Difference between revisions of "Tel Aviv"
Revision as of 10:26, 13 August 2011
Tel Aviv (Hebrew: תֵּל־אָבִיב-יָפוֹ, Arabic: تَلْ أَبِيبْ يَافَا) is the second largest city in Israel (after Jerusalem), and the largest metropolitan area. It is on the Mediterranean coast, about 60 km north-west of Jerusalem and some 100 km south of Haifa. The official name is Tel Aviv-Yafo (תל אביב-יפו), and reflects the fact that the city has grown beside (and absorbed) the ancient port city of Yafo (English: Jaffa, Arabic: يافا Yafa), to the south of the new city center, in addition to many other neighboring cities.
Tel Aviv is a rapidly growing city in the midst of an exciting transition from medium-sized urban center to bustling international metropolis. It's the city that many Israelis think of as their New York. While the comparison was once a stretch - and indeed Tel Aviv is still a fraction of New York's size - Tel Aviv's booming population, energy, edginess and 24-hour life give the city a cosmopolitan flair comparable to few other cities in this part of the world.
Tel Aviv is not really divided into districts, but rather into over 50 different neighborhoods. Some neighborhoods are really distinctive areas with different cultures (e.g. Neve Tzedek, Florentin, Ramat-Ha'Chayal), while others are simply indicating a geographical area. Tel Aviv grew mainly from the south to the north so the further you go to the north you will encounter newer buildings and wealthier communities.
The smallish gulf of Jaffa has been the site of a fortified port town for at least 4000 years. During the 19th century the town’s population grew from about 2,500 (1806) to 17,000 (1886). The old city walls could no longer contain the population, and they were destroyed in the 1870s. New, more spacious neighborhoods started to appear.
Tel Aviv (meaning literally "Hill of Spring") itself was founded in 1909 by a group of distinguished Jewish residents of Jaffa. They envisaged a European-style garden suburb, with wide streets and boulevards. Leaving Jaffa wasn’t, however, only a question of an upgrade in lifestyle. Moving out of the Arab-dominated town also represented their belief in the Jewish national movement, their belief in Zionism. Before being a city, Tel Aviv was one of the many titles of Herzel's Zionist utopia - The Old New Land book. Setting out with a grand vision, the 60 Tel Aviv founders have started out by building the first mid-eastern urban center with running water, no small wonder in that part of the world in 1909.
Tel Aviv grew steadily under Ottoman law until WWI. By the end of the war the British took over the Holy Land. An event the Jewish community saw as encouraging, while and the Muslim community viewed as a turn-for-the-worst from the previous Islamic ruler. In May 1921, an Arab mob attacked a Jewish immigration center, killing dozens of Jews. Another group broke the windows stores in the Jewish street in Jaffa and a mob armed with knives and sticks have made his way towards Tel Aviv. Before 1921 most Jews worked and lived in Jaffa, after the attack thousands of the 16,000 Jews of Jaffa moved north to Tel Aviv. The suburb had become a city and within a decade, Tel Aviv had become the center of culture, commerce and light industry for the entire Jewish population of the country as well as the British soldiers. 1938 marked the opening of Tel Aviv port, an important milestone marking the end of its dependency on Jaffa. By this time, Tel Aviv was already the biggest city in the country, with 130,000 residents. After Israel’s declaration of independence in 1948, Jaffa became a district of Tel Aviv and the city's name was officially changed to Tel Aviv-Yafo.
Today, Tel Aviv-Yafo represents the heart of a thriving, Israeli metropolis - the greater metropolitan area comprises a number of separate municipalities with approximately 3.1 million people living in a 25 km long sprawl along the Mediterranean coast - with around 392,700 in Tel Aviv-Yafo itself making it the second largest city in Israel after Jerusalem(760,800 inhabitants). Bat Yam, Holon, Ramat Gan, Givatayim, Bnei-Brak, Petah Tikva, Rishon LeZion, Ramat Ha-Sharon, Rehovot and Herzliya are the other major cities in the coastal area commonly known as Gush Dan.
