One Week in Israel: The Ultimate Itinerary

Tel Aviv promenade and Mediterranean beach
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There's no way to see everything that Israel has to offer in just one week but it’s still possible cover a lot of ground. This seven-day itinerary includes many key sights and cities in Israel, including Jerusalem’s Old City, Machane Yehuda, the Dead Sea, and Masada. 

Using Tel Aviv and Jerusalem as a base, there are many great locations that can be visited on day trips so that you don’t have to worry about constantly changing hotels. You can use a tour company, or you can do it yourself, which will likely be cheaper. Feeling overwhelmed by planning your trip to Israel? This one-week travel itinerary will make it easy.

01 of 07

Day One: Tel Aviv

Tel Aviv Israel

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After landing at Ben Gurion International Airport, hop on the high-speed train to Tel Aviv. It's the fastest and easiest way to get to the city. Or you can take a bus or sheirut (shared taxi). Israel doesn't have Uber or Lyft, but you can use the app Gett to get a taxi, the most expensive option to get to the city.

Once you drop your bags off at your lodging, you’ll likely be pretty jet-lagged so instead of diving right into touring, spend your first day at the beach. There’s about 9 miles of sparkling Mediterranean coastline in Tel Aviv and the string of beaches are all excellent. Walk along the seaside promenade (tayelet in Hebrew) until you see a spot you like. (Hilton Beach, in front of the rainbow-colored Hilton hotel, is always a good option.) Grab a drink and lunch at one of the many beachfront cafes and bars, sunbathe, or join a beach volleyball game. You can even try your hand at windsurfing—check out The Sea Centre Club for lessons.

In the afternoon, get a feel for Tel Aviv's art scene. Walk along Ben Yehuda Street to Gordon Street, where many of the city's art galleries are located. Pop into the Givon Art Gallery, the Gordon Gallery, and Stern Gallery, ending at Dizengoff Square where you can see the famous, accordian-style fountain by Israeli artist Yaacov Agam.

For dinner, make your way to one of the city’s modern Israeli restaurants like Opa, Dok, or Mashya—make a reservation from home before you leave! If you're not too tired for a nightcap, check out one of the city's fantastic cocktail bars, like Bellboy Bar, Spicehaus, or Imperial Cocktail Bar.

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02 of 07

Day Two: Tel Aviv

Skyscrapers in Tel Aviv

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For breakfast, make your way to the lively Shuk HaCarmel outdoor market and get coffee and pastries at Café Yom Tov or one of Israel’s best breakfast dishes at the eponymous Shukshuka. Then stroll through the marketplace, sampling whatever catches your eye—halva, freshly squeezed pomegranate juice, nuts and dried fruit, and a rainbow of herbs and spices. Buy some sumac and za'atar spices to bring home.

Take a short walk to the area called the White City (Rothschild Boulevard and Bialik Street) to see the largest concentration of Bauhaus architecture in the world. Stroll on your own, or take a guided tour of the area (Eager Tourist offers a good, albeit pricey, one). Stop in the Bauhaus Center to learn more. Get lunch at HaKosem, one of Tel Aviv's best falafel joints.

After lunch, if it’s a Tuesday or Friday, hit up Nachalat Binyamin, a street that closes to traffic on those days for a bi-weekly art fair, a great place for gifts and souvenirs (it closes early on Friday because of Shabbat so check the time carefully). Stop by Levinsky Market in Florentin and get one of the gorgeous fizzy drinks topped with fruit, herbs, spices, and flowers called a gazoz. You can find it at Cafe Levinsky 41, a corner storefront.

For more upscale shopping, stroll through Neve Tzedek, the city's oldest neighborhood. Check out Numero 13, Agas & Tamar, Fine Lab, and the Hatachana Compound, the old train station that's now filled with independent boutiques and cafes. Get an ice cream cone at Anita if you're hungry.

In the evening, take a bus or taxi to Jaffa, the walled Old City of Tel Aviv. Walk through the impressive stone gates, see the Ottoman-era clocktower, and meander over to the old port, which is now filled with bars and restaurants, Pick one (The Old man and the Sea is a good option) and order the fish—it will be fresh! If you’re not too tired, get a taste of Tel Aviv’s nightlife at one of its bars or clubs.

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03 of 07

Day Three: Day Trip to Akko and Haifa

Gardens in Haifa

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Just a little over an hour away, these two cities are well worth a visit and are perfect for a day trip. You can either rent a car, take a train, an inter-city bus, or a sheirut or taxi to Akko.

Akko is an ancient walled city on the Mediterranean with lots of ancient sites to discover. Meander its narrow cobblestone streets, go through the Templar's Tunnels, haggle your way through the old market selling everything from perfumes to T-shirts, and see the panoramic views near the Church of St. John and the lighthouse. Have lunch at the famous Uri Buri fish restaurant—be sure to order the wasabi tuna and keep an eye out for Uri, a friendly man with a long, white beard. If the timing works out, take the ferry from the Old Port to Haifa (it runs at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. on weekdays and on Saturdays at 9:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. Otherwise take a bus, sheirut, or taxi if you don't have a car with you.

