A Walk in The Old City of Jaffa, Tel Aviv

A Walk in The Old City of Jaffa (Self Guided), Tel Aviv

This self-guided tour takes you through one of the oldest port cities on the Mediterranean coast, whose first written record dates back to the 15th century BC. Although integrated with Tel Aviv, Jaffa is quite different. Famous for its ancient slate houses and narrow winding stone roads, it feels a little similar to some ancient cities and towns in Asia, but far less noisy and not too crowded.

Jaffa does not have the same strong historical and religious atmosphere as the Old City of Jerusalem, either, which makes some people feel fresh and comfortable. Follow this self-guided tour to stroll through the mysterious alleyways, explore the parks, wonder at the Zodiac signs on every corner, and take in the amazing views and historical landmarks.
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A Walk in The Old City of Jaffa Map

Guide Name: A Walk in The Old City of Jaffa
Guide Location: Israel » Tel Aviv (See other walking tours in Tel Aviv)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 13
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.1 Km or 1.3 Miles
Author: max
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Jaffa Clock Tower
  • Great Mahmoudiya Mosque
  • Old Jaffa Museum of Antiquities
  • Saint Nicholas Monastery
  • Old Jaffa Port
  • Ilana Goor Museum
  • Kedumim Square / Fountain of Zodiac Signs
  • Saint Peter's Church
  • Summit Garden (HaPisga)
  • Ramses II's Gate Garden
  • Suspended Orange Tree
  • Jaffa Flea Market
  • Abouelafia Bakery
Jaffa Clock Tower

1) Jaffa Clock Tower (must see)

One of the most fascinating tourist attractions in Tel Aviv, this clock tower anchors a busy square that practically any visitor to Jaffa will walk through. Since 1903, it marks the central point of Jaffa, surrounded by historical buildings, a beautiful beach, the flea market and many cool shops, galleries, restaurants and more – a great area to explore.

While not itself a most impressive monument, the clock tower is very prominent, having kickstarted the construction of more than a hundred similar structures throughout the Ottoman Empire. It has a total of four clocks, two of which show time in Israel and the other two in Europe. In the year 2001, as part of the renovation plan of the entire square, the tower was also renovated, and a small Russian-style turret now adorns its top.

Why You Should Visit:
It stands in a vibrant, busy area. It is ancient and authentic. It tells you the time.
Not very impressive compared to Big Ben, but not bad compared to other towers.
Great Mahmoudiya Mosque

2) Great Mahmoudiya Mosque

The third most important mosque in Israel after Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa and Hebron's Cave of the Patriarchs, Mahmoudiya was first built in 1730, with surrounding buildings, gates, and courtyards having been added in stages through the 18th and 19th centuries while Southern Syria was under Ottoman rule.

The courtyard welcomes you with its tranquil views of palm trees and colorful flowers, but the gates to the mosque proper are usually closed to visits unless they are pre-arranged. Interior decorations are intricate yet not too complex, with names of major prophets written on the corners of the two domes: Muhammad, Jesus, Moses, Abraham, Noah, and others.

While the mosque's exterior walls are largely concealed by shops, the tall and refined silhouette of the minaret is still prominent in what remains of the fabric of Old Jaffa and its surroundings.

Don't miss the washing/purification/fountain area attached to the front the mosque facing the street. Free water was once a ruler's gracious gift to his people; nowadays, it's just nice to look at.
Old Jaffa Museum of Antiquities

3) Old Jaffa Museum of Antiquities

Hovering atop a hill in the Old Jaffa quarter near the sea, this museum is located within an Ottoman-era building erected on the ruins of an 11th-century Crusader fortress. Inside are displays of ancient archaeological items alongside traveling/rotating contemporary art exhibitions.

