Tel Aviv might just be the perfect melding of historic architecture and contemporary cool. As one of the birthplaces of the Bauhaus design movement, founded in the 1920s, the city is celebrating the 90th anniversary of Bauhaus all year, along with the 100th anniversary of Tel Aviv itself.
|Tel Aviv, the White City // |
© 2009 Dmitry Pistrov
To fully grasp the powerful influence of Bauhaus School founder Walter Gropius and his clan, who migrated down from Weimar, Dessau and Berlin, Germany, during the war in 1933, I started at the Bauhaus Center on Dizengoff Street. It’s a wonderful place to pick up a few books on the subject before you set out on a two-hour guided walking tour of the more prominently designed buildings that have been coined the White City. More than 4,000 Tel Aviv buildings were constructed in cubist, sculptural, economical and functional styles by many of the 100,000 new inhabitants during that period, creating an open museum of architecture and ultimately, a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site.
The recent Annual White Night Festival turned the clock back to 1909 — when the modern Mediterranean city was founded — with music, exhibitions, dancers, costumes and vintage cars rolling along Rothschild Boulevard all the way to the newly restored Manshia Train Station for theatrical performances ending with concerts and a sunrise party at Tzuk and Alma Beaches.
There is something entertaining happening every night of the week in Tel Aviv. The locals love to party as much as they like to debate politics or religion, so clients are in for a passionate night on the town either way.
I strongly suggest clients try some of the many new wine bars the city has to offer. One of the best to be found is Pri Hagefen by Golan Dor, owner of Nana House for Food & Beverages. At the bistro-style restaurant we feasted on family-style lamb kebabs, eggplant salad and tahini and then walked across the street for an impressive wine tasting in the cozy lounge bar with a selection of more than 70 local vintages.
Clients seeking something a little more boisterous might want to join the revelers at La Champa for Catalan food and plenty of flowing cava (sparkling wine), or check out a Las Vegas import, Sushisamba, which combines Brazilian, Peruvian and Japanese cuisine, music and design. Lima Lima is a favorite bar with a dance floor and on any given night you’ll find a young, hip crowd and great people watching with a backdrop of house music. Clients can’t go wrong in the Lilenblum area, where most of the popular places seem to be clustered. They should plan to eat dinner late and stay out even later; like New York, this city never seems to sleep.
Personally, I preferred the scene at Nanuchka a local favorite with more of a cafe culture vibe located in an old house. We could have been in West Hollywood or Moscow (the owners are Georgian) on a Saturday night as we squeezed through the front door past red velvet drapes to the main lounge area where beautiful young women were dancing on the bar — sometimes three at a time. Luckily, we were able amble past the other range of 20- to 40-something patrons squashed up against the ruby-colored walls to a table in the back room where we could order champagne cocktails and watch all the action through a service window off the bar.
While Tel Aviv’s fashions will never rival those of Milan or Paris, it was surprising to see the mix of expensive designer jeans, tight black frocks and strappy gold or silver gladiator sandals that many women were sporting. One of the best places to pick up one-of-a-kind clothing and accessories finds is in the first neighborhood of the city called Neve Tzedek. Here, we walked along charming, leafy streets — a welcome change from the traffic logged and commercial Rothschild Boulevard. We also stumbled upon a unique jewelry store from native Ayala Bar. Her pieces are truly works of art blending mineral stones, glass beads and assorted metals into a mosaic of earrings and necklaces that have proved to be great conversation starters whenever worn.
To experience some of the best new shopping and dining the city has to offer, the revitalized Tel Aviv Port area is a great place to walk for hours on a balmy night. It was hard to decide whether to stop at one of the many high-end clothing boutiques or to dine at one of the endless restaurants and lounges along the boardwalk from the sprawling, multi-level Whiskey a Go Go lounge to a multicourse traditional mezze meal at Boya.
While there are many cool galleries in Old Jaffa and crafts to be found in the flea market, the Joseph Bau Museum, located in one of the cities residential areas, is actually the famous painter/illustrator’s former studio, run by his two colorful and hospitable daughters Clila and Hadasa. We viewed and purchased a book with the work of the country’s first cartoonist while hearing heartfelt stories of Bau’s time during the Holocaust in Poland to his commercial success in Israel. It was one of the most personal glimpses into a deceased artist’s life that I have ever experienced.
For film-buff clients, suggest the 82-room Cinema Hotel off Dizengoff Circle where doubles are priced from $180 per night. The old classics are alive and well in this thematic and entertaining Atlas-owned hotel that celebrates the history of the moving picture. It reminded me of a mini version of the American Film Institute with old projectors, movie posters and screenings taking place right in the lobby complete with a bag of popcorn at check-in. While clients might have trouble tearing themselves away from “Gone With the Wind,” the rooftop terrace has stunning views of the city.
Tel Aviv is definitely on the brink of becoming a cosmopolitan force to be reckoned with. Whether clients are enraptured by its architecture, art, fashion, food or wine is your passion, they won’t leave this buzzing seaside city uninspired.