city by 55

tel aviv guide

telaviv
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.

About Me:

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.

GETTING AROUND

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.

SHOPPING

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.

Sabon: English Site is for NYC) (Israeli Site in Hebrew): 40 Sheinkin Street

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.

FOOD

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.

WORTH SEEING

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

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.

Rothschild Boulevard

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.

Bialik Street

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.

Dizengoff Street

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.

Park Hayarkon

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.

Beach

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).

Old Jaffa

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.

NIGHT OUT

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.

Lillinblum Street:

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.

Rothschild Street:

Lots of bars and cafes for a mellow night of serious drinking.

Namal:

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.

GALLERIES:

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.

MUSEUMS:

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.

Tel Aviv Museum of Art

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.

Eretz Israel Museum

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.

Museum of the Jewish Diaspora

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.

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55 Comments

Lucy Gazelle

Many of these places look lovely. My parents-in-law are both from Jaffa/Yaffa (forced out of their homes in then-Palestine by Zionist militias in 1947) so I’ve heard many emotional stories about this lovely place, including the trade in famous Jaffa oranges and my father-in-law’s family’s Arabian horses. I look forward to visiting the area with my husband someday. May justice and peace come to the region.

Sarah

Hey Grace,
I’ve been a loyal fan of your site for a number of years now and I’ve always enjoyed the guides.

I know that this comment is going to seem a little out of left field, but I would appreciate it if you’d consider the point of view if only for a few minutes. Regardless of the quality of its cafes and markets, a post on Tel Aviv is political. Not mentioning the people that were forcefully displaced from the land less than 75 years ago is a political statement in and of itself.

Would you have published a guide to Capetown South Africa in 1985 prior to the end of Apartheid? I’m sure there were beautiful points of interest in the city but I don’t think you would have encouraged tourism and dollars to be spent in a country that was guilty of actively denying a part of its population their rights because of the color of their skin (or in this case their non Jewish religion).

I’d urge you to reconsider further posts about the subject. If you’re interested in talking more about the matter please send me an email. Or you could visit http://www.bigcampaign.org/ to see some of the debate surrounding the campaign of boycott divestment and sanctions aimed at the Israeli government.

Thank you Grace!

hallie

thank you for a wonderful guide to a wonderful city. i was lucky enough to get to travel there for work and i had lots of free time. everyone i met was so friendly and as a single woman traveling alone, i felt completely at home wandering and letting my camera and feet be my guides.

vadjutka

Thanks for this great guide!
I was on Nachalat Binjamin in 1993 (long time ago…..I was 18 then), and I looooved it sooo much, and I am so happy the link you posted here.

Sam

I am disapointed that ads like these are placed on your site Grace. Advertising for places in Israel is similar to advertising to South Africa during the Apartheid era. I wish you could reconsider placing these kind of ads who discredit the history of a city like Jaffa, whose majority of the population was displaced by Zionist militias to make room for Jewish immigrants from Europe into what is today Israel.

wide open spaces

Israel is my absolute favorite country. I only got to spend a little bit of time in Tel Aviv but next time i will be sure to check out all of these great gems.

illustrativo

i desperately need a Lisabon guide (i know this is not the first time i need it) or anybody who could recommend a similar guide to this…
really thanks

Sharon

Thank you!! I am in the middle of planning a trip to see some family in Israel so this was perfect timing.

Vita

WOW, i was a bit shocked to see the sity i live in on Design Sponge, lol:)) Tel Aviv is a very beautiful city, indeed:)
Really great informative article, about 90% places that were mentioned are new for me:)
and I’m happy to discover tchochkes.com too!

Liz

This is a great guide, Shira. Thanks so much for your post! Fellow American living in Tel Aviv here. I’ve been here for three years now and can’t tell people enough about what a lovely city this is. There are so many wonderful shops, restaurants, people, places to explore. I just discovered Hafatzim for the first time last week! You’ve mentioned some excellent galleries, but I must add Sommer Contemporary Art on Rothschild (gorgeous space, excellent shows, including one that just ended with a beautiful piece by Yehudit Sasportas), and Tavi Dresdner, just one block up the hill from Alon Segev’s gallery. With Sotheby’s, Fresh Paint, these galleries and more all moving to Neve Tsedek, the neighborhood is becoming a major art center for Tel Aviv. I’m so excited to see someone so passionate about design and art and culture in Israel. The supercasual style here sometimes makes me forget that there is a population of people that are making an effort to take advantage of the beauty surrounding us in this wonderful town. So Thanks For All! I’m gonna go check out Tchotchkes now…

Craft Stew

I’m glad you mentioned Souk Ha`Pishpishim. It reminds me of the flea markets in the US…just a lot more haggling!

