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Tel Aviv, Israel City Guide

by Stephanie

Today’s Tel Aviv City Guide comes to us from Sivan Askayo, a Tel Aviv native now living and working in New York as a travel photographer. Sivan has worked with such publicaitons as Travel+Leisure, Lonely Planet Traveller, AFAR, Marie Claire Italia, and today she shares some of her wonderful images and favorites of the coastal city of Tel Aviv. Thank you, Sivan, for sharing this guide of your hometown with us today! —Stephanie

Read the full guide after the jump…

Tel Aviv By Sivan Askayo all photos by Sivan Askayo

When people who have never been to Israel, realize I am originally from Tel Aviv, they naturally tend to think I am from a provincial Middle Eastern city with slow-motioned camels, armed soldiers everywhere and some ancient bible-time monuments around.

I don’t even know where to begin and prove them wrong.

Tel Aviv is a stylish, completely contemporary Mediterranean metropolis filled with chic and bustling cafes, with an exciting culture scene, fashionable trendy boutiques, beautiful lively people and a roaring nightlife.

The city is well recognized as a hip and active one, notably for the clubs, restaurants, art galleries and cultural events. But the real seductive appealing power of Tel Aviv is not necessarily in its cafes and restaurants, but in its people, who love the good life.

You notice it in the ever crowded cafe’s, buzzing with laughter and conversations almost 24/7, with the crowd that spills out of the theater, the music halls, the night clubs and the fashionable scene. It is not a coincidence that the city slogan is ‘Tel Aviv, the City that never sleeps’. 

In recent years Tel Aviv has been developed tremendously; New high rise buildings, old ones are being reserved or restored, some turned into chic boutique hotels. The contrast of new vs old, chic vs conservative and local vs international atmosphere, will make your visit a successful and an enjoyable experience.

The North End and Tel Aviv New Port

Tel Aviv New Port: Tel Aviv’s restored historic port originally served as a welcoming station for Jewish immigrants in the 1930’s. Now it is home to restaurants, Yoga studios, a bike-friendly promenade and Shuk Hanamal (an indoor complex with two dozens organic and artisanal vendors). On Fridays there is also the Farmer Market, which sells home-made dishes and farm products.

Comme il faut: This great concept store that holds various little stores under one roof was founded by 24 women, who put their goal to support other women and help them feel comfortable with their bodies and with themselves. The stores are mostly targeted for women and their needs and include a sex-toys store, spa boutique, clothing and accessories store and a restaurant. All under one roof in Tel Aviv’s new port, overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. Few steps away there is EllaYoga, a quite busy around the clock Yoga studio, overlooking the port as well.

Shila Kitchen: Considered as one of the top restaurants in Israel, Shila is a well embedded culinary establishment in the big city’s nightlife. The local ingredients perfectly combine with Spanish-Asian influences laced in and those who love seafood and tapas should look no further.

Hamezeg: A popular local bar and the first bar to introduce a unique “unlimited refill” drinking model, in which guests purchase a wristband that provides them with all night, quality drinks. Hamezeg, which means in Hebrew both “temperament” and “the act of pouring”, has a hot Greek-like toga party atmosphere. It blends the vibe of Athens’ steamy taverns and the lively ambience of TLV’s urban local bars.

* Belle and Antoine: A Parisian-styled Wine bar with a selection of more than 100 different wines from Israel and abroad. The French-inspired cuisine is the perfect accompaniment to the wine list. The great music at Belle & Antoine takes you directly to old times tranquility.

* Nola Bakery: A haven of old time America in the heart of Tel Aviv with a unique mix of nostalgic food, design and music. An intimate back patio provides a romanic feel and a break from the big city. NOLA has amazing baked goods, made fresh daily in-house, as well as authentic American style breakfasts, great coffee and lots more served all day.

The Streets Cafe: Cool urban hang out, opened till the wee hours and really reflects the Tel Aviv’s vibe. Whenever you crave a good coffee, pastry, business lunch or a burger and a beer, The Streets cafe is the right place. It has free wi-fi, a huge magazine collection, hip music and welcoming staff. It has three locations, all in the North end of Tel Aviv.

Sketch: The designer Yossi Katzav founded Sketch, one of the country’s first upscale men’s labels in 2009, after working for DKNY in New York for two years. His crafted and styled designs range from simple slacks to finely woven shirts, leather jackets and suits. The designer collaborates with young artists both from Israel and abroad and the company aims to support and encourage contemporary Israeli art.

Tel Aviv By Sivan Askayo

The City Center 

*The Carmel Market and Kerem Hateymanim are both next to each other. The Carmel Market is the largest outdoors market in Tel Aviv and sells everything from toiletries, clothes, meat, fruit and vegetables and some delicatessen cheese. Kerem Hateymanim is a small neighbourhood named after the immigrants from Yamen. In recent years this small crumbling neighbourhood was discovered by bohemian Tel Avivians looking for some inexpenssive housing. These days there are lots of boutique hotels and upscale restaurants even in the middle of the Market.

