Activities in Tel Aviv

Activities in Tel Aviv

Although less than a century old, Tel Aviv is imbued with the great cultural heritage of the diverse communities that built it. In particular, it attracted refugees from the most highly cultured Jewish communities of central Europe. As a result, Tel Aviv is renowned for the high standard of its classical music.

The city offers world-class opera and classical concerts several times a week. These are generally staged by the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, the New Israeli Opera and the Israel Chamber Orchestra. For ballet and modern dance, the Habima Theater, the Suzanne Dellal Center
for Dance and Theater and the Tel Aviv Performing Arts Center are all important venues. Simultaneous translations into English is the norm in Tel Aviv.

Tickets for most major cultural events and performances can be purchased through Castel-Global Tickets, 153 Ibn Givrol Street . Tickets for shows at the Tel Aviv Performing Arts Center can be purchased by telephone or in person at the box office, 19 Shaul Hamelech Boulevard, Sunday-Thursday 0930-2030, Friday 0930-1300.

The official Tel Aviv website has a full guide to current and upcoming cultural events in the city.

Music: The city has long been and remains home of many of the world’s leading classical conductors and soloists, including Zubin Mehta and Itzhak Perlman, as well as Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990) and Isaac Stern (1920-2001), and attracts many guest musicians and conductors of the standing of Lorin Maazel, music director of the New York Philharmonic, and Pinchas Zukerman (a native of the city), Music Director of the National Arts Center Orchestra of Canada.

The Israel Philharmonic Orchestra (website: was founded in Tel Aviv by Jewish settlers as the Palestine Orchestra in 1936 in the midst of anti-Jewish violence. Many leading European musicians dismissed from their jobs due to the rise of Nazism fled to Israel and found positions with the Philharmonic. The Indian conductor Zubin Mehta took over in 1969. The orchestra, now considered one of the world’s best, gives more than 150 performances each year and is today housed at the main music hall, Frederic Mann Auditorium, 1 Huberman Street.

The Tel Aviv Symphony Orchestra is located at the city’s Ohel Shem Auditorium, Balfour Street . The orchestra plays an active role in the cultural life of the country and of Tel Aviv, participating in various annual events including Vocalisa (a choral festival held at different venues around Israel at Shavuot) and Jaffa Nights. With only 800 seats it is best to book in advance.

The Israel Chamber Orchestra is based at the Tel Aviv Museum, 27 Shaul Hamelekh Boulevard . For opera, the New Israeli Opera is housed in the new Opera House – Tel Aviv Performing Arts Center, 28 Leonardo Da Vinci Street . Each season the company stages seven productions, often with internationally reputed foreign directors, conductors and singers.
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Special Events Tel Aviv

Special Events Tel Aviv

All Jewish religious festivals and holidays – like Shabbat – are 24 hours long, starting the previous evening at nightfall and ending at nightfall. Jewish religious festivals fall on a different date every year, specific dates have been given for 2003. Other dates for annual festivals are general rather than specific for 2003.

