feminist travel guide tel aviv
Credit: Anna Buckley/HelloGiggles, Isis Briones

You want to see the world, but sometimes the world is an unfriendly place. That’s why HelloGiggles is bringing you Feminist Passport, a guide to all of the most inclusive hotels, restaurants, shops, bars, and sights to visit on your next big adventure. Because travel should be for everyone.

I’m not much of a history buff. In fact, the first time I went to the Louvre Museum in Paris, I almost missed the Mona Lisa because I spent most of my time zooming past every exhibit looking for a place to sleep. When I was offered a press trip to the historic country of Israel earlier this month, you can understand why I didn’t anticipate a mind-opening experience.

As soon as I went to the first holy site on the itinerary, though, something changed. Not only did it bring me back to my Christian upbringing, it was also very powerful to explore the place where three of the world’s biggest religions were born. When I arrived at the airport in Tel Aviv, I had no idea how much this place would mean to me.

It may be the destination for religious pilgrimages, but what I loved most about it was that no one was trying to impose their beliefs upon me. I was surprised that I felt completely comfortable doing and believing whatever I wanted in a country that’s so heavily rooted in religion and has long experienced religious conflict.

What I noticed as a visitor is that there’s an unspoken harmony between the religious and secular worlds that provides locals with the freedom to create and innovate in their own way—and Israeli women are leading the charge on change. Indeed, in the past, the Middle Eastern nation has been ranked fifth highest in the world for the percentage of businesses founded by women. What’s more, the number of women in politics has increased significantly over the years. I visited days before the country’s elections, and one night at a market in Jerusalem, a crowd of mostly women started cheering along one of the female political leaders. Despite the patriarchal traditions associated with the three main monotheistic religions, I never felt restricted or uncomfortable even when visiting religious sites.

LGBTQ+ travelers can also breathe fairly easy, too, because Israel is considered one of the best places in the world to be gay. There are annual gay pride festivals all over the country, along with an official day recognizing the rights of queer people.

No matter what your faith may be or where you come from, the city of Tel Aviv deserves your attention—there’s something for everyone. Scroll through my guide and I guarantee by the end of it, you’ll be ready to pack your bags.

Have a one-of-a-kind stay at the CUCU Hotel.

The CUCU Hotel prides itself on being the quirkiest accommodation on the block. From an Instagram-worthy hammock swing to giant red lips painted on the wall, each room (or suite, if you’re feeling fancy) has its own unique flair that’s well worth your while. There are individualized touches and details in each space that are sure to make any traveler feel special, and the hotel has been designated “gay-popular” by Travel Gay, so everyone should feel comfortable staying here.

Walk and learn.

Credit: Isis Briones

You may have to drive hours to get between the different tourist destinations in Israel, but the cities themselves—especially Tel Aviv—are extremely walkable. Plus, it’s no secret that going off the main streets and exploring the alleyways is often the best way to get a deeper understanding of any new place. At the same time, it helps to have some kind of idea where you’re going. Even though I loved getting lost in the Old City and taking in the unique architecture of the ancient streets, finding my way out of the Jaffa port neighborhood wasn’t easy. If I had to do it again, I’d recommend joining one of the many walking tours available.

Women in Jaffa is a great option as it highlights empowering initiatives within the community, such as the story of Ilana Goor, a Scottish woman who founded the Tabeetha School for girls, as well as a women’s cooperative and a stroll through the Fleamarket, which showcases artwork from female artists. There’s also a free two-hour LGBTQ walking tour with an expert local guide who can further explain why Tel Aviv is known as the “Middle East’s gay capital,” while revealing the LGBTQ community’s struggles, achievements, and overall history in the country.

Grab a pint courtesy of Israel’s reigning “Queen of Beer.”

Credit: Isis Briones

Need a break? Israel has a vibrant craft brewery scene and no, it’s not the exclusive domain of men. Na’ama Ashkenazi is known as the “Queen of Beer” because she’s the only woman brewing and commercially distributing beer within the country. Step into a pub and look out for her Klara beer, which is available as an IPA, stout, or a Belgian Tripel.

Holy, sites!

Credit: Isis Briones

Whether you’re religious or not, don’t miss out on the spiritual experiences the sacred splendors of Israel have to offer (though they’re mostly in Jerusalem, so you’ll have to travel there from Tel Aviv). From the Church of the Holy Sepulchre to the Dome of the Rock, the Western Wall, Mount of Olives, and so much more, it’s remarkable that they’re all still standing. Men and women are separated at most places of worship, ultimately creating a profound sense of sisterhood in the women-only spaces; you’ll see women consoling, praying, and just being together at all sorts of sites. If you’re Jewish and interested in a pilgrimage of your own to learn more about your culture, consider the LGBTQ and women-only Taglit-Birthright Israel trips, which are completely free 10-day journeys for young Jewish people between 18 and 26.