A fine Florentin Street Art walk, Tel Aviv
Forget Berlin, it’s Tel Aviv that has quirky, diverse and innovative Street Art! Come on a Florentin Street Art walk with me. And quickly, because with the rapid gentrification that appear to be in the Florentin District, where a lot of the art is located, it may be gone faster than in other cities.
I did this self-guided Florentin Street Art walk on a Sabbath as part of a long-ish walk from Rothschild Boulevard to Dizengoff Centre and back through Neve Tzedek and on to Yafo, admiring some Bauhaus Architecture, then continuing on to Florentin. However, I spotted plenty of street art even in the street where I stayed.
My rough route was from Rothschild Boulevard to Jaffa Street on to Neve Tzedek Tower – the latter is a high apartment tower and a useful landmark. Then into a semi-industrial area with small shops and workshops – all closed on Shabbat- before emerging onto Shalma Road and walking to the Clock Tower in Yafo. I had a map as a reference, but cannot find the exact web site now but I have included a map with the most important landmarks to guide you at the end of the post.
Why is there so much street art in Tel Aviv?
Well. Tel Aviv is a growing city with a diverse and youthful population, but that is only one reason. A lot of the Street Art is concentrated in the Florentin neighbourhood south of the centre, with some of it spreading out into the neighbouring Neve Tzedek. These are largely spontaneous, non-commisisoned pieces. A good choice is also on Nahalat Binyamin Street, often single pieces on house walks or shutters. Then, Tel Aviv beach has some, and buildings all over the city, which tend to be commissioned or permitted works.
The Florentin neighbourhood in particular is an upcoming, gentrifying area that was mostly low-rent and small business, mostly furniture and garment industry.
It was originally purchased by the Salinika-Palestine Company hundred years ago and populated by Jewish immigrants from Thessaloniki in Greece after a large fire in the Jewish neighbourhood in Thessaloniki but also by Jews from the Balkan and Northern Africa. Historically always a relatively low income neighbourhood, it became a slum in the 1980s. with the original inhabitants moving out and many building becoming derelict but still serving as housing for the poorest of the population, as well as workshops and studios. From the 1990s, the area became popular with new arrivals looking for work, a revival of the small businesses and a little later, creatives who liked the low rents and some cafes and social meeting places.
I would say you will see the largest concentration of art in a relatively compact area on a Florentin Street Art walk.
Florentin Street Art walk: The “Classics” in Aharon Chelouche Lane
The slender high Neve Tzedek Tower serves as a good reference point on where to start your Florentin Street Art walk, but on the way there, you should spot plenty of pieces already.
This narrow lane just off the Neve Tzedek Tower is far from an insider tip, however, when I visited on a Sabbath in November, it was deserted. Here in you find art from the “veterans” of the Tel Aviv Street Art scene in a relatively condensed space – most at ground level. But look up first – there is a large and very simple mural of Alice in Wonderland on one of the building side walls. It is somewhat reminiscent of Banksy but is by Jonathan Kis-Lev. He is also a commercial artist, but this piece is one of his earlier works, and his commercial style is completely different!
On the wall opposite, you will see a bright pink piece of art of a headless girl, with the Hebrew script saying “I am not Alice and this is not Wonderland”. The artist? I had no idea, but I like how one artwork relates to another one close by.
A little later, after some more online research for “pink headless but not Alice” – like search terms I found out the poem is by Nitzan Mitz, who often collaborates with street artists, often on a large scale, to pen poems to accompany street art pieces.
Next to it and significantly more faded, two stylistically quite different older works by the Tel Aviv artist Dede, the “Squirrels” and the “Antelopes” sharing the space on a long slightly overgrown wall. Another style he is known for are plastered-up band aids (not to be seen here), giving him his nick name “Dede Band aid”.
Last not least, in this quiet and pleasant lane, is some more “conventional” art. This is actually the Lorenz and Mintz Restaurant a bit further down the road so if you were hungry at this point. It is a kosher (dairy) and does get quite good reviews!
Abarbanel and HaRabi Michbachrach Streets
After crossing semi-busy Eilat Street, I turned into an area of what looked, at first sight, like small businesses and garages, and looking a bit neglected. Bat – Abarbanel Street is known to have a plethora of very different street art pieces. But here, too, you can see how the low-rise small industrial buildings, some of which looked like they were no longer used, are encroached by new residential developments and office buildings.