The permanent artifacts showcase the rich and varied history of the many civilizations that conquered Jaffa throughout its long history, starting with the Stone Age and moving onwards to the Canaanites, Egyptians, Persians, Philistines, Phoenicians, Greeks, Hasmoneans, Romans, Byzantines, Ottomans and the British. Each culture has left its mark on Jaffa and the museum devotes special attention to some of the artifacts and archaeological objects that they left behind.

Among the highlights are an 8th-century BC transcription of Sennacherib, King of Assyria (reigned 705-681 BCE), as well as personal items belonging to a Jewish family who lived in the area during the Roman Empire some 2,000 years ago.

Due to hosting private events, the museum may be occasionally closed to the public.

Opening Hours:
Wed, Thu: 11am–7pm; Fri, Sat: 10am–2pm
Saint Nicholas Monastery

4) Saint Nicholas Monastery

Located in the old city of Jaffa, near the harbor of the ancient Mediterranean port city, this Armenian monastery dating to the first millennium AD consists of a large multi-story complex that includes a church and living quarters.

Named for Saint Nicholas, the patron saint of sailors, the monastery gave shelter to pilgrims and seamen looking for a rest on their journey for many centuries. In the 1700s, it was expanded and fortified, and despite not being functional anymore, remains under the jurisdiction of the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem who rents out parts of the complex.

During the Napoleonic Campaign in Egypt at the turn of the 19th century, the French army requested the aid of the Armenian priests at the monastery. After the clerics used their secret medicines to cure some of the soldiers, Napoleon personally thanked the Armenian patriarch and gifted him with his own tent and sword. His visit to the site was depicted in the "Bonaparte Visiting the Plague Victims of Jaffa" painting by Antoine-Jean Gros.
Old Jaffa Port

5) Old Jaffa Port (must see)

A key strategic port in the Eastern Mediterranean until recently, the Jaffa Port holds a very special place in the history of Tel Aviv, as it is here that you can find the city's origins. Actively used for over 7,000 years, the Jaffa Port is mentioned in various ancient works, including the Hebrew Bible (as the spot from where Jonah set off) and various works describing Jewish history and the First Jewish Revolt against Rome. It was used by Egyptians, Ethiopians (Andromeda was chained to a rock here), Philistines, the Jewish nation (King Solomon, Jonah, Peter), Babylon, Alexander the Great, the Ottoman/French/British empires, and Modern Israel.

The recently renovated port area comprises restaurants (try the cash-only FISH AND CHIPS for fresh fish, calamari or shrimp fried on the spot; Mon-Sat: 9am–9pm), galleries, decorated warehouses, and a few shops also, but it's mainly the fresh sea breeze that makes the port and promenade very inviting – especially at sunset when everything is painted orange; a marvelous sight for locals and tourists alike.

Use the promenades – extending both north and south – for nice walks and for views over the old town walls and shoreline (the better views are probably from the top looking down).
Ilana Goor Museum

6) Ilana Goor Museum (must see)

If you're planning on a visit to Jaffa Port, do not miss a tour of the famous Ilana Goor Museum. This establishment has the character and warmth of a home – and rightly so, as nearly three centuries ago it was used as an inn for Jewish pilgrims on their journey to Jerusalem or, rather, a shelter to protect the pilgrims from robbers.

In a bid to restore the building to its former glory and to bring in that calming atmosphere, Ilana Goor spent years working on the graceful arches and the huge golden rock walls; one look at them and you'll know that she has indeed succeeded. An embodiment of refined splendor, the house has many rooms to explore and everything you'll be looking at only adds to the whole; besides, the windows and outdoor terraces offer unique views of the sea and there are comfortable seats to relax in.

Once referred to as an "artistic jungle", the collection is eclectic with things both old and new; focus is on sculpture, wood carving, and metalware. There are more than 500 works of art, either created by Ilana Goor or collected by her over a period of 50 years, either in Israel or during her travels around the world. This includes paintings, some 300 sculptures, video art, Ethnic Art from Africa and Latin America, antiques, as well as drawings and design objects.

