Contrary to what you may have read or seen in the news about Israel generally, Tel Aviv specifically is an oasis of beauty and decadent delights with chutzpah that rivals and indeed surpasses many of the most popular gay destinations in the world. Hence the reason that life in Israel’s capital city is sometimes referred to by those in the know as ‘the Bubble.’
A liberal and progressive city, Tel Aviv is endowed with picture-perfect weather year-round—reminiscent of Southern California—a staggeringly beautiful citizenry whose penchant for partying is legendary, culture to spare and some of the most stunning beaches the Mediterranean has to offer. Make no mistake, Tel Aviv is in many ways the ultimate gay playground, and not just because Michael Lucas and his Men of Israel say so.
Here’s a look at how to play, what to do and where to stay if you’re planning on visiting fabulous Tel Aviv any time soon.
To the uninitiated, Tel Aviv’s vibrant gay nightlife scene may come as something of a surprise. Recognized as one of the world’s leading gay nightlife destinations, Tel Aviv is constantly abuzz with massive gay events lorded over by some of the biggest DJs on the planet, many of whom have taken up regular residence at the most popular clubs in the capital city.
The theme of nightlife in Tel Aviv appears to be ‘Come late, play late, stay late.’ In fact, many clubs don’t even start jumping until around 2 a.m., so disco naps are well advised for those who hope to hang out until sunrise and beyond with the city’s voracious club kids.
Evita (31 Yavne St., +972 (03) 566 9559), one of the city’s oldest and best known bars, is a great place to meet up for a drink or get an early start to the evening almost any night of the week. Another popular spot for the truly au courant is Radio EPGB (7 Shaddal St., +972 (03) 560 3636), a fashionable bar with a fashionable crowd that opens its doors at 9 and doesn’t close them until the last customer takes his or her leave. Seriously.
Other chic, gay-friendly watering holes and restaurants can be found along the popular Rothschild, Nachalat Binyamin and Lilienblum streets, which are usually littered with party types on the weekends.
Clubs aside, Tel Aviv hosts a series of regular parties in venues around the city that will suit just about any taste. There’s Big Boys every other Friday night at the Teatron Club for men 29 and over, Notorious G.A.Y. on Mondays at Lima Lima, Beef on Thursdays for Tel Aviv’s bears and those who love them and Friday Funday at Ashmoret, which not surprisingly takes place on Fridays and appeals to pop and disco lovers. The mother of all Tel Aviv parties is FFF, the biggest club in town, where house music blares as throngs of beautiful people dance into the wee hours of the morning every other Friday.
No matter what your flavor, if you like to party, Tel Aviv’s got something on the menu for you.
Apart from nightlife, Tel Aviv is a city of many enviable charms. While those who worship the sun and enjoy staring unashamedly at ripped, god-like Israeli boys will gravitate to frolicking around the very gay Hilton Beach, which is located just below the Hilton hotel at Independence Park near the ultra cruisy Gan Ha’atzmaut park, true shopaholics will probably be more drawn to trendy Dizengoff Street, which is populated with a collection of trendy boutiques and some of the biggest designers on offer in the entire city.
For true youthful appeal, however, Shenkin Street is where you’ll find the action. Crowded with swank stores and funky little cafés, Shenkin Street is a major artery for Tel Aviv’s most fashionable folks. Think yuppie central.
Similarly, Neve Tzedek is another popular shopping area with a bevy of local designers and genuinely unique wares for those always in the market for something a little bit more authentic and different.
The big new player on the Tel Aviv retail scene is the much ballyhooed HaTachana (hatachana.co.il). A former Tel Aviv/Jaffa train station turned mega shopping, restaurant and entertainment complex, the Tachana recently reopened after a 10-year, multimillion dollar restoration. Needless to say, it is currently all the rage.
