Tourist Tip #199 / The Underbelly of Tel Aviv: Neve Sha'anan Street

You won't find it on a mainstream itinerary but those interested in a real look at Tel Aviv's invisible residents will find a vibrant experience waiting.

Just because Israelis tend to avoid Tel Aviv's vibrant Neve Sha'anan Street doesn't mean you should. For a hard look at the side of Tel Aviv not featured on the postcards or "must see" lists, it pays to visit this dynamic pedestrian passage.

Neve Sha’anan Street spans about 500 meters, connecting the bustling New Central Bus Station (one of Tel Aviv's main transportation hubs) from the now-abandoned Old Central Bus Station where Tel Aviv hides its darker side and where prostitutes, heroin addicts and other sad stories haunt the streets.

It is closed to motorized traffic but Neve Sha’anan Street still buzzes with noise and excitement for the adventurous traveler or anyone passing through on the way to a bus.

One of the first things you'll notice is that there are hardly any Israelis here. Most of the people walking down the street, hanging out on the benches or visiting the shops, bars and restaurants are African asylum seekers and Southeast Asian migrant workers.

Because the street has turned into the hub of so many nationalities, it also has become a destination for authentic ethnic cuisine from around the world. Forget your watered-down Western Chinese restaurant, this stuff is the real deal.

On the weekends, and to a lesser degree during the week, the street is lined with mats and blankets displaying a myriad of products for sale in a third-world style open air market: used cloths, small electrical appliances, pornography on VHS, toys, and other forms of, well, junk.

There are a number of grocery stores selling exotic Far East food and ingredients as well as your average groceries sold for much less than in the center of Tel Aviv.

Internet cafes are a frequent sight here; inside you can find people talking or Skyping with relatives around the world in a variety of languages.

For the particularly daring spirits, veer off Neve Sha’anan Street into the surrounding neighborhood to really explore Tel Aviv’s dirty underbelly. It's recommended that you plan your visit during the day. If you insist visiting at night, take a buddy.

Hadar Cohen