Tu b’Shvat (‘New Year of Trees’), an annual celebration of nature, 18 Jan 2003, throughout the city
Purim (a day of parades, fancy dress and partying; the story of Esther is read in synagogues), 18 Mar 2003, throughout the city
Pesach (Passover), nothing with yeast or which is ‘leavened’ is allowed all week – that includes bread and beer, first and last days are public holidays, 17-23 Apr 2003 (starts with ‘Seder Night’ festive meal on evening of 16 Apr), throughout the city
Yom HaShoah, memorial day for victims of the Holocaust, 29 Apr 2003, throughout the city
Yom Hazikaron, memorial day for all who died defending the State of Israel, 6 May 2003, throughout the city
Israel Independence Day, celebrations of the declaration of the State of Israel in 1948, 7 May 2003, throughout the city
International Opera Festival, around 25 May-1 Jun, Caesarea
Tel Aviv Pride, Israel’s biggest, loudest, most ostentatious gay celebration, Jun, throughout the city
Yom Yerushalayim (Jerusalem Day), celebrations of the reunification of Jerusalem and the return to Jewish rule in 1967, 30 May 2003, also celebrated throughout Tel Aviv
Shavuot (Pentecost), festival of first fruits and of the giving of the Torah to the Jews, 6-7 Jun every year, throughout the city
Tisha b’Av (Nineth of the Hebrew month Av), a religious fast day commemorating the destruction of the Temple, 13 Aug 2003, throughout the city
Jaffa Nights, annual four-day street festival of music, theatre, dance and art exhibitions, mid-Aug, Old Jaffa
Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year), 27-28 Sep 2003, throughout the city
Yom Kippur (The Day of Atonement), religious fast day, 6 Oct 2003, throughout the city
Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles), 11-17 Oct 2003, throughout the city
Wine Festival, Oct, Rishon Le-Zion, south of Tel Aviv
Rabin Memorial Rally, 3 Nov, Rabin Square
Tel Aviv Jaffa Festival, 10-24 Nov, Jaffa
Chanukah (Festival of Lights), 20-27 Dec 2003, throughout the city
Christmas Eve, 24 Dec, at Christian locations throughout the city
Christmas Day, 25 Dec, at Christian locations throughout the city

Nightlife in Tel Aviv

Nightlife in Tel Aviv

As the Israeli saying goes, ‘Jerusalem prays and Tel Aviv plays’. Tel Aviv is undoubtedly the social hub of Israel and its range of entertainment from highbrow to hip cannot be matched anywhere else. Israelis of all ages and tastes take their weekend fun and socialising very seriously. Young people especially like to party with all their energy, especially those under 21 who are consigned to the army during the rest of the week (Israeli men and women continue to serve a mandatory three-year period of service until they reach their 21st birthday).

There is little evidence in Tel Aviv of Shabbat as a time of quiet rest and prayer: in fact, nightlife is at its most vibrant after Shabbat starts on Friday night (the working week runs from Sunday to mid-afternoon Friday), while Thursday is another big night out. Strangely enough, though, drunkenness is rare – most Israeli kids think it’s uncool to drink. There is no bar-hopping or pub-crawling and while there is plenty of exuberance and noise, violent behaviour is almost unheard of in Tel Aviv.

Clubs and pubs come and go fast, with famous names disappearing overnight. Allenby Street is the central spot for bars and clubs, with more than 20 clubs within one small area, offering house, funk, disco and techno. A number of venues are gay. The scene here looks like Amsterdam, with a very international crowd keeping very late hours, sometimes aided by various stimulants.

As in most cosmopolitan cities, the dress code varies from one club to another, however, in Tel Aviv casual wear is pretty much acceptable in most places. The chic and stylish ones, though, employ a ‘selectorit’ – a daunting doorwoman who decides if she thinks you’re cool enough to come in. For a more sophisticated or older crowd, plenty of other venues offer cabaret, as well as rock, jazz and folk music.

Most bars are usually open and licensed until 0300/0400, while clubs will keep their doors open until 0600/0700, charging anything from NIS50 to NIS80 cover charge. As a rule of thumb, most clubs in the city will not start warming up until after 0200 and not peak until 0400. The legal drinking age in Israel is 18 years and the average price for a drink is between NIS15 and NIS30.

Bars: Camelot, 16 Shalom Aleikhem Street, is stylish (dress up for this one) and famous for great live jazz and rock from Israeli bands. M.A.S.H., Dizengoff Street, is a favourite English hangout for a drink and burger, while sports-TV bar Wrigley, 114 Hayarkon Street, is popular with Americans. Allenby Street is hugely popular for nightlife.