On Fridays at noon, the museum offers a guided tour for all visitors, included in the entrance fee.

Opening Hours:
Sun-Fri: 10am–4pm; Saturdays & holidays: 10am–5pm; Holiday eves: 10am–2pm
Kedumim Square / Fountain of Zodiac Signs

7) Kedumim Square / Fountain of Zodiac Signs

With its majestic palm trees and stone steps, the picturesque Kedumim Square (Hebrew: "Square of Ancient Times") is an essential stop for anyone touring Old Jaffa. Don't miss its centerpiece fountain surrounded by catacombs with archaeological remains, nor its eateries, galleries, souvenir shops, museums, plus visitor center. The latter highlights Jaffa's Roman period through 'Jaffa Tales' – a narration of "Yehudah, the Agoranomos (i.e. market supervisor) of Roman Jaffa", who lived in an ancient house in the middle of the center (pre-booking is advised).

The so-called Fountain of Zodiac Signs, established in 2011, combines the effects of water, lighting and stonework and complements the prestige of streets in the immediate area, which are also named after the zodiac. Make a wish on your zodiac sign as you look across the sea to Tel Aviv!

There's a much appreciated clean WC next to the Yemenite Culture and Art Museum.
Saint Peter's Church

8) Saint Peter's Church

With its tall brick façade and towering bell tower, St. Peter's Church is the single largest and most distinctive building in Old Jaffa. Ideally located with a view of the coastline, it was twice destroyed and consequently twice rebuilt, its current structure having been erected between 1888-94 and most recently renovated in 1903. Unlike the majority of churches which face East, this one faces West towards the sea, as that is where Peter has his first vision to evangelize the Gentiles.

The interior is reminiscent of cathedrals in Europe, with a high vaulted ceiling, Munich-manufactured stained glass, and marble walls. The four panels in the interior depict episodes from the life of St. Peter, including the miraculous catch of fishes, the giving of the keys, the transfiguration of Jesus on Mount Tabor and the washing of the feet at the Last Supper. With the exception of depictions of Tabitha, Francis of Assisi, and the Immaculate Conception, all of the other windows in the church depict Spanish saints, which is unsurprising since the present building was erected by the Spanish Empire. Also of note is the pulpit which is carved in the shape of a lifelike tree.

Mass is said in multiple languages as listed on the exterior wall. As with all religious sites, be mindful of dress codes and always respect the silence during mass or at any time.
Summit Garden (HaPisga)

9) Summit Garden (HaPisga)

For an unparalleled view of the whole of Tel Aviv's coastline, head to the top of the gardens in the heart of Old Jaffa, known as HaPisga Garden, or Summit Garden – a green haven bursting with various plants and flowers. Whether you're seeking respite from the city buzz below or simply stopping by for a photo-op, the garden does not disappoint.

As well as the beautiful coastline vista, you can see across Jaffa and the iconic clock tower, the Old Jaffa port, out to sea and across the Tel Aviv's southern neighborhoods. Complete with an amphitheater for outdoor summer events (generically called "The Nights in Jaffa" and running throughout August, every Saturday night), and walking distance from some of the hippest restaurants (BELL, KALAMATA), a visit to HaPisga is a must.

The park is also home to archaeological artifacts, as well as the Statue of Faith decorated with three Biblical relief scenes: Jacob's Dream (left pillar), the Sacrifice of Isaac (right pillar) and the Fall of Jericho (the cross-piece on top). Don't miss the "Wishing Bridge", either, where, according to local legend, visitors should stand at sunset, touch the bronze relief of their astrological sign, and make a wish (the view alone is worth it!).
Ramses II's Gate Garden

10) Ramses II's Gate Garden

Standing on the site of an ancient Egyptian fort, this gateway from the time of Egyptian ruler Ramses II (1400-1200 BC) has been restored from the archaeological site, remaining along with many artifacts of various invaders to the area. The local garrison once guarded the gate and the port, which were a means of control of the Egyptians over Canaan.