* The Tel Aviv Museum of ArtThe Tel Aviv Museum of Art has doubled its exhibition space only recently with the compilation of the new building, designed by the American architect Preston Scott Cohen. The innovative building became an International landmark and attracts a lot of visitors.

Among the highlights of the museum you can find Art by Van Gogh, Marc Chagall, Jason Pollock, Kandinsky, and Israeli artists such as Nahum Gutman, Reuven Rubin and Rafi Lavie.
In the new building there is also a great library for research, a Music Hall for performances and a Cinema.

Habima Theater: Habima Theater is the National Theater of Israel. The building, originally from 1946 was in the Bauhaus style and was going through some renovations that lasted for few years. The new building, which contains various halls was opened to the public on 2011. The building contains 4 big halls and a renovated sound system for a better quality of concerts, Shows and dance. The complex by itself is a great central one, worth visiting, even with kids, as they might enjoy the squared gardens in the square.

Olia:  Olive oil is very popular and common in the Israeli kitchen. Olia store, which is quite close to Tel Aviv’s city hall, is an excellent source of different kinds of olive oils. Alongside the nice bottles of various olive oils, you can also find quite interesting spice blends, fruit and vegetables chutneys and flavored vinaigrettes. Don’t leave this store empty handed.

Liebling: The shoe brand Liebling is a contemporary and urban women’s shoe line, a collaboration between two designers Lior Livne and Karni Reshef. The brand was established in 2007 and after gaining some great clientele, the two decided to open their store in 2009 in the center of Tel Aviv. They work with high quality materials and with leather which is selected and imported from different places in the world. They preserve the unique color palate and its high quality standards. The brand has a great demand also online and can be shipped to various locations around the world.

* ToTo:  This might be one of the most talk-about restaurant in Tel Aviv, recently opened in the Museum Tower in Tel Aviv. The restaurant offers a creative mix of Mediterranean cuisine with fine materials and an impressive wine list. It is considered one of the top gourmet restaurants in Israel and highly recommended to order a table a while in advance.

Stella and Lori: Named after their grandmothers, Stella and Lori, the two owners who happen to be sisters, started a new line of fine and unique leather goods both for men and women. They make bags, wallets and dresses. The leather they use in the products, is not manufactured or perfect, but they prefer to preserve its individuality, to create unique and exceptional products.

The Great Synagogue: Built in the 1910’s, the Big Synagogue in Allenby street is one of the known monuments in Tel Aviv which serves as a cultural and religious center for the many residents in the area.

When it was constructed,it’s beautiful dome stood in stark contrast to Judaism’s usually bleak houses of prayer, but the dome is barely visible now thanks to the columns around it.

The synagogue is still active and opened to the public and actually getting very popular for weddings and Bar Mitzva’s ceremonies.

Pasaz: The pasaz (passing through) is a space in between stores. It is located in Allenby 94 street and a staircase takes you down to the space. During day time it is a collection of old shops but after hours, their facade provide an intriguing background to the drinkers by night. You can find excellent japanese street food bar, alcohol bar and different DJ’s every night.

Bauhaus Tel Aviv Museum: Owned by the cosmetic heir Ronald Lauder, this private museum features a collection of furniture and design pieces by well known masters such as Marcel Breuer and Mies van der Rohe. The museum was founded in 2000 and includes exhibition space, museum and a shop dedicated to Bauhaus-influenced and original Israeli designers and worldwide designers. The museum is located in Bialik street, which has some tremendous renovated Bauhaus buildings.

Tel Aviv By Sivan Askayo

Tel Aviv By Sivan Askayo

The Heart of Tel Aviv, also called the White City

Named in honor of its whitewashed Bauhaus architecture, the White City is also a UNESCO World Heritage site. The main street is Rothschild Blvd, a real gem of Bauhaus architecture. A tree-lined boulevard with old trees, lined with benches and dotted with outdoor coffee kiosks and some chess tables. This is one of the most charming places to stroll, bicycle and hang out. Along the boulevard, there are numerous historical buildings, which has been renovated lately but still maintain the look and the feel of colonial buildings.

The Blvd starts at the outskirts of Neve Tzedek and ends at Habima Theater, the national theater of Israel.

Alma Boutique Hotel: Alma is located in Yavne street, at the heart of Tel Aviv UNESCO White City, among a collection of old but restored historic Bauhaus vivid buildings. The building’s history goes back to 1925, as the first private residence designed for families to live side by side in the heart of Tel Aviv. The facade of the building was colored in olived green and the windows and shutters were colored in a darker shade of green. But this is just a hint to what is happening indoors. The restored identity of the hotel is a collaboration between the leading architecture and interior design studio Shaltiel Kastiel and the mosaic and glass artist Lauri Recanati.The hotel has eight spacious deluxe rooms and seven studio suites, each uniquely designed, telling a different story of the building’s bohemian past. The furnitures are a mix of vintage and heavily embellished unique furniture (hand picked for each room) with contemporary furniture and Art.

