If there’s the best place in Israel to be hip, it has to be Tel Aviv. With excellent beaches, vibrant nightlife, and its famous 24/7 culture, there are many cool things to discover in this coastal city. Because of its other reputation as a “party capital,” Tel Aviv is the exact mirror image of its more solemn and sober sibling Jerusalem.
While Tel Aviv is not a big city, it has diverse and interesting neighborhoods. It offers a beautiful mix of the old and the new – from the ancient port of Jaffa to the modern Tel Aviv Port, from the UNESCO World Heritage Site that’s the “White City” to the gritty bohemian neighborhood of Florentin.
Take a stroll or bike along the tree-lined Rothschild Boulevard. Have a picnic at the vast HaYarkon Park by the Yarkon River. Maybe grab a cup of joe at one of the cafés in the uber-trendy Neve Tzedek? Or you might want to play matkot at one of the city’s stunning beaches. When night falls, hit the bars for some drinks and live music.
Tel Aviv is best discovered on foot. Find new favorite places, meet new folks, savor new experiences and catch lasting memories in this innovative and dynamic city! Here are some of the coolest neighborhoods in Tel Aviv that will make your inner hipster tick:
The White City
The White City is located in the center of Tel Aviv, thus its other name “Lev Ha’ir” (“heart of the city” in Hebrew). The name refers to the collection of Bauhaus or International Style buildings. These 4,000 light-colored buildings were constructed by the Jews who fled from Germany and Austria after the rise of Nazism in Europe. They constructed those buildings to recreate the cities of the countries from which they came.
UNESCO declared the White City as a World Heritage Site in 2003. The White City – in particular the Rothschild Boulevard, Bialik Street, Sheinkin Street, and Dizengoff Square – are the perfect places for anyone who likes to take a leisure stroll while in the city and perhaps step into one of the many cafés, restaurants, and boutiques that can be found across the area. You can explore the White City on your own or sign up for a guided tour.
Neve Tzedek is one of the recommended neighborhoods for those visiting Tel Aviv for the first time. Neve Tzedek, which means “abode of justice” in Hebrew, was the first Jewish neighborhood to be established outside the ancient port of Jaffa. It is the oldest neighborhood in Tel Aviv – in fact, its existence even predated Tel Aviv itself!
This trendy quarter in southern Tel Aviv is where you will find a wonderful combination of the old, the new, the traditional, and the contemporary that truly showcase Tel Aviv’s diverse and cosmopolitan culture.
When you visit Neve Tzedek, time seems to slow down in the midst of a bustling city. It is home to hundreds of buildings of various architectural styles ranging from the ancient sandstone buildings to 1920s Eclectic architecture to mid-1990s Bauhaus designs. Walk down the streets lined with old buildings – many of which now house cafés, restaurants, and boutiques – and enjoy its laid-back atmosphere and quaint European-like charm. The bonus is that the beach is just a few minutes west of the neighborhood.
Jaffa is one of the ancient existing port cities in the world. While now considered part of Tel Aviv, Jaffa is also regarded as a city in its own right. Massively restored, this walled port city features old winding streets and alleyways, numerous art galleries, cafés, restaurants, and souvenir shops. Visit the Jaffa Flea Market to buy fascinating artifacts and perhaps practice your haggling skills with the vendors.
Jaffa owns its unique kind of “cool.” Since it is a bit further away from Tel Aviv’s city center, it’s a place to enjoy relative peace and quiet and step back in time from the contemporary Tel Aviv. It’s a great opportunity to learn an important part of Israel’s history, relive biblical stories, mingle with the locals, and have a good swig at one of the neighborhood’s watering holes. Tour some of Jaffa’s landmarks: the Clock Tower, the wishing bridge at the tranquil HaPisgah Gardens, and the Mahmoudiya Mosque, the largest mosque in Jaffa. Don’t forget to visit Jaffa’s harbor, known for its sleepy charm, to go leisure boating or just take some photos (which is best to do in the early evening where the light is at its softest, showing the city in its most gorgeous form).
Tel Aviv Port
The Tel Aviv Port is the original port of modern Tel Aviv. It used to be an active commercial shipping port that later fell into neglect for a time. But it has been converted into a massive leisure, recreation, entertainment, and cultural site, becoming a major tourist attraction.
The port’s wavy wooden boardwalk, opened in 2008, is lined with cafés, restaurants, bars, nightclubs, boutiques, and ice cream parlors. Tel Aviv is a bike-friendly city; bikers usually start from the Tel Aviv Port and then cycle down along the coast or across Yarkon Park, Tel Aviv’s version of New York’s Central Park.
If you’re looking for an offbeat destination in Tel Aviv, visit Florentin, a neighborhood located south of the city.
Florentin has an incredible transformation from a hopelessly derelict area to a haven for artists and designers. Dubbed the “Tel Aviv SoHo” by the locals, Florentin was initially established as an industrial zone. But in later years, it experienced a steady decline as a slum area, with several businesses plummeting and neglected buildings falling into ruin.
But at the same time, Florentin’s cheap rent and lodging also attracted younger residents and artists, who began to open their workshops and galleries in the old industrial buildings and formerly traditional wholesale stores. Soon, other businesses like cafés and restaurants began to open, in addition to more artist workshops.
While the transformation is not that full-fledged, as Florentin remains very much an industrial zone and some signs of poverty still linger, it is otherwise a far cry from what it was many decades ago. The vibrant arts scene and nightlife remain Florentin’s main attraction, particularly for the young and hip crowd.