Tel Aviv is arguably one of the coolest, most hip cities in the Middle East (maybe the world). There’s something special about a city with sand, sea, skyscrapers and sushi restaurants open at 4am.
Tel Aviv is one of those cities that’s very much a city (it’s got nightlife, 24/7 shops, international food and plenty of options for every type of resident) but it’s also very much like a village. The city is walkable when it’s not sweltering hot outside, and it’s certainly not very hard to get around. It’s one of those small cities with a big city heart—where you just might run into your friends at the same cafe or patio bar. Or if you don’t, you’ll just make some new ones.
Know Where to Go
Tel Aviv is a small city with a big city feeling, so there’s always a lot of things happening in different areas of the city. It’s just a matter of knowing where the coolest neighborhoods are located and finding out where to go and when.
- Florentin – It’s a lot like Brooklyn, except everything is in Hebrew and there are way less Orthodox Jews. A bit grungy, you can find some of the best bars in Tel Aviv on Florentin street and down by the intersection with Vidal Street. Lots of cafés, too. On Vidal, you’ll also find some of Tel Aviv’s BEST Mexican food at Mezcal. No joke. And the bartenders there are notoriously good-looking. Florentin is already quite a bit gentrified and it’s popular with American tourists visiting on their Birthright trips, but it’s still a cool neighborhood with a lot of graffiti, bars and nightlife.
- Noga Complex – A small but burgeoning neighborhood in Tel Aviv that sits on the cusp of Jaffa. Visit the Craft and Bloom store owned by Ofer Shahar which boasts art, design items and clothing, as well as furniture produced by Ofer and his brother Gilad in their workshop next door. Also visit the coffee shop, Cafelix, in the middle of the square, and the various clothing boutiques nestled along the streets, including Naomi Ma’aravi eco-fashion boutique. There’s also a record store called Record Saloon, housed in the apartment of two local producers and DJs, located at 3 Auerbach Street.
- Neve Tzedek – Take a walk down Shabazi Street and you’ll find lots of galleries and yuppie restaurants. If Tel Aviv were like Brooklyn, this would be the Park Slope neighborhood. Things in Neve Tzedek are usually more expensive than in other places of Tel Aviv, but it’s a nice place for a night out.
Where to Stay
Sometimes it seems that Tel Aviv has more boutique hotels than actual visitors. And yet no matter how much you want to stay in a particular place, you’ll end up somewhere else! Unlike in other Israeli cities, the hostels in Tel Aviv tend to be a bit more expensive. There’s not much of a trick for finding affordable places to stay in Tel Aviv except to check rates across multiple websites.
Tel Aviv Hostels
- Abraham Hostel – One of my favorite hostel brands, Abraham Hostels operate in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Nazareth, this being their newest hostel only open since Spring 2016. It’s location is one of the best in the city, just off of trendy Rothschild Boulevard and a 10-minute walk to the beach, 10 minutes to Florentin and right in the center of Tel Aviv’s nightlife scene. It’s also located just a block from some of Tel Aviv’s best gay bars and clubs. The hostel bar and lounge is a large and open public space where they host different events—from Shabbat dinner to blues festivals. The bar attracts not just the tourists staying at the hostel, but also many locals, making it a great place to make new friends in a social atmosphere (and with cheap drinks, too!). Dorms, private rooms and apartments are available, from $20/night.
- Hayarkon 48 – This backpacker-friendly hostel is right in the heart of Tel Aviv, convenient to the Shuk, the beach, Rothschild and centrally located between North Tel Aviv and the more hip neighborhoods further south. Dorms and private rooms available, from $23/night.
- Florentin Backpackers Hostel – This is a true backpacker hostel located in the hip neighborhood of Florentine and walking distance to Jaffa and the southern Tel Aviv beaches. Staff is super friendly and the rooftop terrace is one of the best places to hang out on a summer night. Dorms and private rooms available, from $14/night.
- Pink House TLV – The Pink House was established specifically for gay singles or couples – and their friends. The gay owned and operated Pink House offers three different accommodation options (including apartment rentals and a gay dormitory exclusively for gay travelers under the age of 38). Located in the picturesque Yemenite Quarter of Tel Aviv, the gay hotel & hostel is just minutes away from the beach. Dorms, apartments and private rooms available, from $38/night.