Delicatessen: This two story deli, west of Rothschild Boulevard, is a fresh New Yorkish  break in the Tel Avivian daily life. A mix of a proper deli, stocked with meats, daily made breads, imported cheese, poached salmon and chopped liver, and a restaurant with updated bistro classics.

Cafe Tachtit: Open 24 hours, this cozy little café attracts a bohemian and artsy crowd that includes some well known media types and artists as the cafe’s location is close to offices, recording studios and media companies. There is a strong sense of ‘seen and be seen’ vibe in this place, which is quite typical to lots of popular locations in Tel Aviv. The place serves breakfast, lunch, dinner and cocktails and the menu consists of sandwiches, salads and home cooked Israeli style dishes.

Taizu: This is a new restaurant in Tel Aviv, taking the dining experience to the highest level of food, design and hospitality. The concept of the restaurant is based on the chef’s personal interpretation of street foods in South East Asia, but the dishes are far from being ‘street’ style, but fine and high quality ingredients. The interior is rooted in the theme of the five elements of the ancient Chinese Philosophy (Fire, Water, Metal, Wood and Earth). This is one of the most popular restaurants in Tel Aviv and sometimes it takes weeks to get a table.

The Pagoda House: Located in King Albert Square, off the Rotschild Boulevard, the Pagoda house which was built in 1924 as a private building for few families, is one of the well known luxurious private residence in Tel Aviv, owned by a non Israeli resident who keeps his identity private.

The house attracts a lot of curious people who try to catch a glimpse of its residents.

Talents Design Gallery: Founded in 2008 by the Owner & Art Director Gal Gaon; the store acts as an incubator of Israeli young talents. Since its early beginning the company has been recognized for producing iconic pieces that embody passion and bold creativity. The collection is quite eclectic and diverse; Stainless steel origami wall art, earthy stone tables, curved lamps and more. In recent years these items and furniture can be found in top restaurants and hotels around the world.

Collect: This cute little gallery-shop was founded in 2011 by two young Israeli designers: Keren Bet-Esh and Naomi Schossberger. The store holds a uniqe collections of carefully curated clothes, accessories, and ceramic art work. It also functions as a collective space that presents promising upcoming Israeli designers.

The Rothschild 71 Hotel: The hotel, named after the address it is located, Rothschild 71 (in Rothschild Boulevard) is located in a renovated Bauhaus building that was owned by the Krieger family since 1934. Mr. Krieger, used to be a well known doctor had his clinic on the ground floor and the family living on an upper floor. The Krieger family initiated an extensive renovation in 2012 and turned the building into a beautiful, trendy and chic hotel. The hotel keeps a family atmosphere. The lobby is designed as a living room and guests are welcomed to hang out, have coffee while checking in with one of the hotel staff. Each suite is equipped with free wi-fi, fax services, and if asked in advanced, kitchenettes. The hotel is right in the center of the buzzing Boulevard, offering the guests an easy access to most of the city attractions.

Tel Aviv By Sivan Askayo

The South: Neve Tzedek, Gan Hahasmal and Florentine 

*Neve Tzedek: The city oldest neighbourhood is a colorful oasis with an atmosphere that evokes an artists’ colony or a small village. Spotted with colored old houses next to remodeled ones. Lots of great restaurants, wine bars and the Suzanne Dellal Center for Dance is there as well. Beautiful both day and night.

*Gan Hahasmal: Gan Hahashmal in Tel Aviv has been transformed from the once declining neighborhood that it was into what is now one of Israel’s hippest alternative locales for young fashion and jewelry designers. Situated between Tel Aviv’s White City and quirky Florentin neighborhoods, Gan Hahashmal is a miniature quarter situated  between the streets of Allenby, Yehuda Halevy, Barzilay and Hahashmal. Gan Hahashmal which in English means ‘The Electric Garden’ was named in honor of its distinction as Israel’s first neighborhood with a power plant in the 1920s.

*Florentine: Florentine in south Tel Aviv is called Tel Aviv’s Soho by many. Florentin is an old neighborhood of Tel Aviv which hasnt yet seen the same large-scale gentrification as the likes of its neighbor Neve Tzedek. Florentin has a very mixed population, traditionally characterized by poverty and transience yet now is increasingly youthful, and yuppie. It is a neighborhood undergoing change, moving away from the margins in wealth terms, along the margins creating a center for arty and alternative culture. –

* Suzanne Dellal Center for Dance The Center is home for dance and the premier presenter of Israeli and international contemporary dance companies.

There are 4 performance halls, few rehearsal studios and a nice cafe outdoors. Beautiful building located in the heart of Neve Tzedek

Cafe Suzanna: This might be one of the mythological cafes in Neve Tzedek, opened in 1995 in a yellow color building under Ficus trees. The restaurant is well known for the Kubbeh soup and its gay-only bar tenders and waiters.

