Insider’s Guide to Tel Aviv: Eating, Partying, Shopping and Hot Tips From Cool Locals

Eat, drink and party like a local when in Tel Aviv for the Eurovision. We asked the coolest residents for the city's secret gems and recommendations, so you won't have to

Tel Avivians recommend the best spots in town
Avshalom Halutz

Tel Aviv is as famous for sun-washed beaches as it is for its sweat-drenched party scene. But like every city, finding the right spot for a drink or the best way to spend a Friday night is a tricky task. Haaretz tracked down 12 locals in the know to give you their personal tips on how to spend your time in the so-called “White City”, including a few on the city’s darker side, away from the beaten path.

Choose your insider: Nizar | Mor | Udi | Roy | Ella | Layla | Asaf | Yaara | Amir | Sarah & Michal | Yotam

Nizar Saba, biotechnology and food engineer by day, bartender by night

Nizar Saba
Avshalom Halutz

The Skyline parties on the roof of the Brown Hotel are really sexy and attract hot guys over 30. During Eurovision week the shows will be shown on large screens. Kalischer St. 12 (map)

A trendy place for gays is the Shpagat Bar, even though it’s not a straight up gay bar, and attracts cool people in general. Really close to the Brown Hotel, so you can combine the two. Nahalat Binyamin St. 43 (map)

I don’t hit the beach as much as I used to, but the Hilton Beach is still the gayest beach of Tel Aviv. Be prepared to be judged on how frequently you hit the gym, which is one of the reasons I actually prefer to go to other, more relaxed beaches sometimes. Hayarkon St. 205 (map)

La Bohème is the the newest gay bar. A real old-fashioned European spot, a bit sleazy, a tad campy, and lots of fun. Behind the bar lies a hidden large square teeming with restaurants and bars. HaArba’a St. 14 (map)

Mor Bell, stylist, art-director, bouncer

Mor Bell
Avshalom Halutz

Well, the Alphabet, and not just because I work there. It’s the best dance club in town, especially if you’re into techno, house and disco. It’s hip, grungy and very Tel Avivian, with rotating parties every weekend. During the week of Eurovision, it will host the best local gay parties, such as “JIZ”, “PAG”,and “KOK SHOCK”. Ahad Ha’Am St. 54 (map)

Noga is a very small, cozy neighborhood close to the beach which went from dirty to trendy within the last few years. It’s very nice to walk around the tiny streets and enter random shops, and you can find lots of Israeli designers, small boutiques and coffee shops. Try Casino San Remo, a cafe right next to the Gesher Theater, and the clothing store Vague, which offers sharp, mainly black, and graphic unisex clothes (rather pricey).

Casino San Remo: Nehama St. 2 (map)
Vague: Sgula St. 9 (map)

Apps to survive Tel Aviv

Comme-il-faut is a haven for strong, sophisticated and, well, wealthy women. The Israeli brand’s high-end clothing store at the Tel Aviv port doubles as a book shop, a sex store and a space for lectures, often on feminism and politics. They also operate a women-only day spa, and have some imported mens clothes. Nemal Tel Aviv St. 26 (map)

Hotel Montefiore’s restaurant and bar. I end up at this fine-dining restaurant and cozy bar at any time of the day. The food is excellent and the cocktails are superb. I recommend going there for a Friday brunch, sipping a margarita at noon or chilling with a glass of good wine and some oysters on their porch in the evening. Montefiore St. 36 (map)

POC café is the best place in the Florentine neighborhood to enjoy your caffeine intake. It’s super queer-friendly, and just as important, has the best blueberry muffin in town. You also get free sparkling water, a precious commodity in this town’s humid and sticky weather. Kfar Gilaadi St. 48 (map)

Udi Barkan, chef, dietician and professional foody

Udi Barkan
Avshalom Halutz

The first thing I have to recommend is this tiny and relaxed place called Dok, which only uses produce from Israel, and has super-creative, tasty and interesting food. The place is adjacent to it’s bigger sister, the Ha’achim joint. Another place by the same chef, Assaf Doctor, is Abie, a fish restaurant which is built around a large wood-fired grill. Dok: Shlomo Ibn Gabirol St. 8 (map); Abie: Lincoln St. 16 (map)

Mashya is probably the only real fine dining restaurant in the city. Yossi Shitrit is an amazing chef, not to mention a nice person. A must. Mendeli St. 5 (map)

