Most of the visitors to the country of Israel have Jerusalem, specifically the Old City as their main destination.
But the city of Tel Aviv, which I feel is oftentimes overlooked by tourists, also has a lot of things to offer to visitors from all over the world.
From the busy streets of Allenby and Rothschild, to the gorgeous and upscale neighborhood of Neve Tzedek and the unforgettable beaches facing the mighty Mediterranean.
For me, however, no visit to Tel Aviv is complete without a tour of the quiet but historical city of Old Jaffa or Yafo in Hebrew.
Located in the southern part of the city, Old Jaffa is one of the main attractions in Tel Aviv. And in a relatively expensive such as this, it is of great comfort to know that touring Old Jaffa is free, In fact, there are free tours of the area, every day, at 9am, beginning at the Clock Tower at the main center.
In this part of Tel Aviv alone, there are already lots of places to check out. But I am giving you my favorites as a history and culture geek.
The Clock Tower
According to historical data, this structure located in the center of Old Jaffa, was built in 1906 at the fading years of the Ottoman rule. It was built as a gift to the then ruler Sultan Abed Al-Hamid II as a gesture of goodwill for the latter’s 25th anniversary in power. Now, the center is one of the most famous landmarks in Yafo. Nearby, there is a rotunda filled with flowers. Also, the clock tower is very near the flea market. As mentioned, this is also the starting point of the free Old Jaffa tours.
If you want to get a good bird eye’s view of the Tel Aviv beaches, take a hike to the Jaffa Hill. Here you can also see Napoloeon-era cannons, the Jaffa Museum and several churches including St. Peter’s Church and the Immanuel Church. This is also where you can find the visitors information center which is a great resource for everything Old Jaffa. Jaffa Hill is also the location of the 3,500 Egyptian gates and several awesome gardens.
You can also find here the Wishing Bridge which has all the zodiac signs along its railings. Legend has it that if you stand on the bridge, touch your zodiac sign, and make a wish, it will come true.
St. Peter Church
This Franciscan church is one of the most dominant landmarks in Old Jaffa. The church was built in the 19th century. It was built upon the remains of a fortress/hostel where Napoleon supposedly stayed in the 18th century. This church is also an important site for the Christian community since it is supposed to be the site where Peter raised one of Jesus’s disciples from the dead.
It was one of the oldest ports in the world but was damaged several times. On a hilltop above the port, a lighthouse is located which was build in 1865. While the lighthouse is no longer functioning, it remains a an important navigational aid to to boats and its crew. Along the shore of the port, you can also see old locals trying their hands at fishing. One famous site in the port is Andromeda’s rock. This collection of black rocks is where Andromeda was supposedly chained naked as a sacrifice to the sea monster. The sea monster was sent by Poseidon who was angered by Andromeda’s mother Cassiopeia. Stories say that Cassiopeia was too proud of her daughter’s beauty and she even claimed than Andromeda is even far more beautiful than the nereids (water spirits/goddesses). Andromeda was then saved by Persue wbo eventually became her husband.
Located adjacent to the Clock Tower, the Mahamoudia mosque is the largest and most important mosque in Old Jaffa. Historical records showed that the construction of the mosque was started as early as 1730’s but most of the structure and its surrounding complex were built starting in 1812 under the supervision of the Ottoman governor of Gaza and Jaffa. It has a foundtain inside for pilgrims. Its gate is called the “gate of the governors”
Old Jaffa at Night
Well, old Jaffa is not just for history and culture buffs. It’s also for the young and party animals.All around the area, you will find small alleys filled with small pubs and clubs. most of them have live music players.One of the highly recommended bars in the area is called Shaffa bar, located along rabbi Nakman Street in Yafo.It’s quite close to the flea market so the atmosphere is always alive. The menu and its clienteles are also varied. From your usual falafel and hummus, it also served Jordanian and Lebanese food and some meats as well. It is also a popular alcohol joint at nght. Most of the customers are locals but a lot of tourists gravitate towards the area as well.