You don’t always need to venture on a two-hour car ride to the Sea of Galilee or a flight down south to Eilat to slip away from the hustle and bustle of Tel Aviv. Located just around its perimeter are a wealth of suburban and metropolitan areas, filled with Israeli art galleries, shopping malls, some of the swankiest hotels in Israel (like the Herzliya Ritz Carlton) and more luxurious beaches than Tel Aviv. With plenty to do in these four locations, you won’t know where to start.
Four great cities that are part of Gush Dan
One of the country's top contenders for upscale, manicured beaches, abounding in restaurants, hotels, and a fancy marina – Herzliya is decorated with Israel's top celebrity visitors. If you're the type of tourist who makes like the locals - get poised to relax, wine and dine, worship some sun and max out the credit card. For those with sea legs and an affinity for all things water-related, Herzliya boasts Israel's largest marina, with nearly 700 docking spots and commercial outlets. Check out the various recreational attractions, including the Reef Sea Center, Terra Santa Kayak Expeditions and Via Maris. Just south of the archaeological site Apollonia in northern Herzliya, Sidney Alley Beach (Nof Yam) is worlds away from the rest of the commercialized city. The beach is lined with scenic jagged cliffs and a lone home, built into the side of a cliff – at once both decrepit and beautiful – intrigues visitors with its colors, carvings and mosaics, while high upon the cliffs above soars the 13th century Sidney Alley Mosque, blending perfectly into the windswept surroundings. For some culture, pay a visit to the Herzliya Museum of Contemporary Art, which puts a special emphasis on installation art and digital media.
It's hard not to fall in love with Bat Yam's spectacular white sandy beaches. A mere ten minutes from Tel Aviv's center, Bat Yam's two mile stretch of coastline boasts a huge public park on one end and a selection of cafés, restaurants and water sport clubs on the other.
In the past few years the city and its promenade have become a popular center of activity, offering a singular, novel and exciting experience. Almost all the outdoor events in Bat Yam take place near the promenade, taking full advantage of the city’s most precious possession – its famous beach. CAT Bat Yam, the Creative Artistic Theater, (carnifest.com) hosts their end-of-summer seaside event, the International Street Theater Festival, featuring exhibits in art, music and architecture. For close to 20 years, this original, international festival has been the only Israeli festival to focus on outdoor performances and street theater. The annual event hosts theater productions, circuses and dance companies from around the world. Performances introduce the public to some of the best street theater and allow local artists to establish a dialogue with international street theater organizations, festivals, agents and artists. MoBY, Museum of Bat Yam, is an international organization for modern art housing a complex of three museums and acting as a heart for contemporary art while initiating diverse educational and community activities. Interesting exhibits take place throughout the year.
Beginning as an agricultural settlement in 1921, Ramat Gan has progressively established itself as a leading city in and of itself. Boasting one of the largest Diamond Exchanges in the world, Ramat Gan is a major city of commerce. Pulsating with significant culture and arts events, Ramat Gan hosts some 150 cultural events monthly, showcasing theater, music, dance, lectures, films and more. A number of prestigious museums, including the Museum of Israeli Art and the Museum of Jewish Art, exhibiting Russian, Japanese, Chinese and Far Eastern art in addition to Jewish works helped to put it on the cultural-savvy map. Apart from the choirs, museums, theater and orchestras, Ramat Gan is home to various academic institutions, such as the well-known fashion and design school, Shenkar College of Engineering and Design, plus a Zoological center, the Ramat Gan Safari, a 250-acre zoo housing 1,600 animals – the largest in the Middle East. For sports lovers, the Ramat Gan Stadium (Israel's national football arena) is the largest in the country. Ramat Gan is also home to Tel HaShomer, Israel's largest hospital.
Located just south of Tel Aviv, this family-centric urban hotspot boasts culture galore. It’s home to parks, festivals, galleries, theaters, museums, water parks and more. Holon provides a wide range of attractions and cultural institutions for tourists looking for days filled with design, art, parks and family fun. Throughout the year, Holon throws over-the-top festivals for the whole family, including the Women’s Festival in the spring, the Puppet Theater Festival during the summer months and many celebrations during religious and national holidays. Be sure to not miss The Israeli Children’s Museum, the Israel Puppet Center, Design Museum Holon, The Yamit Water Park and the Cactus Garden. There are also various commemorative sites such as Hosmasa - The Hagana Memorial Museum, the Museum of the History of Holon and the Center for Holocaust Awareness. Guided tours are offered on a daily basis and can be an incredible way to explore this unassuming cultural area.