10 things to do in Tel Aviv

10 things to do in tel aviv
Tel Aviv. One of my favorite cities in the world (not just because my best friend happens to live there). It is a city I have been to three times in less than two years, and located in a country I have been to four times (which is tied with England for top visits).

Every time I visit Tel Aviv, I discover something new and beautiful that makes me fall even deeper in love with the Israeli coastal city.

From the beaches (and beach bars) to the crowded Carmel Market to the tiny “secret” bars, there is so much more to Tel Aviv than meets-the-eye.

Where to go?

What to do?

Don’t know where to start?

For my explorations, it is a little bit of internet research mixed with random luck of finding places. But, I’m making it easy today and sharing with you the things I love in Tel Aviv.

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Budget digs in Tel Aviv: Gordon Inn

Gordon Inn, from the outside, is quite easy to miss. It’s just off of the major Ben Yehuda Street in Tel Aviv, and aside from a sign at the entrance and a little balcony, people can walk right by it.

I did.

However, while it may seem almost invisible from the outside, the inside of this hostel is another story. Sure, it is in an older building, which means no elevator and for those carrying anything but a backpack, it can be a pain in the ass (I had my Kelty, so this rang true), but that isn’t a reason to not book at this cozy hostel.

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Eternally happy in Tel Aviv

We sit, tucked into a little patio just east of Ben Yehuda Street, and down the road from Gordon Inn in Tel Aviv, where I am staying for the night. Across from me is one of my best friends in the entire world, Ron, who was a major part of my life in Chiang Mai and, even though he is not there at the moment, continues to be one.

“I cannot believe I am here. I. Am. In. Israel. Can you believe it?!?” I keep asking him, needing someone to pinch me as I overflow with excitement.

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All smiles despite an early morning in Jerusalem

Its only been a few months since our last time together, in sultry Chiang Mai. To be here, in Israel, a place I love with all of my heart, and with him, makes my blissfully happy.

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Escape of the Week: Tel Aviv’s street art in photos

Street art in Tel Aviv is alive and well — something I learned recently on my tour with Mekomy and the start-up’s founder, Gilad Uziley.

What I learned on the tour is that the street art scene in Tel Aviv, while it flourishes in the warehouse neighborhood of Florentin, extends well beyond this mostly rundown, hipster area and can actually be seen all over town. It is just a matter of where you look.

Florentin

A street in Florentin, Tel Aviv

Considered hipster/bohemian, Florentin is the place to immerse yourself in the street art culture in Tel Aviv.

A street in Florentin in Tel Aviv

Located in the southern part of the city, the area is a hodge-podge of industrial and residential with the in-the-know crowd frequenting the area for its nightlife scene. Regentrification in the 90s saw a flux of the younger crowd moving in, and today there’s a span of people who call this area home.

A Jewish star against street art

It’s a mix of rich and not-rich. A meshing of ideas … all under one neighborhood.

Street art by Dioz in Tel Aviv

For me, I’m completely taken by the art flanking the walls, the dumpsters, the doors and beyond.

Street art in Florentin

Florentin’s street art tells a story.

A rabbi as street art

Street art in Florentin

It explains the the issues with the city, personal problems, creative solutions, cries for love, and more.

Street art in Tel Aviv

It merges local artists with visiting artists to create collaborative works of art.

String street art in Tel Aviv

It uses mediums aside from just paint, like string.

Street art by Dede

There is Dede, whose work can be identified by Band-Aids.

Street art by Eggplant Kid

Eggplant Kid who paints (you guessed it) eggplants.

Adi Sened street art

Adi Sened who creates these little box people.

Street art in Florentin in Tel Aviv

Dioz, with his abstract take on life.

Street art in Florentin

A street in Florentin

And so, so many more.

Tel Aviv Bus Station

The Tel Aviv bus station

And then, there is Tel Aviv’s Bus Station.

Street art in Tel Aviv bus station

Filled with vendors and quite run-down on most floors, the top floor is literally a work of art now, thanks to Mati Ale and his vision for bringing street art to the forefront of the locals and visitors. This floor treats passengers to a who’s who of street artists from Tel Aviv and beyond.

