Tel Aviv abounds with Mediterranean charm, from one end to the other…but there’s one part of it that many regard as both an oasis of calm and a hip, stylish place to hang their hat. It’s known as Neve Tsedek (which means ‘Oasis of Justice’ in Hebrew) and with its quaint style and tiny, winding streets has a charm all of its own.
Neve Tsedek was, in fact, the first Jewish neighbourhood built outside the port of Jaffa, as far back as 1887. With people desperate to escape overcrowding, they moved south and built colourful buildings with low roofs. Soon, the area was attracting a host of artists and writers (including the Israeli Nobel Prize- winning author Shai Agnon). Over the years, however, it fell into disrepair and only in the 1980s did the area fall back into style. Today, after much restoration, it’s completely gentrified and packed to the rafters with cafes, restaurants and art galleries.
Despite being a major attraction for tourists, Neve Tsedek has still managed to retain its neighbourhood feel - probably because it’s not too large. Its major street - Shabazai - is a perfect place to begin your stroll. Full of small, independent stores selling jewellry, clothes and furniture, you have to remind yourself that this is where Tel Aviv was born. But wander off the main drag and you’re quickly transported back 100 years - to tiny houses (with wall plaques commemorating their inhabitants) and rich cultural heritage (the Nachman Gutman Art Museum and the Suzanne Della Centre for Dance and Theatre being two of several examples).
The area also abounds with cafes and restaurant - try Lulu with its strong coffee, excellent pastries and excellent fish from the oven.
I also have to recommend Suzanna (one of my favourite restaurants in Tel Aviv). In the warm months you can dine ‘al fresco’ in their shady garden and partake of their excellent Mediterranean dishes, including their famed pumpkin kubbeh and stuffed chicken with dried fruit. Whilst it’s not cheap, the location is perfect and there’s a car park nearby (a huge plus in Tel Aviv).
Finally, for ice cream you can’t skip Anita. Famed for its gelato, you’ll have many unique flavours from which to choose (including the legendary ‘Cookieman).
No doubt about it, Neve Tsedek combines history and charm with a touch of the ‘free spirit’ ethos. Still, due to skyrocketing prices, and its reputation as one of the most desirable parts of Tel Aviv in which live, whilst you might be a Bohemian at heart, you’ll need a heavy wallet to consider moving here. Luckily, a night out in Neve Tsedek is far more affordable…
Cafe Lulu: Shabazai 55, tel: 03 516-8793
Suzana: Shabazai 9; tel: 03 517-7580
Anita Gelato: - Shabazi 25; tel: 03 517-0505