Whilst Jerusalem is Israel's capital city where most government departments are located, Tel Aviv and its satellite cities form the economic and cultural center. It is known as "the city that doesn't stop" and indeed you will find that the nightlife and culture are on around the clock. In summer it is not unusual to see the beach boardwalk bustling with people at 4AM and the clubs and bars usually pick up around midnight until morning, giving Tel Aviv a well deserved reputation of being a party town. It is the pinnacle of secular life in Israel.
In July 2003 Tel Aviv-Yafo was declared a cultural UNESCO World Heritage site for the many "International" style (also known as Bauhaus after the German school it originated from) buildings built in the city during the 1930s-50s. As this style emphasized simplicity and the white color, Tel Aviv is also called the White City.
Tel Aviv lies alongside the Mediterranean coastline. With few exceptions, all points of interest for tourists are in a rectangle defined by the sea to the west, the Yarkon River to the north, the Ayalon highway to the east, and Salame Road to the south. This rectangle is separated into two long strips by Ibn-Gvirol Street, starting from the Yarkon River and changing its name to Yehuda Halevy. Most of the attractions are in the west of these strips.
Tel Aviv developed from south to north. To the south-western corner of the rectangle you will find old Jaffa. To its north, is the first Jewish neighborhood outside Jaffa, Neve Tzedek (meaning "Oasis of Justice"). To Neve Tzedek’s east is Florentin, a 1920s light-industry quarter founded by Jews from Salonika in Greece that in recent years has turned into a trendy neighborhood for young people, albeit one with a large population of older and poor people; and then the Central Bus Station area, now home to foreign workers from around the world.
To the north of Neve Tzedek is "Kerem Ha'Temanim" (the Yemenite Vineyard), a crowded but picturesque neighborhood dating to the early 20th century and east and north of here lies the city center, a chiefly residential area built in the 1920s and 1930s, where the majority of Bauhaus ("International") style architecture is to be found. Further north and east, the "old north" (not to be confused with "the north" on the other side of the Yarkon), is a more spacious residential area built during the 1940s and 1950s.
Tel Aviv residents often speak of a north-south divide in Tel Aviv-Yafo. The north is usually associated with a continental, chic, and suburbanite lifestyle centered around Kikar haMedina and "Ramat Aviv". To the south, the city takes on a more working-class and eastern, albeit evermore trendy, urban feel. A crude divide would be that all neighborhoods north of the Yarkon River are considered "north"; the area between the sea in the west, Ayalon Highway in the east, Yarkon River in the north and Salame Street in the south is considered "central" Tel Aviv. The area south of Salame Street is generally south Tel Aviv, and Jaffa lies to the South-West. North Tel Aviv is generally more residential and family-oriented; central Tel Aviv is the hipper-younger area with many single people and couples in their 20s and 30s; south Tel Aviv is a rapidly gentrifying area with a mixed population - from older working-class people to artists to migrant African workers.
Tel Aviv is likely the most liberal city in Israel and in the Middle East - as it is no-less liberal than Western Europe's liberally-inclined major cities. It has a bustling civil society and is home to many activist movements and NGOs. Its residents tend to have liberal attitudes towards gay and lesbian rights, and, in fact, Tel Aviv hosts the largest gay pride parade in Israel (the only country in the Middle East where homosexuality is not considered illegal). It is also a destination for gay Palestinian refugees, unable to pursue their lifestyle in the Palestinian territories. With its liberalism comes a dose of sophistication and some will say detachment, and Tel Aviv is often dubbed "The Bubble" or "Medinat Tel Aviv" ("The State of Tel Aviv") by residents and non-residents alike. Some ultra-Orthodox Israelis have even dubbed the city a modern day "Sodom and Gomorrah", due to its hedonistic lifestyle.
Tel Aviv's (and Israel's) main entry point for the international traveler is Ben Gurion International Airport (referred to by its Hebrew initials Natbag by locals). The airport comprises all the usual amenities expected from a first class airport and contains one of the world's largest duty-free shopping malls for an airport of its size. The airport is the hub for a number of airlines, most notably El Al. It's also one of the most secure airports in the world, given its location.
