Tel Aviv is young, hip, liberal, and a city always bombilating with energy. The high octane vibe of the city is always, almost tangible. And as the day sets over the Mediterranean coast, the walkway of Tel Aviv pulsates with its famous residents, and the start-up city jumps and jives as the music from the trendy bars get louder. The young Tel Avivians come out sashaying, flaunting the latest fashion trends, happy dogs trot alongside their six-packed owners, and the streets get busier. Tel Aviv’s nightlife comes to life. To get a taste for this sea-side metropolis of 400,000, hop on a bicycle or explore its avenues by foot – it’s flat, avowedly carefree, and secular neighborhoods are a den of energy and creativity day and night. Tel Aviv is a 24/7 city where the search for coffee, passion for hummus, and commitment towards LGBT pride takes precedence over its politics.
The White city
Your search for perfection will land you at this easy spot of is a cluster of around 4,000 buildings designed by German-trained Jewish architects with a passion for Bauhaus design. The White City, a UNESCO world heritage site is marked by its symmetrical design, uniformity of white facades, and a rich collection of architectural gems. The best pick is the Rothschild Boulevard with comfortable cafes dotted alongside the road, a central pedestrian space, and splendid walkways. If you are looking for the trendiest of spaces in Tel Aviv to eat out, hope and jive, or have some sundowners, Rothschild Boulevard has no dearth of options. Walk by Dizengoff Street, for shopping from designer denim to stylish streetwear. Venture a bit on the side-streets and you will be rewarded with pretty, bougainvillea-fronted houses, often juxtaposed with graffiti and murals, as a resplendent display of the city’s cultural and political identity.
The shop frenzy Tel Aviv
Tel Aviv may be just 100 years old but the ancient, cobblestoned port of Jaffa is a centuries-old tale. And this port, mostly an Arabic settlement is a widow to the old world. By day Jaffa’s flea markets bursts with energy as vendors peddle antiques, craft, and souvenirs. By night, the flea market – known as Shuk Hapishpeshim – is a hubbub of activity – of clinking glasses, al-fresco restaurants, Middle Eastern music, and the chit-chats. And in the alleyways look for the Shaffa Bar for its Ottoman and Mid-Eastern spreads.
The party revolution
The youthful population, seaside carefree culture, and the hedonistic vibe make Tel Aviv the partying center of the Middle East. Tel Aviv is a night outers paradise. And as the night hits, only one option is left – to hit the night clubs and live the party revolution of the city. Tel Aviv’s nightlife is a fickle beast and the best place to place your bet is the Rothschild Boulevard and its surrounding streets, where you can spend the entire night club-hopping. Many daytime eateries morph into the bar after dark. Opposite the old Great Synagogue on Allenby St is the mothership for inner-city hipsters, Port Sa’id. For late-night parties, hit the underground clubs of the Rothschild Boulevard, the ones in neighboring Neve Tzedek district are more chic, upscale, and trendy, and there is a long list of alternative music and party places in the Bohemian quarter of Florentine and the beachfront. And in case you face choice overload, just head to The Breakfast Club and Milk Bar on Rothschild Boulevard, an institution in clubbing scenes, which draws international DJs.
The vegan love
Israel is the world’s vegan capital. And an enduring love of vegetables and an overwhelming urge to innovate, are pushing the further rise of veganism in Israel. Israel’s star chefs are opening more vegan choices, and food bloggers writing their bit to reach more audience with the word ‘vegan’. Where else on earth would you see soldiers marching in animal-free boots, belts, and berets? Even global brands now find value in including in their menus vegan choices. Even Shawarma the Mid-Eastern meat sandwich is popularized in its vegan form. And the middle eastern spices have just helped to put the trendiest mishmash of vegan flavors on the table.
The vegan culture of Israel doesn’t stop with topping culinary trends. It has given a platform for technological innovation. Several Israeli start-ups are now competing with international brands to produce affordable, high-quality products – like the first cell-grown minute steak. The Israeli start-up mentality is producing vegan novelties – cruelty-free fashion, cosmetics, and even the world’s first vegan cryptocurrency.
The beachy scenes
The Tel Aviv coast is a string of separate beaches. From Manta Ray’s Alma Beach pedal north to the Hilton beach in the south, the gay beach and the rainbow cabanas easily give a tip-off. With 300 days of sun a year, and temperatures always moderate, there is never a time to not hit the beach in Tel Aviv.
The artsy talks
From the splashy street art to the enchanting urban garden of art galleries, the art scene has raved up in Tel Aviv to the level of both mesmerizing and inspiring. And the best spot to acquaint one with the transforming art scenes of Tel Aviv is the ancient alleys of Jaffa. The narrow alleys are a perfect art gallery crawl. Pencil in enough time to acquaint yourself with the works of the contemporary artwork specialist Artnova on Kaufmann Street, Har-El on Elisabeth Bergner Street for gallery prints and Frank Meisler Gallery, and many contemporary artists, sculptors, and designers. These galleries serve as meeting points for local and international communities, creating multicultural dialogues and interactions between communities. Beit Kandinof is one of several Jaffa art spaces to support local, emerging artists. Other artistic hubs include Cuckoo’s Nest and Alamacén. Then there is Jaffa Art Salon, in a spacious hanger by the port on Jerusalem Boulevard, for more art. The place was founded by well-established Israeli and Palestinian artists and inspires many emerging artists.
The ultimate LGBTQ+ travel destination
Tel Aviv is known internationally as one of the most gay-friendly cities in the world. While many social commentators project this as ‘pinkwashing’ to take attention away from the West Bank politics, the liberal, progressive, and welcoming Tel Avivians takes this as a badge of honor. Tel Aviv hosts a breath-taking pride parade every year which culminates on the beach for an unforgettable beach party into the sunset. And for years, the city has been a trailblazer in intolerance and taking progressive steps on LGBTQ+ rights.
But this young, pulsating with energy city has a complicated side too. And when you are here, you can’t turn a blind eye to the ongoing conflict in the Palestinian territories. Israel is not just a jaunty vacation, it’s an eye-opener to many less-thought of subjects. The conflict always stays with you, and yet the city, with its openness, liberal values, artsy ways, the culture of creativity, and hospitality, doesn’t give you a whiff of any conflict. But as you venture out in this city, do talk to locals about the deeply complicated issues between Israel and Palestine, for that will make you look at them as humans separate from the Israeli state, its diplomacy, and politics. Your understanding of the country will be proper then.