Tel Aviv Bauhaus Architecture walk – a perfect walk for Sabbath
As someone who loves historic architecture and had their first office overlooking the Dessau Bauhaus, viewing the Bauhaus Architecture of Tel Aviv was on my wish list for years. Welcome to my Tel Aviv Bauhaus Architecture walk!
Unlike many Bauhaus sites in Germany, central Tel Aviv is, in its core, mostly Bauhaus. The White City, the innermost centre of Tel Aviv, consists of about 4000 buildings in the early Modernist style. Even my hometown of Dessau, where we have a whole Bauhaus suburb, pales in comparison to the sheer size and variety of Bauhaus architecture in Tel Aviv.
Tel Aviv Bauhaus Architecture walk: Some background
Tel Aviv is a very young city. It was founded in 1909 in the neighbourhood of the ancient city of Yafo/Jaffa.
Building really took off when thousands of Jewish emigres arrived from Europe in the 1930s as fascism took hold, many fleeing from the national socialist regime, among them many artists and architects. Within just a few years, the number of Tel Aviv’s inhabitants had tripled to 150.000. They all needed affordable places to live.
And with that, a new style was introduced to Tel Aviv, heavily influenced by Modernism, brought into Tel Aviv by architects, many of whom had trained at the German Bauhaus in the short period before the National Socialist Regime took power in 1933. Among them were Arieh Sharon, Shmuel Miestechkin, Shlomo Bernstein, Zeev Rechter, Richard Kauffmann, Dov Karmi and Genia Averbuch – taught by the Bauhaus eminent architects Walter Gropius, Mies van der Rohe , Erich Mendelsohn and influenced by international architects such as Le Corbusier.
As Tel Aviv grew, the Mayor at the time, Meir Dizengoff, asked the British town planner (Patrick Geddes) to plan a city centre characterized by green spaces, low density building and of a “garden city character” like in England, but to have absolutely no terrace houses but low rise apartment buildings instead. What he proposed was a city that would have long major north-to south roads, secondary west to east roads that would be cooled by the Mediterranean breeze, and intermittent small green spaces open to the public.
Tel Aviv Bauhaus Ideas and Style
Israel seemed a perfect host for this new architecture. The inhabitant of early 20th Century Israel were often new to the country themselves and keen to make a fresh start, to create a modern egalitarian society, and this was reflected int he architecture: no embellishments but clean lines and affordable living spaces for everyone. Architecture for all and suitable to the Mediterranean climate. The “form follows function” credo of the School of Bauhaus was followed to a tee in Tel Aviv.
However, it took a few years to fully translate a style that worked in Middle Europe to the Middle East. The flat roofs still translated well to the Mediterranean coast with very few rainy days, and the roofs soon became communal spaces open to every one in the building.
The makers of Modern Tel Aviv soon began to include narrow strips into the walls to let light in but not to the extent that the houses would get too heated up, they included large balconies for outside living, communal terraces and gardens shared by everyone.
However, there were disadvantages int he new elegant “White City” too. Many buildings were built fast, very fast, and not always to the strict standards that Germany is known for in order to accommodate many people in a short time. White is not the most suitable colour for the elements and later in the 20th Century, the increase in motorized traffic. The sweeping balconies became loggias to create more living space. And air conditioners began to appear on outside walls like pimples.
After many houses decayed along, and occupying some prime real estate, often in central business districts of Tel Aviv, some did not survive. Only in the last twenty or thirty years they were recognized for the pioneering architecture and listed, and in 2003 the whole of the White City became a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Often, the owners of the houses would have to bear the cost of renovation, and many sold up and moved to the suburbs. Houses became hotels, offices, luxury apartments, often with a floor or two added to the original design.
Tel Aviv Bauhaus Architecture walk is perfect on a Sabbath
Walking along the leafy boulevards and through a vibrant city centre area to admire some Bauhaus architecture is the perfect thing to do if you find yourself in Tel Aviv on a Sabbath and you want a cultural alternative to the beach or cafes. Of course, this walk is perfect to incorporate a few very nice cafes though, going through some of the most interesting areas of central Tel Aviv.
If you note a somewhat sombre slant to my activities on this trip, it is because I visited Israel at a time when I struggled, personally, with the loss of my job, my grandmothers illness, so I was probably a terrible companion then, did not seek out to make friends. I spent most of my time in Israel visiting religious sites. I’ve written about the Via Dolorosa, Temple Mount, Mount of Olives, Rachel’s Tomb and visiting Bethlehem and Tzfat in earlier posts. I basically walked a lot and caught as much November sun as I could – it did my health a lot of good and I came home rested and ready to tackle this low period in my life.
So, one fine Sabbath, having arrived on one of the last Egged buses from Haifa, stocked up on Hummus and pretzels and walked to my apartment in Florentin the night before, I rose early, very early. Even in November, the sun was out earlier than me. I determinedly strode through Herzl Street, shutters all down, to the start of Rothschild Boulevard in Neve Tzedek.
