In this Jaffa post, we will visit Jaffa’s most known attractions. We will also cover other subjects such as history, mythology and Jaffa oranges. Let’s begin!
- The featured Jaffa image belongs to “From Day To Night” series. In that series, I took and merged several photos of the same scene during different times of the day. To find out more check out: From Day to Night in Israel.
- I have visited Old Jaffa many times and this combined post is the result. Thus, you will see photos taken during different days.
Map of the area:
How To Get There
If you visiting Tel Aviv, especially the beach, then you can probably walk there (from most Tel Aviv beaches you can see Jaffa). Today Tel-Aviv and Jaffa under a single municipality. This means that you can combine Jaffa visit with a walk in one of the nearby Tel-Aviv’s neighborhoods. For suggestions, check out Tel Aviv-Yafo.
You can also reach Jaffa by public transport. A variety of buses goes through Yerushalayim Avenue, and some even reach the Clock Tower. Bus line number depends on your location. You can use Moovit to find the exact route.
Finding free parking in this area is a challenging task. But, if you arrive early, you can try at Zelda Shne’orson Mishovski street and Elisabeth Bergner street (opposite to the fuel station). When it comes to paid parking, there is a variety of options. You can use Jaffa Port parking (Nemal Yafo 24) and Old Train Station parking (HaMered Street 65). The latter is especially useful if you are planning to visit Neve Tzedek as well.
A typical visit to Jaffa will take 2 – 5 hours. If you are short in time and want to make the most of a two-hour visit, or love to learn new things, you can join a tour. Since Jaffa is a popular touristic spot, you can find many different tours. When I searched for free tours (I read somewhere that there are such), I stumbled upon SANDEMANs NEW Europe free Jaffa tour. I have not joined one of their tours, so I cannot tell you about my experience. But, I saw many positive reviews online. Also, I should mention that many free tours are based on the tipping model. Meaning, they expect a tip at the end of the tour. Recently I read an article, that said the average tip for a free tour in Europe is 10 Euro.
In any case, it is worth keeping the tour option in mind.
Origin Of The Name
Mythology says that it is named for Yafet, one of the sons of Noah, the one who built it after the Flood. The Hellenist tradition links the name to Iopeia, or Cassiopeia, mother of Andromeda. An outcropping of rocks near the harbor is reputed to have been the place where Andromeda was rescued by Perseus. Pliny the Elder associated the name with Iopa, daughter of Aeolus, god of the wind. The Palestinian geographer al-Muqaddasi referred to it as Yaffa.
In this section, I will not go through the whole history, but rather only mention several key facts.
Ancient Jaffa was built on a 40 meters high ridge, with a broad view of the coastline, giving it strategic importance in military history. The tell of Jaffa, created through the accumulation of debris and landfill over the centuries, made the hill even higher.
Archaeological evidence shows that the site of Jaffa was inhabited around 7500 BCE.
The natural harbor of Jaffa has been in use since the Bronze Age.
The city as such was established at the latest around 1800 BCE.
As you can see, Jaffa is one of the ancient port cities in Israel and the Mediterranean basin. And by looking at this view of Jaffa, you can see two reasons for this spot becoming a port.
The closeness to sea is apparent, but Jaffa is located on a hill. Most places in this area that are close to the sea are at sea level. A mountain makes it easier to defend the city. And another reason is water. In ancient times there was a river on the other side of the Tel, and it supplied the town with water.
In the photo above you can see a group of rocks to the right. I know it is hard to see, but there is a flag on one of the rocks. That is the Andromeda rock. According to Greek mythology, it is the rock to which beautiful Andromeda was chained to.
The Jaffa orange (also known as Shamouti orange) is an orange variety with few seeds and a tough skin that makes it particularly suitable for export.
Developed by Palestinian farmers in the mid-19th century, the variety takes its name from the city of Jaffa where it was first produced for export. The orange was the primary citrus export for the city. It is, along with the navel and bitter orange, one of three main varieties of the fruit grown in the Mediterranean, Southern Europe, and the Middle East. The Jaffa is also cultivated in Cyprus, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and Turkey.
ASFAIK, Jaffa Oranges trademark was sold to several countries in Southern America. Thus, if you buy oranges with “Jaffa” sticker, this does not necessarily mean, it was grown in Israel.
We will start with a visit to Tel Jaffa. This 40 meters high ridge allows not only excellent views, but you can see some of the most popular attractions there.
After climbing almost to the top of the hill, you find several viewpoints. This one presents several cannons and Tel Aviv coastline.