* Hatachana Compound: (The station) Is a renovated area next to Neve Tzedek, where the old train between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem used to pass. Now the area is a home for outdoors restaurants and wine bars, designers’ boutiques and gallery space for exhibitions and fashion shows

Dallal restaurant and bakery: Located in an old merchant house in the old neighborhood of Neve Tzedek, Dallal restaurant is a well known place for great Mediterranean food and atmosphere. The place has an extension as a Bakery across the street with sweet parisian style pastry.

Shlomit Ofir: Shlomit Ofir is a young line of jewelry and accessories named after the Israeli designer. Shlomit Ofir earned her degree in industrial design and she ended up designing delicate, unique jewelry which combine a romantic touch with a trendy look. Her beautiful studio is located in Neve Tzedek and designed in the same atmosphere and line of her jewelry. Her pieces are quite popular among brides.

Meshek Barzilay: Vegetarian & Vegan Café Restaurant located in Neve Tzedek and specializes in organic healthy food. The kitchen is diverse and original, thanks to the exclusive use of a wide variety of legumes, grains, self growing vegetables and homemade products.

Vicky Christina: A fun, young Tapas Bar located in Hatachana compound. By the name, Vicky Christina, you can guess it is a spanish place, offering sweet pitchers of sangria and plates loaded with tapas. The restaurant has indoor and outdoors areas. I highly recommend to have a tapas outdoors under the trees with live music and fun atmosphere.

Hadarim: Located in an renovated warehouse (used to be a pipe factory) Hadarim (Rooms in Hebrew) is a two story shop for unique furniture and home decor. Some of the furniture are imported from different places in the world, some are manufactured in Israel. Each piece is unique and the store keeps only one model of each piece. The store is built as a big house divided into rooms; living room, working space, bedroom, etc.

Kisim: This beautiful studio of hand made bags was opened in 1999 by the young designer Yael Rosen. The designer uses leather and different fabrics to create unique, feminine and elegant bags and wallets. These days her bags are sold in San Francisco, Paris, Belgium, and of course, in the original store in Tel Aviv.

Shani Bar: The designer Shani Bar creates and designs her own exclusive shoes line since 2004, upon graduating Bezalel Academy of Art and Design in Jerusalem at the Department of Jewelry and Accessories design. The shoe line is a unique combination of a modern and classic fusion: utilizing minimal lines and basic geometric shapes that combined with form and material correspond to the details and trends of classic design. She now has 2 stores in Tel Aviv under her name and she exports some of her shoes to Europe.

Tel Aviv By Sivan Askayo

Tel Aviv By Sivan Askayo

Jaffa (Yafo in Hebrew) and the Ancient Port. 

Jaffa is a mixed Arab-Jewish area, known for its Flea Market, historic city (Old Jaffa) and the restored port. The old part of Jaffa includes the ancient port, some historic sites, restored housing dating back to the Ottoman period and some upscale restaurants, galleries and boutiques. The flea market (Shuk Hapishpeshim in Hebrew) is buzzing especially during the weekdays and crowded with some interesting characters, deals and steals.

* Home WorkshopA two-floor store with an eclectic home decor collection from different locations in the world. The owner combines Bohemian chic with Oriental elements on a long dining table display in the center of the store. A little bit of mich- much but it seems that the regular clients easily find their ways there.

Ma’asiyaThis is one of the most inspiring stores for me in the flea market. A gallery of two floors that serves as a meeting point for creative ideas and a collaboration among creative people. The store holds clothes for kids and adults, home textile, vintage crockery straight from the 60ies, toys, furnitures, and the highlight of the store are the recycled clothes made of pique blankets that people donate. The store’s concept is to support and promote needy groups in society; the elderly, the minorities and people with disabilities. It just make Ma’asiya even better.

Tamara: When we entered the little store of Tamara, it was obvious from the start she has a great taste and a wild imagination. Using materials such as colorful stones, chunky feathers, glossy beads and embroidery make her jewelry line and accessories very theatrical. Everything is hand made. I loved the three drawers hung on one of the walls and serve as a great decoration and a way to showcase Tamara’s talent and taste. It’s a fun store and every woman can find something for herself.

SofiWell, Hello to you blast of colors, Good bye boredom. This is exactly how I feel each time I visit Sofi store. It is like Willy Wonka but for fun accessories. You can shop for kitchen ware from Kitsch Kitchen, Toys, bags, accessories from the Danish concept store *Rice, (already on my bookmark) and some vintage Asian packaging designed boxes and objects from Wu & Wu. Don’t rush when you visit Sofi. It is a treasured store and you want to have the time to explore it.

