today our city guide section turns it’s focus away from the states and towards…tel aviv! thanks to shira abel-shvo of abel communications and tchochkes, today we’re taking a tour through the shops, restaurants, museums and must-see sites of tel aviv, israel. if you’re lucky enough to be traveling abroad this year shira’s guide will definitely come in handy!
CLICK HERE for the full guide after the jump!
TEL AVIV – OLD JAFFA
Nicknamed “The White City” for it’s abundance of white Bauhaus buildings, Tel Aviv is the bustling artistic, creative center of Israel. Exceptionally liberal and forward thinking, it also is extremely safe. Beautiful people, great style, cool cafes, great food and fabulous shopping. If you’re limited on time focus on shopping and the areas worth seeing, as these are the two best bits of Tel Aviv in my opinion. I’ve also added ‘Old Jaffa’ as it’s just to the south of Tel Aviv (an easy, fun 40 minutes walk from the center of Tel Aviv) and has some things one simply shouldn’t miss.
I grew up in Huntington Beach California and had only visited Israel a few times before moving to Tel Aviv in 1998, but after moving I fell in love with the city. My first job was in south Tel Aviv by Jaffa and I would walk home to my north Tel Aviv (Basil Street) apartment daily, going in and out of shops and gazing at the Bauhaus and Eclectic style of architecture mixed with the more modern buildings. I’m in love with the city, the character of the buildings and the energy of the people.
I no longer live in Tel Aviv, but I get back as often as I can (which is several times a week, if not more.) Now I live in a small house in ‘wine country’ with my loving husband and absolutely gorgeous and adorable sons. We renovated our tiny old house before The Boys arrived. After finishing most of the decoration of the house (why does it always stick at most?) I shifted those energies into writing about interior design on Tchochkes. I have my B.Sc. in Liberal Arts from Arizona State University – specializing in Textiles, Fashion Merchandising and will be graduating with my Executive MBA from the Tel Aviv University branch of Kellogg, Northwestern. My wonderful day job is as a freelance marketing consultant at Abel Communications, specializing in high tech. Oh – and I Twitter.
Tel Aviv is flat so you can easily walk the whole city.
There are busses, ‘sheruts’ (mini-buses cost a bit more than a bus but go the same route as the main busses, sheruts will drop you off along the way instead of just at the bus stops), and cabs available to get you anywhere you need to go in the city. If you take a taxi (and only take one if you must) make sure they turn on the meter. If you ask them to they have to by law.
I recommend walking – you’ll see so much more.
Israel has a growing movement of fashion and home furnishings designers. The look here is an interesting mix of Middle Eastern with high end European design as that reflects the the mix of the population.
Best shopping districts are:
* Neve Tzedek for high-end
* Florentin for furniture
* Sheinkin Street for contemporary
* Dizengoff Street for designer
Souk Ha`Pishpishim: Jaffa – Left of the clock tower – wander back and ask
Famous for Arab pottery / tiles, antiques and vintage clothing, aisles of stalls and proper stores fill the souk. Getting there early is recommended for the best haggling. It’s bad luck to let your first sale of the day walk away.
Hafatzim: 27 Shlush
Israeli country cottage style house wares. Hafatzim designs kitchen goods, tchochkes for the bathroom, furniture for the whole house, and textiles such as drapes, linens and clothes. Moderate – expensive.
Ha’omaniya Atelier: 14 Lillinblum
Exclusive pieces of art and furniture by Israeli artisans owned by two incredibly nice guys. Beautiful pieces in a store that is a must see for its high ceilings and arched doorways. Expensive.
Sarit Shani Hay: 36 Nachmani
House wares for the modern home. Sarit studied in London and came back to Israel to open her interior design studio. She carries funky fun home items in a range for all ages. Expensive.
Nachalat Binyamin: Crossing of Allenby Blvd. and Nachalat Binyamin St.
If you are in Tel Aviv for a Friday or Tuesday then Nachalat Binyamin is a must see. It’s an art fair with homemade crafts ranging from ceramic art to lampshades to jewelry and everything in between. All artists showing are reviewed and approved by a committee to guarantee the quality of the work.
Handmade soaps, fragrances and skin care products made from natural ingredients. This is the original store and their goods are truly delicious. Moderate – but inexpensive compared to what it costs outside of Israel.
Michal Negrin: 37 Sheinkin
Handmade jewelry, clothing and small house wares done designed in a highly romantic style. It’s a phase every woman goes through when they live in Israel. Moderate.
Naama Bezalel: 40 Sheinkin & 212 Dizengoff (main store)
Vintage styled retro designer clothing, mainly dresses and skirts. Heavily influenced by 40’s and 70’s design. Her styles fit a range of frames. Moderate – expensive.
Roni Kantor: 38 Sokolov
Women’s dresses. Imagine a 60’s dress completely remade into something modern – that’s what Roni Kantor does. Moderate.
Rhus Ovata: 155 Dizengoff
Women’s designer clothes. Styles that bring out your inner rock star. Expensive.
Hagit Tassa: 228 Dizengoff
Womens casual clothing. Some of the best fitting pants I’ve ever owned were Hagit Tassa. Moderate.
