Great beaches, a unique mix of cultures, a surprising culinary scene, and vibrant nightlife, in the overlooked city of Ashdod, the southern gem that is gaining momentum as the next great Israeli city to visit.
Ashdod, Israel

The coastal gem of Ashdod

Not many visitors know it yet, but Ashdod is one of the most unique and interesting cities to visit in Israel. The southern port city, which is often overshadowed by bigger and brighter cities, offers a great authentic experience, with many of the great features of a modern city, alongside an interesting mix of cultures and great natural attractions, which all make it a great place to spend a day of your Israel trip.

The city of Ashdod, one of the biggest cities in Israel, has somehow managed to stay a big secret of a great site to visit for many years and one that even most locals would overlook. However, all of the doubters don’t know what they miss here, as Ashdod offers a variety of great historical and natural wonders, as well as a great vibe and a multitude of cultures from all over the world.

The Story of Ashdod

The ancient city of Ashdod

Ashdod is one of the oldest cities in the Land of Israel and has been inhabited for about 3,700 years, as one of the five important Philistine cities that existed in the region. Its name was later preserved also in the name of the Arab town Isdud. In its early days, it emerged as an active maritime trading center, a status it has kept for thousands of years.

Ashdod and its inhabitants (“Ashdodites”) are mentioned 18 times in the Bible, as well as in the external books and the books of Christianity. The city’s name was also mentioned as a trading city in Egyptian and Assyrian documents, and in other documents in later periods.

In the middle of the 10th century BC, the city was destroyed along with the Philistine settlement in the area. Researchers speculate that it was destroyed during the invasion campaign of Pharaoh Siamun, or by King David in one of his wars with the Philistines. At the end of the century, Ashdod was restored, with the renewal of Philistine settlement in the area. In 770 BC it was conquered by King Uzziah of Judah.

Later, the city prospered under Hellenistic rule, until the Hasmonean revolt. At the beginning of the Roman period, Ashdod was conquered by Pompey, and its name changed to Azotus. It was cut off from the Hasmonean kingdom, and its Jewish inhabitants were expelled.

The city was given as a gift to Herod by Augustus Caesar in 32 BC, and it was bequeathed to his sister Shlomit. Until the 4th century, Ashdod Yam, located just a few kilometers west of it, gradually expanded, and the center of gravity moved to it from Ashdod, which lost most of its importance to the neighboring city.

With the end of the Arab occupation of the Land of Israel in the middle of the 7th century, an Arab village named Isdud emerged at Ashdod and its surroundings. Its location on the Via Maris led to an increase in its importance during the Ottoman period when it developed into a town with a small port, which was used by the British during the First World War.

During the British mandate and until 1948, the population of Isdud grew and reached about 5,000 people, who made a living from agriculture and trade, and the settlement served as a center for the surrounding villages.

The modern city of Ashdod

The modern city of Ashdod in the country of Israel was established in 1956, and through the years it became a major port city, with one of the biggest ports in Israel, alongside Haifa. Today, Ashdod is the city with the highest percentage of first-generation Jewish immigrants, who came here from all over the world, and mostly from France, the USSR, and Ethiopia. With about 260,000 residents, it is the 7th-biggest city in Israel, and the second-biggest city in Southern Israel, after Beer Sheva.

Best places to visit in Ashdod

Yochai Viewpoint

A beautiful vantage point located right above Citadel Beach. The observatory was named after the late Yochai Elkayam, a native of the city, who lost his life while going in to save a drowning person at Citadel Beach in August 2018. The spectacular observatory was built on top of a wooden balcony overlooking the sea, and there is no doubt that this is a must-stop point in the area.

By the way, if you come here in the evening, you can see the beautiful balcony lit up with dozens of LED candles. If you’re lucky, you might even get to see a live marriage proposal, as since the observatory was inaugurated in 2022, it has become one of the favorite proposal locations in the country.

Citadel Beach

The people of Ashdod know this beach very well, which is considered popular and especially crowded during the summer with experienced beach tennis players and new visitors who come to admire the ancient citadel of Ashdod and the white beach strip.

There is no doubt that Citadel Beach is the perfect setting for a romantic couple’s trip against the background of crashing waves, or a perfect family outing against the background of the remains of the citadel. Note that this beach is not an official bathing beach, and does not have lifeguard services, which makes it great mainly for walking and admiring the view and the turquoise water.

Mei Ami Promenade

The wide promenade of Mei Ami, which stretches over 7 km/4.3 miles, offers the best of all worlds. On the one hand, a view of the sea – which does not necessarily require going down to the sea and getting sand all over you, and on the other hand, a multitude of shaded sitting areas, lawns, and refreshing fountains, which in the evening light up the Mei Ami beach with a multitude of colors. If you come with children, don’t miss a stop at the pirate park, located right next to the boardwalk.

Ashdod Yam Fort

The story of the Ashdod Yam Fort, as you see it today, begins at the end of the 7th century AD, when it was built on the orders of the Caliph Abd al-Malik on the remains of a Byzantine settlement. The citadel was used by the Muslim garrison to prevent raids by the Byzantines, who came from the sea.

An earthquake in 1033 destroyed the citadel and it was abandoned until the arrival of the Crusaders in the 12th century AD. They renovated the citadel and brought it back to life. No wonder they chose this strategic location, right on the beach strip, which is also close to a maritime trading area.

After the Crusaders were expelled from Israel in 1290, the citadel was abandoned until very recently, when it was turned into an official park and a great historical site to visit. At the entrance to the citadel, there is an information stand that will tell you about the history of the citadel and the settlers here in detail.

During your visit here, you can walk around, day or night, among the remains of the rooms and the archaeological findings found in the excavations, as well as go up to the impressive balcony on the second floor and enjoy a spectacular view of the sea and the surrounding nature. The entrance is free.

Best restaurants and bars in Ashdod

Farino pizza

Farino Pizza is a pizzeria that makes real Neapolitan pizza from handmade sourdough. The smell that comes out of the pizzeria when it opens every evening, maddens the senses and makes the queues not easy to handle, but very worth it in the end. The pizzas here are made with thick edges and a particularly thin center, in flavors that match the Italian style, such as Bianca pizza and many other kinds of delicious pizza.


In the kitchen of the Kaifuya restaurant, which is located not far from the industrial area of Ashdod, you will find Georgian cooks who are busy preparing authentic dishes. Although the place only serves dairy dishes here, the Georgian cuisine has a huge variety of great dairy delights, and this is maybe the best place in Israel to experience the mouthwatering taste of Georgia.

Among the dishes, you will be happy to try some Chebureki, khachapuri, bellini, and funchiki – an airy donut filled with
Crème Pâtissière.

GodA Club

The popular GodA Club looks like it was copied directly from the Berlin nightlife scene. The dark atmosphere and the techno music in the place attract a more underground crowd to the bar and is a great place for those looking for an intimate atmosphere and a chance to spend time with the most colorful figures in the city.

If you are looking to get to know the Ashdod fringe culture, and you also want to taste a colorful cocktail, and unique dishes that make a perfect mix of Eastern and Western culture – GodA is definitely the place for you.

Matilda Bar

A small neighborhood bar located in the heart of the city that attracts a young crowd with cool vibes. This is where the locals come when they want to enjoy hip-hop or rock music or rhythmic electronic music. In addition, Matilda is a great place to enjoy a cold beer or a homemade hamburger at affordable prices. Just make sure not to leave too early, because the celebrations at Matilda Bar continue deep into the night.

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