The Ancient & Romantic Side of Tel Aviv

One of the narrow alleys in the ancient city of JaffaOne of the narrow alleys in the ancient city.

The first thing you will notice about Jaffa, known in Hebrew as Yaffo, is that it is extremely romantic. When my sister and her husband chose to have their wedding there I thought it was a perfect setting. With the Mediterranean Sea close by, the scenic port, the old city and the multitude of galleries, you simply can’t afford to miss it while in Tel Aviv. It is, after all, the ancient part of the bigger city.

Jaffa, or Yaffo, is old. Really old. In fact, it is one of the oldest cities in the world. The city itself is at least 4,000 years old. However, people have been living there for over 10,000 years. Some sort of people…

The name of the city might have come from a Hebrew word meaning “beauty”. Others say it was named after Japheth, the son of the biblical Noah, who supposedly built it after the well-known great flood.

The city changed hands many times mainly due to its strategically located port and the commanding views it has over the sea. Among the cultures that controlled it are the Canaanites, Egyptians, Israelites – including King David and his son King Solomon - Assyrians, Romans and a bunch of other cultures (including Napoleon, who ruined it…). Christianity’s main connection to the city is St. Peter’s miracles that were performed there.

Like Haifa and Akko, this city also has a mix of Jewish residents and Arabs - both Muslims and Christians.

Ancient cannons in the old city of JaffaAiming at Tel Aviv. A couple of ancient cannons in the old city.

What are the Main Attractions in Jaffa?

  • The Jaffa clock tower is over 100 years old and was built by the Ottomans. It stands in the center of the busiest street, Yefet. It is the most popular starting point for any walking tour in the old city.
The Jaffa clock tower at nightThe Jaffa clock tower at night. Picture by Assaf Shtilman.
  • The Jaffa Flea Market, also known as Shuk Hapishpeshim. Located a few minutes walk from the Jaffa Clock Tower, and right next to the Old Jaffa Hostel, the Jaffa flea market has lots of awesome finds, from traditional cashmere scarves to Judaica, jewellery, local artwork and plenty of great Israeli souvenirs. It's a favourite for locals and also for tourists. You can also find plenty of great restaurants and bars nearby.
Shuk Hapishpeshim (flea market) Stall in JaffaOne of the many stalls from Shuk Hapishpeshim in Jaffa
Shuk Hapishpeshim Walking Street Entrance (Olei Tzion Street)The walking street entrance to Shuk Hapishpeshim (Olei Tzion Street)
  • St. Peter’s Church is a beautiful church in the old city, named after St. Peter. The church is probably the most impressive structure in the old city and was built in the mid 17th century. The interior design is a fancy European style with high ceilings and marble walls. Napoleon Bonaparte lived in the church during his barbaric visit to the city in 1799.
St. Peter's Church in JaffaSt. Peter's Church. It is quite impressive from the inside, but unfortunately you're not allowed to take pictures. So, just take my word and visit...

  • The galleries alongside the narrow alleys.
  • The old Jaffa port with its awesome colors and the finest fish restaurants.
The old Jaffa portThe old Jaffa port. Picture by Or Hiltch.
  • Abu-Hassan hummus restaurant. A hummus restaurant?!? Oh Ya!!! Probably one of the top 3 hummus dishes served in Israel. In my 20’s, when I used to work in southern Tel Aviv, I would go to this small restaurant every other day. At Abu Hassan, a.k.a Ali Karavan, the menu is extremely simple to say the least (they only serve 2-3 types of hummus plates) but the taste is heaven. Don’t come too late as they close at around 2pm or when they run out of hummus, whichever happens first. Address: 1 Dolphin Street, Jaffa.

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