Una Una Shoes: If you ever wondered how well-hand made shoes look like, I suggest you visit the studio Una Una. To be honest, I still didn’t buy myself a pair of shoes at the store, but I love the colored pairs the designer makes. The designer is an artist and every pair of shoes looks like a well-leather sculpture. I’m sure they are so comfortable to walk on. Beside the great shoes, the little store with a studio attached in the back, has a great vintage piano and some old sewing machines as a decoration display.

Sharon BrunsherSome people refer to Sharon Brunsher’s store as a ‘foster kid’ among the rest of the stores. She is definitely not vintage, and her clothes are only in the black, white and grey colors; the opposite of the vibrant feel of the flea market. Some people refer to her clean Nordic style as a breath of fresh air, or as a ‘chromo- break’ in the middle of the busy tempo of the market. And yet, Sharon Brunsher’s store is a great example and proof that Jaffa’s flea market is developing and becoming a trendy place, otherwise she wouldn’t have chosen this location.

Elemento: In the heart of Old Jaffa, the furniture and life style store Elemento carries colorful, modular furniture made by the native talented designer Yossy Goldberg. Yossy’s sense of style, attention to details and high quality is well shown in every piece he creates and the impressive collection of affordable contemporary home accessories and home decor.

Pua Restaurant:  This place  looks like a retro apartment my grandparents used to have, filled with furnitures and decorations well collected from the vintage stores next door. Beside the eclectic atmosphere and design, Pua serves a great, earthy and tasty food. Israeli breakfast is served all day (a great plus for those who love a good well-balanced mediterranean breakfast) and the menu changes according to the owner’s desire. Rest asure that every day will be a good one. I highly recommend to make reservations (if possible) or be patient as this place is very busy.

Flea-market restaurant: Flea-market restaurant offers a creative up-to-date menu and unique atmosphere, a place where you can just have a snack and a glass of wine or indulge yourself with a true dining experience.

Yona Restaurant: Located on the hypnotizing Mediterranean and the peaceful fishermens’ boats in Jaffa historical port. Yona offers  an open-plan kitchen with a complete transparency to it’s culinary magic. The food is exceptionally fresh thanks to excellent raw materials; the bread is baked on site, the yogurt and ricotta are homemade, and fresh salmon and meat are smoked in-house.

Jaffa Market in the Port:  Jaffa Port Market is not just a food market – it’s a place where you can shop for food and home products, eat well, and spend your time enjoying the amazing scenery of the world’s oldest fishermen port. The market is vibrant with culinary activities, allowing you to shop for organic fruits and vegetables, freshly baked breads, herbs and spices or coffee, drink a glass of beer with a portion of fish and chips, or a gourmet sausage, and combine the two. The market is located in Warehouse 1, a renovated structure dating from the beginning of the last century, having in mind similar culinary centers and indoor markets around the world. The history, culture and values of the city of Jaffa and its port influenced the design and branding of the Jaffa Port Market, as well as the various businesses operating in it.

The Container: A combination of fish and seafood restaurant, after hours bar, Art space and Music lounge, all under one roof in a warehouse space next to the waterfront of Jaffa’s marine. The container attracts a variety of people and different crowds. It is an alive space with a great atmosphere. Beautiful view of the old port and the small fishermen boats.

Tel Aviv By Sivan Askayo
Notable Locals:
Bar Refaeli, an Israeli Super Model, also modeling in the US (used to date Leonardo Dicaprio), is currently living in Tel Aviv
Asaf Avidan, an Israeli musician, very popular in the world these days, is currently living in Tel Aviv
Ayelet Zurer, an Israeli actress, now lives in Hollywood, but is originally from Tel Aviv
Itzhak Perlman, is an Israeli-American violinist, conductor, was born in Tel Aviv
Shimon Peres, the Israeli President who won the Noble Peace, lives in Tel Aviv
Gil Shwed, an Israeli programmer, inventor and entrepreneur. He is the founder, CEO, and chairman of board of Check Point Software Technologies Ltd, one of Israel’s biggest technology companies, lives in Tel Aviv

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  • Hello there -i realise this comment will probably be taken off however here in Europe – avid followers of Design Sponge – there are many of us who would refuse to go to Tel Aviv until for instance, Palestinians have the right to travel there with ease.
    i also think it’s slightly mis-informative because in no way does this article warn of the possible drawbacks encountered on entry or exit from Israel
    I will just use the example of a young friend of ours who is 3rd generation British born, but with a turkish surname, a totally apolitical 18 year old going to attend the incredibly healthy rave party scene in Israel – after being kept for 4 hours (on arrival) and ‘interrogated’ as to her reasons for coming to Israel (somehow ‘party’ or ‘rave’ wasn’t believed) she was released but not before her MP3 player and telephone were also confiscated during that time – her telephone was returned but not her mp3 player;the promise of it being returned at a later time wasn’t respected)
    At no time was she an associate of any movement or political party, apart from Rave culture
    this is but one story that left an otherwise happy go lucky young lady traumatised for the sake of ‘holiday’
    I obviously do not expect this comment to be published but pls be aware that promoting trips to Israel should entail a little note as to possible disadvantages which affect everyone whatever their creed, race, etc.

