Bar Hopping in Tel Aviv - Part I: The 'Old North' and Dizengoff

Tel Aviv’s known as the ‘City that Never Sleeps' and having lived here, for ten years now, I’d say that’s a pretty fair assessment.  With its young crowd and vibrant, 24/7 nightlife, you’re spoilt for choice when it comes to choosing a venue for having fun.  And whilst Tel Aviv is not a large city, its distinct neighbourhoods mean there's something for everyone. Since I live in the ‘Old North,’ it seems wise to start in my neighbourhood when recommending bars for a quick drink, a romantic date or a riotous night out. 

Here (in no particular order) are five of my favourites…

1.  223 - Located on 223 Dizengoff, this has got to be is one of the most stylish and atmospheric cocktail bars in the area.  With its jazz and swing background music, and waiters in suspenders and bow ties, it’s designed to look like a New York ‘Speakeasy’ during Prohibition Era.  Renown for its drinks, the professionally trained are all experts in ‘mixology.’  Try the ‘Passion Fruit 2006’ (vodka, ginger, apricot brandy, and passion fruit) which actually won an international cocktail prize! 

The appetisers are decent and they have a happy hour from 6-8pm.  With its dim lighting, intimate atmosphere, friendly staff 223 is the perfect place for a pre-dinner drink or a first-date cocktail.  Don’t miss it.

223 Dizengoff, tel: 03 544-6537

2. Spicehaus (also known as the East Jaffa Perfume Company) - I love this place!  Named after the Silk Road (the Asian trade route, dotted with ‘spice haus’ rest stops along the way) it’s a fabulously exotic cocktail bar, designed to look like a perfumery and pharmacy.  With the bartender wearing a lab coat, it’s enormous fun to watch him mixing brews together then serving them in a flask to his patrons. 

Photo courtesy of Spicehaus

Spicehaus drinks come in three sizes and they also serve good (if not a bit pricey) food.  For amusement, take a trip to the bathroom to listen to Edgar Allen Poe’s ‘The Raven’ being played on a speaker.  And if you go in a group. order the ‘giant bowl cocktails.’  Happy hour is 6-9pm.  A must-visit.

117 Dizengoff, tel: 054 228-6200

3. The Imperial - Inside the Imperial Hotel, a stone’s throw from Dizengoff and the beach, you’ll find this gem of a cocktail bar, with a unique drinks list that changes with the season.  In 2015, it was named as one of the top 20 bars at the ‘World’s 50 Best Bars’ awards.   It has a swanky feel and its dim lighting make it a great place for a lovers’ tryst! 

Try a ‘Colonel Mustard’ (gin-based with campari, orange liqueur, fresh grapefruit and a mustard-cinnamon syrup), ‘Life’s a Beach’ (Amaro di Angostura, watermelon syrup, blue cheese, lime and soda) or the “Chai Masala’  (orange liquer, grated bittersweet chocolate, green cardamom, and an egg yolk).  Asian-inspired food bites and happy hour from 6-8pm.  My advice?  Don't delay...get down to the Imperial.

66 HaYarkon Street, tel: 073-264 9464

4. Jasper Johns - This is a bar that’s easy enough to miss when walking on Dizengoff but, once inside, you’ll be forever glad you’ve found it.  It has all kind of unusual decor, the most hip being the back brick wall, that is lit up all night with images and animation.  Some say that this is the bar cocktail waiters go to when they want to have fun, and I can believe it. 

Jasper Johns.jpg

Open until 5am, it’s got a hedonistic vibe to it and with its excellent cocktails, you can’t go wrong.  If you visit there between 6-9pm, you’ll be given free tapas with your cocktail, which are creatively made.  With all the funky music there, feel free to get up and dance.  And don't forget to try the homemade vodka espresso either.  

190 Dizengoff; tel: 052-851-5574

5. Botanika - A high-end Scandinavian cocktail bar, where the general ethos is ‘less is more.’  With their revolutionary water-filtering system (which apparently improves the flavour of the ice) and their painstakingly-sourced ingredients, you can be sure of an excellent cocktail here.  Try the ‘Agave Supernova’ {Del Maguey Vida mezcal, maraschino liqueur, pine-apple, lemon, agave syrup and bitters) or the ‘Black Pearl’ (Bulleit rye whiskey, elderflower, honey & ginger syrup, lemon, charcoal and grapefruit foam). 

As you'd expect, the decor is Scandie minimalist and, even better, the music is kept at a reasonable level, so you can actually have a conversation.  Subtle, classy and the huge block of ice on the bar (which they cut up in all kinds of shapes), gives this place a unique touch. Excellent fish tapas.  A truly refined experience.

Haryarkon 78; tel: 03 393-0339

Next time...I'm reporting out from the bar scene in historic Tel Aviv (think Rothschild, Lillenblum and Neve Tsedek).  See you then.