Joey’s Brothers Bar, at number 16, is an English pub complete with English beers – and English customers. For something more authentically Israeli, brace yourself for the decibels at My Coffee Shop – Bar 39, 39 Allenby Street, a hectic, fashionable all-day and all-night music bar. Sheinkin Street also hosts a selection of ultra-stylish cafe-bars – in recent years, this area has also become a fashionable shopping haunt for ultra-hip Israelis.

Casinos: Gambling is not permitted anywhere in Israel.

Clubs: The club scene will change from week to week and month to month – check local listings to find out what’s really hot. The section of Allenby Street close to Carmel market remains the heart of Tel Aviv’s clubland (though you’d never know it until about 2am). Allenby 58, 58 Allenby Street, Tel Aviv’s most famous nightclub, switches between its original venue at 58 Allenby Street and its summer venue, at Octopus in the Old Tel Aviv Port. Nearby, The Scene, at 56 Allenby Street, on Mondays is the number one spot for young gay Israelis and their friends, playing uplifting house in intimate surroundings.

Fetish, 15 Rambam Street off Nachalat Binyamin, draws the crowds for deep house, jazz and funk (especially Saturday and Wednesday). The Dolphinarium, HaYarkon Street, now repaired after bomb damage, hosts FFF on Friday night, right beside the sea. Dinamo Dvash, 59 Abarbanel Street , is a small very underground club in the heart of the trendy Florentin section of Tel Aviv.

It is considered the place to go for cutting-edge electronic music, with international guest DJs. Wednesday, Thursday and Friday night are crowded for techno, funk, groove and trance. The venue only holds 450 people, so it is best to arrive early. Lemon, also in the Florentin district at 17 Hanagarim Street, is an intimate space in vibrant surroundings, with an open terrace. It has gay nights (usually Mondays), as well as ‘over-28′ nights (usually Thursdays). Go further south into Jaffa for Moadon Hateatron, 10 Jerusalem Boulevard, popular with the younger end, this is a vast dance space and bar, sometimes hosting live bands.

Live music: Large-scale open-air rock and pop concerts by international stars are often staged at Yehoshua Gardens, Rokach Boulevard, close to the University. Logos, Nahalat Binyamin, features Israeli rock and blues performances every night from 2300.

Sightseeing in Tel Aviv

Sightseeing in Tel Aviv

The Tel Aviv-Jaffa city area is a long, narrow strip along the seashore. Jaffa (locally called, and written, Yafo) is located south of the modern city, while Ramat Aviv, home of Tel Aviv University and the extensive Eretz Israel Museum, is located on the outskirts of north Tel Aviv on the other side of the river Yarkon.

Along the prized city-centre coastline are many upscale hotels, notably the Dan, Continental and Sheraton, with the Hilton a little further north, and prestigious residential and commercial centres, such as Opera Tower. To the east and south of the city are the residential suburbs of Ramat Gan, Giv’atayim, Holon and Bat Yam.

All the various quarters of central Tel Aviv have their own unique attractions and – to get a flavour of this enigmatic city – visitors should spend time wandering the streets. One good way to explore Tel Aviv is to follow its ‘orange routes’, four marked itineraries that can be walked (or in one case driven) with the aid of information plaques and a leaflet for each route (see Walking Tours in Tours of the City).

North Tel Aviv is generally more prosperous, while Allenby Street, which runs south from the city centre and beach, can be very seedy in places. In the adjacent central neighbourhood known as Little Tel Aviv, there are excellent examples of the city’s remarkable Bauhaus architecture – Tel Aviv has the world’s finest surviving collection of this distinctive 1920s/1930s style, totalling over 3500 buildings.

The Florentin Quarter is lively and attractive, with a selection of some of the best local cuisine in the city. Restaurants located in this district are mainly run by the early settlers, who set up small family businesses – Elimelech, on Wolffson Street, has reputedly been serving the best Polish-Jewish food since 1936. Visitors should also feast their eyes on some of the bakeries, scattered throughout the area, which serve delicious borekas (savoury-filled pastries) and other traditional snacks.