Elsewhere on your Tel Aviv to-do list, do make sure to take a stroll along Rothschild Boulevard, without question the city’s most famed thoroughfare, and take in the Bauhaus architecture, stop in at a café for an espresso or lunch at one of the many restaurants that throng the street and watch the pretty parade go by.
For a little adventure, pop down to the Tel Aviv Port and tuck into a seaside breakfast on the terrace at Comme il Faut Café (Tel Aviv Port, +972 (03) 544 9211, comme-il-faut.com/café). Tool around the novelty shops and then book a Segway tour around the Tel Aviv Promenade along the beach and through the city. It’s a perfect way to spend an afternoon being a little silly.
Meanwhile, a tour of historical Jaffa, the famed port of Tel Aviv over which wars too numerous to recount were fought, will appeal to culturati. As will the stunning new, ultra-modern Design Museum Holon(dmh.org.il/default.aspx) located just outside of Tel Aviv.
As Tel Aviv is relatively small and gay life in the city is for the most part somewhat decentralized, where you choose to stay when visiting the city has everything to do with your own personal tastes. Most accommodations in the heart of the city are just a short and inexpensive cab ride away from whatever your heart desires in Tel Aviv. However, on the subject of cab cost, be aware that the sidewalks pretty much roll up in the city from Friday evening to Saturday night in observance of Shabbat, which is the Jewish day of prayer—so expect to pay a premium for cabs if you plan on going out in the city on a Friday evening. That said, here are few places to consider looking into on your next trip to Tel Aviv:
Hotel Montefiore (36 Montefiore St., +972 (03) 564 6100, hotelmontefiore.co.il) is a three-story building that was once a private residence, Hotel Montefiore is an elegant boutique hotel that maintains the feeling of a private home while offering all the accoutrements one might expect of a luxury property. It is the kind of hotel that will appeal to those who appreciate accommodations that are anything but cookie cutter.
From the shape and size of the rooms to the books on the bookshelves, each of the hotel’s twelve rooms are uniquely appointed. Even the olive oil-based bath products stocked in guest suites have been exclusively created for Hotel Montefiore. Meanwhile, the restaurant at the Montefiore is a must-see treat populated by local hipsters and some of the most attractive, well-coiffed staff the city has to offer. The decidedly eclectic and international menu is filled with all sorts of palate-pleasing delights, and the restaurant bar is open for late-night drinks should you be in the mood for, shall we say, a more upscale night cap.
Crowne Plaza City Center, Tel Aviv (136 Menachem Rd., +972 (03) 777 4000, ichotelsgroup.com)—a behemoth of a hotel—is minutes away from the heartbeat of Tel Aviv, a testament to modernity. The hotel’s spacious rooms feature a clean, contemporary design punctuated with splashes of color, and most have some pretty spectacular views of Tel Aviv. The breakfast buffet each morning is pretty spectacular as well. Rumor has it some people book into Crowne Plaza for the breakfast alone. After experiencing it, I wouldn’t doubt it.
Dan Tel Aviv (99 Hayarkon St., +972 (03) 520 2525, danhotels.com) is recently renovated, stylish and located on the coastline of Tel Aviv, peering over the Mediterranean Sea. It’s an excellent choice for those who enjoy seaside pursuits or just lolling around the beaches which tend to be filled with pretty people seemingly year round. And best of all, the rainbow façade that made the hotel so recognizable over the years remains in tact post the renovation. Now how welcoming is that?
Neve Tzedek Hotel (Dgania St no. 4, +972 54 2070706, nevetzedekhotel.com) is a boutique hotel in the heart of one of Tel Aviv’s hippest neighborhoods. It may be one of the newest additions to the city’s hotel scene, but it also is one of the most sparkling. Smartly designed and complete with a happening bar and restaurant, this is a hotel for the sophisticated traveler. Even if you don’t stay at this hotel, be sure to pop by the neighboring Nina Café for a quick coffee to get a feel for how the fashionable locals live in Tel Aviv.
For more on gay Tel Aviv, visit gayisrael.org.il.
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