There are additional cannons around old Jaffa, and they serve as a reminder of the time Napoleon conquered the city.
The top of Al-Bahr Mosque and the Andromeda rock:
And after a short walk, we reached St. Peter’s Church.
St. Peter’s Church
St. Peter’s Church sits at the top of the Jaffa Mound, at a strategic spot, and has served as a Christian center for thousands of years. Underneath the church and to its side are the remnants of a crusader fort, underneath which a Byzantine church is buried. The fort was part of the city citadel during the reign of Louis IX, king of France. In the church, courtyard stands the statue of Louis IX, who was canonized in Christian tradition for his part in the crusades.
According to accepted history, the church also hosted the French general Napoleon when he stayed in Jaffa during his campaign in Israel in 1799.
The church is vast and is noted for its splendor. It was constructed at the beginning of the 20th century in the Baroque style, with a long nave and a vaulted ceiling. As opposed to most churches which face east, St. Peter’s faces west, towards the sea, where Peter’s famous dream took place, and towards Rome, where he was sent later.
The walls of the church are decorated with oil paintings depicting the Fourteen Stations of the Cross and St. George fighting the dragon. Over the altar is a depiction of Peter’s visitation in a dream by the angel Michael.
Source: Official Site
St. Peter’s Church opening hours and Masses times:
In front of St. Peter’s Church there is usually a small market. In those stands, you can find mostly souvenirs and handmade jewelry.
And this is how St. Peter’s Church looks at sunset:
This shot was made from the nearby Hapisga Garden. But we will reach it later. Meanwhile, let’s visit the nearby Zodiac Fountain.
About 50 meters to the south from St. Peter’s Church you can find this Zodiac Fountain:
The Zodiac Fountain was made by the sculptors Varda Ghivoly and Ilan Gelber in 2011. The fountain, located in Kdumim Square, bears chalkstone sculptures of the twelve zodiacs in fascinating, original designs.
The fountain combines effects of water, lighting, and stonework, and completes the representation of the twelve zodiacs in Old Jaffa. The constellations also appear in the street names of Old Jaffa and the Wishing Bridge connecting Jaffa Hill with Kdumim Square.
As part of the digging work for the fountain, the Antiquities Authority conducted a salvage excavation at the site. The dig was managed by Mr. Diego Barkan of the Antiquities Authority. The digging exposed architectural elements of the Ottoman period, including remnants of structures, walls and floors, and a tiled yard containing a water reservoir, and constructed roofed aqueducts.
The findings found under the fountain corroborate an old legend mentioning the existence of a magical wishing well located in this very place. Anyone who tosses a coin in it and makes a wish has the wish fulfilled on the spot.
Source: Official Site
While in old Jaffa, you may notice that many windows are painted in blue. It is an old custom, where people believed that the blue color brings luck.
Old Jaffa Visitors Center
The Zodiac fountain is located on Kdumim Square. And under the square, you can find the visitors center.
Experience 5000 years of history in one the most ancient port cities in the world. Observe the major archeological discoveries found in Jaffa, meet the central characters in the tales of Jaffa, and learn the city’s history.
Sunday-Thursday & Saturday 9:00-20:00
Sunday-Thursday & Saturday 9:00-17:00
One can coordinate group visits during other hours as well.Entry is by advance invitation or on the basis of available space. It is advisable to reserve a place by telephone: 03-603-7700, 03-603-7686 or by e-mail: email@example.com
Source: Official Site
Yemenite Art Center
On the far end of Kdumim Square, you can find a small Yemenite Art Center.
They have a small display showing Yemenite art and how it was created:
And of course, they have a store where they sell their handmade jewelry.
And since we are on the topic of art, there are many art galleries and jewelry stores in the alleys of old Jaffa. If you are looking for a souvenir, a present, or love to mingle in galleries, then I would recommend the Zodiac alleys in the old Jaffa (we will reach them a little later in this post).
The Wishing Bridge
Next, we headed to The Wishing Bridge. It is located close to St. Peter’s Church. And at one of the entrances to The Wishing Bridge, you can find this stone mosaic.
While initially writing this post, the Wishing Bridge was closed for reconstruction, but it is already open for public.
An ancient legend states that anyone who stands on the bridge grasps the relief of their astrological sign and gazes at sea –will have his wish come true!
Stationed on top of the rail of the famous wooden bridge connecting Peak Park with Kdumim Square are bronze statues of the twelve astrological signs. At the entrance to the bridge is a stone mosaic of the zodiac.
The statues along the bridge were sculpted by Esther Shlomo and Freddy Fabian, and the mosaic was created by Varda Ghivoly, Ilan Gelber and Navot Gil, all residents of Old Jaffa.
