Tourist’s guide to Jaffa’s Old City – a Journey to Ancient Israel

Jaffa or Jaffa (Israel) is one of the most ancient cities in the world, founded in the post-flood time by the son of Noah Yaphet. In its name, this city has preserved not only a tribute to history, but also a clear hint of its beauty (in Hebrew, “jaffa” means “beautiful”).

Jaffa Old Town

In 1909, construction began on a new Jewish quarter (suburb) of Jaffa, called Tel Aviv. Since that time, Tel Aviv has grown to a huge metropolis, and now Jaffa is considered to be part of it, its Old City. In 1950, Jaffa was merged with Tel Aviv, and after the merger, these cities received the general name “Tel Aviv-Jaffa.”

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Best of Jaffa’s Top Attractions

You can read the history of Jaffa in the smallest details in any guidebook in Israel, because this old city is a famous tourist center. But no directory can convey that particular silent atmosphere that literally hovers in the air here, and those myths and secrets of the past that respectfully keep the walls of old buildings. Jaffa is literally filled with sights, but it would be more correct to say: Jaffa – this is a tourist attraction. And not only in the traditional sense of the word, but also in a somewhat unusual way. Even if you do not go anywhere, but simply walk along the narrow streets of the city, along stone slabs that have been erased to shine, you get the impression that this is a journey through time, into the distant past!

Jaffa city street

And this despite the fact that over the past decades, Jaffa has become a bohemian tourist destination with a large number of restaurants, cafes, art boutiques, art workshops and galleries, theaters, museums. And the population here was matched accordingly: musicians, sculptors, jewelers, artists – their number per 1 m² is unrealistically high. For some tourists, such an over-volume of art and creators-geniuses causes a real panic.

Important! Finding the right place in this ancient city is not very easy. The old streets are very similar, and among them you can easily get lost. Therefore, for a walk, always take a Jaffa map with attractions in Russian, especially if you do not know how to use interactive maps on your phone.

Zodiac Sign Quarter

In Jaffa, there is a unique quarter of the signs of the Zodiac – its appearance is explained by the desire to reconcile the numerous diasporas whose representatives live here. Streets with such neutral names seem to show: no one is better or worse, everyone is equal. There is already a tradition among tourists: you need to find a street with your zodiac sign and touch a sign to lure luck.

Important! Wear comfortable shoes to make your trip a pleasure. Ideal option – sneakers. Almost all the streets are uneven, there are many dangerous slopes.

Sculpture of Ilana Gur

And now in more detail about some of the sights of old Jaffa – the most unusual, most historical, most artistic. In general, about the most-most. And while searching for these places, be sure to move away from the route and see everything that is possible! So you will see a lot of unusual things, but if you happen to be in private territory, then just apologize and leave – no one will touch the tourists.

Soaring orange tree

Among the many old streets hid a completely unusual attraction, which became the place of a mandatory photo for all guests of Jaffa and Israel. Finding it is not easy, the guideline is this: go from Mazal Dagim Street to Mazal Arie Street.

Soaring orange tree

An orange tree hovering in the air was invented and created by sculptor Ran Morin in 1993. The tree grows in a large oval pot, and it looks as if it is being pecked from an egg. The pot hangs on strong ropes fixed to the walls of nearby buildings.

The meaning in this unusual installation is much more than it might seem at first glance. There are many interpretations, and everyone can understand how convenient it is. Here are just two versions:

  1. The tree in the “egg” is a topic for reflection on the fact that we live as if in a shell, we are moving farther and farther away from the earth and nature, and we are finally breaking the last ties with our ancestors.
  2. This monument is a symbol of the Jewish people, torn from their land and scattered throughout the world, but continuing to live and bear fruit.
Frank Meisler Sculpture Gallery

Very close to the installation with an orange tree, on Simtat Mazal Arie 25, there is another attraction: Frank Meisler gallery. Its owner is the sculptor Frank Meisler, known not only in the city of Jaffa and Israel, but also throughout the world. Masler’s creations are at exhibitions in London, Brussels, New York, they are collected by many famous people.

Frank Meisler Sculpture Gallery

Inside, you can see a lot of interesting things. Frank Meisler was able to appreciate the talent of Vladimir Vysotsky and very accurately show the life of the singers in a sculptural composition. And how originally the sculptor portrayed Sigmund Freud! No less unusual is the figure of the legendary Pablo Picasso with its rich and varied inner world.