In short, this is the place to appreciate the immense history lying behind Old Jaffa. Despite being just one artifact within an archeological context, the cultural meaning is huge. It is, hence, very appropriate to stop by and pay some respect here on your way to/from the HaPisga (Summit) Garden.
Image Courtesy of Adam Watson.
Suspended Orange Tree

11) Suspended Orange Tree

Jaffa has a long and very interesting history in relation to oranges – especially in the mid-19th century and before the 1970s, when they became emblems of the Israeli state, having also lent the city of Tel Aviv-Yafo the nickname "Big Orange". A walk through Old Jaffa, therefore, has to either start, end, or contain passing by this homage to what was – with the new Jaffa on one side and its walls and beginnings in the opposite direction.

The work of Israeli artist Ran Morin, this unusual, interesting and photogenic city landmark titled "Orange Suspendu" was completed in November 1993 as one of many involving full-sized trees. Hung by wires from the walls of nearby houses at about one meter above ground, in an entranceway to a cobblestone path leading to galleries and art studios, this tree is alive (due to a discreet drip system) and even puts forth fruit during harvesting season – look closely and be convinced!

According to Morin, his work of art represents the juxtaposition of man and nature. Symbolically, however, some see it as an ode to an agricultural product that became synonymous with the area and ultimately helped with the rebirth of Israel – a triumph over sand and wasted lands. In a way, it also mirrors the situation of Palestinians who inhabit Israel, as they have to grow in suspension, like this orange tree.

Nearby (walk 10 meters through the arch) is a gallery for the sculptor Frank Meisler, famous for his metal creations, and you can certainly spend a couple of hours roaming the other beautiful galleries around.
Jaffa Flea Market

12) Jaffa Flea Market (must see)

At Jaffa Flea Market, the early bird gets the greatest deals. Particularly on Sundays, if you happen to be the first customer, you will get goods at affordable prices from sellers who wish to start a sale that will bring luck through the week.

At this market, you can find an array of mixed treasures and trinkets. You can browse through interesting collections of brass, copper, jewelry, Persian tiles, old family albums, Judaica items and even used clothes.

Jaffa Flea Market is all about bargaining, so hone up your bargaining skills or at least bring along someone who knows how to haggle with merchants. If you do not master the language, use your wonderful two hands to get understood.

Located close to the Clock Tower, the market is named after old clothes crawling with fleas, previously sold here. After the area was renovated a few years back, there has been a complete transformation in terms of ambience and atmosphere. Today you can find a range of great quaint/trendy restaurants, coffee shops and art galleries that attract younger crowds, and you may even attend some cultural events for no charge. The vibrant and lively narrow lanes of this market have always been popular with tourists and on the afternoon hours, the whole area is packed full of bars!

Why You Should Visit:
A combination of trendy coffee shops, antique shops and open-air second-hand stores that attract a variety of people – young hipsters, couples, families, and odd people.

Opening Hours:
Sun-Thu: 9am–5pm; Fri: 9am–2pm
Abouelafia Bakery

13) Abouelafia Bakery

An excellent place to taste Middle Eastern baked goods and pastries, this iconic bakery in Jaffa, run by an Arab-Israeli family since the late 19th century, is open all day and all night, having become embedded in the personal food histories of many.

Don't miss the chance to get something to eat here – there is quite a range of breads and pitas (plenty topped with eggs and cheese) and flaky bourekas (hot pockets) to choose from and you can also indulge in mouthwatering sweets like baklava, babka, or knafeh.

Staff is used to tourists and everything here is a feast for the eyes and stomach, with pastries baked every few hours, around the clock. Ask for a sample at your own risk – you will probably end up buying more if you do. If you're there when it's really busy and people are lining up onto the street, don't walk away – enjoy the atmosphere!

Try the triangle sesame-puffed "kaak" bread filled with different kinds of cheese!

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