Efrata: 175 Ibn Gvirol
Women’s casual designer clothing, featuring mainly flat knit products and jeans. Moderate.
Comme Il Faut: Namal (North Tel Aviv Port)
Women’s designer clothing, shoes, café and spa. Comme Il Faut is a 20 year old Israeli design house based on ethical, socially responsible design. This company is an Israeli design institution. Expensive.
There’s a lot of good food in Tel Aviv, so this was a hard list to compile. Some restaurants on this list are either meat only or milk only because they are Kosher. I’ve pointed out the meat only restaurants and which restaurants are located in Old Jaffa.
Abu Hassan: 1 Ha’Dolfin St., Jaffa Located in the Ajamii area of Jaffa
Hummus. This place is an Israeli legend – so good that Elahn Zetlin made a video about it. Get there before 2pm as they close early. There are two locations – the one with the view is busier – but better. Inexpensive.
Abu el Afiya: Yefet Street, Jaffa (the main street by the clock tower)
Savory Pastries: sesame bread rolls, pitas, pita-pizzas, burekas (pastries with potato, cheese, or meat inside), sambusak (pastry with hummus inside), and other forms of Arabic / Middle-Eastern / Levantine / Mediterranean pastry. Open 24 hours a day, Monday through Friday afternoon. Inexpensive.
Yoezer Bar Yi’ine: 2 Ish-Habira St. Jaffa – near the Clock tower
This is a must see. Located in an old building the arched ceilings are amazing and the painted tile floors are fantastic. Great meat menu with a fantastic wine selection. Moderate to expensive.
Pua: 3 Rabi Yoachanan, Jaffa (near Souk Ha`Pishpishim)
Located just on the outskirts of Souk Ha`Pishpishim, this adorable restaurant doesn’t just have a great menu – you can buy all of the furniture in the restaurant as well. Great mellow atmosphere and fantastic food – Pua is one of my favorite places. Inexpensive.
Charcuterie: Hanina 3, Jaffa 03- 6828843
My good friend Oran is insisting I add this – I’ve never been there, but he’s a foody so you can trust it. ‘A true gem of fine cuisine – when a Swiss charcutier named Vince opens up a restaurant based on his own divinely aged meats. This is the place to go if you love fine meat. Moderate to expensive – and worth every single cent. Must reserve.’
Tazza D’oro: 6 Ahad Ha’am
This café located in beautiful Neve Tzedek is a great place for breakfast. The food is fresh and tasty – and the coffee is imported from Italy. Moderate.
NG Meat: 6 Ahad Ha’am
Not kosher – but there’s a lot of meat. They have a small, but flavorful menu including specialties like pork ribs (like I said, not Kosher). Considered an incredible value for the price. Inexpensive to moderate.
Pre-Hagefen: 4 Ahad Ha’am
A wonderful wine bar featuring Israeli-only wine, this is the place to go to try the best of Israeli wine. Great cheese selection as well. Moderate to expensive.
Cafe Noir: 43 Ahad Ha’Am
This is a place to see and be seen. One of the oldest Tel Aviv cafés, it’s a popular spot any time of the day or night. Good food and always people worth watching. Moderate.
Mezze: 51 Ahad Ha’am
Vegetarian and gluten free restaurant with a great range of fresh healthy food. Mezzes are small Mediterranean dishes (like Spanish Tapas). Great place to go with friends. Moderate.
Bayit Thailandi: 6 Bograshov St.
Considered to be one of the best authentic Thai restaurants in Tel Aviv – this is the loveliness that happens when an Israeli marries a Thai. Moderate.
Shine: 38 Shlomo HaMelech at Frishman
Local café with an ultra-white décor. Great place for brunch. Moderate.
Kyoto Salsa: 31 Montefiore
Great sushi with a bizarre name. There is some fusion on the menu – but the bulk of it is pure Japanese and the sushi is good. Moderate.
Unami: 18 Ha’Arba
One of the most popular Japanese restaurants in Tel Aviv. Sit at the bar and enjoy the music with your sushi, or sit at the table and watch the flow of ever-cool patrons. Moderate.
Miguel Bistro: 88 Hayarkon
Connected to a boutique hotel, Miguel is a find in a very touristy area – an adorable small restaurant with reasonable prices and good food. I recommend the Pavlova for desert. Inexpensive.
24 Ruppees: 14 Shoken
Good, traditional vegetarian Indian food. You have to take off your shoes at the door – this restaurant is filled with cotton rugs, floor mattresses and sofas for sitting. It’s very ‘shanty’ (laid-back). Inexpensive.
Orna v’Ella: 33 Sheinkin
Small seasonal menu where everything is a delight – it’s hard to go wrong at Orna and Ella. Nice atmosphere, cozy balcony in the back and almost always a line. One of my favorite restaurants in the city. Moderate.
Tel Aviv and Old Jaffa are beautiful. While I wouldn’t recommend walking around at noon in the summer, most of the time the weather is nice enough to take that long stroll and enjoy yourself. Cafes are everywhere so you will always have a chance to sit down and enjoy something to drink before continuing on your way.