Mesmerized by the diverse pieces, I wandered around the blocks, which were pretty dead on Shabbat. Here are some pieces I recognize as being by Dioz, another local artist who has quite a diverse style. There were others reminiscent in style, but I was not sure of their provenance. The artists signing their work always helps, though and some others, like Dede, are instantly recognizable.
Some of the artworks by Dioz are rather simplistic and very colourful and feature large faces, often incorporating elements of the building into the artwork.
I was totally mesmerized by now – every available surface has been used for art! Surprisingly, there were very few people in the area. It was Shabbat, though, and there were no open businesses, cafes or shops on this stretch of road.
The “disjointed person” on the right is by Latzi. All I found about the artist is that the artist is from Israel and has been active for at least ten years.
The smaller the lane, the wilder and more random the street art gets. I had a feeling that this area might not be much longer the genteel, semi derelict semi industrial area it was now, with the new luxury development like Neve Tzedek Tower encroaching it.
A little robot by James Ame/ AME72, an artist from the UK. Most of his pieces remind me of the Playmobil man – a small plastic figurine in different guises. A kiddie toy, really. Probably a very German thing.
Yellow portrait, painted on a metal door, in the Southern section of Abarbanel Street.
You will see this work on the corner of Abarbanel and HaRabiMiBachrach Streets. What attracted me much more were the cute Siamese cat stencils!
A few streets further, there were more, in blue this time.
And lets not forget the smaller pieces, too!
Larger paste-up in an external corridor by Hamburg artist Marshal Arts.
And every now and then, I noticed some “familiar faces” like this really distinctive “double bird” by Dede. And next to it, a piece by the MissK, recogniseable by the large signature..
More stencil art in a small passageway.
Here, where I thought there must be an artist who has the multiple eye-thing as a trademark, I found the MissK. Sometimes trying to decipher the Hebrew or studying for signatures helps to identify the piece.
Another one by the MissK!
Another theMissK piece, which I finally managed to recognise by the signature.
Who knows, maybe this one, too.
Going just by the signature, they all bear the MissK signature… who appears to win the prize for the most prolific body of art in this area. Around the lower end of Abarbanel Street and in its side street, there was art everywhere!
A derelict workshop, a hoarding advertising newly built apartments, and a street art incorporating a shutter – this pretty much sums up Florentin. The art is by Jack (TML). I did not find much about the artist online, other than his art – one of the more elusive and anonymous artists.
There was pretty much nobody around. Did I feel safe? Yes, absolutely. I never felt unsafe in Israel and Palestine. Somewhat disoriented in Bethlehem, but never unsafe.
Once I passed the historic Ahavat Chesed (“Lovingkindness”) synagogue in Florentin, the area looked more gentrified, with the occasional high-rise apartment building and many cafes, most of which were open on Shabbat.
From here, I walked around in circles a bit, and there is no way I can retrace my steps properly.
All I know is at some point int he late afternoon, I emerged back onto Shalma Road, tackling the longish and somewhat boring walk to old Jaffa. In this section, there were a lot more open cafes, and plenty of people sitting out in the November sun.
More paste-ups – a biology lesson in the street.
The works by Dioz were now quite easy to spot, and well, Dioz is a very prolific artist!
In the same area there is a small work by Unga. He is part of the Broken Fingaz Crew collective and n artist who does a mixture of smaller commercial works on paper, even tattoo designs – and large commissioned meticulously executed murals. So it is nice to see this small work out in the “wild” – painted on a shutter and therefore only visible when the shop is closed. Another reason to do this walk on a Shabbat! Others have attributed this to Unga of the Broken Fingaz Crew a Street Art Collective from Haifa. If you know, please let me know!
And there is some more great shutter art! Not sure of the artist, looks reminiscent of MissK or Dioz, but what do I know.
After about two or three hours, I emerged onto Shalma Road. This road is largely a main thoroughfare, flanked by low-rise small industrial buildings, with a few 1930s residential buildings in various states of repair and a few modern developments. Normally, I would have jumped on a bus, but this being a Shabbat, there weren’t any! It took me about 20 minutes to walk from Abarbanel Street in Florentin to the landmark Yafo Clock Tower, and I spotted these rather throught-provoking murals.