- Brown Hotel – Israel’s only official member of the Design Hotels group, the Brown Hotel is a beautiful property with a great rooftop bar (open to the public most nights). Rooms from $145/night. Also make sure to check out the newer Brown Beach House—just blocks from the beach and with a beautiful interior design. Rates for the Beach Brown Hotel are comparable to the urban city hotel. Even if you don’t get a room reservation, make a point to stop in the Brown Beach House bar and café!
- Hotel Montefiore – One of Tel Aviv’s most famous boutique hotels, the Montefiore is a small, chic property on a quiet street near Rothschild Boulevard. The 1920s building features an amazing restaurant (great for a business lunch deal) and rooms are all equipped with libraries of books in English, Hebrew and other languages. In the summertime, when the Tel Aviv heat is especially strong, you’ll find fresh filtered water available in the rooms rather than bottled water—a thoughtful way to prevent waste and encourage environmental responsibility. Room prices from $380/night.
- The Dave by Brown Hotels – The newest hotel part of the Brown collection, this property is located in Tel Aviv’s Old North. The five-story hotel is a celebration of 1970s aesthetic with each room housing its own eclectic assortment of flea market finds. Every door is a different bold hue and the lobby is an eye-catching crimson. Vintage prints hang on the wall and funky antiques fill the spaces. Room prices from $110/night.
- Alma Hotel – With only 15 rooms and suites, it’s a small hotel but, if you can get a booking, the meticulously designed (and colorful!) rooms are art unto themselves. On the ground floor of this hotel just off trendy Rothschild Boulevard, you’ll find the Alma Lounge with great cocktails and a nice courtyard in the summer. Room prices from $380/night.
- Artplus Hotel – Just one block from the beach, the Artplus is more than just a hotel for beach tourists. Every floor, room and suite in the Artplus features site-specific artwork, all of it designed by local Israeli artists. Room prices from just $189/night.
Bars & Nightlife
Tel Aviv’s amazing nightlife attracts DJs from around the world. With the city’s location along the Mediterranean Sea and its’ comfortable climate, nighttime in Tel Aviv is for living. In proper Mediterranean style, dinners might be late and evenings are spent outside when the weather’s warm.
- Hoodna – in Florentin. dirty couches, metal tables, live music on the street, feels very much like Brooklyn. Abarbanel 13, Florentin
- Armadillo – two locations, 51 Ehad Ha’am St. and 174 Dizengoff St. – trendy hipsters but, as is usual for Tel Aviv, it’s a laid-back atmosphere
- Radio EPGB – just off Rothschild Blvd, underground rock bar, has FourSquare specials, awesome music from live bands to 70s disco (with Radiohead and the Beatles mixed in). Word on the street is this place is now overrun with trendier hipsters and long lines. Shadal 7
- Kuli Alma – One of the newest nightlife hotspots in Tel Aviv, this place isn’t just a bar with great DJs, they also serve vegetarian (and vegan) food. Check their website for live music events, but otherwise you’ll catch house, techno and hip-hop. Besides the music, though, the multi-purpose venue also includes an art gallery, a shopping Kiosk (selling everything from candy to t-shirts) plus more than a few street art murals by local graffiti artists.
- Har Sinai – This small place has a similar atmosphere to the original Teder pop-up bar but with even better music. Hipsters overflow onto the street in its location behind Tel Aviv’s largest synagogue. Har Sinai 2
- Anna Loulou: Hyper local, left-leaning dance bar co-owned by Arab and a Israeli hipsters on a side street in Jaffa. Go on Wednesday night to dance to vintage Arabic music. They serve Club Mate here!