You can see the masterpieces of the famous Frank Meisler absolutely free. Salon schedule:

  • Saturday is a day off;
  • Sunday – Thursday – from 10:30 to 18:30;
  • Friday from 10:00 to 13:00.
Church of the Apostle Peter and the Compound of St. Tabitha

The city of Jaffa is the place where the holy Apostle Peter had a vision, and where he raised the righteous Tabitha from the dead. Therefore, it is not surprising that there are many religious temples, including those dedicated to the Apostle Peter.

Church of the Apostle Peter and the Compound of St. Tabitha

In 1868, Archimandrite Antonin (Kapustin) acquired a plot in Jaffa, where there was a strange house for Orthodox pilgrims. In 1888, an Orthodox church was built on this site, and in 1894 it was already consecrated. This cathedral is very much like the usual Orthodox churches for us.

On the territory of the monastery is another Orthodox attraction – the funerary cave of the Tabitha family. A beautiful chapel rises above the tomb.

Tomb of Tabitha

These religious sites in old Jaffa are located on Herzl Street 157. The temple is open daily from 8:00 to 19:00.

Catholic Church of the Apostle Peter

On Kikar Kdumim Square (it is often called the Square of Antiquities) there is another temple of the Apostle Peter, but already Franciscan. The high bell tower of this religious landmark is visible from all over the coast.

Church of the Apostle Peter

The first church on this site was built in 1654, using the remains of an old citadel of the 13th century. The building, which is now, was erected in 1888 – 1894.

The interior of the church is very beautiful: a high vaulted ceiling, walls with marble cladding and beautiful panels, stained-glass windows depicting the most important moments from the life of the Apostle Peter, a unique carved pulpit in the form of a tree.

In the church of the Apostle Peter

You can enter the church at any time, and the mass schedule is at the entrance. Masses are held in many languages: English, Italian, Spanish, Polish and German.

In front of the temple there is a platform with a very beautiful view of another attraction of Jaffa and Israel – the ancient port.

Jaffa Port

Initially, Jaffa was one of the most important ports of ancient Israel, and it was here that sailed here with pilgrims bound for Jerusalem.

Jaffa Port

Today, the port is no longer working in its former rhythm; it has become, rather, a tourist attraction. Here is equipped one of the most popular recreation areas in the city with restaurants, cafes, shops, exhibition halls (old docks were remade for these institutions). Although, fishing boats and pleasure boats are moored here and now – you can hire a yacht or a boat and look at Tel Aviv from the sea.

Note! On Saturday (day off) there are a lot of people in the port, long lines are going to the best restaurants. To enjoy one of the most interesting sights of Jaffa in a more relaxed atmosphere, it is better to come here on a weekday, when there are fewer people.

At the entrance to the port, not far from the coast, the rock of Andromeda rises. According to legend, Andromeda, who was saved by Perseus, was chained to her.

Faith Gate and Observation Deck

The next attraction of Jaffa is the Faith Gate, which is located on the Glee hill in the city park of Abrash. The Faith Gate is a rather famous architectural monument created by the sculptor from Israel Daniel Kafri at the end of the last century. The stone from which the monument is made is a Galilean stone taken from the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem.

Gate of Faith

The sculpture consists of three pillars of 4 meters high, forming a high arch. Each stone is covered with allegorical figures that illustrate the plots of biblical stories:

  • the sacrifice of Abraham,
  • Jacob’s dream with the promise of the land of Israel to him;
  • the capture of Jericho by the Jews.

It is also said that this landmark symbolizes the faith of the people of Israel in their chosenness.

View from the observation deck

By the way, Glee Hill is also an observation deck from which you can look at Tel Aviv and the old city of Jaffa, to the endless expanses of the sea.

Mahmud Mosque

The best example of the shrines of the Muslim religion in Jaffa is the Mahmoud Mosque. By the way, this mosque is the largest in Jaffa and the third in all of Israel.

Mahmud Mosque

The Mahmud Mosque is not one building, but a large-scale ensemble, which occupied a whole quarter in Jaffa. Jaffa On the east side, this complex is limited by Chasov Square and Yafet Street, on the south – Mifrats Shlomo Street, on the west – Ruslan Street, and on the north – Recif ha Aliyah Hashniya.

You can enter the interior of the mosque through the central gate from Ruslan Street or through the gate from Clock Square. There is an entrance from the south side, and next to them there is almost no one knows about them, because they are hidden behind bars, in a narrow passage between the shops.

