Tel Aviv’s diverse historical neighborhoods offer an abundance of surprises for the eyes, the palate, and the mind.
Founded on sand dunes in 1909, Tel Aviv has reinvented itself for the 21st century as the epicenter of Israel’s dynamic high-tech industry. Sleepy city-center districts, once known primarily for their aging Bauhaus (International Style) buildings – which earned the city coveted UNESCO World Heritage status – have been transformed into hotspots for drinking, dining, strolling, and astronomical real estate prices. We focus on four parts of Tel Aviv that personify the city’s unique energy and creativity.
A radical architectural style known as Bauhaus was brought to Tel Aviv in the 1930s by German-Jewish architects fleeing the Nazis. Characterized by clean horizontal lines, balanced asymmetry, rounded balconies, vertical ‘thermometer’ windows in the stairwells, and an almost total lack of ornamentation, Tel Aviv’s Bauhaus buildings – some 4,000 of them – constitute the most extensive ensemble of such modernist structures in the world. Many of the finest are along Rothschild Boulevard and its cross-streets, making the area ideal for aimless wandering. Or stop for a delicious bite at one of the upmarket restaurants, chic cafes, and food kiosks that line this tree-lined thoroughfare, one of Tel Aviv’s most prestigious addresses.
Where to see Bauhaus buildings
The best way to get a feel for the streamlined, curvaceous Bauhaus aesthetic is to stroll along Rothschild Boulevard southward from Habima Square, taking time to explore side streets such as Ahad Ha’am, Balfour, Mazeh, and Nachmani. For background, stop by the Bauhaus Center (77 Dizengoff Street).
Tel Aviv Port
The single 1930s crane at the Tel Aviv Port hasn’t unloaded cargo since the 1960s, but the area – saved from real estate development two decades ago – is now a vibrant nightlife precinct. Its restaurants line the basin where small merchant ships once moored, nightclubs and stores stay open on Saturday (the Jewish day of rest), and there’s a food market that occupies repurposed warehouses. A 3.5-acre Tabebuia wooden deck runs along the seawall – great for kids to run around and play on, as are the playgrounds, including a mini-zipline, up by the Yarkon River.
Where to stroll
From the fine sand of Metzitzim Beach, protected by a wave break that lets you stroll among the swells, walk north via the docking basin and the deck all the way to the Yarkon River Estuary. From there, paths head southeast along both banks of the river to grassy Park HaYarkon, Tel Aviv’s version of New York’s Central Park.
Ibn Gabriol Street
Long considered one of Tel Aviv’s ugliest thoroughfares, Ibn Gabirol Street has reinvented itself as a long food court. Between the city’s highly regarded Cinematheque and, 1.7 miles to the north, the Yarkon River and Park HaYarkon, scores of open-front eateries, trendy cafes, and sit-down restaurants sell everything from Israeli street-food classics such as falafel and shwarma, wood-fired pizza, and gourmet hamburgers, to scrumptious breads and pastries. For a sweetener, have a glass of freshly squeezed juice or savor the gelato, available in an array of dazzling flavors, at half a dozen ice-cream shops. At about the midpoint stands vast Rabin Square, the public plaza where Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated at a peace rally in 1995. The thoroughfare is great for a stroll even when it’s hot or rainy, thanks to the arcades sheltering both sidewalks.
Where to eat
For a gourmet twist on old Israeli favorites, drop by Miznon Eyal Shani (23 Ibn Gabirol Street). Just north of Rabin Square, the chic Gan Ha’Ir shopping mall hosts food stalls on Tuesday and Friday (10am to 3pm).
Founded in 1871 by devout German Pietists known as Templers (not to be confused with the Knights Templar, whose architecture can be visited in the northern Israeli city of Acre), the European-style complex of Sarona is truly an oasis within the city. Explore the beautifully landscaped complex with 33 restored Templer structures that play host to cafes, shops, and festivals. The area is a must see for those who want to indulge themselves in the heart of the culinary arts scene at the Sarona Market, the largest enclosed market featuring over 90 shops and eateries for every palate and is a hugely popular destination for family outings.