    • I know this is a little late but I only came across your comment now – I just wanted to let you know, that palestinians can and do travel freely in Israel, you see them all over. In fact, in my town near gaza, you will see them at the hospitals, on the beaches, in the shops, etc. But you can’t say the same of Israelis who visit their towns.
      I understand what your friend went through because I, as a middle aged mother, was taken aside when I entered Britain and ‘interrogated’ – maybe because I have a Persian surname, I’m not sure, but I guess you’d have to say that about most entering most countries, wouldn’t you?

  • Grace, Amy, and Max:

    1. I want to say “Kudos!” to you, for posting Maria’s comment – I think it shows that you’re very respectful to your readers’ thoughts and insights. Truly, the act of approving the comment above is proof that this is an open forum. So, thanks – not just for maintaining a space where people can stay dialed in on the latest design/lifestyle/diy trends…for keeping a space where people can, also, have a real dialogue.

    2. Thanks for posting this piece on Tel Aviv! On a personal level, it’s interesting to hear about what Tel Aviv (and Israel) has to offer, as I’m half-Jewish by birth. A few years ago – I discovered that I could have qualified for a trip to Israel, with all of the travel expenses paid for…(www.birthrightisrael.com)…Unfortunately, it was after I was too old to cash in on my opportunity, that this was brought to my attention. (I’m the worst, half-Jew, on the planet.)

    So, it’s cool, to see what I ultimately missed out on!

  • It is standard procedure to ask questions upon entering or leaving the country. The same goes for Canada however only upon entry and I am suspecting a lot of other countries follow that rule too. Personally I spend more time with officers upon entering Canada ( a full hour ) than I did before I entered Israel.Any airport security will pick random passengers for extended checks and there is nothing you can do about it. I will not get into the political aspect that the previous poster got into mostly because this is a city guide and a city and its people should not be judged as such. It is clear discrimination and completely unfair to a whole population of individuals that have to gain from tourism.

  • To Maria,

    Obviously any post about Israel – even here on a decor blog – is bound to invite comments like yours (which isn’t particularly provocative, just unbalanced). Design Sponge is about to find out how divisive any well-intentioned mention of The State of Israel is. I’m sorry to hear about your friend’s experience in Israel, it is really unfortunate and upsetting. However, I hope that you and your European friends who refuse to travel to Israel until restrictions on Palestinians are lifted also refuse to visit Arab countries until Jews (from all political stripes and from all countries of the earth) can travel there with relative ease as well.

    Tel Aviv is a really fun travel destination, which happens to be located in an unfortunately dangerous part of the world. Like many places, the country is populated and sometimes governed by all sorts of people, including plenty of enlightened and progressive peace-loving people, along with, sadly, crazy nuts who are doing their best to see that there will be no peace. All the same, as long as you are boycotting travel to Israel, I hope that you are including all the other (much worse) spots on earth where people are discriminated against on the basis of their race, religion, or ethnicity.

  • I traveled to Tel Aviv a couple months ago and can only underline the beauty of this city (great tips included in this guide)! The downsides of getting in and out of the country are well weighed out by the joy and beauty experienced amongst the people of Tel Aviv and in its streets. Just do your homework beforehand and go with the flow and you’ll have discovered a great travel destination.

  • Thank you for posting this! Like many cities in the world, Tel Aviv is not the easiest to gain access to. But, if we try to ignore Tel Aviv or any other dangerous, highly politicized city, it would be ignorant and biased. Making a judgment on unfortunate stories we have heard isn’t any better. My friend had an awful time on a business trip to Dubai, but it doesn’t mean it isn’t a great city which I hope to travel to one day. Yes, it’s hard to gain access to Tel Aviv, but, like any other city, it has so many unique and fantastic gifts to offer a traveler.

    I think a lot of times Israel is portrayed from the point of view that it is a religious country, and the point of visiting Israel is to just see religious sites. People forget that it is an ancient country with so much more to offer. Tel Aviv in particular is such a metropolitan city offering everything clubs and a night scene that rival those in the West, as well as a cultural hub with more high brow activities. People often forget that it is one of the premiere examples of Bauhaus architecture that offers amazing and unique shopping opportunities. Not to mention – the food is insanely delicious. Thank you for such a great unbiased article.

  • Love the photos – i wish i could see more of them
    I think the guide is great for those how never been to Tel-Aviv and for those who live in it.
    What i love about DesignSponge is that we have an international Design Blog that doesn’t deal with politics and for me its quite pity that one feel the need to comenent such an unrelated comment here in this wonderful neutral blog

  • Really great guide with amazing photos. And great suggestions. Tel Aviv is AMAZING. Can only recommend a visit! It is like no other city you have ever visited!

