Well, we’ve told you all about the must-see sites in Tel Aviv, now it’s time to tell you about some of the lesser known sites that you should probably also check out. Sites that are just ever so slightly off the well-trodden tourist path. So, yes, these are perfect if you’re after something just a wee bit different, or you’re here for longer than a lightning quick holiday.
Some of these might just blow your mind…in a good way, of course!
Tour the old central bus station in Tel Aviv
The old central bus station is one of those buildings that everybody knows where it is, but nobody really wants to go there. Seven stories of an architectural nightmare that was once deemed the savior of Tel Aviv’s public transport system (and which was the world’s biggest bus station until 2012). And yes, I even lived right next door to this place when it first opened, and would often be seen scurrying through its labyrinth of tunnels and entrances on my way to work. But that’s another story.
Now you can get to tour one of Israel’s craziest buildings, a building which has it all; expect to see some old school architecture, some old-school shops, break-dancing, tons of graffiti, and yes, even a bat cave!!!
The tours last 2.5 hours and are typically run on Fridays (meeting point is at Levinsky 118, Tel Aviv, Gate #42-43 of the bus station). The tour website seems outdated and not working, so get in touch via their Facebook page for more details of the tours.
And here’s a bit of a taster…
Visit Zalmania, the oldest photography shop in Israel
If you’re looking to delve into some genuine Tel Aviv nostalgia, head to Zalmania, or the Pri-Or Photohouse as it’s also known.
Established back in 1940, Zalmania is the oldest photography shop in Israel. Apparently, it has been family owned and operated for at least three generations, and has become one of Israel’s most important and largest photography archives, holding over one million negatives that document Israel’s amazing history.
Today it is more of an archive shop, selling photographs, books, postcards and gifts, but well worth a visit! Visit the store at 5 Tchernichovski Street, or check out their website or Facebook page for more details.
Get spicy at the Levinsky Market
Levinsky market is not on the typical tourist path as it’s probably a little too south for some, and definitely the poorer cousin of the legendary Carmel Market. But a visit to the spice capital of Tel Aviv is highly recommended!
The market is actually spread across Levinsky Street, between HaAliyah and Herzl Streets. Expect to find a huge range of spices and culinary delights, including nuts, dried fruits, spices galore, bakeries and delicatessens. Or simply try some amazing authentic food at restaurants like Yahaloma (5 Zvulun Street) and Nayeb’s (78 Nachalat Binyamin Street). Fancy they won’t be, but hungry you won’t be when you leave!
Today you can tour the market and its various side streets on your own easily enough; alternatively try a 2-3 hour market tour from some of our own foodie experts.
Visit the one-of-a-kind Matkot Museum
The charming neighborhood of Neve Tzedek isn’t just an architectural delight; hidden away on Shabazi Street (no. 61) is the rather unique Matkot Museum!
Amnon Nisim is the owner, and is a bit of a character. He’ll be happy to show you around for free (call first to check: 03-5174908), so enjoy his rather amazing collection of some 350 matkot rackets (matkot – paddle ball – is the national sport, found on beaches everywhere in Israel), whilst he blasts a few Elvis records in the background!
Definitely a one-of-a-kind experience!
Taste the Yemenite baked goodies in HaTikva Market
We love markets that are a bit off the cuff, so to speak, and the HaTikva Market is definitely one to savor, if you’re after a slice of the real Israel.
But one of the real joys of this market is a little bakery, the Asaluf Yemenite Bakery, maybe 3 or 4 stalls into the market on your left (if you enter the market from the Yigal Alon Street end). The food is great, and freshly made, with plenty of atmosphere to enjoy. If you head down there on a Friday, expect plenty of larger than life locals supping a beer and holding conversation (loudly…). Once you’re done, enjoy the rest of the market…and see what you can find!
A slice of the real Israel, if ever there was one!
Explore some amazing street art
Tel Aviv is home to some mighty impressive street art these days, with South Tel Aviv in particular full of some quite stunning work.
You can certainly enjoy some of these street art shows on your own; head to the neighborhoods of Florentin and beyond for the best art. You’ll find a variety of styles and signatures on display, which have added a certain flair to the city. Some artists, such as Know Hope and Dede have become urban heroes, and you can spot their work almost everywhere.
You’ll certainly need your camera with you to capture some of the latest and greatest artwork. You could also enjoy one of Guy’s special Hebrew-learning graffiti lessons (how we first got introduced to the amazing street art scene), or just head to the 7th floor of the central bus station (yes, the same bus station mentioned above) for an ongoing street art project which has taken over the whole floor.
Wander the lanes of Keren HaTemanim
This cute old neighborhood dates back to the late 19th century, when Yemenite immigrants settled here in 1904, and was part of the first stages of the city we all know and love, Tel Aviv.
It’s definitely something a little different, an old-school oasis of lanes and houses that have seen better days. But don’t that rough exterior fool you, there are some great things to enjoy in this neighborhood. In particular, enjoy the local cuisine (delicious Yemenite soup and home-made hummus) that you can find in some of the little hole-in-the-wall eateries and restaurants, such as Julie, Misedet Shimon, and Etzel Zarum. If you’re after a quiet, classy beer, head to the Norman Bar (Hillel HaZaken 8).
Definitely leave the car behind and take a stroll or bike round the alleyways, you won’t be disappointed. And if you need just a little more action, head to the Carmel Market, just a few meters away…