Even though the airport is called TLV it's not actually in Tel Aviv, but rather 15km away in the town of Lod. A further 20 minute drive is needed to get to Tel Aviv. This trip can be done by train, or taxi from Ben Gurion airport. There is no bus or sherut taxi to Tel Aviv from Ben Gurion.
By train: The airport train station is easily accessible at the lower level on Terminal 3 (one level below the arrivals hall). It offers good connection to many parts of the country, including the city of Tel Aviv, with a single-ride ticket to the city for only 12 NIS (roughly $3US). Buy a ticket from the cashier or from an automatic machine, and use it to enter the platform area. Keep the ticket for use to exit the electronic gate at your arrival station. The train service operates around the clock on weekdays, with 3 trains per hour most of the day and one per hour at night. On weekends and Jewish holidays, from Friday afternoon till Saturday evenings, it doesn't operate (As of November 2007, the last departure from the airport on Friday is at 14.37, the first departure on Saturday at 19.35. During day-light saving time trains start 2 hours later on Saturdays). Trains stop at all four Tel Aviv stations, with the exception of late night trains that stop only at Tel Aviv Merkaz/Savidor station. The stations are, in order of arrival from the airport: Tel Aviv HaHagana (8 minutes travel), Tel Aviv HaShalom (13 minutes), Tel Aviv Merkaz/Savidor (18 minutes), Tel Aviv University (25 minutes). For most travelers, HaShalom or Merkaz/Savidor would be the place to disembark. Most stations are suitable for non-Hebrew speakers, nonetheless, passengers will often be glad to assist.
By taxi: Working 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, this is the most comfortable and of course, expensive way to reach the city center, with a typical ride price of around 120 NIS (circa $30US). If you travel with a friend or two, it can be a good idea to share a taxi. It is not inappropriate to sit in the front seat in taxis in Israel. It is obligatory by law to use the taxi meter, unless agreed otherwise by the passenger and driver, and a typical ride to the city center should not take more than 15-20 minutes, without heavy traffic. Be sure not to accept fix-priced rides with taxi drivers unless you're sure of what you are doing; you will always end up paying more than you could have had you asked to use the meter.
Tel Aviv is the hub of the country's modern network of freeways. The city is easily accessible from Ben Gurion Airport via the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv freeway (freeway 1), from the north by Tel Aviv-Haifa freeway (freeway 2), as well as from Beer-Sheva and the southern parts of the country (freeways 4 and 20). Freeways' speed limit varies between 90km/h and 100km/h. On other intercity roads the limit is 80km/h. On urban roads the default speed limit is 50km/h.
The city is divided west-east by the Ayalon Freeway (freeway 20), which is the main artery of the city. It is best to avoid commuter traffic in and out of Tel Aviv and its surrounding cities during rush hours (Sunday to Thursday, 7:00-9:00 and 17:00-19:00); especially to be avoided is the entrance to Tel Aviv via Ayalon Freeway in morning rush hour, as it is one of the most busy freeways in the world. Also, it is important to note that Israeli drivers are considered aggressive in comparison to their Western European or North American counterparts. Signage is is in English, Hebrew and Arabic. Navigation is difficult without GPS, and parking is expensive. If possible, avoid using a private car in Tel Aviv and use public transportation.
Israeli highway police are strict and speed limits and driving laws are strictly enforced. All in all, driving conditions in Israel are much better than in the rest of the Middle East, though accident rates are considerably higher than in North America or Western Europe.
