I’ve been lucky to spend a lot of time in Israel thanks to a chance meeting with an Israeli who then became my husband! Each time I visit I look for new and unusual things to try out and the country never fails to deliver. Here are my suggestions for the top attractions – the must-see things – as well as my more unusual and fun things to do in Israel if you are looking for something a little different.
Make sure you also read my:
To start: the must-see things to do in Israel
Here are my top 10 must-see attractions which for any first time visitor to the country are a must.
#1 Old Jaffa (in Tel Aviv)
The Tel Aviv port, Old Jaffa, has so much warmth. The charm here is endless – hidden alleyways, inviting views of the beach and Tel Aviv, an interesting history, undiscovered galleries and street art. Spend a morning here getting lost and sipping coffee in Old Jaffa. And don’t forget to fit in a visit to the Flea Market.
#2 Sea of Galilee (in the North)
To truly appreciate the Sea of Galilee, I recommend taking a hike up one of the nearby mountains for a viewpoint. My personal favourite is Mount Arbel which involves a steep but easy scramble. At the top, you will be able to take in the scale of the Sea of Galilee in its entirety. It’s quite magnificent! The Sea of Galilee can be reached as a day trip from Tel Aviv although I recommend doing an overnight or 2-night trip.
#3 Dome on the Rock (in Jerusalem)
Entry into the Dome on the Rock is limited to members of the public for only a few hours a day. Even then, you are not allowed access to the inside of the mosque (check out google images for a sneak peek – its amazing!).
Although of modest size, the blinding gold roof and detailed mosaics make this mosque the most beautiful buildings in Israel in my opinion.
#4 The Western Wall Tunnels (in Jerusalem)
I couldn’t peel my eyes away from the dedicated orthodox Jews rocking back and forth as they prayed next to the Western Wall. Their dedication is like nothing I have witnessed before. Although it is interesting from outside, a visit to the tunnels below is a must. You can book your tour in advance here (note it sells out so is worthing booking early).
#5 Yad Vashem (in Jerusalem)
Not surprisingly, this holocaust museum is pretty sobering. Yet, despite the misery projected here, this museum is something quite remarkable. The impressive architecture of Yad Vashem leads you on a journey that ends on a positive note as the sides of the buildings open up onto a view of Jerusalem. It’s a simple yet powerful message of peace and quiet optimism that stuck with me much more than the horrors that I learnt in the museum.
To truly understand Israel and its people, a nation that was built from the Holocaust, this museum simply can’t be missed.
#6 Dead Sea (in the South)
The Dead Sea is a phenomenon. Although the sea has been noticeably ruined by factories, its beauty can still be admired from its impossible green colour to the surrounding Jordanian mountains. Spending a few hours floating in the salty sea is a unique and fun experience that solidly places it as one of the best things to do in Israel. The Dead Sea can be reached as a day trip from Jerusalem.
#7 Church of Holy Sepulchre (in Jerusalem)
From the outside, the church looks quite ordinary. But the candlelit alcoves, the sound of crying from the religious who are overwhelmed at being there and the smell of incense instantly entice a spiritual atmosphere when you step inside. Many consider this to be the place where Jesus was crucified, buried and resurrected. Follow the Via Dolorosa to reach the church. It’s a fascinating and beautiful site. This is one of the most beautiful churches in the middle east!
#8 Haifa Gardens (in the North)
The Baha’i are a quiet religion growing in popularity and the Shrine of the Bab, situated at the Haifa Gardens, is considered one of their most sacred places. Arrive before noon to join a tour, led by a Bahai, of the shrine. Take time after to wander the impeccably kept garden and to pause at the top to look at the view of Haifa.
#9 The Old Market (in Jerusalem)
One of the best things to do in Israel is simply wandering the old city market in Jerusalem. The old city is made up of the Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Armenian quarters, each one with its own character and charm. A day can easily be lost meandering in the maze of the cobbled streets taking in all the various trinkets and crafts.
#10 Masada (in the South)
Masada (Metsada) is an ancient city that sits on an isolated rock plateau, made famous from a Jewish-Roman war that resulted in 960 Jews participating in a mass suicide. Although it might initially seem like a story of defeat, for Jewish people Masada is a symbol of unity and defiance.
