by Ross Belfer
Tel Aviv is inarguably one of the world’s most paradoxical cities: an often stigmatized society haphazardly positioned within a volatile region of the world. But beyond the headlines lies a dynamic, pluralistic population bursting with an insatiable appetite for all things creative. As Tel Aviv exits what is hopefully the end of nearly two months of conflict, its residents—and travelers to the city—can find a sense of escapism and inspiring discovery through visits to exciting new locales that have sprouted throughout the compact, vibrant neighborhoods over the past year. Whether a palate for boutique beer and innovative homegrown art exhibitions, or simply searching for an Ottoman-influenced hangout spot and guesthouse to meet like-minded travelers, below are just a few reasons Tel Aviv is a wonderful place to visit.
Located in the heart of Tel Aviv’s bustling Carmel Market amidst the rag-tag fruit, vegetable and just-about-everything-else stalls, Beer Bazaar was founded just one year ago by longtime friends Lior Weiss and Yuval Reznikovich with the hopes of introducing innovative, Israeli micro-brewed beer to a new audience. The passionate beer purveyors unveiled their bright green, 10-seat outdoor bar to the delight of locals and travelers alike, offering more than 80 varieties of flavorful, micro-brewed beer produced across Israel, including the Golan, Jerusalem, Negev Desert and in Tel Aviv. The pair says, “All of our beers are distinct and special in their own right, so it’s hard to pick just one as our all-time favorite. 99% of the beers we sell are only available in Israel as of yet, a worthwhile endeavor to make the trip to Tel Aviv for a taste into the creative minds of Israeli boutique beer brewers.” To combat the unforgiving Tel Aviv summer, we recommend the Baby Blue Ale and Esh, a chili-infused pilsner by Mishvelet Ha’am—aka The People’s Brewery.
Levinsky Market is Tel Aviv’s epicenter for Persian spice shops, Turkish delis and generations-old restaurants serving authentic dishes you can’t find anywhere else in the city. Never before has the Levinsky Market been a relevant option for high-end dining until the opening of Hahalutyizm 3. Pronounced Ha-hal-ootz-eem, the name is the Hebrew word for “Pioneers” and a perfect description for this innovative, “Israeli rustic-style” restaurant—the first of its kind in the gritty, southern Tel Aviv neighborhood. Young chef Eytan Vanunu cooks up an eclectic arsenal of thoughtful dishes in his intimate and understated restaurant, including the paradoxical honey pork-stuffed challah (yes, pork is indeed served in Israel); polenta with lamb and red wine reduction; and lentil salad with yogurt chive dressing, as well as house-cured sardines and octopus bruschetta.
Buzzing past the mettlesome streets of southern Tel Aviv lies the recently opened Kuli Alma, a vibing, indoor/outdoor nightclub and proclaimed "music institution" where night owls and music buffs alike spend the evening dancing to hip-hop, house and world-music tunes spun by local DJs. Kuli Alma is the brainchild of a crew of progressive Tel Avivian bar owners and DJs, including Yarin Lidor, an accomplished homegrown music producer who recently performed during the first-ever Boiler Room Tel Aviv, and attracts a wide-spanning clientele ranging from local (and international) musicians, artists and designers, as well as insatiable nightlife-focused travelers. Check out the Kuli Alma official website and Kuli Alma SoundCloud page to hear live sets recorded by the diverse collection of local DJs manning the decks on any given night.
Upon entering Tel Aviv’s Williamsburg-esque Noga district, follow the robust scent of roasted coffee beans into CafeLix, inarguably the most buzzed-about coffee shop in Tel Aviv. CafeLix is owned by Philip and Yael Shaeffer—a java-obsessed, Israeli-German couple—who import select beans from across Central and South America and Africa, roasting them on site to create a heavenly aromatic aura of caffeinated goodness. Loyal patrons of Cafelix are honored with their own personal coffee glass, sitting idly atop a massive display cupboard and waiting patiently until the next dire need for a refill strikes one’s fancy.
Strolling through the heart of Jaffa on the cusp of the historic Ajami neighborhood lies Yafo Creative, a boutique guesthouse and creative space located within a meticulously restored Ottoman architecture-style building. Yafo Creative is the brainchild of Amnon Ron, a Jerusalem-born visual artist and filmmaker who launched the space in 2013 to fill the niche void of affordable, hyper-local hospitality options in Tel Aviv-Jaffa. Guests of Yafo Creative are afforded access to the various pop-up events hosted in the space, from monthly Friday night chef dinners to intimate, live music performances and art exhibitions featuring a diverse array of local creative talent.
A place where travelers can revel in the works of Tel Aviv’s emerging artistic talent, Dvir Gallery is one of the city’s most reputable art galleries, which in November 2013 inaugurated a new space that would combine its three separate locations into a building of five floors. This allows the dynamic gallery to host multiple shows simultaneously, as well as other cultural activities open to the public. Dvir Gallery features a rotating collection of exhibitions, showcasing works by Israeli artists in its newly opened location in the graffiti-ridden Shoken Street neighborhood in south Tel Aviv. Most recently a series of highly detailed, spatial architecture-inspired drawings by artist Nelly Agassi was on show.
HaStudia embodies the DIY ethos to a tee. Located in the design-centric Noga complex on the cusp of Tel Aviv and Jaffa, HaStudia offers respite for those creatives who want to get their hands dirty with craft, art, jewelry and design workshops away from the confines of an apartment. Visitors to HaStudia can also partake in expert-guided classes led by local artists, designers and DIY specialists—from shelf-making and glass-cutting to textile design and beer brewing—or they can sign up for a monthly membership offering access to a private workspace and access to any power tool imaginable.
Word of Mouth presents a destination the way we experienced it. Following both trusted tips and our own whims we explore with the goal of finding what's unique to that place. For deeper looks at some of our favorite metropolises, check out our CH City Guides.
Images courtesy of Ross Belfer and respective venues