Yair and Jonathan, the two chefs and owners of Brut, cook fresh Mediterranean seafood in front of their guests. The place, which started off as a wine bar, has one of the best wine menus in town. You should also try Mekong right next to it, which specializes in real Asian food. Brut & Mekong: Nahalat Binyamin St. 36 (map)

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Everybody knows Taizu, Yuval Ben Neria’s Asian joint, but I would also recommend his excellent Japanese restaurant, Ya Pan, located in front of the Norman hotel. Nahmani St. 26 (map)

If you are looking for a good brunch, know that in Tel Aviv you should almost always reserve a table. I really like Shishko’s “drunk brunch” for a perfect lazy Saturday. Har Sinai St. 2 (map)

Josmino has the best pita place in town. Everyone goes for the Kebab, but the brave ones should opt for the beef heart skewer. Allenby St. 99 (map)

Roy Arad, journalist, writer and former Eurovision contestant

Roy Arad
Avshalom Halutz

Visitors to Tel Aviv generally remain within the borders of what’s known as the “White City,” with occasional brief forays to Florentine or northern Jaffa. These areas are what the world, and the city itself, thinks of as Tel Aviv. But much of Tel Aviv’s population, and its special places, are found in the neighborhoods of the “Black City,” generally in the south and southeastern parts of the city.

Tel Aviv is considered a secular and liberal bubble, but the Black City, where I live, tends to vote right-wing and religious. Sometimes there’s the feeling we’re talking about two parallel cities that share only a chance connection to one another, with the discriminated Black City acquiring an unjustifiably negative image in the media.

But if you already know the White City, it’s worth taking a midweek afternoon (on Friday evenings and Shabbat everything is closed, except in Neve Shaanan), to try the dark version of Tel Aviv, which has a lot to offer. One can simply walk between the different spots or use the convenient bicycle app Mobike. Chances are you won’t encounter too many tourists.

Hanan Margilan is an excellent and inexpensive Bukharin restaurant in the Shapira neighborhood, with lots of Uzbek-style meat, but vegans will also find what to eat. Mesilat Yehsarim St. 15 (map)

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Café Shapira can be considered a community center for its namesake neighborhood, disguising as a café. Shapira has in recent years become a center for artists, poets and social activists. The café has documentary screenings, jazz nights and more. Ralbag St. 5 (map)

Dilek’s bourekas are the best in town, an impressive Turkish empire only a few steps from the Hagana train station. Aside from its flagship dish of water bourekas, don’t forget to down some ayran and have ashura for dessert. Hahagana St. 33 (map)

The Tikva market is home to a few culinary gems. I chose Saluf because they’re my friends and I’ll get into trouble if they’re not on the list. It offers great Yemenite food, and has another popular branch in the Levinsky market. The original branch reveals its strength on Friday afternoons, when the place turns into a huge party and everyone gets drunk. Hatikva St. 1 (map)

I don’t think the Lonely Planet people have ever been to Daoud’s Hamara, but you should. This big-hearted, 80-something-year-old man, who claims to have played marbles with Saddam Hussein as a child, has created a kingdom of his own that recalls his childhood in Baghdad right on the edge of the market. A place for coffee and sometimes ful. Hatikva St. 45 (map)

Neve Sha’anan Street is Tel Aviv’s African ghetto, and its “Injera” stretch has become a culinary empire that the average Israeli or tourist hasn’t gotten wind of. It’s recommended to order Injera with shuru and salad, and get an avocado-papaya shake. Neve Sha'anan St. (map)

Ella Braitman, fashion designer

Ella Braitman
Avshalom Halutz

The farmers' market at Tel Aviv’s port is a great way to open Saturday morning with fresh, organic local produce. Inside the clean and pleasant market you will also find a bakery, a homeware store, fresh herring sandwiches stall and a cheese shop. Tel Aviv Port (map)

Bana is an excellent vegan restaurant. I would go for their Saturday brunch, because of the amazing gluten free pancakes. Nahmani St. 36 (map)

Shifra is a local épicerie at Jaffa’s flea market, where you can buy organic (fair trade) chocolate, fresh bread, cheese, local wines, very tasty and fresh jams and sauces - made at the Puaa restaurant next door - and even flowers and plants. Yehuda Margoza St. 8 (map)

