9 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions & Things to Do in Jaffa
Just a short walk from central Tel Aviv, this old Arab port is an easygoing town that has held onto much of its traditional stone-cut architecture. It is one of the best places to visit if you're seeking a quick escape from Tel Aviv's traffic and rush.
Actual tourist attractions are few. The main things to do in Jaffa are to simply enjoy a relaxing stroll while soaking up a slower pace of life and then spend a lazy afternoon café-hopping.
There are plenty of arty shopping opportunities while you wander. Jaffa has been thoroughly gentrified in recent years, with many small private art galleries and chichi boutiques opening up, so it's a popular weekend destination for a spot of aimless browsing.
Afterwards, stay on to sample some of Jaffa's burgeoning café culture and dining scene. While you're strolling through the old town, though, here is a list of the top tourist attractions in Jaffa.
1. Crusaders and Churches: St. Peter's Monastery
St. Peter's Monastery is top of the sightseeing list in Jaffa. This Roman Catholic church, built in Baroque style, was constructed in the late 19th century on top of a 13th-century Crusader castle, which was, in turn, built on top of the original settlement's acropolis. Today, it is Jaffa's most well-known landmark.
The name of the monastery is in honor of the Apostle Peter's visit to Jaffa. From the courtyard here, a staircase leads down to the vaulted chambers of the Crusader castle.
The church is open daily to casual visitors and, although it's not particularly old, it's well worth viewing the interior decoration with its lemon and blue frescoed ceiling.
Location: Kedumim Square, Jaffa
2. Junk and Treasure: Jaffa Flea Market
Many visitors' favorite thing to do while in town is have a rummage through Jaffa's flea market in search of a special treasure to bring home.
For shoppers and sightseeing tourists alike, the market is one of the great joys of a visit to Jaffa. If you fossick hard enough (and are lucky enough), you could indeed find a real gem.
Bargaining is the name of the game, so you'll have to put your haggling hat on.
The surrounding area has plenty of cafés and dining options for when you've finished browsing the stalls.
Location: Off Olei Zion Street, Jaffa
3. Jaffa Time: Clock Tower
While in town, swing by Jaffa's central square, where you'll find this late-Ottoman clock tower (built in 1906), which was constructed out of limestone blocks to mark the 25-year jubilee of Ottoman Sultan Abdul Hamid II. I
It's a major landmark of Jaffa and is worthy of a quick stop. The clock is one of seven clock towers built during the Ottoman era in Israel and the Palestinian Territories. Of the original clocks, six still stand, keeping time today.
Address: Yefet Street, Jaffa
4. Green Space: HaPisgah Gardens
These lovely and rather tranquil gardens have excellent views over to the city of Tel Aviv and across the Mediterranean Sea.
The wooden so-called wishing bridge connects this lush green space with the center of Jaffa.
Excavation work by archaeologists in this area has brought to light earlier occupation levels. A six-meter-thick wall from the Hyksos period (18th-16th centuries BC) and a town gate bearing the name of the Pharaoh Ramses II (1290-24 BC) are the earliest levels uncovered.
5. Great Mosque
The Great Mosque (also called the Mahmudiye Mosque) was built in several stages, but much of the construction you see today was carried out in the early 19th century by the Ottoman governor of Gaza and Jaffa, Mahmud Pasha – known as Abu Nabut (father of the Cudgel).
The most unique part of its architecture happened due to mistake. Builders working on the mosque reused antique Roman columns from the ancient sites of Ashkelon and Caesarea here, but mistakenly set them upside down with the capitals at the foot.
6. House of Simon the Tanner
The small mosque here (built in 1730) is believed to occupy the site of the house of Simon the Tanner with whom the Apostle Peter stayed after raising Tabitha from the dead. You can't enter the site, but you can see the façade from the outside.
The site is important in Christian belief as it was here that Peter had the dream that convinced him to begin converting the Roman pagans into the new beliefs begun by Jesus Christ and so saw Christianity split away from Judaism properly as its own separate religion.
Location: Off HaMigdalor Street, Jaffa
7. Down by the Sea: Jaffa's Harbor
Jaffa's harbor has been a place of importance from the 2nd millennium BC onwards and was once a major port for trading merchant vessels.
Today, it is a sleepy place for pleasure boats and little fishing vessels only. It's a good place to come for photos, particularly in the early evening, when the light is at its softest.
Around the harbor are rocky cliffs, where according to Greek legend, Andromeda – the daughter of the mythical founder of the town – was chained until her release by Perseus.
8. Old Jaffa Visitor Center
A visitor center and archaeological site in one, the Old Jaffa Visitor Center has set up shop in an ancient chamber off the main square, where you can find information on tourist attractions and things to do in town, browse Greco-Roman ruins, and take a look at the small museum, all at the same time.
There's also a worthwhile audio visual presentation here on Jaffa's long history, which gives an overall picture of the town and the major events that have shaped it across the centuries.
9. A Slice of Art: IIana Goor Museum
The Ilana Goor Museum is located in the heart of Old Jaffa in an impressive, restored mid-18th century home that once served as a travelers' inn for pilgrims making their way to Jerusalem.
The building, which is also the artist's home, houses the collection of Ilana Goor, including sculptures, jewelry, furniture, and clothing, along with items she has collected over the years.
It's an eclectic collection, which contains the artist's own work as well as art and craft works from across the world. The balcony offers great views to the sea.
Address: Mazal Dagim Street, Tel Aviv-Yafo
Tips and Tours: How to Make the Most of Your Visit to Jaffa
- Free walking tours of Jaffa are offered on Wednesdays by the Tourism Association. Tours begin at 10am and start from the tourist office on Marzuk Street.
- Most of the good dining and café options in town are found along Yefet Street and Olei Zion Street.
- The Flea Market area hosts live music and entertainment every Thursday night during the summer months.
- Jaffa is an easy walk from Tel Aviv. It's a two-kilometer stroll following the seafront.
- Bus No. 18 from Dizengoff Street and Bus No. 25 from Allenby Street all travel to Jaffa, stopping at the clock tower.