With a pristine beach stretching eight miles along the western edge of the city, mind blowingly-good food, nightlife, and weather, most visitors to Tel Aviv will be tempted to stay forever. But while everything is great quality, Tel Aviv is a surprisingly pricey city and it might be hard to hang around without spending a fair amount.
To help you unlock Tel Aviv’s cheaper side and get more from your holiday without breaking your budget, here are the best things to do in Israel’s ‘White City’ for free.
Go on a free tour of the city's amazing Bauhaus architecture
Tel Aviv’s buildings are its defining, striking feature and, thanks to its architecture, the city was declared a UNESCO world heritage site in 2003.
Around every corner lies a beautiful Bauhaus building, with wide balconies, strong horizontal lines, and often whitewashed or painted a pastel hue. Cubist characteristics combine with curves creating patterns of light and shade, while overflowing rooftop gardens drape the city in green.
Every Saturday at 11am*, a free tour will take you through the city’s most prominent architectural treasures, tracking the development of Tel Aviv’s rare urban design and development.
*(Meeting point at 46 Rothschild Boulevard, corner of Shadal Street).
Take a free yoga class with panoramic city view
Free yoga classes are offered every Thursday at 6pm on the roof of Tel Aviv’s City Hall. This is a very special Tel Aviv experience, doing sun salutations as the sun sets over the Mediterranean sea with a panoramic view of the city skyline.
*Ibn Gvirol St. 69, Tel Aviv, Entrance to the roof via the 12th floor.
Get hooked on the Israeli version of bat and ball
Matkot (Bat and ball)
Matkot (an intense Israeli version of bat and ball) is one free activity that can easily steal a few days of any holiday. Granted, you do have to purchase the bat and ball but once you’ve forked out that fiver, you’re good to go.
The aim is simply to hit a small rubber ball back and forth with a racket, as fast as you can and without dropping the ball. It’s such a popular pastime that the beach is always filled with the gentle tapping sound of the bats hitting the ball. And to rest you can take sunbathe or take a dip in the sparkling clear sea, both also totally free.
Skate around Tel Aviv under the veil of darkness
Tel Aviv Rollers
Started by a group of enthusiastic rollerblading pals, Tel Aviv Rollers now has hundreds of attendees and a Facebook group to help with logistics. Every Tuesday night at 10pm, participants gather at Habima Square (bring your own blades) and proceed to explore the city for a couple of hours.
The route is closed off to traffic and the rules are: no headphones but compulsory hand protectors. There’s a chance to grab a drink en route and the expedition usually culminates with a party at a local bar.
*Tuesdays, 10pm, Habima Square. Tar Tel Aviv Rollers (find them on facebook).
Tel Aviv's Levinksy Market is perfect for an aimless wander
In the middle of the bohemian neighbourhood of Florentin, the Levinsky Market specializes in Mizrahi foods and spices brought here by the area’s Middle Eastern Jewish immigrants. Many of the delicatessens, cafes, and stalls, and shops are family-owned or have a proprietor so charismatic the locals stop by every day to chat.
Levinsky 41, a hole-in-the-wall selling coffee and a botanical fizzy drink known as ‘gazoz’, is one such establishment with its owner, Benny, drawing long queues just to say hello. Levinsky Market is open every day except for Shabbat, so come to get a sense of the local way of life and to top up on marinated olives and roasted nuts to snack on at the beach.
Where to stay nearby
Crown Sea Hostel
In a pistachio green, palm-shaded Tel Aviv building, just three minutes’ walk from the beach and metres from Carmel Markets, you’ll find Crown Sea Hostel.
Florentine Backpackers Hostel
Right in the heart of the Florentine neighbourhood and only nine minutes’ walk from the beach, a youthful accommodation with a sofa-filled, communal, shaded terrace.
Urban-chic apartments with friendly, immensely helpful and capable staff.