The New Central Bus Station in southern Tel Aviv ("Tahana Merkazit") offers routes servicing most locations in Israel. It is located within a short walking distance of the HaHaganah Train Station. The building, which is a combination of shopping mall and bus terminal, is more than a bit confusing - in fact, it is almost unmanageable for the infrequent visitor; tourists might want to avoid it and instead take buses destined for the 2000 Bus Terminal (see below). Nevertheless, most inter-city bus lines depart from platforms on the north wing of 6th floor, except for buses to Galilee (Afula, Nazareth, Tiberias, Kiryat Shmona etc.) which are on the south wing on 7th floor (accessible by escalator from 6th floor). Most urban lines to Tel Aviv and its suburbs are on the north wing on 7th floor (which isn't connected to the south wing of the same floor), with several lines on 4th floor which is actually at street level (those are popular city lines no. 4&5, and 44&46 to Bat Yam via Yafo).
To get to Ben Yehuda St. from the Central Bus Station, head to the 4th floor and catch line number 4. The fare is 6 shekels (Feb. 2011). Get off at the intersection of Allenby and Ben Yehuda to find a slew of hotels including the Sky and Momos hostels. A good marker to find your bearings is the Mercure hotel (big lit up sign) on Ben Yehuda, get off around there.
Several urban lines stop outside the station building on Levinski street (north side of the station), and some others a block away to the west on Har Zion street. Sherut taxis depart from Tzemach David street outside the east side of the station.
Check the electronic boards in departure halls for info on destinations, platforms and coming-up departures. If this doesn't help, ask at the information booths. For most intercity and some suburban lines you should go to Egged booth on 6th floor. Metropoline, a company which operates service to Beer Sheva (and destinations enroute), also has an info booth on that floor (on the right from Egged booth). For most bus lines within the metropolitan area of Tel Aviv you should go to the Dan info booth on 7th floor (they also handle info on lines operated by Kavim).
Several intercity and many metropolitan destinations are also served from the more user-friendly 2000 Bus Terminal (AKA Arlozorov terminal), next to Tel Aviv Merkaz/Savidor Train Station. It is a good place to make connections between train and bus, and there are information desks. North-bound buses stop at Namir Road alongside this terminal, but at peak times they might be full when they get there. Most south-bound buses stop at Holon Junction. The above warning is also valid there.
In general, buses follow the Fourth Commandment ("Remember the Sabbath day"), stopping on Friday afternoon, and only resuming service Saturday after sunset. Some services, however, may start earlier on Saturday afternoon. Minor services may not resume until Sunday morning. Tickets can be bought from the driver, or from the ticket counters in the main stations. For information, call 03-6948888, or *2800 from any phone within the country, . A daily bus service is also available to and from Amman through the King Hussein Bridge. Call the operator (04-6573984) for details.
Israel Railways +972-3-5774000,  operate train services within Israel. Train service has improved significantly during the last decade or so, and today they are a fast and comfortable alternative to buses for many destinations. Train services connect Tel Aviv to Haifa and Beer-Sheva, as well as numerous smaller towns whilst a direct train line connects Tel Aviv to Ben-Gurion airport.
Note that the train ride to Jerusalem follows the 19th century path, and this scenic route is worth taking at least once, even though taking the bus on the modern highway takes half the time. A new high-speed line between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem is currently being constructed, with eventual travel time of only 28 minutes.
Trains do tend to be crowded during rush hours, especially on Sunday morning, when soldiers return to their bases and students to their universities. Train service also stops on Friday afternoons, and resumes on Saturdays after sunset, in observance of the Jewish Sabbath (Shabbat).
Tel Aviv has four train stations, all along the Ayalon highway. All trains to Tel Aviv stop in all four stations. For best access to the city center, use either "Tel Aviv Merkaz" (a.k.a. "Arlozorov" and officially named "Savidor"), or "Hashalom" (located in a large shopping mall). "Tel Aviv Ha-Hagana" Station is close to the New Central Bus Station, but buses to most destinations in Tel Aviv and intercity buses (including to Jerusalem and Haifa) also leave from the terminal outside "Tel Aviv Merkaz" ("Arlozorov") train station.