Finjan is a local cafe, just outside the hustle and bustle of the Jaffa flea market. It’s located next to a lovely, quiet square and on the corner of one of the most beautiful and affluent streets of Jaffa, Rabbi Khanina. It attracts a mixture of Arab and Jewish neighbors and friends, which gives the place a cosmopolitan feeling. I recommend their breakfasts or simply a good cup of coffee. Yehuda Margoza St. 28 (map)

Layla Carry, drag queen

Layla Carry

Since I’m an old drag queen who lives by the sea, I would recommend The Old Man and the Sea, an Arab restaurant in Jaffa. They are very generous, and the breeze from the sea right in front of you is intoxicating. The prices are reasonable, but you’ll find it difficult to walk after the amount of food you just had. Retzif HaAliya HaShniya St. 101 (map)

The Eurocafe parties will be held every night during Eurovision week (mostly at the HaOman 17 nightclub), with past and present singers from Israel and abroad coming to perform their Eurovision hits all night long. The weekly stars list includes Charlotte Perrelli, Shiri Maimon, Verka Serduchka, Mans Zelmerlow, Bilal Hassani, Conchita Wurst, Elpida (!), Madame Monsieur and many many more. Abarbanel St. 88 (map)

Asaf Day, art director

Asaf Day
Avshalom Halutz

Millie Vanillie is a coffee place located at Meir Garden in the heart of the city. It’s inside of the gay center, and the real bonus is that you have free HIV tests every Wednesday. Besides that, there’s wonderful sun and a marvelous Friday sandwich with matbucha and schnitzel. Millie Vanillie Coffee Park (map)

Parlor Tattoo Studio is an intimate tatoo studio at American-German Colony (another spot can be found at the Dave Gordon Hotel). They have both local and international tattoo artists, and its also fun to sit at the garden next to the studio with a cold beer and enjoy the sun. Sgula St. 8 (map)

LAMA? has super-cool t shirts, very hip.

Santa Katarina restaurant is very sexy spot. The place is built around a taboon, and the menu is based on it completely. They have great pizzas, perfect Jerusalem bagel and wonderful fish. Har Sinai St. 2 (map)

Santa Katerina, as well as other great places, are located next to the Great Synagogue of Tel Aviv. The whole vibe is kind of mix between spirituality and nightlife. There are also the Port Said and the Thai in Har Sinai, which are great. Great Synagogue of Tel Aviv: Allenby St. 110 (map); Port Said and The Thai: Har Sinai 2 (map)

Ajami Beach is the place I go to watch the sunset, or just chill on a lazy Saturday. Just far enough from the city itslef. Ajami Beach (map)

Vintage Kassima is a cool vintage clothing and accessories shop on Nahalat Binyamin. High quality and very well curated. There are true findings such as “Maskit” (an Israeli brand) dresses. Nahalat Binyamin St. 23 (map)

Yaara Sachs, designer and art curator

Yaara Sachs
Ofir Hovav

The Teder.FM is an urban space that functions as an old-fashioned avenue for clothing shops during the day, and turns into a fun and particularly diverse patio when the sun goes down, a kind of escapist haven off of the bustling Derech Jaffa. It has everything from excellent Pizza, a great spot to drink in the Romano restaurant, a record store that doubles as a speakeasy, documentary screenings, streets parties, music concerts, art shows and even raves. Derech Jaffa 9 (map)

Joz and Loz is a kind of social experiment: You eat and drink to your heart’s content without a tab, and then decide how much to pay according to the experience. Aside from the cool gimmick, it has a courtyard for a pleasant dinner with your friends, and good bar to sit at and sip a few drinks. Gvulot St. 5 (map)

Beit Kandinof is great art gallery in Old Jaffa that holds exhibits and also has a good restaurant. HaTsorfim St. 14 (map)

Cuckoo’s Nest is an old furniture shop turned snazzy bar that hosts art exhibits on its second floor, right at the right of Jaffa’s Flea Market. The food is underwhelming, but the vibes are fun. Noam St. 3 (map)

Under A Thousand hosts various local street artists in Florentine, with everything going for under a thousand shekels. Abarbanel St. 60 (map)

Also, sometimes just walking around Florentine’s alleyways among the carpentries and graffiti. The streets have become an urban gallery for street artists to exhibit their work in public, and it’s all for free. Florentine (map)

