Saturday, January 14, 2012

Shopping in Tel Aviv and things to do in Tel Aviv: Bauhaus Center

Tel Aviv is of course known for it's unique Bauhaus architechture, that has given the city it's nickname "White City". If you are interested in learning more about the Bauhaus architechture or about the buildings in Tel Aviv, the best place to do that is at the Bauhaus Center on 99 Dizengof street in the center of the city.

The center is both a library, a museum, a store selling souvenirs, books related to Bauhaus and Tel Aviv's buildings and other interesting products as well as an organizer of Bauhaus tours of Tel Aviv.
The tours are considered to be the best in the city, and over 15 000 people have taken a tour with the Bauhaus Center during the last 10 years.
The meeting point for all tours is at the store/museum on Dizengof 99, but there are several different tours to choose from. If you want to learn more about them, we suggest you visit the website of the Bauhaus Center here.
We particularly like the modern Israeli design for sale in the store, from modern Judaica to candle holders and other decorational items and the selection of books for sale is really good too.

You will also find a variety of Tel Aviv related postcards and posters in the store, that are well worth taking a look at, especially the ones with a vintage look.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Shopping in Tel Aviv: Dizengof Square flea market

In many parts of the world, antiques and flea markets are incredibly popular. In Israel they are less so, but there are two really famous flea markets in the city, one being the flea market in Jaffa, which we will write some more about at another time, and the other being the more centrally located (if you are staying in Tel Aviv and not in Jaffa, at least) on Dizengof Square.

The Dizengof Square flea market is open twice a week, on Tuesday afternoons and on Friday mornings.
You will find a large variety of things for sale here, from actual valuable antiques to vintage books and postcards, vintage handbags, sunglasses and jewelry and much more. The quality, however, varies quite a bit and some of the stalls are rather overpriced, so always inspect all the things you are interested in buying very carefully.

Haggling is possible, but most of the sellers are rather good at it, so if you try to haggle in order to get the price down, be prepared.
A lot of the time one of the sellers brings a boom box and plays music from the 1950's, 1960's and 1980's, which creates a nice, vintage-feel atmosphere around the square. Both tourists and locals visit the Dizengof Square flea market and collectors and those really interested in antiques or vintage items can really spend hours here. So if you are looking for anything vintage while in Tel Aviv, this is definitely one of our top choices!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The beaches in Tel Aviv

One of the main attractions in Tel Aviv, of course are it’s many gorgeous beaches. Actually, the beach is a really long one, but divided into several smaller beach areas, which all have their own names. TelAvivTips plans on reviewing all the most popular beaches separately further on, as well as the many Tel Aviv hotels on the beach you will also find here, but let’s start with some more general information about the Tel Aviv beaches first.

First of all, most people in Tel Aviv go to the beach during the summer, and many Israelis from outside of Tel Aviv come into the city specifically with the purpose of going to the beach as well. Last but not least, tourists love the beach, which means that it can get pretty crowded, especially during the weekends in the summer. So if you are not comfortable with crowds, off season or during the middle of the week is the time to go if you can.
Second of all, swimming and sun bathing are not the only activities you can enjoy on beaches in Tel Aviv. Instead, you can kitesurf, play the famous Israeli rubber ball game of matkot, rent a boat or surf, depending on what you are into.

There are rental places for most things somewhere along the beach, but if you want to avoid walking a lot, you might want to consider checking where you can rent the equipment you need before heading off to the beach, since the beach is indeed very long.

Some general info about beaches in Tel Aviv
The beaches are safe, and generally clean, even if they can get a bit more dirty due to all the tourists at the end of the summer. There are life guards at hand during the summer, and you will also find both changing rooms as well as freshwater showers all along the beach.
Different flags are used by the life guards to show you how well suited the water is for swimming at the moment. A white flag means it’s perfectly safe, a black flag that you should definitely not go in and a red flag that swimming might be dangerous.
There are plenty of beach cafes on the beach, as well as Tel Aviv hotels on the beach, so if you are really coming to the city to spend a lot of time on a Tel Aviv beach, you might want to consider booking a hotel located right at the beach. There are plenty to choose from.
(Entry to Banana Beach Tel Aviv)

Events in Tel Aviv: Scorpions to play in Tel Aviv in May

We recently found out that the legendary German group Scorpions, of Wind of Change fame, are going to play in Tel Aviv on the 7th of May 2012. So if you are looking for a fun event to attend in Tel Aviv during May, this might very well be it!