Tel Aviv has a modern, regular, cheap and widespread bus network run mostly by a company called Dan . Bus services start at 05:00 and stop at midnight, though some of the lines stop earlier, so do check. Single tickets within the city and the close suburbs (Bat Yam, Holon, Ramat Gan, Bney Brak, Givatayim) cost 6 NIS, around $1.5US (as of January 2011). A daily pass called "Hofshi-Yomi" is also available, and cost less than the price of three rides. Note that this ticket is only valid from 9:00. There is also the new Dan Chip Card (free signup at Central bus or trainstation required) which can be charged up by paying a lump sum of your choice on buses, and resulting in a 20% discount on each ride. Monthly tickets are also available and offer cost savings per ride. People visiting the city for longer periods would find the Hofshi-Hodshi the most economic transport ticket.
Tickets can be purchased either at the driver of any bus line, or at the New Central Bus Station. Exact change is not necessary, but a driver may refuse payment by notes of 100 or 200 Shekels.
Suburban lines are also operated by Egged (mainly to the southern suburbs) and Kavim (to Kiryat Ono region) companies. Multi-ride tickets are not exchangeable between companies.
The most popular bus route in the city is bus route number 5, which connects the Central Bus Station (departure from 4th floor, westernmost platform) in the south with the Central Train Station. It goes through Rotschild Boulevards, Dizengof Street (Including the Dizengof Center Mall), Nordau Boulevard, Pinkas/Yehuda Maccabi Street and Weizman Street or Namir Road.
Another popular bus route is number 18, connecting the Central Train Station with the southern neighbourhoods of Jaffa and Bat-Yam. It also has a stop in Rabin Square.
Like most Israelis, the bus drivers in Tel Aviv speak and understand reasonably English well, and in most cases will kindly answer questions about the destination of their bus and let you know when to get off, and other passengers are likely to be just as helpful.
You can hail a taxi ("mo-NIT", מונית) in the street or call one (with extra surcharge). Taxis are obliged to give you a metered ride unless you settle for a price, so insist that the driver use the meter ("mo-NEH" in Hebrew, pronounced like the painter "Monet"), unless you are sure what the price to your destination should be. And no, the meter is never broken. A local ride without meter should be 20-30 NIS in the downtown core, and up to 50 or 60 to the immediate suburbs. If you go for a price fixed in advance, haggle with your driver a bit, you can generally knock a few shekels off the price. Cutting a deal in advance is especially recommended on Friday night and Saturday, when there is a surcharge. Plus, if you get stuck in Tel Aviv's notorious traffic, you won't sit there watching your money tick away. Hakastel taxi service, phone +972-3-6993322, Palatine +972-3-5171750 or Shekem +972-3-5270404 (add 3.30 NIS charge for the call).
In addition to normal (called "special") taxis, there are 6-12 person van-sized taxis that supplement some bus routes ("sheh-ROOT"). This alternative is often faster, slightly cheaper, and more frequent than taking a bus, and they operate 7 days a week. If requested, the driver will stop outside the designated bus stops. Such service is available on bus routes no. 4, 5 (but note that these taxis don't reach the train station), 16, 51 and 66.
Given Tel Aviv's flat and coastal geography, mild weather, and a growing number of bicycle paths throughout the city - bicycle travel in Tel Aviv is an ideal way to get around. Several shops through out the city offer bicycle rental, and cheap Chinese made bicycles can be purchased for several hundred shekels on longer stays. A relatively new service, called Tel-O-Fun lets you rent a bike in Tel Aviv. Tel-O-Fun offers hundreds of bikes for rent, at rental stations across the city, in a simple and convenient manner using a credit card.Tel-O-Fun An English language Google map of docking stations is available. Be sure to lock your bicycle at all times and don't leave it outside at night, even proper locks get cut by electric cutters in under 15 seconds.
Tel Aviv is a big place, and these listings are just some highlights of things that you really should see if you can during your visit. The complete listings are found on each individual district page alongside many more things to see in each district.
Again, there’s a lot to do in Tel Aviv, and for the biggest selection, check out the individual district articles. These are some of the highlights.
Amusement and water parks
Tel Aviv has the widest selection of performing arts in Israel.
The Barby (52, Kibutz Galuyot st., 03-5188123), and the Goldstar Zappa (24, Habarzel st., 03-6499550) present Israeli (and sometimes foreign) rock daily.