In the mosque of Mahmoud

There are practically no tourists in the mosque of Mahmoud, although this shrine belongs to such places of Jaffa that you should definitely see it. The atmosphere of the East is especially felt there! Inside the complex there are three spacious courtyards, a female part (men do not have the right to go there), a ritual pool. In one of the courtyards there is an original sundial made of white marble, reminiscent of a huge mushroom.

Flea market “Shuk ha Peshpeshim”

After admiring the sights of the old city, you can wander around the Jaffa flea market. It is located at the intersection of Yerushalayim Avenue and Yehuda A-Yamit Street. The main street on which sales are taking place is Olei Zion, and the nearby streets form a large trading area.

Swap meet

The flea market can be compared with the museum of the city of Jaffa and Israel, where there are a lot of attractions and where you do not have to pay for their inspection. Everything is sold here, from second-class consumer goods to valuable rarity: old bronze lamps, various figurines, old equipment, children’s toys of different times, moth-eaten carpets.

On a note! Prices are high for everything, you must bargain – sellers expect this! The price can be brought down 2-5 times!

But even if you don’t buy anything, but just walk around the malls and see the “museum exhibits” – a lot of pleasure is provided! Sellers are very active in offering everything they sell. And practically about any subject they can tell a special legend.

Museum exhibits at the flea market

Good to know! Experienced tourists recommend shopping only if the item is really liked, or if you are a true connoisseur of antiquities. In this market under the guise of rarities often offer items that have no value.

There are bars and restaurants around the shopping area. After shopping or after a walk you can have a tasty meal in a cozy, colorful establishment.

The flea market of the old city of Jaffa is open on Sunday-Thursday from 10:00 to 21:00, on Friday from 10:00 and until the afternoon, on Saturday – a day off.

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Where to live in Jaffa

Finding accommodation in the old city will not be a problem, because the choice of hotels in different price categories is pretty good. But the average prices for accommodation in the city of Jaffa are higher than in many cities in Israel.

Room at Cityinn Jaffa Apartments
Cityinn Jaffa Apartments

Next to the flea market, in the historic building of the 1890s, the stylish Cityinn Jaffa Apartments complex is located. Accommodation per night will cost the following amount (in winter and summer, respectively):

  • in a standard double room 79 € and 131 €;
  • Superior One-Bedroom Apartment 115 € and 236 €.
Room at Market House - An Atlas Boutique Hotel
Market House – An Atlas Boutique Hotel

4 * Boutique Hotel Market House -An Atlas Boutique Hotel is located just 300 meters from the sandy beach and the sea promenade, in close proximity to all of Jaffa’s attractions. Prices for accommodation in winter and summer per day:

  • in a standard double room 313 € and 252 €;
  • in the family double room 398 € and 344 € 252.
Margosa Tel Aviv Jaffa Hotel
Margosa Tel Aviv Jaffa

The modern Margosa Tel Aviv Jaffa hotel, located just 500 meters from the old port, offers accommodation for two at such prices (winter and summer, respectively):

  • standard number 147-219 € and 224-236 €;
  • Luxury 200-310 € and 275-325 €.

In one of the busiest areas of old Jaffa, in the middle of a flea market, there is an Old Jaffa hostel. In addition to the common rooms, classic double suites are also offered here. In winter, such housing will cost 92 €, in summer a little more expensive – 97 €.

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How to get to Jaffa from Tel Aviv

The port city of Jaffa is, in fact, the southern outskirts of Tel Aviv. You can walk to this old landmark of Israel from a modern metropolis, take a bus or taxi.

Tel Aviv Embankment

It is convenient to walk on foot from the promenade (tailet) of Tel Aviv and its central beaches. An insignificant distance of a couple of kilometers can be overcome in 20 minutes, and the road is pleasant – along the sandy shore.

If you need to get from the center of the metropolis, it is better to use transport. From Ha-Hagana Railway Station and Tahana Merkazit Main Bus Station to Jaffa, buses number 10, 46 and minibus number 16 (ticket costs 3.5 €). You need to go to the Jaffa Court stop. To return to Tel Aviv, you first need to get to the Arlozorov stop in Jaffa, and from there choose a suitable route.

A taxi ride from the center of Tel Aviv to old Jaffa will cost 10 €. True, you need to check that the driver turns on the counter, otherwise you will have to pay more.

Important! You should not plan a visit to Jaffa (Israel) on Saturday: on this day most of the museums, salons and shops are closed, and transport does not go.

All the attractions of Jaffa described on the page, and the most interesting places of Tel Aviv are marked on the map in Russian.

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