Shara

I was so excited to see Tel Aviv on here! I moved here from New York 8 months ago, and I fall more and more in love with Tel Aviv everyday.

Janelle

Great picks Shira! I was just there a few months ago and loved the market at Nachalat Binyamin. And the clerks at Boo along Sheinkin street were great, I ended up buying way more than I anticipated because they were so helpful. One suggestion would be stopping by Dr. Shakshuka when visiting the Jaffa flea markets – featured in Food and Wine a bit ago, and an amazing egg and tomato breakfast dish I’ve been trying to recreate at home. And if you’re looking for an amazing night out, you can’t go wrong at Nanuchka, where you’ll be surprised if you don’t end up dancing on the tables. Such a great list – and so glad to see it here!.

Brooke H

Thank you Grace! It’s so exciting to see Israel on DS. It’s one of my favorite countries to visit. I’m about to head back for the 5th time to spend the month of July there and I can’t wait to check out some of these stores.

Brooke H

…One more thing, I highly recommend checking out the Diaspora Museum. Not only is the genealogy tracing cool, but they also have an amazing exhibit of huge architectural models of synagogues from around the world.

Nava

just love love the images of my city of birth when you fill up paper that you are asked what city you were born i always get moved by my own answer love tel aviv my streets love the markets
and love my people even if they take my parking spots~ smiling

Rakefet

Hi, this is amazing. I was born in Jaffa and grew up in Tel-aviv – Jaffa and did not know these things.

From Israel with love :-)

Merav

Living in Israel and working in tel Aviv, I agree with many of the comments made here, including those about the difficulty of seperating design/art from the political reallities of a place (although I have often wondered about this issue with other places featured here). Rather than ignoring the difficulties or choosing not to feature a city guide on Tel Aviv it might be worth learning of some of the organisations in the city which engage with the frought histories of Israel and do so using art. ZOCHROT (remembering) is such an organisation and they also have an art gallery on 61 Ibn Gvirol st which is well worth avisit. See their website (in Hebrew Arabic and English) at: http://www.nakbainhebrew.org/index.php?lang=english

Johanna Wolf

I’m really excited to see my City in This blog!! I moved here from Buenos Aires 3 Years ago.
Tel Aviv is an incredible place to live and also to visit!
I LOVE TLV!!

Pieter

Fantastic post! It really makes me want to visit Tel-Aviv – I’ve wanted to visit Israel for a while and this has been encouragement for me to make it happen!

Sarah and Sam, this is a design site and hardly seems like the place to further your political agendas.

Unfortunately the legacy of the freedom struggle has been cheapened by people like you who have NO comprehension of what happened here (I am a South African, from Cape Town) and who sensationalize it to further their own political ideologies.
Many were forcibly removed from Cape Town to group areas(because of their race) during apartheid and have since not returned. I suppose you would condemn a Cape Town guide too.

PM

Kudos, Grace! I think it’s wonderful that DS has focused on my city. Regradless, I don’t construe this post as though you’re forcing anyone to make a political decision on Israel (BTW an ally of the US in a non allied region). All dissenters are welcome to stay put. However should they accept that Israelis were forced to live the way they do by their neighbors, perhaps they willl be able to let go of their negative energy and enjoy what is a simple city guide and not a political statement

Elisa Shere Jewelry

Thanks so much for featuring Tel Aviv! It is a wondeful city, the beached, cafes. galleries – all incredible. It is by far one of my favorite cities I’ve visited.

With that said, I am really saddened by the negative comments regarding this feature. Tel Aviv is a lovely modern city in a neutral zone, a city that both Arabs and Jews live in and enjoy.

issy

Thank you for this wonderful site. My son plans on moving to Israel and I am excited to see Tel Aviv, especially all the artists. I had one question, I have been trying to see more of the work of Rachel Gera and have seen very few examples on the net. Do you know if she has a website or if her jewelry is sold in stores other than her own? Many thanks.

Karen Wise

Thanks for this feature Grace! I’ll be going to Tel Aviv and shooting a wedding this July in Old Jaffo. Your city guides are an excellent way to supplement our Lonely Planet Guides and get the inside scoop from like minded designers/artists!

DC

I absolutely loved this guided tour of Tel Aviv. Thank you, Grace and Sheri, for posting the information about a city I would love to visit someday. The links worked perfectly, and I just wanted you to know you are appreciated.