To get to the top you can either take a cable car or a steep but short walk. As well as taking in the ancient ruins and learning of the story that took place here, the area also offers spectacular views of the Negev desert. I can recommend braving the walk for sunrise! Masada can be reached as a day trip from Jerusalem.
Fun things to do in Israel: Tel Aviv
Tel Aviv is a thriving and modern city. Full of art, hidden alleys to be explored and beaches.
Also check out my: Guide to visiting Tel Aviv on a budget
#11 Make friends with a local
Betzavta gets you to fill out a 1 min form online. Using that information they match you up with a like-minded Israeli who will host you for a night of delicious local food. This is a fantastic way to get to know the real Israel and to understand the country from those who live there. Plus you might make some new friends in the process!
#12 Cycle Tel Aviv’s promenade
When in Tel Aviv, head to the promenade near Old Jaffa and hire a Tel-O-Fun bike (costing roughly 30NIS for an hours ride). A gentle ride along the flat cycle lane, Northbound, will allow you to take in the full scale of the city’s beach.
The promenade finishes at Reading Power Station where there is a nice decked area, a great place to grab a coffee and frozen yoghurt. To extend the ride, continue on to Park Yarkon, following the Yarkon river.
#13 Have a SUP lesson
Israels relatively calm coastline makes it a great place to try your hand at a new watersport. Standup Paddleboarding (or SUP) is growing in popularity. One of the most fun things to do in Israel is trying your hand at surfing or the growing sport, Stand Up Paddleboarding. For a lesson, or to hire a paddleboard to go it alone, head to one of Tel Aviv’s popular beaches or Mikhmoret Beach (just north of Tel Aviv).
#14 Paddle on the Yarkon river
Yarkon Park is Tel Aviv’s equivalent to Central Park. On a sunny day, you will find the park busy with runners, cyclists, picnics and sports. Hire a rowing boat for a gentle journey up the Yarkon River. If that seems like too much effort, golf buggies are also available for hire in the park.
#15 Celebrate Pride in Tel Aviv
Each year, Tel Aviv hosts a handful of celebrations that brings thousands of people together on the streets. Pride (around June) attracts over 200,000 people.
#16 Join a Shabbat dinner
Shabbat dinner (on a Friday evening) is a long-standing tradition amongst Jewish people. It doesn’t feel right to visit Israel and not experience a Shabbat dinner. Join Delicious Tours for one of their Shabbat dinner tours. You will be placed in a real Israeli home where you can try local dishes and spend time with a local family.
Note that most places in Israel close down from Friday sundown until Saturday sundown. If you find yourself in Jerusalem at this time, I find it magical walking around the empty streets of the Old City when the streets are usually crowded!
#17 Go on a Tel Aviv Vegan Tour
Tel Aviv is considered the vegan capital of the world and for good reason. Put aside any misconceptions you may have about plant-based foods and experience the real side of Tel Aviv. The Be Tel Aviv tour takes you to 3 different restaurants sampling different dishes and also covers some interesting Israeli vegan history. Find out more about the vegan tour here.
Fun things to do in Israel: Jerusalem
You can’t go to Israel and not visit Jerusalem! The city has an incredible history but what really makes the place special are the people and the intensity of religion that congregate in the area.
Check out my: Guide to visiting Jerusalem
#18 Get a tattoo at Razzouk Tattoo
For a souvenir of a different kind, head to Razzouk in the Old City, Jerusalem. Believed to have a heritage dating back to 1300 this is considered the oldest tattoo business in the world. You can read about my experience getting a tattoo here (and see what I had done)….it was a great experience!
#19 Visit the West Bank
I was blown away when I did the West Bank tour! Not only will this give you an insight into the lives of Palestinians, but it will also leave you with a deeper understanding of the conflict and issues that Israel faces.
I joined a day tour run by Abraham and can fully recommend their tours and hotels as I’ve used them many times. Note that if you stay at their Tel Aviv Hostel or their Jerusalem Hostel then you receive 10% off their tours and accommodation.