The narrow streets lined with crumbling buildings’ ‘in the Yemenite Quarter, home to Jewish refugees from Yemen, is imbued with an Oriental, almost an Arabic style at odds with the modernism of the rest of the city. The large and busy Carmel Market – the city’s main open-air food market – runs alongside the Yemenite Quarter. Neve Zedek was the first Jewish neighbourhood outside Jaffa – established in 1867 – and it is currently under restoration. Over the years, it has served as a home for numerous artists and now houses various different galleries.

The Observatory in the downtown Azrieli Center offers a tremendous panoramic view of these neighbourhoods, revealing how rapid and unplanned the development of the modern city has been, as skyscrapers and suburbs stretch into the distance.

Tel Aviv’s major sights are its diverse and unusual museums, some focusing on Israel’s ancient history, some on landmarks in its 20th-century Zionist history, with very poignant records of the struggles of Jewish refugees, the conflict with the British and with the Arabs, and the first steps of the new state. Among the most impressive is the Museum of the Jewish Diaspora, while in the old town of Jaffa, there are remnants of the history of the world’s oldest port, as well as another important museum.

However, perhaps the best of Tel Aviv, though, is the more frivolous side, especially its superb beach and promenade. And Jaffa remains the Tel Avivians’ perennial favourite, with a host of galleries, craftshops and cafes set against the landmarks of the Mamoudiyeh Mosque and St Peter’s Monastery. Whether by car or by foot, strolling along the coastal walkway, all routes into Old Jaffa are busy as the evening begins. Climbing from the Ottoman Clock Tower to Kedumim Square, visitors can view the breathtaking coastline of Tel Aviv as the metropolis prepares for another vibrant night.

When sightseeing or just exploring, visitors should be aware of the intense campaign of terrorism being waged against Israel. Popular crowded venues – busy street markets, family restaurants and cafes, crowded buses, student canteens, teenage discos – have especially been targeted by suicide bombers. Security guards have now been posted at the doorways or entrances to most such locations and it is advisable to be wary of venues that have not put any security measures in place. To date, tourist sights have not been struck by the bombers, and Arab areas are unlikely to be hit.

Key Attractions of Tel Aviv

Key Attractions of Tel Aviv

Eretz Israel Museum
The name of this important museum on the northern edge of the city means ‘Land of Israel’ and it aims to trace 3000 years of material culture through the artefacts found on this very site, as well as examples brought in from other Israeli locations. Constructed around the extensive archaeological site of Tel Kasile, the museum resembles a park and is housed in a dozen separate pavilions, each of which could be viewed as a museum in its own right dealing with a separate aspect of Israel’s material culture and ethnography.

The Glass Pavilion traces the history of glass making from the earliest examples through to the Middle Ages. The Kadman Numismatic Pavilion, tracing the history of various currencies, has an extensive display of coins, while the Ceramics Pavilion has an extensive collection of ancient and traditional pottery.

The Nechustan Pavilion displays exhibits sourced from the Timna copper mines, more famously known as King Solomon’s Mines. There is also a planetarium and an extensive research library open to the public. Visitors are advised to buy a site map upon arrival at the museum, to help navigate their way around the different pavilions.

2 Haim Levanon Street, Ramat Aviv
Transport: Bus 24, 27, 45, 75 or 86.
Opening hours: Sun- Thurs 0900-1500, Fri and Sat 1000-1400.
Admission: NIS20.

Tel Aviv Museum
Featuring works from around the world, the Tel Aviv Museum has been the nation’s principal showcase of modern art since the 1930s and was originally housed in the home of the city’s first mayor, Meir Dizengoff.

Today, the main part of the museum occupies a large purpose-built structure adjacent to its separate wing, The Helena Rubinstein Pavilion for Contemporary Art. Another wing was opened last year, along with a Sculpture Garden. In addition to hosting a succession of exhibitions brought from the world’s leading modern art museums, the museum maintains a distinguished permanent collection of European and American art of the 20th century, notably Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings by Paul Cezanne, Claude Monet, Salvador Dali and especially Marc Chagall. The Tel Aviv Museum also serves as a venue for a wide variety of artistic exhibitions and concerts, as well as discussions and debate on a range of cultural topics.

