Best Neighborhoods in Tel Aviv

Lee Saunders 19/04/2023

Tel Aviv is a city of contrasts. A modern city in an ancient world; vibrant and innovative, yet chaotic and relentless; secular and open-minded, but passionate and forthright. It is part of the package that makes your time here special. With a thriving art scene, hypnotic architecture, glorious Middle Eastern food, and the unwavering warmth of the people, you will find an ‘at home’ feel you might not have expected.

Located on 15km of shoreline along the Mediterranean coast, Tel Aviv traces its history back to April 11, 1909, recently celebrating its 114th birthday. The U.S. was already welcoming William Howard Taft as its 27th President. On that day, a new neighborhood called Ahuzat Bayit, later known as Tel Aviv, was formed when a lottery in which 66 grey seashells and 66 white seashells were paired together and allocated to families looking to move out of overcrowded Jaffa. From those origins, sprang Tel Aviv, which grew – rapidly in the 1930s, with a peak wave of Jewish immigration from war-torn Europe – and the city slowly emerged as the entertainment, cultural and business center. Theatres were established and the first trade fair took place in the early 1930s. Jaffa was amalgamated with Tel Aviv in 1950, and the united municipality became officially known as Tel Aviv–Yafo. Today, the engine of the Israeli economy and innovation, Tel Aviv is the backbone of Israel’s largest metropolitan area, over two-fifths of Israel’s population, with Tel Aviv-Yafo itself surpassing 460,000.

In this Tel Aviv neighborhood guide, we look at popular neighborhoods with vibes as diverse as the residents who live there. From the busy to the calm, the eclectic to the edgy, Tel Aviv neighborhoods have it all. The very first neighborhood – the charming and civilized Neve Tzedek – was established by a group of families in 1887, also as an escape from crowded Jaffa, which today is renowned for the smell of fresh fish and sea air, and the familiar sound of the call of the muezzin. The oldest seaport in the world, Jaffa has been a port city for over 4,000 years and is believed to be where Jonah (of ‘Jonah and the Whale’ fame) set off from. By contrast, south Tel Aviv’s Florentine neighborhood has emerged as a bohemian hipster ‘hood, decorated with some of the most fascinating street art in Tel Aviv, a long way from its founding by Greek Jews from Thessaloniki almost a century ago. More modern art and culture can be found in the center, at, and close to, Habima Square, which branches out into the iconic Rothschild Boulevard and Dizengoff Street, among others. North of the historic city center is the Old North, whose focus is Tel Aviv Port (“Hanamal”), today, one of the largest cultural and entertainment centers in the country. Developed in the 1930s and 1940s, it was called the “Old North” to distinguish it from the New North – built after the establishment of the state and which stretches eastwards to Kikar HaMedina, the largest plaza in Tel Aviv and home to many high-end stores stocking the global super brands.

Neve Tzedek: You’ll love Tel Aviv’s first neighborhood
A short walk from one of the best hotels in Tel Aviv, the Dan Panorama Tel Aviv, you will discover the artsy neighborhood of Neve Tzedek: a cluster of cobbled streets, a tranquil oasis away from the hustle and bustle of central Tel Aviv, just to the north. Stroll down the enchanting Shabazi Street, lined with designer boutiques, classy wine bars, romantic cafés and ambient restaurants from where you can people-watch. Nearby, the Nahum Gutman Museum, once the meeting place for Tel Aviv writers, today holds the collection of works by Tel Aviv artist Nahum Gutman. Take in a show at the Suzanne Dellal Centre, before popping into the Anita on the way home, for one of their classic gelatos.

Jaffa: a hybrid of the ancient and the modern

South of the Dan Panorama Tel Aviv is the fascinating ancient port city of Jaffa, whose narrow alleyways usher you through a long and unparalleled history. Jaffa’s timeless attractions lie among the dynamic and lively mix of art galleries and workshops. Make sure you take a daily walking tour from the Jaffa Clock Tower, sample the street food, and explore the legendary Jaffa Flea Market (“Shuk Hapishpeshim”), to take home one of the colorful rugs, authentic Middle Eastern antiques, “hamsa” lucky charms, and more. By night, there is a hive of activity around the area’s restaurants, many with a splendid view of the sea and Tel Aviv to the north.

Florentine: The definition of urban cool
This industrial zone-turned-artist enclave is the perfect place to spend the day. A short bus ride north from Jaffa, and 20 minutes south from the Dan Tel Aviv, Florentine has become one of the best neighborhoods in Tel Aviv. Start your visit at the Levinsky Market, where the exotic smells of local spices fill the air. Though smaller than the nearby Carmel Market, here you will find a more local feel, some of the best Yemenite food, and the most flavorful sabich and falafel. Take in the youthful vibe of this authentic ‘Tel Avivi’ neighborhood, and, with a walking tour, you can learn more about the creative street art plastered all over many walls and shutters.