Source: Official Site
At the highest point of Tel Jaffa, at Hapisga Garden, you can find The Gate of Faith.
The Gate of Faith
A large statue, made of Galilee stone, was sculpted by the sculptor Daniel Kafri of Jerusalem between the years 1973-1975. The statue stands at the top of the Peak Park in Old Jaffa.
The statue, of two 4 meter tall pillars upon which rests a stone, also 4 meters in length, resembles a gate. The sculpted entrance is the gate of entry to the Land of Israel and represents the promise of the land to the Patriarchs – Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
On the two pillars appear the three Patriarchs – who received the promise – and the top stone signifies the beginning of that promise’s realization via the capture of Jericho and the Land of Israel by Joshua.
The first pillar recounts the tale of the binding of Isaac. That is an extraordinary portrayal of the binding – Abraham is seen kneeling on the ram, and holding up his son Isaac. Isaac lies with his face, resembling Abraham’s, turned upward.
The second pillar depicts Jacob’s dream, where the land was promised to his offspring. Jacob rests on the ground, and the stone is under his head. Above him are two angels, one ascending and one descending, facing opposite directions, and the rhythm of the wings creates an association with a ladder.
The top beam represents the realization and depicts the capture of Jericho. The priests surround the city of Jericho, holding horns and are seen carrying the Ark of the Covenant.
Source: Official Site
And as we go down we visit the Ramses Gate (with St. Peter’s Church in the background):
The most ancient remnants that were discovered in Jaffa are the remnants of a glacis that surrounded the hill during the 18th century B.C.E. (the Second Middle Bronze Age). The remnants from this period, the period of the Egyptian conquest, attest that Jaffa was a city under Egyptian control on the model of other cities in Canaan.
In the central excavation area that is currently located in the Ramses Gate Garden remnants of a community from the close of the 17th century and the first half of the 16th century B.C.E. were discovered.
From the Late Bronze Age (the latter half of the 16th century and the 15 century B.C.E.) the remnants of buildings that were built out of bricks on stone foundations were discovered.
From the Late Bronze Age (13-1400 BCE) three layers of the settlement were discovered: In the lowest layer, the remnants of structures and a granary built out of unhewn stones were discovered. Above it, we find the remains of an entrance gate to a luxurious palace from the period of the Egyptian Pharaoh Ramses II (1237-1304 B.C.E.). The artwork of the gate was built out of hard and chiseled sandstone in which hieroglyphics bearing the titles and portions of the name of Ramses II are engraved. The walls were built out of bricks. And on top of them are remnants of the gate (the bronze axle of a wooden gate has been found) and the Egyptian fort that were destroyed in a vast conflagration (the end of the 13thCentury and beginning of the 12th Century B.C.E.)
And in this context, it’s worth mentioning
Some externally written testimonies referring to Jaffa have survived from this era, and they are:
The Harris papyrus that describes the conquest of Jaffa by stealth by the Army of the Pharaoh Thutmose III (1450-1504 B.C.E.) by providing a gift in the form of large jugs in which Egyptian soldiers were hidden to governor Jaffa, which enabled the city’s conquest from within.
The city appears in a list of towns conquered by Thutmose III at the Temple of Karnak in Egypt.
Remnants of official letters engraved in cuneiform on mud tablets that were discovered in the Pharaonic Archives at Tel el-Amarna in Egypt where the granaries of the Pharaoh in Jaffa were mentioned. At Tel Afek (near Rosh Ha’Ayin) a similar letter where Jaffa is mentioned was discovered.
The Papyrus Anastasi describes an expedition by a courtier in Canaan and includes a description of Jaffa, its gardens, and residents at the close of the 13th century B.C.E.
Source: Official Site
Old Jaffa Alleys
Floating Orange Tree
From the Ramses Gate, we continue to old Jaffa alleys. On our way, we passed next to the hanging tree, AKA Floating Orange Tree:
Among the city streets of old Jaffa is a hidden work of Morin’s known as the Floating Orange Tree. Finished in 1993, this is a small orange tree that is elevated off of the ground by a large earthenware jug hung by metal chains from the walls of houses nearby. The tree is growing out of the pitcher, trying to break it. Morin sought to emphasize the developing world of separation between man and nature, as “creatures that grow in containers.”
This statue is hung only a foot or so off of the ground – enough to see its shadow, but not so high that it seems about to fall down.
The names of the lanes are same as of the zodiac signs. And this is mine.