I do not know who the artist is, not can I offer any kind of explanation as to what they might signify. I just found them a lot darker than the previous
Smaller art works in my neighbourhood
And let me save the best until last! When I returned from Jerusalem the next evening, I spotted some pretty amazing smaller pieces walking back from my bus stop.
This is around Abulafaya Street – not the prettiest street, with a disused night club at its front, but pretty cool art work.
The “Venus” by Damian Tab reclining, finely sliced, on a corner somewhere between my bus stop and my road.
I am not necessarily a Star Wars fan, but I like Princess Leia! I also have a Siamese cat called Princess Leia. So, this Kufson by Adi Sened just happened to wait in my street, as a bittersweet goodbye, a piece of sweetnesss to sweeten the goodbye.
Perfect, isnt it?
This walk will take you 1.5-3 hours depending on how “thorough” you view the art and whether you take any refreshment breaks. I do recommend doing this walk on a Shabbat, as the area is generally quiet with minimal traffic, leaving you peace and quiet to admire the artwork as long as you want. The businesses are mostly closed, so it will look a bit dead, but plenty of cafes and pubs around the final part of the walk around Florentin Street and Shalma Road will be open (and quite busy) on a Shabbat.
I don’t know much about many of the artists, but have included references where I recognised a piece of street art. However, I much enjoyed viewing all the works, most of which remained anonymous and ephemeral to me. I tried to find out as much as possible about the provenance of the street art, mostly with the help of the internet, and have linked to the artists website or social media account where possible. Some enter collaboration with clothing and accessories brands and do commissioned large scale art works such as the Broken Fingaz Crew, where it is much easier to find put more, to the ones who prefer to remain totally anonymous. I am always open to update and adapt this post and would appreciate any additional information and pointers.
There are just a few in the way of large murals like in Warsaw or Berlin that remain for years and are famous.
Just before you feel too inspired by all the art, please note that it is illegal to adorn public or private walls unless commissioned, although the city has turned a somewhat blind eye. Whereas you can live your graffiti artists dreams in Bethlehem and even make your own contribution to the wall and do a course on how to graffiti, it is basically spray your own canvas only in Tel Aviv.
Here is a map with the location of some of the street art pieces I visited. Due to their ephemeral nature, they may be gone – or new ones have sprung up in their place!
Personally, I think the bet way is to make your own tour, visit the street art at your leisure instead of angling for a good photo spot on a group tour, and stop for as many refreshment breaks as you want. There has been some opposition from locals to some tours that are trespassing, using loudspeakers and generally appear to be bothering the locals. But if you are a tour kind of person, here are two suggestions.
Sandemans New Europe runs a guided tour of Florentin and Neve Tzedek , incorporating street art and some Bauhaus architecture.
If you are looking for street art exclusively, the tours run by Grafitiyul come highly recommened. They offer a wide range of tours and workshops, from a street art group tour are group tours costing approximately 25 Euros per person to pro workshops.
Where to stay
If you happen to be in Tel Aviv over the Sabbath, stay somewhere with good infrastructure, as public transport on the Sabbath is still very slim. I stayed in an AirBnB in Florentin, which is a really nice area to begin with – walking distance to Jaffa and the sea, nice cafes and restaurants, good transport links.
If I were to stay in tel Aviv again, I would probably choose a bit closer to the Carmel Market, Mair Park or Rothschild Boulevard – this is a really vibrant area of Tel Aviv and in walking distance to the wide beach. This is what I picked for my 2020 Tel Aviv Trip, which I cancelled a week before, due to the Coronavirus. I made all reservations on Booking.com. Their free cancellation policy meant I could cancel my room and get a full refund, so I will definitely use them again.
Tel Aviv tends to be quite expensive. Since my days in 20-beds dorms are over, I only recommend private or semi-private accommodation or small dorms that provide great value for money
With Tel Aviv being relatively expensive, I tend to stay in the cheaper end accommodation. When I asked my colleague at work “What do you think, should I stay somewhere super cheap, even in a dorm, and eat at all the fabulous restaurants, or spend on a classy hotel, he said “the food, definitely go for the food no matter what it costs”. So I had aimed to stay in a hostel, then have one night in a classy hotel.