Habima to Dizengoff Square: The center of the action
A ten-minute walk east from the Dan Tel Aviv will bring you into the heart of Tel Aviv, one of the main public squares, Kikar Dizengoff. Named for the wife of Tel Aviv’s first mayor, Meir Dizengoff, the square – with a fountain and outdoor seating – is actually a roundabout at the intersection of six streets. Keep heading south to discover Dizengoff Center, Israel’s first mall, completed 30 years ago, and straight down Dizengoff Street brings you to the back of Habima Square, home to Israel’s National Theater and the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. Walk down the center of Rothschild Boulevard, next to dog-walkers clutching multiple leashes, families mingling under a lush green canopy, while pensioners play boules in the center of this beautiful street.

The Old North: The place to relax
Walking or scootering north along the promenade in front of the Dan Tel Aviv, you will reach the Tel Aviv Port, located in the Old North. Laid out on a sprawling wooden deck, the Tel Aviv port is buzzing with leisure, entertainment, shopping outlets and a Farmer’s Market. As the daytime crowd retreats, the port becomes one of the most popular drinking and partying spots. Nearby, Hayarkon Park draws in many runners, Tai Chi fanatics, and yoga-lovers who come to enjoy the picnic spots here, or party in the summer with the global bands performing concerts to the public. Further north, you have the Eretz Israel Museum and the ANU – Museum of the Jewish People, both well worth a visit.

Best way to get around Tel Aviv

With four main train stations and Tel Aviv Central Bus Station, Tel Aviv is the country’s main transport hub and easy to reach from Ben Gurion airport, and to navigate when here. The best way to explore, is to choose a neighborhood and walk. An extensive bus network will get you anywhere you need to go, as well as small yellow taxi (“sherut”), bike, or e-scooter. Buy a Ravkav travel card at any of the train stations or city’s kiosks for use on public transport, and download the Moovit app for lines and live schedules.

This city that never sleeps runs on an adrenalin and an energy like few others, with residents living life here at 100%. The mix of western and Middle Eastern culture is quite unlike anywhere else, and while each of the city’s neighborhoods beat to the sound of a different drum, Tel Aviv’s heart would not be the same without them.

Quick-fire Q&A about Tel Aviv:

Why Tel Aviv is so famous?
With spectacular beaches, first-rate dining, the ideal climate, and a buzzing outdoor culture, this city’s magic will leave a memorable imprint on you, long after you depart.

Why is Tel Aviv called the White City?
Tel Aviv is nicknamed the ‘White City,’ referencing the approximate 4,000 white buildings built in the early 20th-century German style, Bauhaus. Tracing its roots back to 1919 Germany, this architectural movement found a home in Tel Aviv, and central Tel Aviv has more 1930s Bauhaus-style buildings than any other city and it was designated one of the first ‘modern’ UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the world in 2003. Look for structures characterized by trademark horizontal lines, flat roofs, white walls and an almost complete lack of fancy decoration or learn more on a walking tour from Bauhaus Center, at Dizengoff 77.

Where should I stay in Tel Aviv?
With three hotels in Tel Aviv, the Dan Tel Aviv, the Dan Panorama Tel Aviv and the cutting-edge LINK Hotel & Hub, you are close to all the action, and have access to some of the most luxurious and relaxing facilities around.

What are the main neighborhoods in Tel Aviv?
From the Old and New North at one end of the city, and Florentine, Neve Tzedek and Jaffa at the other, you will always be within walking distance of the sea. The outer lying suburbs include Ramat Aviv, Ramat Gan and Givatayim, all a bus ride away if you want to explore a little out of the city.

How many days do you need in Tel Aviv?
Seven days in Tel Aviv should give you a flavor of how the city breathes, lives and loves. You will be able to cover the majority of the principal attractions, but then there is Jerusalem, Haifa, Eilat and more, as well!

Do they speak English in Tel Aviv?
While it is always good to master a few basic sentences, such as “hello,” “how much is this?” and “thank you” (“shalom” “ka-ma ze o-le?”) and “todah”), the vast majority of people you will encounter in Tel Aviv will understand and speak English.

What is the most beautiful street in Tel Aviv?
Cutting through the heart of Tel Aviv, from Allenby at the bottom end to Habima Theater at the top, the colorful jacaranda-lined Rothschild Boulevard never fails to dazzle. Flanked by restaurants, cafes, and ice cream parlors, you can meander carefree down the center of the boulevard.