When our writer, Xenia Fong, said she had an article about her experiences when she got to discover Tel Aviv, we couldn’t wait to hear more. Israel is steeped in history and for such a small state, it’s got a shocking variety of landscapes and cultures. It’s an alluring place where you can walk along cobblestones in Jerusalem that have been around since the beginning of Christ, float in the Dead Sea, bask in the sun at the beach town of Haifa, or hang out with the young, driven, and lively crowd in Tel Aviv.
From one city to another, you can see people of every religion living together in the same community. Although the media may construe Israel as a dangerous place, not once did I ever feel unsafe or unwelcome. No matter your background, your religion, your culture, or your beliefs, Israel is an incredibly welcoming country and there’s no doubt that everyone who visits leaves with a changed perception.
What you’ll discover is that Tel Aviv, known as Israel’s modern and cosmopolitan hub, stands in stark contrast to the ancient city of Jerusalem. As the financial center of Israel, the city naturally draws in a young, creative, and lively crowd. Where the young gather, a hip, cool culture and an emphasis on nightlife arises, which is what makes Tel Aviv especially vibrant and captivating.
If you’re overwhelmed with the sheer number of all the trendy restaurants and bars, here’s a list curated by the person my family and I trust the most when it comes to recommendations in Israel, my cousin Robert who spent years in Israel as part of the Israel Defense Forces. I’m definitely making this list part of my itinerary the next time I’m in Tel Aviv!
One of the most well-known neighborhoods is the Florentine district, which is full of artists, craftsmen, graffiti, small boutiques, delicious restaurants, and funky bars. Due to the influx of creative individuals, the Florentine area has developed into the ‘hipster’ neighborhood of Tel Aviv. Soak in the city by foot, stop by the numerous galleries and boutiques, admire the graffiti adorned walls, get inspired by the fashionable residents, and grab a bite to eat or a cocktail at one of their popular restaurants or bars.
Florentin45 is located within the neighborhood and is one of the main contemporary art venues in the area. They showcase works from both local and international artists.
If you’re hungry, there are a ton of delicious options throughout the district. Discover Tel Aviv through it’s food, and you won’t be disappointed.
24 Rupees is an authentic, strictly vegetarian Indian restaurant that’s not only delicious, but also affordable. There are no shoes allowed and you sit on the floor of their indoor seating area or their rooftop. Munch on appetizers such as samosas and momos, Tibetan steamed dumplings, before the main event — thali, which comes with dahl, chapatti, and various daily offerings.
Shuk Levinsky is one of the many markets in the city where you can find nearly every culinary thing you need—dried fruits and nuts, spices, cheese, olives, bread, pastries, and more. There are even a variety of restaurants and cafes in and nearby the market specializing in Egyptian, Turkish, and Persian cuisines.
One of these restaurants is called Dalida, located right next to Levinsky market. With 50% off dishes for happy hour Sunday through Thursday from 6 pm to 8 pm, this is one of the most reasonably priced joints around. But that doesn’t mean their food is cheap quality. Enjoy their spicy feta brulee and their oxtail sambusak as you sip on cocktails in their hidden backyard.
Also located in the Florentine district is the Florentin House Restaurant, which is located inside the hip hostel, the Florentin House. The restaurant serves innovative Asian fusion dishes and diners can watch how the food is made with their open kitchen.
For dessert, head to Hamalabiya, a small stand that specializes in malabi—a creamy milk-based pudding flavored with rose water and topped with syrups and crushed nuts or coconut. Their homemade syrups include classic raspberry and pomegranate, vanilla cinnamon, lemon cardamom, and a rotating selection of caramel, chai, and watermelon. They also offer twenty shekel half-liter beers, which is nearly unheard of in Tel Aviv, as well as espressos, backgammon and chess, and live music out on their patio. They even have vegan malabi which is just as delicious. Grab a bowl at one of their three locations throughout the city.
For a fun night out, and a real immersion to discover Tel Aviv, you can head to the endless bars and clubs, each with their own characteristic style and flair.
Sputnik is a funky bar that’s located down a hidden alleyway, so you have to follow pathway lights that lead you to an underground space. It’s retro-futuristic decor transports you to a whole new era and they also have a great sound system, dancing art projections on the walls, and a large courtyard area for dancing, eating, and drinking.
Kuli Alma is another spunky bar that is owned and operated by a collective of Tel Aviv DJ’s, artists, and party personas, so you know it’s going to be a one-of-a-kind experience. It features an open-air courtyard, a cylindrical gallery space, a dance floor, art and vintage films projected on the walls, and an all vegetarian menu.
Beit Hapsanter is known for their “underground” feel with dark velvet drapery and dramatic decor. Their house music plays on until the wee hours of the morning. If you’re looking for a place to drink and dance all night, this is the place to go, as they claim to “never close.”
The Double Standard is one of the most interesting cocktail bars. Brought to you by the same creators of the pharmacy-themed Spicehaus, one of the biggest cocktail bars in Tel Aviv, this sister establishment is a craft cocktail bar at night and a mixology shop during the day, where they sell pre-bottled cocktail mixes.
Plan your own trip: visit-tel-aviv.com