In Haifa, visit the impressive and beautiful Baha’i Gardens, take a cable car to the stunning Stella Maris Carmelite Monastery, go down to Elijah’s Cave, and if you have kids with you, check out the Madatech science museum.

Before heading back to Tel Aviv, have an early dinner at Abu Marun, known as the best hummuseria in Haifa since 1969—and don't forget to order the spicy French fries.

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04 of 07

Day Four: Jerusalem

Jerusalem Israel

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This morning, go to Jerusalem either by train, bus, or sheirut. Jerusalem is a completely different city from Tel Aviv, filled with holy sites and ancient archaeological finds, so be prepared for a totally different experience than Tel Aviv.

First, head to the walled Old City and meander its narrow streets, making your way to the Western Wall, Al-Aqsa mosque, and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Walk through the Arab market (don’t be afraid to bargain!), go underground in the Western Wall tunnels, and stroll through the Cardo, an ancient Roman-era shopping arcade with modern stores. If you’re up for it, walk above it all along the ramparts. Have lunch at Rooftop, on the roof of the Mamilla Hotel, just outside the city walls for a sweeping panoramic view.

In the afternoon, stroll around the flower-filled Yemin Moshe neighborhood with its historic windmill outside the Old City or visit the Israel Museum to see amazing archaeologic finds and Israeli and international art. Have dinner at the renowned Machneyuda restaurant (be sure to make a reservation well in advance) and get ready for a lively performance in terms of food and service.

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05 of 07

Day Five: Jerusalem

Yad Vashem, Israel

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When you wake up, walk or take a taxi or bus to Cafe Kadosh, a top-quality bakery and cafe with a cozy interior. From there, walk along Jaffa St to Zion Square and stroll down pedestrian-only Ben Yehuda Street to get a taste of downtown Jerusalem life.

Next, take a bus or taxi to Yad Vashem, the national Holocaust museum and memorial. Give yourself a couple hours to see the museum and memorial; it is an intense experience as you learn more about that tragic period in history, but well worth the time spent.

Afterwards, have lunch at Anna Italian Cafe, the restaurant at the Ticho House, a historic home and museum with a gallery you can explore after your meal. If you didn’t make it to the Israel Museum yesterday, head there now, or go to Machne Yehuda, the lively open-air market.

For dinner, dine at Chakra, a Jerusalem institution, or Satya, started by a former chef at Chakra. Both focus on Mediterranean cuisine and fresh ingredients. Turn in early for the big day tomorrow.

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06 of 07

Day Six: Day Trip to the Dead Sea and Masada

Dead Sea Israel

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Although it feels like another planet, the Dead Sea is less than two hours from Jerusalem and easy day trip combined with nearby Masada. You can take a tour or go on your own, though in that case you’ll probably need a car.

Spend the morning at the Dead Sea, the lowest point on earth, smearing mud on yourself and floating in the sea. Ein Bokek is the main area where there are hotels, spas, and restaurants. None are truly amazing, but Taj Mahal makes for a fun experience in a Bedouin tent—belly dancers and hookahs included.

After lunch, drive to Masada and hike up the snake path, or ride a cable car if it’s very hot. At the top, take in the scenic desert landscape and explore the excavated fortresses. Stay for an epic sunset over the desert before driving back to Jerusalem, stopping for a falafel or shawarma at a roadside stand along the way.

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07 of 07

Day Seven: Day Trip to the Sea of Galilee

Tiberias, Sea of Galilee, Israel

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On your last day in Israel, wake up early and take a bus, taxi or car a couple hours north to the Sea of Galilee, or the Kinneret, as Israelis call it. Once there, you can bike or walk around the freshwater lake, take a swim, go for a boat ride, or just enjoy the scenery. If you want to rent a bike, go to just about any hotel or hostel in the town of Tiberias. The loop around is about 35 miles, but you don't have to go the whole way. There are various beaches and boat rentals around the lake.

Have lunch in Tiberias at Galei Gil, on the promenade overlooking the lake, where the speciality is St. Peter's fish, a white fish that's only found swimming in the Kinneret.

On your way back south, stop at Beit She’an, an archeological park with remains from the Roman and Byzantine city, complete with a Roman theater, two Byzantine bathhouses, a Roman temple, and more. Or stop in the city of Nazareth, described in the New Testament as the home of Jesus, which is home to many churches. Today, it is predominantly Arab Muslim.

In the late afternoon, return to Tel Aviv for your last night. O if you have a late-night flight out, enjoy one last dinner (local favorite Ha'Achim is a good bet) and a final walk on the beach before you go.