JK

What a nice surprise! Thank you this look at Tel Aviv. It’s a great city in a beautiful country, and I hope I get the opportunity to go back and spend more time there. Actually this post is makes me want to go back right now;-)

JK

Oops – that should say “Thank you for” and “this post makes”, of course!

David Wiseman

Thanks for posting this Grace. Great feature, on a burgeoning scene and wonderfully eclectic culture. I was sorry to see people politicize this forum. Your site is such a welcome reprieve from that ugly world, and hope it stays that way. can’t some things be sacred?

mia

I agree with Merav.Keeping an open mind allows the light to enter even where darkness abounds.Banning any country does not allow us to see the individuals who are struggling to shed that light,it only continues to add to the stagnation of negative forces.
This is a wonderful site promoting beauty from all over our globe,and as such it should be applauded!
On another note ,I would like to add for those Vegans visiting Tel-Aviv,there is a wonderful spot on Ben Yehuda street(No.35),”taste of Life” extremely tasty and inexpensive,definitely worth a visit.

Anna

thank you so much for posting this!! A minor comment: Sheinkin hasn’t been a good place to shop for quite a while now, it caters mostly to rather annoying 15-year-olds!! Beware!

adesignaffair

Thank you, thank you, thank you, for this. Wish I had had it last summer during my Israel travels and I posted about Israeli store design. Next time I visit I will have this guide in hand!

Carissa

I hate to be a downer because I’m always pro travel, but I spent 2 weeks in Israel last October and couldn’t wait to get out of Tel Aviv. The city was full of ugly, crumbling slap-up apartment buildings in 1950s stucco style. We had an apartment just off Sheinkin St. and bailed after a week. Jaffa was absolutely the highlight of the city, and there were some very cool places. But I found Tel Aviv dull and outrageously expensive for what was basically cart food and very cheaply made clothing. Aesthetically it’s one of the most boring places I’ve been. My purchases, from swanky Sheinkin boutiques, almost all fell apart. The food was either boring or from another place. And I’m an eater, I’ll eat anything, but the kabobs were just kabobs and you can only eat shakshuka (tomatoes, eggs, and more tomatoes baked in a pan) for so many meals before you start wanting something that has some kick, something to remember.

The biggest surprise for me–and this is not going to go over well–was the massive lack of individual style. Tel Aviv was trying to look Euro and American, about 5 years behind (we would count the guys in T-shirts printed with tattoo designs and then give up). The main store, Castro and Castro4Men, was essentially an American Eagle/Hot Topic hybrid, and everyone was wearing it. When we asked for restaurant recommendations we got sent to Italian restaurants over and over. We’d say, “but we want to try something local!” and they’d say “that is local!” It’s a mixing pot of a city full of many many types of people, but as a tourist I wanted to experience something that felt…regional. And it was rare.

Everyone we met was super, super friendly, and I very much appreciated that. I never felt unsafe at all, and we made friends in many places. But as a whole, I don’t think it was worth my annual vacation budget. I like that I’ve been there firsthand, it gives me perspective and greater interest in the political developments, but it wasn’t exciting to visit a country trying to look like some of the places I’ve already been.

Mia

Thanks for this a wonderful guide. I’ve had a love-hate relationship with Tel Aviv over the years. Sometimes it seems old and hot and sticky and crumbling, a maze with no parking. Other times you suddenly see an amazing element of style on a building, wander into a beautiful shop, make a mistake a wander into a secret garden. My favorite mistake was that I once walked into a wrong crumbling building to find that inside it had wonderfully intact Artdeco features, from the tiles, to the doors to the, the lighting the railing, everything was stylized though fading.
Every area has it’s own character and style; Bauhaus, Mediterranean, over the top eclectic, plain and practical workmans houses (blocks) and now the extravagant towers.

For architecture lovers this is great time to visit because the city and private investors are renovating and restoring the older and crumbling buildings for the cities 100 anniversary. Some fascinating gems are emerging from peel and crumble. Clean elegant lines of Bauhaus style are being revealed from what looked like ugly plain houses, when the ugly add-ons are being removed from the Bauhaus buildings.

Shira!

Wonderful guide! I would like to adress the topic of mixing politics with tourism: As a fellowJewish Israeli I find that lately I am in constant defense-mode, having to justify my right to live in this country. I am always more than happy to discuss this topic, but I find that most people are outrageously biased because they simply aren’t aware of the whole story. I know that it’s very hip these days to be Pro-Palestinian, and being politically aware is a positive thing. But please refrain from encouraging unfair sanctions if you don’t intend to examine both sides of the story thoroughly. As an example, the term “apartheid” is not a neutral term, but a contested one. From my own experience it is used as a deliberate move on the part of Israel’s opposers. It neutralizes the capacity of Israel’s supporters to defend the Jewish state and attack its enemies.