Where to start your Tel Aviv Bauhaus Architecture walk
I started my walk on the Neve Tzedek end of Rothschild Boulevard, having walked up Herzl Street from Florentin. Just as I arrived, cafes started to open – and there are plenty on Rothschild Boulevard, making this perfect for a breakfast or a restorative drink.
Rothschild Boulevard and Ben Tsiyon Boulevard have these nice shaded walkways on the middle of the street for walking, cycling and rollerblading – and plenty of places to sit.
Rothschild Boulevard to Habima Square – Grand leafy boulevard and cool cafes
The Neve Tzedek end of Rothschild Boulevard marks an upmarket business district with lots of sleek high rises that dwarf the older 1930s buildings. As you move up Rothschild Boulevard, it gets greener, with more older buildings, some of them gleaming with their superb restorations, some in need of some work.
Soon, you will see the Independence Hall on your right. The former residence of the first mayor of Tel Aviv, Meir Dizengoff, it became an arts museum in the 1930s. The Declaration of Independence was signed here in 1948.
As I moved on, I soon gave up trying to find out about the history of the houses, admiring their clean lines and architectural features instead.
But even on prosperous Rothschild Boulevard, I saw many sleeping beauties – sometimes dwarfed by new development, sometimes left alone.
Freshly renovated double block on Rothschild 117 (Rapoport 1933) occupying a corner near Habima Square – note the two entrance halls and corridors due to this being a larger block than usual. Except for the addition of pull up blinds it looks like it has had very few alterations.
At the end of Rothschild Boulevard sits the more recent Charles Bronfman Auditorium next to the National Theatre. Care for Beton Brut, much? It was built in 1957 and opened with a piano concerto by Arthur Rubinstein conducted by Leonard Bernstein. The 1967 sculpture is titled “Uprise” by Israeli sculptor Menashe Kadishman.
Ben Tsiyon Boulevard to Meir Park
Turning left into Ben Tsiyon Boulevard, then pleasant green middle of the road walkway continued. The area is a bit more low-key, even with the occasional street art thrown in. It is not a bad place for spotting a good few modernist buildings, though
Just a couple hundred metres later, I arrived at Mikhoels Square and the monstrous Dizengoff Centre – nothing much Bauhaus about it! The lower part is a very large shopping mall (the first in Israel ) and was opened int he 1970s. I am not sure when the residential Dizengoff Tower was added.
I turned left into King George Street and had a coffee on an outside terrace.
And this? The name of this escapes me, but despite looking like a very high (and impractical) multistorey car park, this is actually an apartment building on King George Street (I think). It may be 1970s and not Bauhaus but the practical cantilever floors/roofs to provide shade and outside space are inspired by Bauhaus.
After a restorative iced coffee, I turned right into Meir Park, which was a hive of activity. Right at the top end is pretty Bialik Square.
In Bialik Square and Bialik Street Street , you can choose from a number of Museums at its northern end near Meir Park:
Beit Ha’ir in the former Town Hall of Tel Aviv, a Museum about the city of Tel Aviv / Yafo and on Jewish culture.
Beit Bialik, a residence-museum, of the Israeli poet Chaim Bialik. The house is also interesting, built in the 1920s in “oriental eclectic style” and a good example of building in the early years of Tel Aviv.
Liebling Haus / White City Centre, an architectural museum to accompany your White City Touring. The house itself is a prime example of a very cubist Bauhaus style.
Not that the Bauhaus Center where the Bauhaus Tours start, is in 77 Dizengoff Street, a 10-min walk away. The tours only run once a week on a Friday but you can do a self-guided audio tour during opening hours.
And if you have not seen enough Bauhaus, there is a third Bauhaus Museum dedicated to Bauhaus (interior) design in 21 Bialik Street.
And last not least, the Rubin House Museum, home and studio of the Israeli painter Reuven Rubin.
I admit I have not visited any of the museums – the weather was far too good and my time in Tel Aviv too short. Note that most of these museums are open on Shabbat and close ona Sunday which is otherwise a normal working day in Israel.
Bialik and Tchernikhovsky Streets that run off the park are pleasant and leafy and offer some great Bauhaus buildings. Mostly they have preserved the three-storey detached design on a small plot in this neighbourhood, and to this day it is primarily residential but turns more lively towards Magen David Square, where there are lots of great cafes and restaurants.
Tchernikhovsky and Bialik Streets to Nahalat Binyamin Street and back to Rothschild Boulevard
Leaving the museums for another day – or rather a return visit- I wandered down leafy Bialik Street, seeing more architectural gems every few metres.
18 Bialik Street (Friedman Bros 1935) is a residential building in a generous plot with a mature garden. According to “Bauhaus Tel Aviv” this has a special arrangements where the apartments are connected to doctors practices, which was common in the 1930s and is still common now.