#20 Visit Bethlehem for Midnight Mass
Another brilliant tour offered by Abraham Tours which can be easily joined from Jerusalem. This has got to be one of the most unique experiences you can have in Israel. The tour includes transport to and from the city so you can experience Midnight Mass.
#21 Explore the city of Petra
Petra isn’t in Israel but can be reached easily by a tour from Jerusalem (and also Tel Aviv). Being able to visit the city of Petra, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as a day trip is pretty cool. Check out Tourist Israel who organise these tours. If you have more time, take 2 days so you can properly enjoy in the magnificent sites.
Fun things to do in Israel: North Israel
The North of Israel is home to the famous Sea of Galilee and the city of Haifa. There lots of fun towns to be explored as well a beautiful mountain range if you enjoy hiking.
#23 Attempt an Escape room
Escape rooms are dotting up all over the world. So why not try one with an Israeli twist?!
I recently tried an escape room at Baron Code escape room in Zichron Yaakov. You are locked in a room and given 1 hour to solve the puzzles and riddles. It’s a brilliant concept and, hands down, the most fun thing I have done with friends in Israel. The stories from that room are still being retold today.
#23 Attend a football match
The Israeli football fans like to sing, munch on sesame seeds and shout obscene phrases (usually in incorrect English). Maccabi Haifa is one of the biggest teams and you can catch a match (for as cheap as 55NIS) in their new stadium in Haifa.
It’s quite an experience, even if you don’t enjoy football that much.
#24 Have a drink at Pica Bar
I don’t really know how to put the Pica Bar into words. Tucked around the corner from the high street in Zichron Ya’akov, this little bar is run by a friendly eccentric. The beer is cheap and you can settle in with a hat of choice, grab an instrument or a microphone and dance the night away!
#25 Dive at Caesarea
Much of the Roman city Caesarea has been lost to the sea meaning the best way to experience it is to put on a wetsuit and go for a dive. Caesarea also has an impressive open-air theatre. Check out who’s playing and grab your tickets early; It’s one of the biggest venues in Israel.
For keen divers, you can also head to Eilat to experience the Red Sea corals. There is also a phenomenon that takes place in Hadera each year where you can dive with sharks who flock to the warm waters leaving the power plant!
#26 Go on a wine tour
Israel is well known for its wine and for good reason. There are good wineries all over Israel but I can really recommend the Amphora Wine Tour. It’s in a beautiful setting and you also get a really tasty cheese and olive platter to accompany your tastings.
#27 Wander around Ramat Hanadiv
One of my favourite fun things to do in Israel is to visit the Ramat Hanadiv. These gardens, in Zichron Yaakov, are looked after in honour of the town’s founder, Edmund de Rothschild. There is a wild reserve, with a number of varying length trails you can follow, as well as a well-maintained garden (don’t forget to visit the sensory garden). Entry is free to both.
#28 Go on a boat tour in Akko
Akko is a colourful port town with a bustling local market which makes for a great day out. The best way to see the place is on one of the battered boats that take tourists out on trips around the port (don’t forget to haggle the price down). Don’t be alarmed when the driver starts blaring out Arabic songs at a deafening volume.
#29 Cool down in a hidden oasis
One of the fun things to do in Israel on a hot day is going for a swim in a cool natural pool. These are best combined with a gentle day hike. Upper Amud River, in the North, has a number of natural pools, nestled in a beautifully wooded reserve. Alternatively, you could take the short walk near the Dead Sea to Ein Bokek where you can also find hot natural springs.
#30 Go on a chocolate workshop
Need I say more? De Karina offer different workshops for both children and adults. See how they make their chocolates and have a go at making your own designs.
#31 Relax in hot springs
There are a number of hot springs in Israel. If you want something more relaxing than a natural spring, head to Hamat Gadar – ‘The Hot Springs World’. I’d definitely suggest paying to use the luxurious spa section of the park.
#32 Visit Ein Hod
This village is home to only artists; a unique concept that has an amazing effect. Many of the friendly residents have turned their homes into galleries, the streets are littered with sculptures and dotted about are creative coffee shops.
There are a total of 76 art installations and galleries to see (head to the information point first to grab a map). The town has a guest house as well as many workshops from fabric printing and mandala to pottery classes.