Sari

people are sometimes really narrow minded and some have short memories. this is a design blog, if it was a political blog than it shouldn’t have covered other cities as well. let me think… Berlin for the Nazis mass murder, London for the long years of british imperialism, Paris for the long years of french imperialism, New York for the war in Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq.. Istanbul for the Turkish crimes against albanians.. Moscow etc. etc. do you get my drift people? get over yourself!

Amit

ive been reading the blog “secretly” for the last two years and this is my first comment

it made me happy to see my city on the map reminding me i can walk around and find beautiful stuff

Israel is an immigrant country and this in one of the benefits, you can eat food from all over the world (including Italian but not only) and its always full with flavour and taste, all the boutiques mentioned here are high quality and it want fall apart

I think it’s a great place to visit and see and its good to see it here!

Martine

Hi Grace,
I really enjoy reading your blog, especially because my boyfriend and I are about to move into our first apartment in NYC together. I was really happy to see this post. I lived in Tel Aviv a few years ago and love every inch of it. I miss it all the time and this brought me back. I appreciate you not falling into any political pressure – Tel Aviv at its core is the most liberal, free, and democratic city in the Middle East. If we started politicizing everything and anything about a city or a country, there would be no place on earth to visit! Tel Aviv is a special place and I encourage everyone to go.

Liz

It’s great to see a guide to Tel Aviv! As a resident, I can tell you that this list is only the tip of the iceberg — there are tons of independent clothing designers and cute, hidden coffee shops. While I wouldn’t describe this city as the place for an exotic cultural experience, it’s all about lifestyle — youth, creativity and fresh food.

Sarit

I’m so happy you decided to post this guide. Living in Israel sometimes feels like we live in the eye of the storm. At other times we are the storm. All in all, I would beg Sam and Sarah to remember that every argument has two sides. And one side always gets better press. And historically, it’s a see-saw. So instead of promoting ill-will, how about trying to promote tolerance? I would love to host you in Tel-Aviv.

Sophia

Sari, thank you for your inteligent comment. couldnt say it better myself.

Barbara Shaw

Hi, While Jerusalem is just a bit up the road it too is worth a visit. Checkout my design led store at 6 Yoel Salomon St and website

Thanks for your great blog and insights
Barbara

Barak

a walk in the streets of the picturesque Neve Tzedek neighborhood is not complete without a stop at SAMY D. this small gallery features Samy D’s contemporary ceramic art & design. the gallery is located on 56 Shabazi St. (the main street of Neve Tzedek.
thanks for a graet guide!

Elahn Zetlin

Thanks very much for mentioning me and my hummus video. I’m going back to Israel this November so look out for some new videos where I hope to get to some other hummusiah’s around Israel.

Barbara Shaw

Hi, Really nice review of Tel Aviv, when is there going to be a similar review of Jerusale. There is so much on offer, food, ,markets, clothing, art and design. I’m happy to volunteer to do it!
How should it happen?

Nico

Nice article but you forgot to list a great Jewellery store in Neve Tzedek, HERA JEWELLERY. The owner, Eva Soussana she has already been featured within Vogue Italia and I believe, she really deserves a visit!

Studiolana

So exited to see my city here! I live in Florentine neighborhood, which I recommend to visit for it’s crazy night life and street parties on holidays!

Marni

Where would you recommend staying? Hotels, guest houses?
Thanks!

jill

I will be in Tel Aviv in a week. I read through your information but what I am looking for is jewelry components, brass and copper pieces that I buy here from the USA but which are imported from Israel. Also inexpensive gemstones. At which market might I expect to find them? I make jewelry, so I am not really interested in buying finished artisan pieces.

Shane

Thank you for posting about Tel Aviv! I am almost sorry for the ignorant people who compare Israel to Apartheid South Africa. They need to read up on their history!

I just got back from Israel and I wanted to review your post again to see how many spots I hit. Nice post, though I would add a fabulous home decor store called Ginger on the main shopping street in Neve Tzedek that reminded me of a mix of U.S. Anthropologie and the french shop Antoine et Lili. Also, I had tapas at Vicki Christina at the Station House near Neve Tzedek and I thought the food and atmosphere were great.

Staci

I have a general suggestion for city guides – would it be possible to offer them in a printable format? I’d love to be able to take them on the trip, but they come out looking like a mess.

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