27 Shaul Hamelech Boulevard, city centre
Transport: Bus 9, 18, 28, 70, 90 or 11.
Opening hours: Mon and Wed 1000-1600, Tues and Thurs 1000-2200, Fri 1000-1400, Sat 1000-1600.
Admission: NIS30.

Bet Hatefutsot (Museum of the Jewish Diaspora)
Devoted to the record of Jewish history and migration, particularly since the Jews were expelled by the Romans from Israel (or Judea, as it then was) in AD70, the Museum of the Jewish Diaspora provides a unique look into the development and cultural heritage of the Jewish people up until the return to Israel.

On six floors, the museum displays the astonishing diversity of different Jewish communities, also highlighting the common cultural and religious threads that enabled the Jewish people to cling on to their ethnicity and identity for almost 2000 years. Especially enjoyable are the musical sections, in which one can listen to Jewish music from Ashkenazi and Sephardi communities and the rousing songs of Zionist pioneer days.

The museum regularly hosts special exhibits related to the migration and cultural contributions of immigrants. Recent special exhibitions have dealt with the island of Malta, Lithuanian Jewry and the cultural influences on the work of Sigmund Freud.

Tel Aviv University Campus, Klausner Street, Ramat Aviv
Transport: Bus 74, 86, 270, 274, 454, 464, 572, 575, 576 or 604.
Opening hours: Sun-Tues 1000-1600, Wed 1000-1800.
Admission: NIS33.

Independence Hall
The building that houses Independence Hall is one of Tel Aviv’s original structures, formerly the home of Meir Dizengoff, the city’s first mayor. On 14 May 1948, it served as the venue for the historic declaration that brought the State of Israel into being. The house has since become a museum recalling that momentous day and the events that led up to it.

The building also serves as a museum giving a rousing and patriotic history of Zionism. Among extraordinary displays in the museum are several fascinating historic photographs, showing such moments as the barren sand dunes north of Jaffa being awarded by lot to Jewish settlers. Others record the United Nations in session in November 1947 voting to partition Palestine and the meeting at which David Ben-Gurion announced the creation of the State of Israel.

16 Rothschild Boulevard, south Tel Aviv
Opening hours: Sun-Tues and Thu 0900-1400, Wed 0900-1700, Fri 0900-1300.
Admission: NIS12 (concessions available).

Old Jaffa
The most enjoyable way to and from Jaffa is on the waterfront walkway from Tel Aviv. Some attractive cafes are set beside the walk as it approaches Jaffa, the tables on their large outdoor terraces positioned for the best views along the coast. For those arriving by car, the entrance to the Old Town is marked by the Ottoman Clock Tower, a small landmark built in 1906 in honour of Palestine’s Turkish ruler, Sultan Abdul Hamid II. Identical towers were built elsewhere in the Ottoman Empire, including the other two most important towns in Ottoman Palestine, Akko and Hebron.

The clock tower serves as one of Jaffa’s main focal points for weekend crowds, who gather around it to socialise in the balmy air or meet up before eating at the many nearby restaurants. Around the corner from the clock tower rise the minaret and domes of Mahmoudiyeh Mosque, constructed by the Turks in 1809 and renovated three years later – with stonework taken from the Roman ruins of Ashkelon and Caesarea.

Across the street, housed in the former 17th-century Turkish Government building, is the Jaffa Museum, with a remarkable collection of artefacts illuminating Jaffa’s long history. A few paces uphill is the pretty Abrasha Park and Kedumim Square, Old Jaffa’s main plaza, dominated by St Peter’s Monastery.