- Corduroy – just a minute’s walk from Teder/Har Sinai, on Allenby st. facing the Great Synagogue. Packed on Thursday & Friday nights, the atmosphere is awesome, and whether it’s 60’s rock ‘n roll songs, 80’s synthpop or 2000’s indie-electro, the music here is probably good. Sun-Sat, Allenby 99
- The Streets – totally hipster. Dylan plays on the stereo, decent food. Open late (24 hour?). King George 70
- Levontin 7 – indie dance club/venue. Lots of cool bands play here and they put on some great indie club nights. Dancing to The Libertines and the likes. One of the best parties. Plus they sell vegan pizza! Levontin 7
- Teder pop-up radio bar – not sure if it’s still around as it only seems to open during the summer for 90 nights, but it’s totally awesome. Either way, check their website for some great music. Open during the summer only
- Lima Lima – Cool club, usually electro DJs. I used to love this place because the woman at the door used to recognize me—even if I hadn’t been in over a month. There’s a back courtyard with a waterfall which is a great place to chill-out after dancing for hours. Lilienblum 42
- The Container – hip bar, restaurant and art space in Jaffa, definitely one of the coolest places in Tel Aviv often with free concerts in the evening. Old Jaffa Port, Warehouse No. 2
Gay Tel Aviv
Tel Aviv is one of the most gay-friendly cities in the Middle East, and maybe even the world. New gay bars are and club nights are popping up all the time. Tel Aviv’s annual gay pride is also a great experience with a week-long film festival, beach parties, parades and street parties. For up-to-date club listings, try gaytlvguide.com or the official tourism site, Tel Aviv Gay Vibe. You can also visit the city’s LGBTQ center where they’ve got a café and plenty of tourist information.
- Shpagat – One of Tel Aviv’s best gay bars, it’s designed after one of my favorite bars in Berlin (Mein Haus am See). They have daily parties and during Tel Aviv Pride, the street outside hosts one of the city’s best street parties.
- Evita – Tel Aviv’s most famous bar & club, the Evita is your go-to gay bar. They have drag nights every Tuesday.
- Hilton Beach – The beach near the Hilton Tel Aviv hotel is widely regarded as Tel Aviv’s “gay beach.” You’ll find a lot of muscle and hunks there. Younger crowds tend to hang out at the nearby Frishman Beach.
- Dreck – Every Thursday night, this underground club near Dizengoff Fountain turns into Tel Aviv’s hottest gay party. Cute boys, good music, lots of fun.
Cafés & Restaurants
Tel Aviv’s food scene is regularly changing. The city adapts quickly to new trends and with a culture so heavily based on food, it’s no wonder that cafés and restaurants are popular meeting points. If you’re wondering what you should eat in Israel, check out this useful guide to Israeli foods. One thing you have to try in Tel Aviv is the iced coffee. The Israeli style is more like a frappe and it’s pretty much the best way to survive a Tel Aviv summer.
- Suzanna Restaurant – Located on Shabazi Street, they serve good food and nice coffee—all with the pleasure of sitting under a gigantic fig tree (weather permitting). There rooftop also offers up a nice atmosphere in a lovely corner of Tel Aviv.
- Tony Vespa – At this pizzeria, you buy your slices by weight. It’s open late, it’s not kosher and it’s pretty much always full of drunk hipsters sitting on the street curb!
- Totzeret Haaretz – A nice & quiet café at Masaryk Square. Come here with a book or a laptop to get some work done. They’ve got simple breakfast and sandwich options but the quality is good and the price is right. Masaryk Square 12
- CafeLix – This coffee shop is at the helm of the slow-roast coffee movement in Tel Aviv, with a flagship cafe in the Noga complex (an increasingly gentrified area of Jaffa). 15 Sgula Street
- Levinsky 41 – Stop by Levinsky 41 café for an organic take on the popular Israeli beverage gazoz (soda). Spark up a conversation with the affable “Benny Soda,” a former chef, as he prepares homemade organic fruit syrups made from peach, strawberry, roses, almond and apricots, that when combined with sparking water, offers a subtly sweet, refreshing beverage. 41 Levinsky Street
- Alla Rampa – New open-air tapas bar frequented by local musicians in an industrial strip of south Tel Aviv, with innovative vegetarian options, cocktails and featuring weekly performances by local musicians and DJs spinning the best of international indie rock and dance music. 21 Ha’Amal Street
Art & Museums
Galleries and designer shops are actually all over town, so just walk into ’em. There’s also graffiti everywhere, by several local (and international) artists, so just keep an open eye. If you’re looking for something a bit more established, try some of the Israeli museums mentioned below. To discover Israel’s contemporary art scene, definitely check out the private tours available through Oh-So-Arty.