Tmuna Theater (8, Shontsino st., 03-5629462) alternates between local acts, both famous and unknown, and fringe theater productions in Hebrew.
Theater is mostly performed in Hebrew, naturally, but English interpretation is available is some of the shows for extra-fees in Habima National Theater (03-6295555) and HaCameri Municipal Theater .
The match between Hapoel and Maccabi Tel Aviv is a major event in the city as the teams are as huge rivals as they come.
Tel Aviv hosts many festivals and events. Something is going on almost every weekend so make sure you're updated!
Tel Aviv's markets are the best show in town, and they're bustling all day long. A Middle Eastern mélange of tastes, scents, sounds, colors – and lots of people.
Israel has the highest ratio of shopping mall sqm per capita, in the world. As malls are good places to catch some air-conditioning in the hot Israeli climate, they have quickly become a preferable place of entertainment for the locals. The variety is usually mid-range, mainstream, with both international and local brands.
Tel Aviv has 6 major malls.
The air-conditioned malls threaten to destroy the concept of shopping streets, but some of the more special ones still survive.
Dizengoff Street is popular with the shoppers as the street is peppered with numerous specialty shops, cafes, and restaurants, as well as the sprawling Dizengoff Center Mall. One of the cities best second hand clothing shops can be found at the corner of Dizengoff and Frishman Streets in the covered passageway. It's called Daffodil 11, and the shop sells modern, trendy clothing at unbelievably low prices. Second-hand clothing shops are getting very popular in Tel Aviv and you'll find them scattered all over the city.
Daffodil 11 101 Dizengoff Hod Passage, Tel Aviv
If you're lucky enough to be in Tel Aviv in February or August, you can find the city's most talented designers gathered together in one place with the best of their collections on display – and for sale. Twice a year, for three days each time, a giant fashion fair called City Designers' Market is held in Tel Aviv. Whatever you do, don't miss this colorful carnival of cutting-edge fashion!
Books and music
The country's widespread Steimatzky and Zomet Sfarim chains are a good source for current books. Almost every shop has at least a selection in English. Allenby St. has a number of second hand bookshops, most sell (and buy) English books. For music, check out Tower Records shop in the opera tower, on the corner of Alenby and Herbert Samuel. For the more alternative crowd, Krembo Records in Shenkin Street and Third Ear on King George Street will satisfy your needs.
Art, Craft, Judaica, Jewelry
Gordon Street is famous for its art galleries. Ben-Yehuda Street has several Judaica\Jewelery\souvenirs shops. You can buy jewelry from Michal Negrin, a world-famous Israeli designer, in her shops at the Azriely mall and on Sheinkin st. The prices are much better than abroad. For more original crafts and Judaica, try the Nahlat Binyamin craft market mentioned above.
List of Art Galleries:
Raw Art Gallery  which is in the southern part of Tel Aviv. 3 Shvil Ha'Meretz Street, Building 8 , 4th Floor. Tel Aviv, Israel. +972-3-6832559
Gordon Contemporary art by local artists.  95 Ben Yehuda Street. Tel-Aviv ,Israel. +972-3-5240323
Sommer Young contemporary art by Israeli and international artists.  13 Rothschild Blvd. Tel Aviv, Israel. +972-3-5166400
Egozi Gallery Gallery and an auction house for art and antiques.  35 Shaul Ha'Melech. (America bldg, near the Tel Aviv Muesuem) Tel Aviv. Israel +972-3-5277282
Palestine 8 Oley Tzion- in the Jaffa Flea Market, Tel Aviv, Israel. +972-3-6812581
Ziva Tal Antique Shop 207 Dizengoff Street, Tel Aviv, Israel. +972-3-5275311
Tel Aviv has an amazing variety of restaurants for every taste. There are plenty of fast food restaurants, both international and local which offer Israeli food. One can get a decent meal, including felafel or hummous (Try Mshwawsha on Bugrashov St. and Abu Hasan in Yafo) on every street corner, for less than $7.