Expect for tickets to cost between 300-900 shekels, however. Tickets to concerts with international artists in Israel are notoriously expensive, and of course the Scorpions gig is not exception.

The arena for the show will be the Nokia Arena, home of the Maccabi Tel Aviv basketball team.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Things to try in Tel Aviv: shwarma

Speaking of fast food in Israel, shwarma is another local dish not to be missed by meat lovers on holiday in Tel Aviv. A shwarma is a wrap filled with meat, from either lamb, goat, chicken, beef of turkey and it can be bought all over Tel Aviv.

Normally a shwarma is also filled with some kind of sauce, like tahini, as well as some vegetables, like cucumber and tomatoes, but in most places you also have the option to ask for toppings besides the meat yourself.

You might say that shwarma resembles the Turkish döner kebab or Greek gyros, but due to the toppings it tastes a bit different. The dish was brought to Tel Aviv and Israel by Mizrahi Jews from the Middle East.

The Israeli newspaper Haaretz recently published a list of the 5 best shawarma places in Tel Aviv, so if you are looking to try this dish, and want to do it in the best possible way, please read the Haaretz recommendations here.

For those too lazy to read the article themselves, the top 5, according to Haaretz are:
Daboush on Ibn Gvirol 46 (very easy to spot!)
Kababa on Karlibach 14
Ha Kosem on Shlomo Ha Melech 1
Olei Zion on Olei Zion street in Jaffa
Haj Kahil on Shivtei Israel in Jaffa.

(the photo is of a shwarma sales guy on Ben Yehuda Street in central Tel Aviv. You see some shwarma on a spit to the right of the guy)

Molly Blooms, Tel Aviv

Molly Blooms is another classic watering hole, as well as a popular sports bar with live music in Tel Aviv. We love this pub, because... well, who doesn't love a Irish Pub? (They are huge in Israel in general, and Molly Blooms is by far the best one in Tel Aviv)

Molly Blooms also has a great atmosphere, a typical Irish decor and real, tasty Irish beer, so if you are into Irish bars at all, this bar is well worth a visit.

Interestingly enough, Molly Blooms is located right in front of the American embassy, on Mendele street 3 (at the corner with Ha Yarkon) and you can order beer by the pint and they also have quite tasty food. (We've never really went here just to eat though, but we've tried some of the smaller dishes while visiting)
The opening hours are:
Sun-Wed 16:00-3:00, Fri 12:00-4:00, Sat 16:-4:00
and you can find their English website here,
as well as a list of current events here.
If you want to take a look at their menu, you can sneak a peak at that here.

We especially recommend the Tullamore Mud Pie if you are into that kind of thing at all.

Bike rental Tel Aviv

If you are interested in renting a bike while visiting Tel Aviv, it is much easier these days than it used to be. First of all, many hotels are offering free bikes to guests who need them, so if you know you will be using a bicycle in Tel Aviv a lot, you might want to look specifically for hotels in Tel Aviv that offer that for free.
There are also a few bicycle rental companies in central Tel Aviv, such as O-Fun, located very close to the beach (as well as many hotels) on Ben Yehuda 197. You pay 60 shekels to rent a bike for a whole day, or 30 shekels for an hour.

In May 2011, the city of Tel Aviv also started a project inspired by public rental bikes available in many European cities, such as Amsterdam and Barcelona. The project is called Tel-O-Fun, and you can read more about it here.

The project works pretty well as far as we can tell, mostly because there are many, many Tel-O-Fun locations all over Tel Aviv, and you do not need to book a bike in advance. Instead, you just pick one up when you feel like it. You can buy both daily, weekly and monthly subscriptions, depending on your needs. You will need to be at least 18 years old, however, and have a valid credit card of your own. Residents of Tel Aviv get a discount.

The terminals you use when renting the bikes have instructions in both English, Hebrew and Arabic, so using these terminals should not be a problem even if you are not fluent in Hebrew. All of the Tel-O-Fun bikes are suitable for men and women alike.
(the bikes pictured above are from one of Tel-O-Fun's pickup places)

Good to know about bicycling in Tel Aviv
Tel Aviv is rather flat (unless you go deep into Jaffa), which makes it great for bicycling. Even some of the most attractive areas of the city, including the beach as well as the Ha Yarkon park, are great places to bicycle since they are very flat. Bicycle thefts are however pretty common, so keep an eye on your bicycle if you end up renting one!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Jessica Restro Bar, Tel Aviv

New bars and restaurants open in Tel Aviv all the time, making the latest and trendiest hot spot kind of hard to find, since this actually changes all the time. A place that several of our friends have been liking for a while now, however, is the Jessica Restro Bar, on Herbert Samuel 88 (right on the beach). This place is popular because they have really nice, American inspired food for great prices, but also since they often have live shows, like jazz concerts. So if you are looking to hear some great live music, on the beach, while munching on something tasty, Jessica Restro Bar could be the place for you.