Street art at the Tel Aviv bus station

Street art at Tel Aviv bus station

Mooz street art in Tel Aviv

Cultural commentary in street art at Tel Aviv bus station

An apple as street art

Mixed medium street art at Israel bus station

Blindfolded street art

Sumo street art in Tel Aviv

Colorful street art at Tel Aviv bus station

Street art with rainbow

Elephants as street art

Computer game street art in Tel Aviv

A girl as street art

Tel Aviv street art

After walking through Florentin and then hitting the bus station, I love being able to recognize some of the artists whose work I have already seen in the gritty real world.

Street art box people

Street art in prose

Street art with string

Street art by Dede

Art by Dioz at Tel Aviv bus station

Around town

And, then my eyes are open.

Tel Aviv

As I walk around town, I can’t help but notice the street art everywhere I turn. The Band-Aids, the Hebrew prose, the little box people.

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Am I in love with the street art scene in Tel Aviv? Yes, I think so.

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For more information on taking your own street art tour, be sure to check out Mekomy’s Facebook page.

Editor’s Note: My street art tour was courtesy of Mekomy, however all opinions are my own. If you have questions regarding this, please read my disclosure policy

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Tel Aviv’s ultimate street art experience

Gilad Uziely, the founder of Mekomy, picks me up on his motorbike, producing a cushiony helmet for me to wear as we zip along the Mediterranean and head towards Old Jaffa.

It’s a hot day, and the wind hitting my face is welcome as we zoom down the smooth road and towards the ancient city.

The best hummus in Tel Aviv is at Ali Karavan

He’s got quite the afternoon lined up for me — first we’re exploring Old Jaffa, then going to grab hummus at Ali Karavan, which is apparently the best in the country (please order the triple, which treats tastebuds to hummus, flu and masabacha — trust me), then we’re off on a street art tour with one of the city’s most popular artists, Dioz, then to end the day, we’re visiting a new street art exhibition at the Tel Aviv bus station.

Mekomy is Gilad and his wife’s vision after serving as travel agents. When the two were always asked for their suggestions, Gilad saw an opportunity to bring together the curious travelers with the local experts and the start-up was born. Today, his company operates in a few cities and by the end of 2014, he hopes to have experts and tours offered in five cities in Europe and Israel. Guests can select from three tours given by locals: art, culinary and photography.

For me, I find the best way to get to know a city and its subcultures is to check out the street art. In Berlin, I fell in love with the art scene and since then, whenever I can get an opportunity to see the more gritty, creative side of a city, I jump for the chance.

The beginning: Jaffa

The old city of Jaffa in Tel Aviv, Israel

We start in Jaffa, where the summer heat leaves us beading with sweat and we dip into air conditioned buildings to cool off for brief moments before winding our way through the old, historic city.

Jaffa in Tel Aviv

The oldest part of Tel Aviv, Jaffa immediately summons recollections of Europe with its slippery, tiny pathways meandering up hills to secret nooks and crannies. We wander through the ancient port city, climbing the stairs to the top and breathing in the stunning view of the Mediterranean caressing the shore below before Gilad begins to point out street art as we descend towards our lunch break.

Street art in Jaffa, Tel Aviv

A look at an artist’s life

After dining at Ali Karavan, we hop back on Gilad’s bike and drive to the start of our tour — the famous street artist, Dioz’s, house. Located in a run down building with a tiny church below, I enter his home and am blown away.

Street artist Dioz's home in Tel Aviv

It’s the most eclectic, artsy place I have ever stepped foot in. There are works of art everywhere, from traditional paintings hung on walls to unique sculptures.

Street art in a house

To my delight, there is even a cat.

Dioz is tall and rather soft-spoken for one of the city’s most popular street artists. He offers me a water before he takes us on the tour of his flat, which includes an expansive patio/roof.

Standing on the roof of the building, Dioz extends a finger towards the city.

“There, that is one of my latest works,” he says. I follow the direction of his finger to a painting adorning a wall.

The latest work of Dioz in Tel Aviv

It’s really cool.

Then, the three of us are off.