You can also eat a toast, sandwich or some other snack at one of the cafes around the city. Many fruit juice parlors are around.
Cordelia, Catit, Raphael and Messa are considered to be Tel Aviv's most elegant restaurants, serving gourmet and unique plates, inspired both by local and foreign cuisine although not kosher. There are many good kosher restaurants in Tel Aviv including Lilliot, Meatos, Bruno and of course 2C which although pricey, offers gourmet food with amazing views of the city as its located at the very top of the Azrieli round tower.
Finally, Tel Aviv's ice cream parlors offer much more than basic flavors, as the taste buds are eclectic and strive for new flavors, such as Halva, poppy seed, and even a touch of alcoholic liqueurs in the ice cream (Try these places: Iceberg, Gelateria Siciliana, Dr. Lek and Aldo.
Tel Aviv is called "The city that never stops" by tourists and locals alike. It has a wide range of Pubs, Bars, Clubs and it is known worldwide for its nightlife. The entire city is crawling with nightlife attractions and you would actually have to work pretty hard to find yourself further than 500 meters away from a place to have a drink. People from all the surrounding region come to Tel Aviv to have a drink or a party so on weekends traffic is hectic at late hours and finding a parking spot is somewhere between hard and impossible (so sticking to cabs is not a bad idea). Buses stop running at sundown on Friday and only start again after sundown on Saturday, so if you go out on Friday night you may find yourself forced to take a cab if you cannot walk! But any day is a good day to party in Tel Aviv, not just the weekends.
New places are opening and closing every day and the "hottest spots" change every couple of months, so no internet guide will be able to direct you to the hippest place (even though some may try). Many places in Tel Aviv have minimum age limitations that vary from 18+ to 30+. Usually the limitation is different between males and females and while some spots may be flexible others will be as strict as possible.
Israel has no unique drinking culture so any place with any self-respect will have the entire world wide alcohol selection available, from Wine and Beer to Tequila, Arak, Vodka, Whiskey and Cognac. One of the most popular drinks is the local Goldstar beer and at the moment (2010) the Arabic drink, Arak (it means "sweat" in Arabic) is all the rage in pubs and bars.
Even though the entire city is full of spots to hang out, there are a few places that have an unusual amount of pubs/clubs:
Famous Tourists Spots
Tel Aviv Gay Scene
Tel Aviv is home to the leading gay community in Israel and all of the Middle-East, and is a very friendly city towards gay people. The most popular gay bar in the city is the "Evita" on Yavneh street. There are many gay clubs and parties. Some of which have been running for several years already (Shirazi's FFF line, which is currently taking place in the 'Haoman 17' club. The electro 'PAG' line). Others are changing from time to time. There is also a gay accommodation (see the Sleep section).
There is a gay beach in the city, next to Hilton Hotel (the gay beach called "Hilton Beach"). It is full of young gay Israelis, especially in the weekends. Next to Dizengof Center you may see gay couples walking freely all day long.
The Tel Aviv club scene is comparable to those in most European capitals. Top international DJs regularly perform in Tel Aviv, with clubs constantly vying to outdo each other with ever more extravagant parties. The biggest and newest club (mimicking New York's Roxy) in the city is Haoman 17 (Florentin quarter). Other fantastic clubs are TLV, Dome (gay; Offer Nissim is the resident DJ), Vox, Powder and the "indie" Cafe Barzilay and Studio 46. Up to date English language party listings are readily available and range from the commercial to the alternative.
Rock clubs include Barbie Club, in Kibutz Galuyot Street, or the Zappa Club, in the northeastern neighbourhood of Ramat haChayal, among others, host concerts almost every night of the week. whilst billiards (Pool) clubs include Gypsy on Kikar Atarim (Atarim plaza), located in Hayarkon St.
Dance clubsinclude the new Block Club at 157 Shlomo (Salame) St. 03-5378002
usually open Thursday and Friday nights and featuring big name international DJs weekly.