It is kind of a touristy place however, so if you are mostly looking for an authentic Israeli experience or to meet locals, Jessica Restro Bar is not the best choice for you. But if you don't mind meeting expats or tourists when you go out (we personally think that can be kind of fun), we highly recommend stopping by here.

If you want to take a look at the menu before heading to this bar, you can find it here, but it is currently only available in Hebrew.

Mike's Place, Tel Aviv

Mike's Place is actually one of the best known bars and restaurants in all of Tel Aviv, and has been for years. It's popular among tourists and locals alike, and it's really a great place for anyone who likes non-kosher food, sports (since a lot of sporting events are shown live here) and a good, international vibe in general.
Mike's Place is actually a part of a whole chain of Mike's Place restaurants, that were started in Jerusalem in the 1990's. The first Mike's Place was opened in Tel Aviv 2001 and became an immediate success, and that success has only continued until today.

Why is Mike's Place so popular?There are several reasons, really. Some of them include:
It being a great place for Israelis and tourists to meet people from all over the world, since everyone seems to go here at some point.
They have a great selection of beers.
They have live blues music every night.
There is a really cool pool table, where pool contests are held every night after 9PM.
It's also the place to go if you want to celebrate non-Jewish holidays like Christmas or Halloween big time.
The food is not very unusual in any way, but typically American, and you have the chance of being as unhealthy as you want, should you happen to crave that. The dishes are generally pretty big and not very expensive however, making it a good place to eat at, even if you should go there for other reasons than the food to begin with.

Please noteThe first Mike's Place in Tel Aviv was and is still located right on the beach, on Herbert Samuel street, but since the opening of the first Mike's Place, two others have been opened in the city as well. One is located in Ramat Ha Hayal in north Tel Aviv, and the other at the beginning of Ben Yehuda street, close to the harbour.

These two newbies are built around the same concept as the original Mike's Place, but are less crowded and less popular, probably due to the less attractive locations.

Still, this is good to keep in mind in case you find the original Mike's Place a bit too loud and crowded, yet still like the vibe of the place.
You can see a list of all upcoming events at Mike's Place in Tel Aviv here and the menu is available (in English) here.

The Tel Aviv Opera Tower

If you are looking for a place to eat, shop or just relax with a drink or a cup of coffee, The Tel Aviv Opera Tower, located at the corner or Allenby and Herbert Samuel, right on the beach is a great place to do just that. While this is by no means the best mall in Tel Aviv, it has basic stores and is really conveniently located for tourists staying at the beach, and it is clean, airconditioned and also has a movie theatre for those who want to go see one of the latest movies during their trip to Tel Aviv.

There is also a hotel at the Tel Aviv Opera Tower (which is actually not a place to go see operas anymore, but the original Tel Aviv opera was located here before it was moved to a new location, hence the name) and several luxury apartments. We haven't been able to check the hotel out yet though, so a separate review of the hotel will be posted once we have.

There is also a beautiful fountain right in front of the Tel Aviv Opera Tower which is well worth seeing for those into monuments and fountains.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Things to try in Tel Aviv: Burger Ranch

If you like fast food and want to try the local fast food, Israel's Burger Ranch is McDonald's main competitor in Tel Aviv, like in the rest of the country. Burger Ranch has a total of 107 branches all over Israel, including several in Tel Aviv and they have taken over many of the former Burger King branches in the country (Burger King is no longer operating in the country due to the fierce competition on the fast food market).

The first Burger Ranch branch was opened in 1972 on Ben Yehuda street in Tel Aviv, and the second one opened in 1978, also in Tel Aviv, but on Ibn Gvirol Street. So Burger Ranch is really Tel Avivian at heart, even though branches of this chain can now be found all over the country.