- Gallery Gallery Tours – Run by the lovely Sarah, these tours grew out of the art blog, OhSoArty.com,
- Florentin Urban Culture Tour – One of the tours available is the Florentin Urban Culture Tour where you’ll learn more about the graffiti and street art scene in Tel Aviv.
- SOHO Design Center – Inside theDizengoff shopping center (on the top-floor), it’s a housewares shop that also sells Moleskine notebooks and other designy, kitschy things.
- Tel Aviv Museum of Art – Israel’s most European art museum. The permanent collection contains some great modern & contemporary works, but the highlight is usually the temporary exhibitions depending upon the artist.
- Design Museum – It’s a little further outside the city, in nearby Holon, but can be reached via public transportation in a pinch. Read my review for more information about this unique Israeli museum.
- Givon Art Forum – New gallery in Neve Tzedek offering events and exhibitions showcasing the works of Israel’s emerging and most unique artists in a wide-range of disciplines, including sculpture, video, installation, architecture and painting. 3 Alroi Street
- Asufa – Boutique design-centric gift shop with a wide-range of unique products and artworks by local Israeli designers. 8 Yehuda Margoza Street
- Meshuna Gallery – New street-art and graffiti-focused gallery space in south Tel Aviv owned by a collection of local artists and urban tastemakers. Works by Dioz, Know Hope and KloneYourself, Tel Aviv’s most prominent street artists, adorn the space’s backyard art studio and workspace, where furniture design and art classes are held on the regular
- The Dolphinarium – Abandoned building, used to hold dolphin shows (seriously) back in the day when people had no idea what animal rights were. Like every abandoned place, it attracted street artists and it’s now covered. Explore at your own risk. Photos from inside the Dolphinarium
People-Watching in Tel Aviv
One of the best things to do in Tel Aviv is to simply just people-watch. Here are some of my favorite spots to lounge around (preferably with an iced coffee) for some quality people-watching:
- Mezizim Beach – bit of a walk as it’s further north than the other beaches, but has a cool atmosphere because of that fact
- Rothschild Boulevard – especially good if you like baby carriages or tent cities, or at nighttime, get a bottle of wine from a shop and drink it on the park benches
- Gordon Beach – this is the 20-somethings’ beach, so the people are attractive
- Rabin Square – nice plaza, grab some food at one of the nearby places and just hang out
- Kikar Magen David – busy intersection where King George, Allenby, Nahalat Binyamin and the Carmel market meet. Grab a 10 Shekel falafel from across the street and just watch. Especially nice late at night to sit on a park bench and chill out while you wait to catch the sunrise down the street at the beach. There once was a Jesus look-a-like who camped out here for an eternity.
- Take a walking tour with Street Wise Hebrew for a truly unique experience in Tel Aviv. Guy Sharett teaches Hebrew in the streets of Tel Aviv, Israel, through graffiti, street signs and bumper stickers.
- Shop at the Gelada Studio (8 Sgula Street) where you’ll find t-shirts from local designer Yaron Mendelovici featuring playful images of country emblems—everywhere from Scotland and England to Cuba and Cape Cod.
- Get a sabich sandwich (eggplant/aubergine) at the small stand at the corner of Dizengoff and Frishman. Trust me. It’s delicious.
Local Blogs & Travel Resources
Tel Aviv may be small, but that doesn’t mean there’s not much to do. There are a handful of sites which contain independent and useful information for planning a trip and finding out the coolest things to do no matter the day or season.
- DIY Tel Aviv – My favorite local blog, it’s updated practically every day with the best things happening around Tel Aviv—from vintage clothing sales to parties & political demos. There’s also a book you can buy online or in some shops in Tel Aviv. Definitely worth it!
- Eager Tourist – Eager Tourist creates tailor-made travel experiences that connect you with local insiders through a wide range of disciplines, exclusively in Tel Aviv. Customized itineraries are curated and guided by local artists, architects, athletes, chefs, designers, musicians and night owls, leading travelers through personal studios, kitchens, creative workspaces, design studios and locals-only haunts in Tel Aviv.
- Gay TLV guide – The website maybe appears a bit lifeless, but their directory contains the most up-to-date listing of gay clubs and special LGBT nights in TLV.
- I Travel Tel Aviv – Comprehensive guide and website for visiting Tel Aviv with stories about recent trends, events, festivals and tours.