Narrow steps and lanes – named after signs of the Zodiac – zigzag down from here to the historic harbour, busy with traders and mariners for thousands of years but now strangely empty except for tourists sitting at fish restaurants.

Shopping in Tel Aviv

Shopping in Tel Aviv

Tel Aviv shopping is interesting because of the extremely wide spectrum of goods on offer, ranging from old-fashioned traditional craft goods to the height of designer fashion. Popular purchases include fashions, leather goods, souvenirs, artworks and paintings, fine silverware and jewellery, Judaica and antiques, especially on Ben Yehuda, Allenby, Dizengoff and Hayarkon Streets. As there is no distinction between tourist and residential areas, shopping venues are generally aimed at locals and are therefore reasonably priced. These range from outdoor markets selling food and clothes to chic European and Israeli designer boutiques.

There is something of a struggle going on at present in Tel Aviv between shopping streets and purpose-built malls. An effort is being made to revitalise Dizengoff Street, once the epitome of Israeli style but now sadly neglected in parts. The Dizengoff Centre at Dizengoff Square and the Azrieli Center on the Shalom junction are both styled on the traditional American mall, providing indoor shopping, dining and a cinema complex.

The layout of the Dizengoff Centre – which crosses the street in overhead walkways – is confusing. Designer names – such as Gucci, Prada and Versace – are concentrated on the huge circle of Hamedina Square, while Sheinkin Street (between Allenby and Rothschild) is the ‘trendiest’ street, where many fashionable Tel Avivians buy their clothes and just hang out. For more upmarket shopping, the Diamond Exchange, 1 Jabotinsky, Ramat Gan, is one of the largest Israeli exporters of diamonds, precious stones and jewellery worldwide.

Visitors seeking a more unusual shopping experience should venture to one of Tel Aviv’s daily markets. Carmel Market (see Further Distractions) is located a few minutes’ walk from the southern part of the beach. It is an ideal place to soak up the smells and sounds of the city’s cultural diversity. Alongside it is the colourful craft market of Nahalat Binyamin. Shuk Hapishpeshim, Jaffa’s flea market, sells a fantastic assortment of second-hand items – odd shoes, electrical equipment, furniture and jewellery. Among this arbitrary collection, visitors may be lucky enough to spot some genuine antiques. Local gifts include hand-blown glass, ceramics, wood carvings and watercolour paintings.

Most shops are open Sunday-Thursday 0900-1900, although some close for a midday break between 1300 and 1600. Markets are open Sunday-Thursday 0800-1900. Both shops and markets close early on Friday afternoons (1400) for the Shabbat (the Sabbath), opening again on Sunday.

Value Added Tax (VAT), at a current rate of 17%, is quoted in the price of all goods and services. Tourists buying goods at shops listed by the Ministry of Tourism may be entitled to claim the tax back, provided the purchase cost USUSD 50 or more and payment was made in foreign currency. Shoppers must obtain a special invoice at the time of purchase. The form must be filled out and submitted at the airport and the refund is generally issued by post.

Street Shopping

Part of any cultural experience in any city is shopping. And it is not the goal of necessarily buying something, as it is just the sheer enjoyment of walking in the streets and passing by various shops, each offering you something unique. Tel-Aviv in this sense is an interesting place to be, as it unveils its multicultural unique shopping experience.

If you are a lover of bustling streets stuffed with various shops, then Alenby Street will be your first choice. Placed at the center of Tel-Aviv, Alenby is famous for its lower price clothing shops, furniture shops, bakeries with fresh baked pastries, bookstores with a great variety of second hand books in English, Hebrew and Russian, and multiple newspaper kiosks. If the New Central Bus Station is behind you, then you are headed towards Tel Aviv’s sea shore, as Alenby meets Tel-Aviv’s Promenade, where you can relax in one of the beach side cafes. Continue reading

Sister cities of Tel Aviv

Sister cities of Tel Aviv

Buenos Aires
Frankfurt am Main
New York City