Known in the community primarily for its annual pride parade, Tel Aviv is a destination that has a lot more to offer. Tel Aviv has a thriving LGBT scene, and given the high number of start-ups and entrepreneurs in the city, there is a much more accepting and open atmosphere than you may expect from Israel.
Tel Aviv is set on the western coast of Israel, with beach running almost the full length of the city. This coastal position and the year-round sunshine gives the high-tech city an almost Californian vibe.
Is Tel Aviv beginning to sound like an ideal gaycation? Whether you plan to visit over Pride month or simply need some winter sun, this series of articles outlines our five reasons why you should consider Tel Aviv.
In this second article we look at where to eat and what to visit.
2. Restaurants and Bars
Being a port city and with Israel bordering multiple nations, Tel Aviv is a hub for foodies, with almost every nation providing an offering. What you will find are heavy Mediterranean and Arabic influences. You’ll also find the best fresh hummus you have tried – and will no longer submit to the tired supermarket offerings! Foodies should head to the urban Sarona Market, which hosts 91 stalls and restaurants combining products from the old world and new.
If you’re visiting the old town of Jaffa (yes, the name of the cake came from the oranges grown here), Basma Coffee is the best place to get your caffeine fix. The owner, embodying the concepts of diversity and entrepreneurial spirit that Tel Aviv is associated with, runs coffee roasting classes. But if you just want breakfast or a mid-afternoon pick-me-up, go for a Turkish coffee.
As a hub for food, tourists are really spoilt for choice when it comes to eating out. One of our favourite places for dinner was Yulia Restaurant. Set on the boardwalk overlooking the ocean, near Tel Aviv port, this is an ideal location to enjoy fresh seafood, and a glass of wine as you witness a glorious sunset over the Mediterranean ocean.
Our other dinner venue of choice is Kimmel Restaurant, located a couple of minutes’ walk from both Rothschild Boulevard and the cool district of Neve Tzedek. The rustic interior (and veranda) should not deter you. Order the tasting menu (and make sure you’ve not eaten much earlier in the day) and enjoy seven starters and five main courses to share. The beet salad, wild mushroom risotto, and butchers cut of beef will not disappoint.
For night owls, Tel Aviv will provide an eclectic night out. Our favourite straight bar is Kuli Alma, an art-focussed nightlife institution. Descending into this underground bar will reveal a kaleidoscope of vibrant art murals, art projections and vintage films. Enjoy a couple of drinks and stick around for the late-night DJ sets.
Evita, located just off Rothschild Boulevard, is the oldest gay bar in Tel Aviv, and with drag shows, plenty of six-packs on display and of course fabulous anthems, you can be sure to have a fun night.
3. Hilton Beach – the gay beach
The first thing to note is that most of the city of Tel Aviv is lined with beaches. The gay beach, so dubbed Hilton Beach because of its doorstep location to the Hilton hotel, is located between Metzitzim beach and Tel Aviv Marina.
We found that most guys (straight or gay) in Tel Aviv had either flat stomachs or six-pack abs, but it is on Hilton Beach that you’ll spot the most tanned guys and those in the tightest of speedos (check out #hiltonbeach for a taster). There is a very open and welcoming atmosphere and you’ll spot a few local straight residents on the beach too.
Hilton Beach is also home to the city’s surf club, so if you’re into water sports (surfing, windsurfing, kayaking – not the kinky kind), you’re well catered for. There are plenty of other beach-side activities to get involved in, further along the boardwalk you will find a public swimming pool, courts for other beach activities and even SEGO, a company offering Segway tours along the boardwalk.
There are ample beach facilities including free lockers, but a word of warning about the public toilets – wear flip-flops, as they are somewhat neglected.
Stay tuned for part 3 where we discuss culture, includin an introduction to Bauhaus architecture and the thriving art scene in Tel Aviv.
For more information about Tel Aviv, visit the Think Israel website.