Tel Aviv and the cult of wellness

Late afternoon, Tayelet promenade

The road that lines the sea is a long tongue of asphalt where young people ride skateboards and scooters, young couples walk relaxed with their children by the hand and bicycles are too many to be counted. From the centre of Tel Aviv, the road reaches to port of Jaffa, known in ancient times as Acre, a place with a millenary history and one of the most important cities in the Mediterranean for trade and culture. A few steps from the port, a nice monument recalls that right there, in those waters crossed by adventurers, soldiers and traders, Jonah stumbled upon the monstrous whale of the biblical tale.
Jogging on Tayelet
An example of the mix that makes this city, the centre of Israel's largest metropolitan area, a truly unique place in the world: a young and vibrant metropolis - founded in 1909 under the name of Tel Aviv, "Hill of Spring" - sprawling one of the founding places of the oldest Mediterranean culture.

Right on the seafront, you can have a taste of one of the special features that distinguish Tel Aviv: the love for sports.

Here physical activity is not a pastime, but a real lifestyle followed by citizens of all ages.

Starting from the centre of the city and going through its streets, you can have a taste of the habits of the inhabitants, a population composed mainly of young Israelis as well as students and professionals from all over the world, attracted by the high quality of life and attractive career prospects, especially in technology.

The more than 4,000 Bauhaus buildings, dating back to the 1930s, marks the city with an unmistakably modern look, making it deserve the name "White City"; among the neat and geometric streets, the inhabitants move mainly by bicycle, in a lively and relaxed atmosphere, and spend most of their time outdoors, among the beaches, parks and cafes.

Bike sharing is incredibly used in Tel Aviv
The bike sharing system is widespread and very popular: renting a bike is simple even for a tourist, who can comfortably pay for it with his own credit card and move anywhere in the city.

Two-wheeler enthusiasts have at their disposal over 70 kilometres of cycle paths that allow them to move safely anywhere, often under the shade of the large tree-lined avenues that offer shelter from the scorching sun. The bike is the ideal way to discover the streets of Neve Tzedek, the former Yemeni district now transformed into an area with a high concentration of art galleries and cultural venues, or go to Carmel Market, the characteristic fruit and vegetable market where you can taste all sorts of delicacies.

One of the most pleasant surprises that a visit to Tel Aviv reserves is, in fact, the cuisine: traditional Israeli dishes are not only delicious, but also decidedly healthy, prepared mainly with farm-to-table fruits and vegetables, olive oil, goat cheese, legumes and spices.

A city made for sportsmen

Runners will feel at home here: sidewalks and pedestrian streets are the kingdom of people of all ages who devote themselves to running, a rite that takes place from dawn until late evening. One of the most popular places for city dwellers and sportsmen is Yarkon Park, a huge green lung of about 3500 hectares bordered by the Yarkon River, navigable by pedal boat, kayak, and rowing boat, which connects directly to the sea.
Yarkon Park is the green lung and oasis of peace for the city's inhabitants
In addition to the greenery, a big centre of attraction in this huge area is Sportek, an outdoor sports centre located in the north-west of the park that offers all types of sports entertainment. Among these, an artificial wall of almost 14 metres for climbing, trampolines, a platform for bungee jumping, a skateboard park, fields for all specialty games and the possibility of renting the necessary equipment.

And yet, only by moving by the sea you can understand the extent of the passion the inhabitants of Tel Aviv have for sport.

The wide promenade is the ideal track for having fun on the wheels. Longboarders and skaters slide on the asphalt and for a moment it feels like you're in Miami, with palm trees, the skyline and the beach - 13 kilometres - as far as the eye can see. There are also those who relax with yoga, those who choose Pilates and those who have fun with a Frisbee and their dog. Everyone embraces an outdoor lifestyle, where physical activity is an essential element.

On the beach, private areas alternate with well-equipped municipal areas: beach volley, five-a-side football, basketball and beach tennis courts, without mentioning gyms with outdoor equipment for everyone to use. There are also beach rugby tournaments, played by boys and girls, which confirm the preference Israelis have for team sports.

Surfing is one of the favourite activites for Israeli young generations
The currents and the wind make the coast of Tel Aviv an ideal place for water sports: here, everyone brings their board to the sea for surfing and kite surfing and, on the windiest days, the surf tricks children and adults make to compete on the best waves are a spectacle to watch.

Tel Aviv is also an ideal place for diving lovers. Although the best-known destinations are Eilat, with its coral reef, and the Dead Sea, where the most experienced divers can have a unique diving experience in the world, the city offers the possibility of wonderful trips. In the archaeological marine park of Caesarea, you can swim among the remains of the ancient port of Herod; alternatively, you can go to Gordon Caves or Bird Head Canyon, two of the most beautiful sites in Israel for diving. For the children there is the Meymadion, a water amusement park where you can splash safely.

hundreds of coffee shops and street food vendors populate the streets of Tel Aviv
Moreover, one should not forget that military service in Israel is still mandatory for all boys and girls (there is a mandatory levy of 36 months for men and 24 for women), so it is customary to meet on the street groups of young people in uniform, who practice outdoor sports or relax a bit while off duty. For them, perfect fitness is not an option, but a duty.

It must be said that civilians are no less fitness obsessed, so much so that after a short while every tourist will notice how everyone is in an excellent state of health, a condition that reflects the widespread atmosphere of well-being and high quality of life.

Enjoying sports after sunset

One of the most characteristic moments of a day in Tel Aviv is at sunset. At the end of the day, hundreds of people meet in Tayelet to run together. The sight is incredible: a river of people moving in unison, chatting and having fun, animating the promenade.

Free time at the end of the day is a time people dedicate to themselves by practicing sports, which here is experienced as the essential ingredient to feel good.

In this river of people, there are also those who meet for a game of beach volley, those who slip on skates with their playlists in the earphones, while many people have fun with beach tennis rackets, called matkot, a sport so popular in Israel that Tel Aviv has decided to dedicate a museum to it. Matkot is played with a ball that resembles the squash ball and paddle rackets, but the rules are very different: both the players win as long as they keep the ball in the air and lose when one of the two makes it fall, in an interesting reversal of the concept of competition in that of cooperation.
Maktok, a Israeli version of beach tennis, is the iconic sport of the city
If you are curious about this sport, don't miss a visit to the museum and ask for Amnon "The King" Nissim, the strongest national player, a true local legend. He will certainly have many anecdotes about this discipline, which is a true collective passion.
If you are considering a visit to Tel Aviv, pack your sports equipment and plan your trip for February, when the Tel Aviv Samsung Marathon is held. With over 40,000 participants, it is the most important sporting event of the year. The 2019 edition will take place on February 22 and it could be the perfect opportunity to enjoy a weekend in the White City, watching or participating to a race that has become a classic springtime event.

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