Amir Erlich, restaurateur from Jaffa

Amir Erlich
Avshalom Halutz

Shaffa at the Flea Market. I used to work there before and while we created our restaurant and bar Beit Kandinof. It’s my second home in Jaffa. Nakhman St. 2 (map)

Ouzeria is a Mediterranean restaurant in the middle of the Levinsky market. Excellent food, good atmosphere and no need to reserve ahead of time. Matalon St. 44 (map)

For years now, I have been going to the Naim Studio in Jaffa on a weekly basis for Eddy Toyonaga’s Power Vinyasa classes. I recommend Naim especially for the great teachers and its rather fair pricing at 300 shekels a month for all classes. Shim’on Ha’tsadik St. 18 (map)

The K Bar is a small, pretty hardcore bar for whenever you need to get hammered. Herzl St. 4 (map)

The Imperial Cocktail Bar is a Mad Men universe at the heart of the Middle East. It’s unlike any other bar in the city. Really great cocktails. Hayarkon St. 66 (map)

Whenever I crave spicy food I go to The Thai at Har Sinai. The rest of the places around it are all good too. Har Sinai St. 2 (map)

Bar 51 is a new restaurant and the current “place to be.” I ate there and thought it was very good. Hayarkon St. 50 (map)

Sarah Peguine and Michal Freedman, online gallery owners

Sarah Peguine, left, and Michal Freedman. 'We feel that we have power, together'
Avshalom Halutz

MAGASIN III JAFFA is a year-old modern art gallery, a local branch of the Magasin III museum and foundation for contemporary art in Stockholm. As the owners of Artsource.online, a platform for finding and collecting contemporary Israeli art, we love the fact that we can actually stop by in the middle of the night and still see the exhibitions at Magasin III from outside. Olei Zion St. 34 (map)

The new wing of the Tel Aviv Museum is an example of excellent architecture, with references to BauHaus and Brutalism. Inside you’ll find the best collection of Israeli art and rotating exhibitions. Sderot Sha’ul HaMelech 27 (map)

Fashion designer Aviva Zilberman is a fierce young local entrepreneur who we love to support. She even has her own body care line, which is of the highest quality as everything else she creates. You can also find accessories and stationary at the store. Melchett St. 23 (map)

A small stall at the Karmel market, Panda Pita was founded by another fierce young local entrepreneur, the talented Idan Feinborg. Don’t miss out on the eggplant and ceviche dish. Malan St. 47 (map)

The ‘it’ place for the artsy, hipstery and LGBTQ crowd is the Nilus bar. Everyone who is anyone in Tel Aviv comes here for a drink or a light dinner. The coolness is actually derived in part from being placed on the noisy and mucky Allenby street. Nearby you will also find the Sheleg cafe, which shares the same owners. Allenby St. 33 (map)

Fifi’s is a good and tiny Thai restaurant on the Levinsky street market in southern Tel Aviv, which we both frequent. Zevulun St. 5 (map)

Abu Hassan’s hummus in Jaffa (Ali Caravan) is definitely a must spot, even though you will almost for sure have to queue to get in. The hummus is divine and the view of the Jaffa port is lovely. Order the messabaha and praise the lord. HaDolfin St. 1 (map)

Yotam Elyasin, coffee house chain manager and fitness buff

Yotam Elyasin
Avshalom Halutz

For those who want to stay in shape while on vacation, I recommend visiting Tel Aviv’s promenade which is filled with free outdoor gyms, such as the ones at the Gordon BeachFrishman Beach and the beach leading up to Jaffa. I love opening my days with a run along the beach,  using the free gyms for pull-ups and then cooling off in the sea. Tel Aviv's best beaches: The ultimate guide

LAKE TLV is the biggest water ski site in Israel, located at a Tel Aviv park where many people also practice yoga and run. Super fun, very tiring outdoor activity. Menachem Begin Park (map)

Yotam Elyasin
Avshalom Halutz

I also recommend going to one of the Space Fix gyms, my favorite gyms for keeping myself in shape (twice) daily. This is where the real bodybuilders hang out. Hayarkon St. 75 (map)

The Caspi hummus chain is great for people who work out and seek protein-filled food. Beside hummus they also offer a variety of healthy salads, such as the “Iron Salad.” Ben Yehuda St. 172 (map)

For those who want to hang out with people who keep a less strict diet, I would recommend Fresh Kitchen, where you can find shakes and salads as well as indulge in out-of-this-world sugary desserts. Basel St. 37 (map)