My top pick is the Isla Hostel on Montefiore Street right between Rothschild Boulevard and Nahalat Binyamin Streets. It has stylish and comfortable semi-private bunks starting at 35 Euros a night. At present, it does not appear to be bookable online, butdo check it out in the future if and when travel restrictions ease.
In the centre of the vibrant, neighbourhood, the Florentin House Hostel has all-white simple rooms starting at about 60 Euros. They do have some dorm rooms where the maximum number of beds is 8, starting at around 25 Euros per person.
Air TLV Levinsky 113
This branch of the Air TLV hotel and hostel chain is very close to Ha’Hagana Bus and Train Stations and just a stone’s throw from the superb Levinsky Market. It is not my favourite area of Tel Aviv, but a 5-minute walk will take you to the centre of thr Florentin District with lots of cafes and nightlife. Private rooms start at around 80 Euros and dorms at around 40 Euros.
Moderate / Boutique Hotels
Of the places I picked that goes really well with the Bauhaus theme is the Cinema Hotel. It’s almost impossible to be in a more central location. Right on Dizengoff Square, this hotel is central, generous, has free bike hire and offers a free aperitivo buffet on its terrace on most days. The building is a sympathetically restored 1930s cinema with curved lines and an impressive facade. Starting at about 140 Euros for a double, it is very reasonable for tel Aviv
It always pays to keep an eye on “soft” openings. I secured a booking at the Hotel BoBo for about 110 Euros – unfortunately, it has gone up in prive but the location just off Rothschild Boulevard is unbeatable.
In the middle of the walking route is the Poli House Hotel, an upmarket boutique hotel in a Bauhaus Building right in Magen DAvid Square – an unbeatable if somewhat buzzy location. Although the modern white rooms are somewhat small, the hotel even has a lap pool on its roof! Rooms start at about 120 Euros but push the 200 Euro mark at most times.
The Small Print
I visited Israel in November 2017 at a time of relative peace in the Middle East.
In view of the recent events in Israel and Palestine I was unsure whether it would be appropriate to post this content now. The security situation is volatile at present, and it may no tbe safe to travel there right now. Travelling to Israel at the time of publishing is not possible due to COVID-related restrictions to vaccinated tourists in tour groups only, and with the
I have decided to post it, as this street art tour has been part of my travel in the Middle East. I have travelled in both Israel and Palestine and try to keep informed and form my own educated opinion. I have come to the conclusion that not posting this and not visiting Israel and Palestine will not benefit any one. I recommend to try and visit both Israel and Palestine when it is safe to do so and to find good sources of information with as little bias as possible.
My personal sources of information on Middle East are Al Jazeera (a Qatari News Chanel), Haaretz (a liberal/secular Israeli newspaper) and The Guardian (UK Newspaper).
I had booked a tour of Nablus with Green Olive on the 2020 trip that never happened and I did not only receive some very detailed information about Palestine and its history, but they are also running a current affairs webinar that you might wish to join, including a virtual tour of Sheikh Jarrah. They also do some great virtual tours, if you ware interested in visiting in the future. They are also a Israeli-PAlestinan Joint Venture and part Palestinian owned, so by booking with them you support a business that has an interest in cooperation and peaceful collaboration.
Another way to support Palestinian-owned businesses when travelling would be to travel with a Palestinian -owned company or independently, so your money goes to wards local hoteliers, taxi drivers and restaurants. A good place to look is the Arab Hotels Association, where you can book with Palestinian-owned hotels directly.
I was between jobs and on a relatively tight budget, meaning I stayed in private rooms I booked on AirBnB and ate in snack bars most of the time. Which meant I am a bit at a loss as to recommend good cafes and restaurants. This Florentin Street Art walk was assembled by myself using some pointers in other blog post, and a route in a post I can unfortunately no longer find.
My trip to Israel was planned and funded entirely by myself. Therefore, I can be 100% honest and give you an unbiased opinion. You will get an idea on what is easy to do independently, and where you might require a bit of guidance, and you’ll know what things really cost! I have not received any monetary or non-monetary rewards for any recommendations made in this post. Some links in this post are affiliate links to Booking.com – purchasing through these links means I earn a small commission at no extra cost to yourself.