Exploring Lev Ha’ir, the Cultural Hub of Tel Aviv

Lev Ha’ir is the heart of Tel Aviv
Lev Ha’ir is the heart of Tel Aviv | © john norman / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Leoni Jesner
23 August 2019

Lev Ha’ir forms the heart of the ‘White City,’ a densely populated area on and around Rothschild Boulevard buzzing with a flurry of activity both day and night.

Lev Ha’ir offers a glimpse into what Tel Aviv was like when it was founded in 1909, as well as a glance towards the future with impressive skyscrapers, upscale dining spots and a high concentration of start-up companies that have made the neighbourhood their home. Bordered by Habima Theater in the north and Florentin and Neve Tzedek in the south, Lev Ha’ir is a gateway to almost every district in the city.

Whether it’s the striking concentration of Bauhaus structures, busy coffee kiosks or nightlife haunts, there is something for everyone to do and see here, 24 hours a day.

Explore the architecture of the White City

Spend a morning strolling around the White City, so named because of the 4,000 Bauhaus-style buildings that dot this area. Designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2003, and boasting the world’s largest collection of International Style buildings, the neighbourhood offers a blend of authentic 1920s and 1930s structures and modern-day interpretations of Bauhaus architecture. Make sure to visit Bialik Street, home to the Beit Ha’ir Museum, which traces the history of the city’s development over the decades.

Pro tip: The Bauhaus Center offers a tour of the White City every Friday at 10am for 80 Israeli new shekels (£19). The tour covers the history of the district through a number of Bauhaus buildings and includes interesting facts about their construction and their significance and function in modern-day Tel Aviv.

The Beit Ha’ir Museum focusses on the history of Tel Aviv | © Sarit Richerson / Alamy Stock Photo

Get to know the history of Lev Ha’ir

Explore Lev Ha’ir on foot while soaking up its history on the Independence Trail, a one-kilometre (0.6-mile) route that was launched in 2018 to mark Israel’s 70th birthday. Inspired by the Freedom Trail in Boston, each of the 10 historical sites – a mix of museums and cultural spots – marks significant chapters into the work of leaders during the four decades leading up to the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948.

Pro tip: The tour itself is self-guided and available to download on the Independence Trail app (on iOS and Android) or via tablet rental at the information centre opposite Rothschild Blvd 11. By night, the trail is illuminated and open to the public.

The Great Synagogue lies on the Independence Trail, Tel Aviv | © Mokum images / Alamy Stock Photo

Discover the up-and-coming designers of Gan HaHashmal

What was once a neglected, run-down neighbourhood has been renovated into a fashionable quarter – contained within HaHashmal, Allenby, Yehuda Halevi and Barzilai streets – that now attracts budding fashion designers and hipsters with a flair for eclectic designs. A cluster of about 40 fashion and jewellery stores, centred around a small park, forms the Collective Gan HaHashmal, established by up-and-coming designers at the forefront of the neighbourhood’s gentrification.

Pro tip: Head to Kisim for a range of contemporary leather handbags and backpacks.

Find rising fashion designers in the neighbourhood | © Lev Tsimbler / Alamy Stock Photo

Grab lunch at the hottest restaurant in town

Herzl 16 opened in 2018 in a renowned courtyard complex. The successor to Rothschild 12, a popular restaurant-bar that closed its doors in 2018, Herzl 16 draws crowds from all over Tel Aviv for its Asian-inspired, small-bites menu and its fine wine list. Its outdoor tree-lined courtyard is as popular as its indoor seating, and the bar hosts regular live musical performances.

Pro tip: The restaurant serves a brunch menu on Fridays and Saturdays, from morning until 5pm, that includes dishes such as soba blini with smoked salmon and a glass noodle salad of Chinese cabbage and root vegetables.

Explore Sheinkin Street

Bookended by Allenby and Rothschild Boulevard, Sheinkin – one of Tel Aviv’s most famous streets – has become a busy, trendy part of town due in part to decades of renovations and its one-of-a-kind boutiques, cosy cafés and mini-park. Head to Story for a selection of the latest fashion labels and lifestyle collections, and visit Lili & Tom for über-chic clothes and accessories for children and babies.

Pro tip: Take a seat at Rega (translated from Hebrew as “moment”), a relaxed coffee house described as “a cultural salon” where good food, art and live music collide.

Sheinkin Street is brimming with cafés and boutiques | © Alex Segre / Alamy Stock Photo

Dine outdoors among the district’s most popular landmarks

Thanks to a mild climate year-round, al fresco dining is a major part of the Tel Aviv lifestyle, and where better to soak up the vibe than the area around the Great Synagogue, a significant landmark in the city since its completion in 1926. Here, you’ll find many popular restaurants, including Santa Katarina, a Mediterranean restaurant located in the synagogue’s courtyard. The menu is a mix of European and Middle-Eastern dishes created with the freshest of ingredients, plus a selection of taboon-oven-cooked pizzas. Make sure to book a table at the weekend.

Pro tip: Enjoy a post-dinner drink at The Poli House Hotel’s rooftop bar, where cocktails, a sea view and refreshing breeze are on tap.

Take in splendid views atop The Poli House Hotel | © Boaz Rottem / Alamy Stock Photo

Immerse yourself in art

Art lovers can spend a morning or afternoon exploring the sprawl of galleries on and around Rothschild Boulevard. Some of the most renowned art spots include Cheloush Gallery, Noga Gallery of Contemporary Art and Sommer Contemporary Art, alongside Joseph Bau House, which displays a selection of works from the eponymous Israeli-Polish artist. For the serious art connoisseur, Gallery 32 on Ahad Ha’am Street, housed within a beautiful eclectic building, exhibits the likes of Hiro Ando, Erró and more.

Pro tip: As many art venues remain open over the weekend, gallery-hopping is the perfect way to spend a Saturday morning, a day in which many stores are typically closed for the Jewish Sabbath.

Sommer Contemporary Art focusses on international and Israeli contemporary art | © kpzfoto / Alamy Stock Photo

Soak up the dynamic nightlife

Tel Aviv is the place to party the night away, and Lev Ha’ir has some of the best bars and clubs in the city. Start the night with drinks at Sputnik, a retro-futuristic-style venue that is considered one of the most ‘hipster-esque’ bars in town. Afterwards, walk to Radio EPGB and rub shoulders with the coolest Tel Avivians at this ultra-trendy underground club.

Pro tip: “Start late and end early” is the mantra in Tel Aviv. Many bars stay open until the last customer, and the club scene gets going from midnight onwards.

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