Buzzing Tel Aviv is Israel’s arts and entertainment capital. Picture the city as a course-after-course mezze of things to do, see and eat. Exploring its markets, galleries and creative hangouts will whet your appetite. For mains, there’s hearty Med-facing beaches and every cuisine under the sun. Try to leave room for afters – its underground nightlife is irresistible. Sound like a lot to sink your teeth into? We’ve dished up a guide to the happening city. Here’s how to see Tel Aviv like a local.
The Florentin neighbourhood in south Tel Aviv is packed with all things quintessentially hipster; millennial lattes, tattoo parlours, innovative upholsterers, and pavement cafés, of course. Pop in on Dalida for a plate of fish carpaccio that’s as trendy as its regulars. Stick around after dark to watch the likes of Mezcal Tequila Bar come alive.
Neve Tzedek is another cool patch of Tel Aviv that’s less rough around the edges than Florentin, more design-focused. Bag a one-off piece from avant-garde concept store Numéro 13 or jewellers Agas and Tamar. Later, see the world-renowned Batsheva Dance Company perform. The Suzanne Dallal Centre quickly sells out if it’s in town.
Swanky Sarona and its indoor culinary market are worth calling in on, too. Wander around nibbling nuts, cheeses and pastries the right way – holding a glass of Meet Wine’s finest (how else?). But save space for later. A number of the district’s 19th-century Templar cottages have been transformed into chic eateries. Arais’ melt-in-the-mouth butcher’s steak is the juiciest in the city.
Nine miles of irresistible coastline follows you up and down Tel Aviv. Try your hand at an Israeli classic; matkot. Never heard of it? The popular ball and paddle game is played all across the country, and the sandy shores of Israel’s arts capital are one of its favourite batting grounds. Sunbathing is also acceptable.
Tick off a Tel Aviv essential and pay Abu Hassan your respects in old town Jaffa. This family-owned hummus bar is as authentic as its ancestry, who thankfully passed down their recipe for the creamiest chickpea blend going. Be sure to arrive before 3pm, as Abu’s hummus will be all lapped up otherwise.
Art more your joie de vivre? Renoir, Monet, Picasso, Matisse and a cluster of their peers hang out on the first floor of the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, along with an impressive collection of works from local talent. Built in 2010, new(ish)-comer Design Museum Holon is Israel’s first institution dedicated solely to design. It’s impossible not to gawp at the museum’s striking exterior.
Jaffa isn’t just about top-notch hummus. A free-spirited flea market dwells in this old Arab neighbourhood. Employ the ‘haggle-then-slowly-walk-away’ trick that’s as old as the hill which Jaffa sits on. Suddenly, the hamsa (palm-shaped) necklace or vintage kitchenware item you had your eye on will be half price.
The same cannot be said if you knock on nearby Sharon Brunsher’s door. The chic fashion den is strictly slinky couture, and her signature monochromes have been tried on by both Vogue and Elle Decor.
Tucked a little further inland, Carmel Market begs to be explored. Its narrow passages teem with tempting treats, from classic Israeli falafel, sun-kissed olives and freshly-baked breads to the latest clothing crazes from hipster-ville. Local artwork, leather and wooden craft items are also for sale.
Starting the evening at Kuli Alma is considered by many to be a must. If live music, DJ sets and bohemian vibes equal ‘your thing’, join the daily crowds at this hip haunt. Its rotating art exhibits and bar menu are full of surprises.
For a ritzier beverage or two, The Imperial serves many a well-decorated craft cocktail. Life’s A Beach (or will be), if you order this exotic fruity gin drink and greet the bartenders in Tel Aviv’s plushest mixing temple.
Detoxing or on the go? A perfectly poured fruit smoothie, ice tea or coffee is exactly what the lower levels of swish Rothschild Boulevard run on. Stop off at an open-air kiosk to eavesdrop on some locals. It doesn’t matter if you don’t speak the lingo – the typically animated gesticulating says it all.
At a true Israeli’s breakfast table, you’ll notice a distinct lack of bacon, waffles or any of the typical fried fare. Instead, salads, cheeses, tzatziki and eggs are on the menu. Benedict’s Balkan or Jerusalem will help you understand why the Israeli way is best.
Laid-back lunchtime eats, such as labane (goat’s cheese) or tahini to share, can be sourced at retro Café Puaa. A shaded sidewalk table in amongst chunky flower boxes is a necessity. How to see Tev Aviv like a local? The short answer is to eat.
Moment’s from the sea, Manta Ray is one of Tel Aviv’s most talked-about boltholes. Watch the sun dip during late afternoon opposite a slab of flaky sea bass. Alternatively, crisp cocktails and calamari make for an excellent evening.
Words: Ashleigh Gibson