Hitting the streets

Glass crunching underfoot, we explore the mostly warehouse area of Florentin that has emerged as the scene for street art. Tucked between posh and sky scrapers and more rundown areas, it’s easy to see why this neighborhood has emerged as the place for street art. It is where worlds collide and the artists can have the liberty to create on the blank walls of warehouses.

A street in Florentin, Tel Aviv

But, even the bars and shops here embrace the art. Metal shudders aren’t just metal here, they are art.

Street art in Florentin, Tel Aviv

He and Gilad stop me every few feet to explain the art I am looking at, to show me collaborations between other street artists in the area and work done by people from all over the world.

More street art in Tel Aviv

I’m a sucker for street art and here — in this little Tel Aviv neighborhood just off-the-beaten-path from the tourist trek — I have stepped into a treasure trove of glorious work that is nearly on part with street art in places like Berlin.

Street art by Dioz in Tel Aviv

Where street art gets main streamed

After we explore in the afternoon heat, it’s back on Gilad’s bike and over to the Tel Aviv bus station where his friend, Mati Ale, has done something incredibly special — he has transformed a bland and sterile bus station into one of the largest collaborations of street art I have ever witnessed. (Hurry, it’s only on exhibition for a year!)

Street art takes over the Tel Aviv bus station

The entire departures floor is covered in works from some of the best in the country. Abstract, surreal, whimsical works flood my eyes as they dart everywhere, searching for something I may have missed on first glance.

The street art exhibit at Tel Aviv's bus station

More street art at the exhibition in Tel Aviv's bus station

It’s a long day, and by late afternoon the heat begins to take its toll. Gilad whips me back through the rush hour traffic and drops me back at Artplus. Tired. Happy. And a memory filled with amazing street art.

Street art by Dioz

Want more street art? Check out this week’s Escape  for a full photo essay of the awesome.

Editor’s Note: My street art tour was courtesy of Mekomy, however all opinions are my own. If you have questions regarding this, please read my disclosure policy

 

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A different perspective in Tel Aviv

Since I’ve lived in Thailand, I haven’t traveled much for pleasure. Yes, I’ve experienced Sri Lanka and safaris, Myanmar and the deep jungle and Cambodia and an elephant rescue for work, but the pleasure thing has been somewhat absent in my life (minus jaunts to Koh Samui and Bali).

I wake up early on my second day in Israel.

Too early.

Artplus hasn’t even started its breakfast buffet yet. So, I do something I haven’t done in years. I grab my headphones, pop them in my ears, put on music, arm myself with my camera and go on an exploration as the sun rises.

Morning-Tel-Aviv

There is something incredibly romantic about waking up when the city begins to turn off its lights and greet the sun.

Ben Yehuda in Tel Aviv

It’s me and Tel Aviv as I stroll down Ben Yehuda and head to the beach.

The beach in Tel Aviv

As I wander along the brick path with the Mediterranean at my side, my heart starts to thump again. The doubt I’ve had about the direction of my life rolls out with the tide.

The Mediterranean Sea in Tel Aviv

Being solo in Tel Aviv and having the morning to myself takes me back to my long-term travel, when I was anonymous.

A sidewalk in Tel Aviv

I could be anyone in the world, and damnit, I was ME, and so very content with that.

Morning sun in Tel Aviv

A sculpture on beach in Tel Aviv

As the sun creeps into the blue sky, I am re-energized, awoken.

A building in Tel Aviv

The little nuances of the city, the flyers littering a sidewalk, an old man sitting and staring out into the world from a bench, a dog running alongside his owner for a morning workout … it all opens my eyes to something I have missed for so long: traveling.

A store in Tel Aviv

I walk and snap photos of the little things that catch my eye.

The beach in Tel Aviv

A sign at the beach in Tel Aviv

Pause. Breathe deeply. Smile. Pause. Walk. Snap photos. Breathe deeply. Smile.

Door in Tel Aviv

Another shot from Tel Aviv

And so it goes until the hunger pangs and need for coffee (the best coffee I have had in ages) trumps.

A Hebrew sign in Tel Aviv

Street art on building in Tel Aviv

But, as I walk back to my hotel, one thing is for certain: that travel addict that had kept quiet for so long has emerged and is now banging down the doors.

Bus stop in Tel Aviv

Hello and thank you, Tel Aviv.

 

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