Coffee shops have been an inseparable part of the Tel Aviv cultural lifestyle ever since the city was founded, as cafés were always the favorite hanging spots of the local bohemia. It is therefore no surprise that Tel Aviv boasts many cafés, which can be found everywhere in the city, offering aromatic Italian Espressos and Capuccinos (called "Hafukh", meaning upside-down, in Hebrew). Espresso-bar, Cafeneto, Café-café and arcaffé are some of the local chain-cafés. Aroma's the biggest among them. Feel free to spend hours in a coffee shop - no one will slap the check on your table or require you to order more stuff.
Bohemian 'Puah' (located in the Jaffa flea market), Café Noah, Chic 'Le Central' (Rothschild Av.), and 'Tolaat Sfarim' (Rabin Sq.) are recommended for their very distinctive and Israeli café-drinking experience.
Another option to cut expenses a bit is to sleep in the nearby towns instead of actually staying inside Tel Aviv. This is a very common practice for young Israelis that want the Tel Aviv lifestyle without the Tel Aviv cost. The most common options are Ramat Gan, Bat Yam, Holon and Givatayim.
Most coffee shops and fast food places have free wifi, however, Israeli hotels can have extremely expensive Wifi service. Taking your computer or mobile device to a cafe may be the more inexpensive route.
Tel Aviv remains a safe city to visit. The usual warnings regarding being alert for bomb threats also pertain to Tel Aviv - beware of suspicious packages in public places (though don't over panic), and suspicious behaviour on the part of people around you (especially suspicious behavior on the part of Arabs, who, statistically speaking, are by far the most likely to commit suicide bombings); if in doubt, report it! The local police are generally very friendly and many of the law-enforcers can speak understandable English. Also be aware of pickpockets, like in every big city, mostly in HaCarmel Market, Nachlat Binyamin market, the old and new central bus stations, the beach promenade and all of Jaffa and the flea market area. Nevertheless, regular crime rates are much lower in Tel Aviv (and in all of Israel) than in most other cities of similar size.
Security control checks are a necessary annoyance when entering shopping malls, markets the central bus station, and most hotels, cafes and restaurant. You are frequently requested to let the guards look into your bag - this is a fairly common procedure. It is best not to find it offensive or intrusive, and this check shouldn't take more than 20 seconds and end with a smile and a green light. Thanking a security guard for inspecting your bags will make things easier the next time they see you.
It is also best advised to carry some sort of identification documents on you at all times. Policeman may stop and ask you for identification.
Given the amount of security checkpoints at commercial premises, the presence of military facilities and decent police patrolling, firearms carried in public by both servicemen and civilians are such an everyday occurrence that most people don't even notice them. Soldiers and home guard volunteers are required to keep their weapons with them at all times, so it is not unusual to see what appears to be a group of high school students, dressed like any other high schools students out on the weekend, all carrying weapons.
As buses are the best (some might say the only) way to tour the city, it is advised not to think twice before using them. Despite their reputation as "terrorism targets", the city buses remain a very safe way to travel, where reality is far different than the image most tourists would have on them. They are safe at all times of day and night, frequent, cheap, reliable and easy to handle. You can always approach the driver with any relevant question and the passengers are usually keen to assist tourists.
Although street crime is rare all around Tel Aviv, it would be best advised to avoid walking parks alone at night, or wandering alone in the southern neighbourhoods, which are a bit more rugged (south of Salame/Eilat Street - except Florentin) late at night. If necessary, a companion would be a good idea.
When going for a swim in the Mediterranean, stick to the patrolled beaches with lifeguards, marked with flags and signs - every year people drown off the Tel Aviv coast when strong currents get them into difficulties. Also, at the beginning of the summer, keep an eye out for jellyfish (called meduza in Hebrew, medusot is plural). Remember that during the months of winter, though the weather may allow a bathe, the lifeguard service is inactive (Official bathing season begins on April 18th and ends late in October).
Be mindful that Tel Aviv has hot and long summers so be sure to drink a lot of water even if you don't feel thirsty and use lots of sunscreen.