Burger Ranch does not sell non-kosher products like cheeseburgers or seafood (many of the McDonalds branches in Israel are also kosher, by the way) but we highly recommend their fries (especially the ones with the jagged edges, so good!) and the spicier hamburgers.
There are 4 glatt kosher Burger Ranch branches, one in Jerusalem, one in Petach Tikva and two in Bnei Brak, but none in Tel Aviv. For Passover, however, all of the branches offer buns for the hamburgers that are kosher for Passover.

Good to know about Tel Aviv: 24/7 supermarkets

In many parts of Israel, everything closes for the Jewish day of rest, the Sabbath, but in Tel Aviv, this is definitely not the case. This is why you will find that a lot of places are open during the Sabbath as well, and even 24/7.
One such example are the many smaller supermarkets that are open all day and night, every day (except for certain holidays, but there are very few of them), so if you are staying in central Tel Aviv, you can always count on being able to find a supermarket that is open no matter when you need it.

The most famous 24/7 supermarket chain in Tel Aviv is the AM/PM, but there are several others as well. Keep in mind however, that these supermarkets do not sell fresh meat and fresh bread all the time (Tiv Taam being the exception) and that their prices are slightly more expensive than the ones in regular supermarkets. Most 24/7 supermarkets also only sell kosher food (again, Tiv Taam being the exception).

Tel Aviv restaurants: Mexicana Tel Aviv

Tel Aviv has an abundance of great restaurants, but not very many Mexican restaurants, so if you are in the mood for some Mexican food, your best bet is probably Mexicana, located on Bugrashov 7 close to the beach in Tel Aviv.
They serve everything from tacos, burritos, tortillas, guacamole to Mexican inspired cocktails and we like this restaurant since the food is really good, the prices reasonable and you usually do not even need to make a reservation, which is nice for a change in a city where most popular restaurants require reservations.

The atmosphere in the restaurant is fun, young and the staff usually do a really good job.

Mexicana has a website where you can see their menu in English if you want, click here to see it.

We can especially recommend the fajita con carne for meat lovers, the chili con carne for those who like spicy foods and the tasty Mexican rice. Desserts are however not Mexicana's strong suit, we are not great fans of those here.

Things to try in Tel Aviv: Freshly squeezed fruit juices

Something we definitely suggest that you try when you visit Tel Aviv are the freshly squeezed fruit juices you can buy in the city's many juice bars. They all use fresh fruit, no conservatives, and in most of them you can choose the fruits you want the juice to made up of yourself. So if you have some favorite fruits, it's not a problem at all to have some more of that added to the juice.

Since all juice bars use fresh fruit to make the juices, they are all pretty good, but some of them are better than others when it comes to recommending which fruits go well together.

The juices are fairly cheap, and you can buy either a small cup, a medium cup or a big cup of juice, depending on how thirsty you are at the time. We highly recommend trying small cups of several different fruit juices if you have the chance. But beware, these juices are actually much more filling than they look! (So in the summer especially a glass of juice can easily substitute a snack)

Things to do in Tel Aviv: Nachalat Binyamin street market

One of the most fun things to do if you have some time to spare in the middle of the day on either a Friday or Tuesday is to visit Nachalat Binyamin street in central Tel Aviv (very close to the famed shopping street Shenkin as well as the Carmel market). That's because on these days, there is a huge arts and crafts market outdoors on this fun street, which is otherwise mostly known for all the fabric stores on it.

We took a stroll on Nachalat Binyamin street today (6/12 2012) and these are some of the things we saw for sale:

(You can click on the pics to enlarge them if you want to have a closer look)

Since the people selling these things are artists and made all the things themselves, the actual merchandise changes a lot though, based on trends as well as on what the artists themselves are into at the moment.

Nachalat Binyamin (sometimes also called Nahalat Binyamin, נחלת בנימין in Hebrew) is one of the best places to go shopping in Tel Aviv, if you are looking for something really unique, but strolling around here, looking at all the artists and the things they have created is quite a fun experience as well.

If you don't mind crowds, go on Friday when the street is packed, and if you prefer less people, Tuesday is the day to go.

Some fun facts about Nachalat Binyamin
The street was named after Zeev Benyamin Herzl, the founder of zionism who many other things in Israel (from cities to schools and anything else you can think of) are named after as well. It used to be the longest street in Tel Aviv when it was first founded, and you can still see quite a lot of old buildings here.

The Art & Craft Fair has been a Tel Aviv tradition since 1987 and over 220 artists take part in the market activities on a regular basis. All goods sold in the market must be handmade, original and the artist who made the goods must be there himself to sell them.