Tel Aviv has long held a serious contradiction in its reputation as a global hub for party goers and a nightlife Mecca - it didn’t really have a great bar scene. However, in recent years, with new cocktail bars popping up throughout the city and happy hours becoming a must at every spot, that contradiction has finally changed.
Drinks at bars in Tel Aviv are expensive - on par with New York City or London - and Israelis aren’t big drinkers themselves, but the bar culture is still thriving. And, while you won’t find many bars that serve American staples like martinis, manhattans or a broad selection of beer, Tel Aviv is a great place to sample unique cocktails you won’t find anywhere else.
Another plus is the fact that Tel Aviv is so geographically small, which makes bar-hopping really easy: You can just pick an area of the city and readily have three or four quality places to choose from - all within short walking distance from one another.
The bar and nightclub scenes in Tel Aviv are, for the most part, separate, as the latter generally open after midnight - although there are a few hybrids scattered around the city. If you are looking for a place with decent drinks while at a club, these are really your only options, as the bar in most Tel Aviv nightclubs will be below basic and offensively overpriced.
One of the best areas to start to with in Tel Aviv is the intersection of Rothschild Boulevard and Herzl Street, which also acts as the gateway to three different parts of the city: Florentine, Neve Tzedek and Rothschild. Near the intersection itself you have three great bars:
Cafe Europa is a two-story upscale cocktail bar and restaurant, with the second floor housing another bar and a balcony overlooking the diners. While it’s small, and it can be hard to get a seat, the cocktail menu is great and always changing. A great place to people watch and get a feel for what Tel Aviv is all about. Rothschild Boulevard 9b (map)
Bar a Vin is another very trendy spot right around the corner, with an extensive wine list and Parisienne vibe to match the French Institute which occupies the floors above it. It’s one of Tel Aviv’s more laid back bars, with a big outdoor seating space and you don’t have to yell over the music. They serve small French dishes, and even just an order of french fries to go with the wine is fantastic. Heading west from Bar a Vin toward the sea will lead you to Neve Tzedek’s main drag, Shabazi Street, which is full of shopping, art galleries, restaurants and ice cream shops. Rothschild Boulevard 7 (map)
Herzl 16 is also just around the corner and a bit further down the street. You will definitely have to yell to speak with friends if you are seated inside by the stage, but in its spacious front courtyard or outdoor backspace, the bar has a very casual vibe. Herzl 16 is the rehash of Rothschild 12, one of the city’s most popular nighttime spots back in its heyday. It’s also one of the few establishments in the city where you can count everything on offer to be great and the people to be a just little too cool. It serves Japanese-themed food, but the obligatory hamburger is still on the menu. Herzl St. 16 (map)
If you walk about five minutes south from the intersection you get into Tel Aviv’s grungier, hipster neighborhood of Florentine. It has many great bars and restaurants, but by far its most famous and esteemed is Teder.FM, which has pizza and beer on the first floor and an Eyal Shani restaurant called Salon Romano upstairs. It’s set in a two-story former office space with a large plaza at its heart, which is often populated with picnic tables and folding chairs accompanied by live music or a DJ. Derech Jaffa 9 (map)
If you go east on Rothschild Boulevard toward the center of Tel Aviv you pass many other great bars including, Abraxas North, Radio EPGB and the Sputnik.
Abraxas North is attached to the Eyal Shani restaurant of the same name, and is one of Tel Aviv’s swankier joints, with an extensive menu and cocktail list. The crowd tends to be a bit older and more sophisticated, but it’s a place where everyone really lets their hair down. Lilienblum St. 40 (map)
Radio EPGB is a centerpiece of the city’s nightlife. It’s crowded and loud and kind of doubles as a nightclub, with great DJs, but no real dance floor. It’s in the basement of an old office building and only really starts to get going around 1 A.M. Shadal St. 7 (map)
Just a few blocks away is the Sputnik, one of Tel Aviv’s most popular hangs, with its broad outdoor patio, several bars in different rooms and a dance floor. The drinks are regular fare, but the food is good and it’s a great place to mingle with the locals. Allenby St. 122 (map)
Three other bar/nightclubs near Rothschild are the Jimmy Who, Kuli Alma and the Buxa - each with its own unique vibe, but similar in the eclectic crowd they attract. The Kuli Alma has long been considered one of Tel Aviv’s best bars and it’s easy to get a real sense of the city inside it’s cavernous, two-storied space. Mikveh Israel St. 10 (map)
The other end of Rothschild
Rothschild Boulevard’s other end is at the Habima Theater, which has several bars in front of it, all of which open to the street and have more of a neighbourhood feel to them. On the corner of Rothschild, there is a small outdoor patio called Beer Bazaar, which serves microbrews from Israel and food from the Milgo & Milbar - the high-end restaurant it shares a wall and facilities with. Sitting outside in the late afternoon or all night long at Beer Bazaar, watching the comings and goings of this end of Rothschild is a true insight into who actually lives in Tel Aviv - as on the other end you mostly see tourists and party goers. Beer Bazaar also has branches in Shuk HaCarmel and Levinsky Market. Rothschild Boulevard 142 (map)
Just a few buildings east of there is Gazzetta, an Italian wine bar that spreads out to the sidewalk, with both great food and wine for reasonable prices. A popular spot for locals on dates, it’s an intimate place, but always full with a vibrant crowd. Marmorek St. 12 (map)
A few blocks from Habima Theater is the Bellboy, tucked behind the entrance of a hotel, with no windows and a real speakeasy vibe. The waiting staff hustles and bustles and makes an effort to find the right cocktail for you. The menu is eclectic and eccentric - one drink is called “A lesson in fisting” - and everything is infused with unique flavors. It’s a great place to start the outing, but with its prices and esoteric tang, not somewhere you stay all night. The Bellboy also has a fantastic cocktail-focused brunch. Berdyczewski St. 14 (map)
A brisk walk towards the beach will get you to the The Imperial Hotel in about 15 minutes. The Imperial Craft Cocktail Bar has long been dubbed the best in the Middle East, and with a New Orleans feel and serious attitude about quality cocktails and bar food, it's definitely one of the musts for any visitor looking for the absolute best the city has to offer. Hayarkon St. 66 (map)
There are small restaurants with bars on almost every beach in Tel Aviv whose food you should generally avoid, but to sit at sundown and have beer in the sand is a Tel Aviv experience everyone should have at least once. Be prepared to pay about five bucks more for a beer on the beach than you would elsewhere.
The bar/restaurant Hilton Bay on the Hilton Beach, abreast of Tel Aviv’s famed gay beach, is a scene in and of itself during the day and early evening in the summer. With loud music and beach goers eating and sunning next to a big bar, it’s really the only “hotspot” to check out on the beach. Hilton Beach (map)
The go-to bar in north Tel Aviv is the Double Standard. It’s a classic cocktail bar with gimmicky drinks, but the atmosphere is fun and sophisticated. It has a sister bar on Dizengoff called Spicehaus, which is aimed towards Tel Aviv’s yuppie population, but has great drinks. Dizengoff St. 247 (map)
Fantastic TLV and Hotel De Ville are two relatively new bars in the north of the city, each with expensive but delicious cocktails. These two bars are owned by the same people as the Bellboy and the 223 - another great bar on the northern end of dizengoff. Each of these spots is a night out in its own right and they too are geared to Tel Aviv’s emerging tech worker class, with lofty price tags and a flare for sensationalism, but they’re very well done and leave you feeling like you had a unique experience.