And here is one with a number:
And some smaller labels only have a number and a drawing of the zodiac sign:
One of the alleys in Old Jaffa:
Ilana Goor Museum
As you pass through old Jaffa (to south) you will reach The Ilana Goor Museum. Nearby, you can find this sculpture of a whale by Ilana Goor. The Smiling Whale sculpture inspired by the bible story of Jonah and the whale.
Ilana Goor is an individualistic, autodidactic, intuitive and multifaceted artist. As an artist who knows no boundaries and whose art transcends any conventions, her creations are a blend of vitality and obsession, functional simplicity alongside expressive complexity bordering on surrealism. Her sources of inspiration are neither time nor place-dependent. They create a personal statement, a journey replete with meaning and they succeed in touching and moving people the world over.
The Museum building stands on a hill in Old Jaffa and constitutes an architectural pearl and a work of art in itself with its unique view of the Mediterranean Sea.
Source: Ilana Goor Museum
After wondering at Tel Jaffa, we will descend towards sea level. There are several ways down, and I will take you through the small alleys. Not far from St. Peter’s church you can find stairs down toward the port.
On our way to the port:
St. Peter’s Church from below:
And old hangar next to the port:
Along the port, you can find restaurants, street artists, and shops.
You can also take a sail. We sailed once a couple of years ago, and it was 30 NIS for a 20-minute sail. You start from Jaffa, go into the sea towards Tel Aviv and back.
We continued our walk to the north. Jaffa with Tel Aviv in the background:
Tel Aviv view:
From the promenade, we went toward The Clock Tower. Not far from the Clock Tower you can find Abulafia bakery (I wrote about it here). And we got. Not sure there is a name, but it is round bread with a variety of toppings (20 NIS each).
The Clock Tower
And no tour to Jaffa would be complete without The Clock Tower:
The clock tower was built in 1901 in the center of Jaffa’s town square.
The clock tower in Jaffa is one of seven clock towers built in Israel and of the hundred clock towers built in the Ottoman Empire in celebration of the 25th anniversary of the reign of the Turkish sultan Abdul Hamid the Second. The towers were made as part of the new reforms guided by the sultan, to conduct the empire’s cities by precise, Western timetables.
According to the local tale, the tower was built at the initiative of Yossef Moial, a wealthy Jew of Jaffa, who erected the clock tower to save himself pestering by pedestrians who would come into his shop to ask the time on their way to the train station.
Four clocks were installed in the tower – two of them showing the time in Europe, and two of them the time in Israel.
Source: Official Site
Note: there are several public restrooms in this area. The ones that are easiest to find are: in front of St. Peter’s Church and next to The Clock Tower (in a small alley to the east).
Along Yefet Street
So far we mostly covered Old Jaffa, but there are things to see further away as well. On another occasion, we continued along Yefet street to the south. We saw Collège des Frères de Jaffa, a French international school, and the “Turret Building.”
“Turret Building” is located on Yeffet 27. The building designed for the Convent of the Sisters of Saint Joseph. The nuns built it after leaving the walls of the old city in 1883-1917. The original purpose of the building was French – Catholic high school for girls. And today the Turret Building serves as a hotel.
A reconstructed building:
Further ahead on Yefet street you can find St. Anthony’s Church.
St. Anthony’s Church
St. Anthony of Padua Church or simply Church of St. Anthony, stands out for its Gothic Revival style and its clock tower. It was named in honor of St. Anthony of Padua a priest of the Franciscan Order, Portuguese preacher, and theologian venerated as a saint and Doctor of the Church by Catholicism.
The structure was completed in 1932. The church is mainly used by foreign workers mostly from the Philippines. On the north side of the church is the Terra Sancta high school run by nuns.
Religious services are offered in Arabic and English.
And just around the corner of St. Anthony’s Church there is Church of Saint Anthony – to Roman Coptic.
And this is Galei Tzahal. Galei Tzahal is a nationwide Israeli radio network operated by the Israel Defense Forces. And it is one of the most popular radio stations in Israel.
Jaffa is one of the oldest port cities in the Middeterenian area. It is a beautiful place to wander around and enjoy the atmosphere. A typical visit will take 2 – 5 hours, but if you want to visit all the mentioned places, then it will probably take the whole day. In any case, you can either join a guided tour or explore the city by yourself.
Also, not far from the clock tower you can find the Jaffa flea market (I visited it several times in the past and created a dedicated post).
Have you ever been to Jaffa? What is your favorite attraction? Tell us in the comments below.
That’s all for today, and I’ll see you in future travels!
For additional attractions nearby see Tel Aviv-Yafo page.