s almost guaranteed that within seconds, the vendor will tell you they’ll sell it for less. If it’s still too expensive, you can walk away again, but the vendor may or may not follow this time. You’ll have to decide if the new price is worth it.

Play a Game of Matkot

Matkot is a popular paddle game among local Israelis. It has been played on the beaches of Tel Aviv and around the country since the 1920s, and is considered by many experts to be the national beach sport of Israel. The sport, which is similar to beach tennis, consists of two players with paddles and a ball. The goal is to keep the ball in the air, hitting between the two paddle for as long as possible without the ball hitting the ground.

You should find equipment available for your use at most Tel Aviv beaches, or you can sometimes check out paddles and balls from your hotel. If you need to purchase equipment, it’s not too expensive to find a low-end set that you can use while you’re visiting. Alternatively, you might like the game so much that you want to buy a set to bring back home with you.

Eat Authentic Hummus

Sure, you’ve probably had hummus before, but have you had authentic Israeli hummus? If you haven’t, now’s your chance. This traditional Middle Eastern dish is made from cooked and mashed chickpeas that are mixed with tahini, garlic, and lemon juice. Of course, you’ll find variations on this basic flavor depending on where you order it from.

Try the hummus at Abu Hassan for the creamiest, most authentic hummus in Tel Aviv. Just be sure to arrive early because by 3:00 p.m. there won’t be any left. This appetizer dish is served with pita bread and includes whole chickpeas as a garnish. It’s perfect for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, or even for a snack in the middle of the day.

Try a Sip of Arak

Arak is a traditional Middle Eastern alcoholic drink that is flavored with anise and is similar to sambuca in Italy. This drink is made from just two ingredients, which are aniseed and grapes, and it can taste very strong to people who aren’t used to this type of beverage. But, if you’re going to experience Tel Aviv like a local, you’ll want to try at least a sip of this popular drink. Visit Haminzr Bar, which is located near the Carmel Market for a taste of Arak.

Conclusion

There’s nothing better than feeling like a local in Tel Aviv even if it’s your first time there. By immersing yourself in the culture, you will come away with a much richer experience than if you just go to all the popular tourist attractions and don’t try the activities and foods that are popular with the locals. Of course, we’re not saying you shouldn’t visit those attractions, but there’s no reason you can’t do both!

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