Neve Tzedek was the first neighborhood of Tel Aviv over 100 years ago (for Israeli’s this is a long time). The style of the neighborhood is eclectic, a mixture of traditional Middle Eastern with British Colonial. Make sure you see the Suzanne Dellal Dance Center courtyard.
One of the prettiest avenues in the city, Rothschild has a wide center median with parks and a promenade. Great place to people watch, or sit at a center kiosk café or sushi bar and enjoy the beautiful Tel Aviv weather.
Home of the famous (in Tel Aviv) Elahn ZetlinBialik House, this street was once home of the cities intellectual guard. It’s been recently refurbished – so it’s definitely a place to visit, with a lovely pond (complete with goldfish) in the center of the square, this street holds a large part of Tel Aviv’s history.
From Dizengoff Center to the port Dizengoff Street has a lot to offer. Check out Dizengoff Square, go to a café or enjoy local designer shops (north of Gordon Road on Dizengoff)
Rabin Square (Ibn Gvirol and Frishman)
Rabin Square is named in memorial after Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin who was shot there on November 4th, 1995. This is where the people of Tel Aviv gather for every occasion.
Namal (the port in North Tel Aviv)
The boardwalk was upgraded a few years ago and is now more of an outdoor mall with a wide range of non-tourist shopping, good restaurants and even better clubs.
A lovely long park that spans the width of Tel Aviv on the north edge of the city, Park Hayarkon is a great place for a run or a nice walk. There’s a small zoo, playgrounds, soccer grounds and more here as well. It connects to the north shore port (Namal) via a bridge.
Tel Aviv has lovely soft white sandy beaches. Although admittedly, I don’t do the beach (I hate the sun and I’m not fond of sand). However, if you like the sun, this is definitely a place to check out. The beach by Nordau Street is less touristy than the rest (this is where my friends would drag me back in the day when I was single).
There is an amazing promenade from Tel Aviv down to Old Jaffa. This is a must walk – the view is fantastic and once in Jaffa you will be surrounded by amazing buildings built during the Ottoman Empire. The Franciscan Church of St. Peter and the surrounding area is a must see. Every Wednesday (except holidays) there is a free walking tour in English that meets at the Clock Tower at 9:30am.
Instead of choosing actual places I’m recommending the areas that the places are – because the best places change pretty regularly – but the location of places to go out does not.
This street is filled with bars and clubs. Most places don’t open until 10p, only get going at around midnight and become full at 2am. Lima Lima is a favorite, as is Nanuchka (dancing on the bar itself by the end of the night). Great place for bar hopping.
Lots of bars and cafes for a mellow night of serious drinking.
The Tel Aviv Port is also filled with bars and clubs that are constantly changing. Most of the best ones don’t have signs in front (like Lehmann Brothers). Asking around for a recommendation when you are there is the best bet, since the cool places to go change regularly.
Dollinger Art Project:15 Y.L. Peretz
Focus on emerging artists from Israel as well as on introducing international artists to the Israeli market. The Dolinger Art Project sets a qualitative tone for curation and international art scene dialog.
Florentin 45: 45 Florentin
A contemporary and upbeat new gallery featuring promising young Israeli artists in well-conceptualized exhibits. As one of the first galleries in the Florentin neighborhood many of the works exhibited stem from a dialog with the neighborhood.
Inga Gallery of Contemporary Art: 2 Harakevet
Emerging space that features the diversified and less traditional exhibits of contemporary artists.
Julie M Gallery: 10 Betzalel Yafe
A well established gallery with another branch in Toronto. Offering exhibits of many internationally known Israeli artists along with up-and-coming younger artists.
Noga Gallery: 60 Ahad Ha’am
Highly regarded gallery with a multitude of Israeli artists specializing in provocative showings.
Alon Segev Gallery: 30 Shlush (Neve Tzedek)
Considered one of the top galleries in Tel Aviv. Only features established Israeli artists.
The best museum in Israel is The Israel Museum in Jerusalem, but this is a city guide for Tel Aviv, so that is going to have to wait. If you have a limited time in Tel Aviv you can skip the museums to be completely honest, but if you have some time and you’re into Jewish history – these are worth a look.
This is where you can see the best of modern Israeli art today. Upstairs always has an ever changing gallery of avant garde Israeli art. I love it because it’s inexpensive, well air conditioned and very child friendly. My kids have run all around this museum and instead of the guards getting annoyed (most of them are grandmothers) they chat with the kids. It’s really cute. Also a great play area for the kids downstairs and a good café as well.
Helena Runinstein Pavilion
Tel-Aviv Museum of Art’s second venue focusing on contemporary art exhibits.
I find this museum painfully dull, but my boys and husband love it. All about the industrial age with things like fire engines and a display of an early post office (thrilling, truly). There is also a decent pottery section (that I actually liked) and some great examples of early mosaics.
They have a really great gift shop. Haven’t been inside anything besides the gift shop and café since I was 13 (and it is right down campus from the business building where I’m getting my Executive MBA – shame on me.) I understand that you can trace the genealogy of your last name here and for the last 2 years I have been saying I’m going to go check that out. And I haven’t.