  • While I think that it is great that Maria’s comment was not deleted, I also think that her specific comment criticizes Israel for practices of restricting travel of Palestinians (and well I am not getting into a right or wrong argument), maybe this practice is unjust to many individuals, however such restrictions are common among areas in conflict. Furthermore, questioning, detaining, and confiscating property of those travelling is a daily occurrence even in the United States, and even when travelling domestically.
    I am American and Jewish and have gone through the extremely long and annoying process at Israeli customs. They searched my bag with me and took out one flip flop and refused to move on until they could find the other flip flop. I was also questioned not only about why I was there, where I was going, why I didn’t go somewhere else, but also these questions about other stamps in my passport. Right or wrong you should be aware of policies and political implications anywhere that you travel.

    That being said Tel Aviv is a very interesting and very fun city. Highlights for me were definitely the Carmel Market (shuk) and the artist market. I also like the bars on the beach were you are literally served drinks and hookah on tables in the sand. Also the falafel.

  • I love Tel Aviv, it is an amazing city with vibrant people and a very diverse population that includes Arabs and Palestinians. The free jazz concerts, the multitude of museums and the incredible array of restaurants make this a city worth visiting.

  • Thank you for this guide- Tel Aviv is one of my fave cities around the world. It’s New York City’s queer and punky little sister- sooo much to explore!

  • Tel Aviv is a thriving, stunning city! Wish I had this ‘cheat sheet’ during summer of 2012 when I was there! Thanks for including this!! More Europeans & Anericans should explore this gem if a city!

  • I’m so glad to see Sivan’s work on D*S – she’s the only person I would go to for advice on traveling to Israel! Her recommendations here are certainly flawless.

  • I’m glad Maria’s comment was posted, but I think it is ill informed and misguided. Tel Aviv-Yafo is the most cosmopolitan and progressive city in Israel. It has a highly secular culture, and is full of a large number of Jews, Arabs, Russians, French, Iraqis, Ethiopians, Filippinos and many other cultures. One can disapprove of and boycott Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories without punishing the good people and businesses (run by both Arabs and Jews) of Tel Aviv and Yafo (Jaffa). Let us not forget that it’s in Tel Aviv where people take to the streets to protest the current government.

    I agree with Gabby that restrictions are common in conflict zones. That said, Tel Aviv is relatively safe– it is not part of the conflict zone–it is neither near Gaza nor the West Bank. It is full of students, artists, and intellectuals, many of whom disagree with the current government policies. There are Arab business people and politicians who live and work in Tel Aviv and Yafo–just as there is Arab representation on the Israeli Knesset. We can (and should) continue to disapprove of the way the Israeli government treats Arabs as second-class citizens and condones the settlements, but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t also champion and support the people and businesses in this country–and many of them are in Tel Aviv–that actively oppose such practices.

    And let’s just think a bit about Maria’s comment–it would be great if Israel would open its access to Palestinians living in Gaza and the West Bank. But unfortunately there are also terrorists there who want to destroy Israel. It’s a vicious cycle, but getting rid of the settlements and making a two state solution would be a start. I completely understand not wanting to travel to a country when one cannot accept its politics. But what are you doing to help change them? http://jewishvoiceforpeace.org

    Thank you for this beautiful city guide. I can’t wait to check it out the next time I’m there visiting my in-laws, and supporting those who work for peace there every day.

  • For falafel, check out Ha Kosem (The Magician) on the corner of King George (Hamelech George) and Shlomo Hamelech. It’s kind of a scenester place, but the falafels are uniformly good. The bread is slightly fresher (as is the Sabich) at Gina, on King George close to Allenby. And the area around Basel Square has great shopping boutiques and cafes. I love all the shoe designers you mention here. Some other great ones are Coupleof (no longer hand made but still designed in Israel), and Shoemaker.

  • @Miri Not supporting the economy of a place that profits from the oppression of a whole class of people is doing something. It is supporting the worldwide Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement that calls for boycotts, divestments, and sanctions on Israel until they end apartheid.

    Crafting a beautifully designed life is all well and good, unless we do not think about the ways we consume and move about the world.

  • Maria,
    I believe you are misguided. And of course you would if your friend had a bad experience. You probably trust their opinion. But one bad experience is not something to judge a whole country/city on.
    Israel has to protect itself from terrorists in all possible ways. With so many people/countries that hate them it makes sense that they have to screen foreigners who come onto their soil. A safety procaution that protects residents and tourists alike.

    • maria

      i think it’s worth noting that the US screens any foreign visitor (especially in NYC area airports) very, very heavily. that’s not unique to israel. any nation that deals with frequent and significant numbers of threats does that at airports and border points.


