Insider’s guide to: Tel Aviv

Eddie Millett 30 January 2014

Tel Aviv, or TLV, is a city unlike any other, something of a mix of Berlin, Beirut and Barcelona. Where else in the world, after all, can you wander through streets of original Bauhaus architecture, push through a market of yelling Yemeni vendors, and emerge onto beautiful Mediterranean beaches, falafel pitta still intact? With incredible nightlife, culture and people, as well as a buzzing gay scene, this city really is the Middle East’s greatest anomaly.

What to see?

The beach is a priority, especially on the weekend (Friday and Saturday, not Sunday) when Tel Avivim flock, tanned and toned, to play relentless matkot (paddleball) and smoke shisha.

Visit next-door Jaffa (Yafo), the ancient Arab fishing-port that has existed since Biblical times, for fresh fish, the world's best hummus (see below), and two beautiful mosques. The view back up the coast to Tel Aviv creates a powerful juxtaposition of ancient and modern that speaks volumes about the whole of Israel.

Check out Carmel Market for incredible fresh fruit juice, roasted vegetables, olive oil, spices, and an otherworldly Middle Eastern bazaar feel. The nearby Yemenite Quarter is a living, breathing piece of history, one of the few truly old TLV quarters that has not been gutted and replaced with newer buildings.

Wandering through the streets of Neve Tzedek is an arresting sight – this quarter of the city holds the world’s greatest concentration of German Bauhaus architecture, much of which has been restored. At ground level, graffiti and street art is everywhere, an amusing, affecting reminder of the politics that seems not to concern the TLV bubble.

What to eat?

If you eat one thing in Israel, make it Abu Hasan's hummus. He makes it fresh every morning and sells it from his trailer in Jaffa until it's all gone, so get there early for a pre-lunch snack! Hummus causes nearly as much disagreement as religion here, but few would disagree that Hasan’s is one of the best.

Visit Dizengoff Street for a bewildering array of individually-owned restaurants. Bread Story is among the best for breakfast and burgers, while the little cafés of Neve Tzedek are excellent for shakshuka, a traditional Israeli breakfast of spicy tomato and eggs. And if you feel like a proper English fry-up, or Eggs Benedict, at any given moment of the day, head to Benedict’s on Ben Yehuda Street for 24/7 deliciousness.

Heading out? Go to:

Clara’s, on the beach, is a popular, well-established open air club, that’s pumping most nights. Israeli club nights get going late and go even later…

Ask around to try and find Teder, the pop-up radio bar that operates in the summer at secret locations around the city – the local hipsters and their dogs will be here en masse, drinking Palestinian Taybeh beer.

Where to recuperate?

Hostels vary in quality and price, but Hayarkon 48 is the best of the lot. Close to the beach, with a great communal feel and brilliant roof bar; exactly what you need if it all gets too much.