Fun things to do in Israel, South Israel
The South of Israel is where you will find the vast Negev desert – a great place for hikes and home to the Dead Sea and Masada. And anyone looking for a beachside break or diving will head to Eilat.
#33 Attend a Nature Parties
If you like to party then this is for you!
These huge raves, called Nature Parties, take place in the middle of the desert and host some of Israel’s biggest DJ’s. They normally take place in Spring through to Autumn.
#34 Attend Israel’s Midburn Festival
If you are looking for fun things to do in Israel that are a little unusual, check out Midburn Festival. The smaller, sister festival of Nevada’s famous Burning Man festival. Taking place in the middle of the Negev desert, usually around may time, this experimental arty festival is guaranteed to be hot, dusty and different.
Don’t expect the same grandeur that the Burning Man festival brings. But this would be a fun and interesting way to experience Israel and it’s arty scene.
#35 Try your hand at Rappelling
There are lots of great places in the Negev desert national park where you can try your hand at Rappelling (abseiling). For something a little more unusual, you could also brave the Sodom Salt Caves. This involves a very scary 80m abseil into a chimney. The salt formations are really quite incredible.
Note: I am uncertain of the legalities regarding abseiling at Sodom Salt Cave. My tour guide told me it was legal but I have heard conflicting views on this.
#36 Go for a hike
Israel has a hiking trail, called the Israel National Trail, that stretches over 1000km, the full length of the country. If you have 2 months to spare, and a desire to hike, you might want to walk the whole thing (as I did in 2016). If not though, there are some great sections of the trail that you can do as a day or weekend hike.
Check out these best hikes to do in Israel.
#37 Visit Neot Smadar
If you have the time, you can volunteer for a few weeks. Life here is very different and you can expect lots of talking circles, kibbutz meetings and meditation. If embracing the hippy life is a bit too much for you, Neot Smadar also runs workshops and has an organic store and restaurant which will give you a short insight into commune life.
#38 Sleep like a Bedouin
The Bedouins of the Negev desert are a fascinating and secretive community. To have a taste of their culture, spend the night in a traditional Bedouin camp. Kfar HaNokdim has beautiful tents to sleep in or try Spice Route Khan which also boasts an amazing outside natural hot spring.
If you are planning to spend some time in the Negev desert, make sure you plan a visit to see Masada and the Dead Sea. As long as it’s not summer (when the temperatures are too high) I would also recommend fitting in a day hike.
#39 Take a nighttime Jeep Safari
At night, the inhabitants of the Negev desert come alive. Join a Jeep safari tour to go in search of all kinds of animals from vultures, desert cats and hyena. This is an exciting tour but remember to dress up warm as the desert can get chilly at night.
#40 Snorkel at Coral Reef Beach
Eilat, in the South of Israel, sits on the Red Sea. Surrounded by mountains (all accessible as day hikes), it has nice beaches and some incredible colourful reefs. Coral Reef Beach offers great beachside snorkelling and the marine life sits just a few metres from the shore. Kite Surfing is also popular in the area.
#41 Swim with wild dolphins at Dolphin Reef
If you followed my journey walking the length of Israel, you will know how much I fell in love with Dolphin Reef. The wild dolphins here make the choice to come and swim with the people who take part in a snorkel or dive. They are not chased down by aggressive boats or encouraged to interact in return for food.
This is a special place that allows you to see these creatures in a calm way. Following the dive or snorkel, make the most of the viewing platform or grab a drink in their comfy cafe that overlooks the sea.
#42 Watch WOW Splash
Keeping the holiday makers entertained in Eilat is WOW Splash, a water-themed acrobatic show. Expect all the glitz and glam of Las Vegas with a bit of Jewish humour thrown in. This fun show is a little naff but you will see you leave with a smile on your face.
If you are planning a visit to Eilat check out my: top things to do in Eilat
Things to do in Israel
I hope you’ve found my guide of fun things to do in Israel helpful. I like to update this page regularly so do come back. Do you have any suggestions that I’ve missed? Let me know in the comments box below.
Follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Most of my blogging takes place in coffee shops and I give all my advice and tips for free. If you’d like to support my work by buying me a coffee you can do so on Ko-fi.