  • again thanks for posting my comment – just in reply to the various ‘misguided’ Maria comments, if i may:
    I was proposing that any articles regarding ‘conflict zone’ (as someone put it) cities should at least include information regarding possible drawbacks of trying to visit said cities… not everyone realises about restrictions, ‘heavy’ /intensive screening practices etc.
    In the same way that some goods are better than others, based on how they are manufactured (child exploitation anyone?), the same would go i believe for experiencing places. Doesn’t an aware and informed article allow everyone to make better choices? Some people don’t like this kind of ‘hassle’ when they go on holiday.
    @Katerina, Heather, Miri and others: my comments were definitely based on more than ‘one bad experience’ as I am luckily friends with a variety of people and professionals, most of whom travel frequently round the world – and you are correct Grace in noting that both the USA and Israel have terrible reputations for their ‘borders’!
    however altho’ both countries are persistent in their information gathering and screening, Israel’s borders (rightly or wrongly) has the reputation of being consistently aggressive in its screening, which can also be coupled with confiscating personal belongings (including musical instruments) and this practice can happen both on Entry and/or Exit (as well to be even more precise!)
    Despite assurances to the contrary sometimes items have not even been returned – – which has also affected artists livelihoods! (not talking penknives or bottles of water here e.g.: music supports like LPs which were allowed entry were then confiscated on exit!)
    I only mentioned my younger friend as an example of someone who might be generally uninformed, going on holiday, without getting into politics, and who subsequently suffered from her experience, which unbeknownst to her (initially) was merely triggered by her surname.
    I of course agree with Alex F. and reserve my own opinions on various governments and will continue to endeavour not to confuse inhabitants of countries and their countries’ actions, and wouldn’t dream of using this interesting design platform to promote the already increasing israeli boycott or sanction movement(s)!
    I think all of us here crave for both a beautiful and peaceful world.

  • Visiting Israel is a great mind opening experience! If you choose to only go to places where you are 100% politically aligned, you find you have nowhere to go. I had great time traveling there on vacation with only one problem, eating too much food…the cuisine is amazing! With fresh fruit and vegetables every season and a seemingly endless supply of hummus, there are so many options for vegetarians! Thanks for the article!

  • I know this subject has been disputed over and over again until now, but I couldn’t help but participate.
    I had a hard time understanding the consistency of your comments, Maria. You first stated that you and others would refuse to go to Tel Aviv until palestinians would be able to travel there as anyone else.
    Then you stated that the guide is misleading because it doesn’t warn people of the difficulties of entering the country.
    On your first point I would say that I havn’t seen you comment on any other of the places profiled in design sponge that have serious issues of their own. As Abby said above, I stongly hope it is just by simple chance that you commented specifically on Israel. While mentioning that, I would advise to anyone jumping to write beautiful, human loving comments, to do their homework before they sit down to write it. As it is true that palestinians living in the occupied territories don’t enter Israel easily for the sake of vacation , they do enter it in thousands, every day, to work there (they do have time limits, but check out the conditions of foreign workers in european countries for example). This is true to the west bank only, because in Gaza the palestinian Hamas party is the one deciding if palestinians can leave or not. I just want to add a little piece of information about the inhuman and hard to enter state of Israel, that since last February has given medical care for sirian fighters, men, women and children. They were brought by their families to Israeli soldiers at the frontier and hospitalised in israeli hospitals for the cost of more than 2.8 million dollars by now. Israel is an easy target for international criticism because (1)they take the blame many times, (2)it’s easy not to like them, especialy in europe, and (3) it crimes (I agree there are) are so much less awful than others happening on this planet right now, and as a result, easier to deal with and comment about.
    The second point in your comment is understandable, but it really isn’t a specific problem of the Israeli state. Considering it’s relative length it is the main point of your comment. As it doesn’t have much to do with the palesinians right of movement, it made me wonder why you had to put your first point at all.
    Therfore, to me it seems that this whole comment was drawn from prejudice and misinformation. The situation is much more complex than the way you portrayed it and summerising it in one sentence is wrong for all the sides involved.

  • I’ve travelled in and out of Israel many times, and been questioned to the same degree (even though I’m Jewish and my passport clearly shows that I’ve been to the country on a number of occasions). That’s the reality of the situation, because there are thousands of individuals and dozens of political organisations dedicated to destroying Israel, so they have to be wary.

    And travel restrictions are normal; it’s difficult to get into the States with a Cuban stamp on your passport, my passport with all its Israeli stamps would lead me to difficulties should I try to go to Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Egypt,; I was warned that I might not even be able to transit through Malaysia, let alone stay there. It’s just part of life. And I agree with Noga – Israel is an easy target for criticism and I think partly it’s because they’d rather be safe than popular.

  • Though, overall, Tel Aviv is a wonderful city (I agree with the comment about it being like New York’s little sister, or it’s like London by the beach) and although going through passport control is a pain, it’s not the be all and end all and it shouldn’t be the reason to miss out on such a fantastic city. (though I can’t believe you didn’t mention the Jaffa flea market – it’s amazing).

  • THANK YOU for all these great recommendations! I’m going for the third time next month and I feel that I have SO much to discover still! Hopefully most of the places are still open and running ! :) Amazing list, thank you !