No. 21 Bialik Street (Gipstein 1935) is another example of a fairly sympathetic treatment . Built as a residence, it served as a dental clinic then a city municipal office until being abandoned in the 1980s to the point of becoming a ruin! It has been turned back into a residential building that hosts a small Bauhaus Museum on its ground floor.
But mostly, Bialik Street is a parade of pleasant Bauhaus residential dwellings in various states of repair, but the majority of them well maintained.
At the end of Bialik Street, you will enter much buzzier and less attractive Allenby Street. Across the road, shopping awaits at Carmel Market and Nahalat Binyamin Street.
Here is also a good time for a break. Did I mention that restaurants in Tel Aviv can be quite expensive?
If you want a decent quality coffee, and are less bothered about a hip atmosphere, try Cofix and Landwer. Both are chains, both offer reasonably priced good coffee.
Around Magen David Square is a large choice of inexpensive casual places to eat. You could try Sabich Tshernichowsky or next doors Johnny’s Falafel. If you cannot wait, you can also try the allegedly best falafel of Tel Aviv at Ha Kosem north of The Dizengoff Centre. And if you are prepared to wait a bit, you can try the allegedly best hummus restaurant of Israel, Abu Hassan in Yafo. Although, having been to about three or four of the “best hummus, falafel” places in Israel, I think Abu Shaker in Haifa wins for then best hummus. I also must mention that sadly, on that trip I was pushing it a bit, financially. So no restaurants for me – it was mainly hummus and falafel stalls, Cofix coffee and DIY breakfasts from whatever supermarket was near my accommodation. I cannot wait to go back with a moderately filled purse and visits at least two restaurants a day.
I got a final beauty for you on this walk.
The Poli House Hotel is in a vibrant area between Magen David Square and Nahalat Binyamin Street and an example of a superbly restored Bauhaus Building. It was built in the 1930s by Shlomo Liasowski and soon bought by a Ukrainian immigrant Yehuda Polishiuk and served as a commercial space until the 1980s when it fell into disrepair (the whole area became run down) After it was bought in 2007 by hoteliers, it was gutted while the Bauhaus exterior was preserved and is now an upmarket hotel (see hotel recommendations below).
Nahalat Binyamin Street – one to save for a weekday
Finally, I entered Nahalat Binyamin Street. This is less interesting for architecture, but great for street art and shopping.
The big disadvantage is on a Sabbath that you can neither visit the buzzing Carmel Market nor the fine shops of Nahalat Binyamin Street. The Street hosts a Art and Craft Market on Tuesdays and Fridays. For me, the real draw are its fabric and craft shops. Honestly, the shop windows that weren’t shuttered, I pressed my nose to the glass admiring the sometimes extravagant embellished fabrics. I went back on Sunday in a hurry, after arriving from another trip to Jerusalem, and can confirm these shops are marvellous of you love sewing. There is also a fair bit of street art in Nahalat Binyamin Street
If you prefer a somewhat buzzier street, the parallel Allenby Street is the one for you – also has lots of bus routes which of courses weren’t running on Sabbath. Also, if you want to visit the Great Synagogue of Tel Aviv, turn left before you hit Rothschild Boulevard. Often considered part of the White City, it was completed in 1926 but “modernised” to its current look in the 1970s and in dire need of another bit of freshening up – not the most welcoming synagogue, either.
Anyway, I continued along Nahalat Binyamin Street, flattening my nose on the shop windows of gorgeous fabric displays.
Some shops were shuttered and revealed some nice street art
Other pieces are on the walls of buildings. Some are so distinctive in style that it is easy to recognize the artist. This one is by Adida Fallen Angel, and artist from Tel Aviv who resides in Montreal, Canada where you can find most of his street art pieces now.
Wandering back, now veering off the suggested Bauhaus walking route, I found many fine examples of the style, similar to when I walked from my apartment in Florentin to Rothschild Boulevard. It pays to veer off-route a bit and find your personal favourites.
Last not least, I came out pretty much where I had started on Rothschild Boulevard. I might have had three nights in Tel Aviv, but only one full day, and as it came near lunchtime, I had another thing on my mind: Street Art!
Luckily, my next destination was only a brisk walk away, with the high-rise Neve Tzedek Tower giving me a rough direction where to head to. Remember, there is almost no public transport on a Shabbath (although this may change) and good walking capability is a must!
There are many other Bauhaus landmarks
This is a pleasant round trip for a morning where you can stop for lunch in the numerous places around Magen David Square or head into Florentin or Neve Tzedek afterwards, which will take a minimum of about two hours – but there are many distractions.
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, but do 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.
I roughly followed this route which is publicly available on Google Maps (source: Google Maps) then walked back to Rothschild Boulevard via Nahalat Binyamin Stret and past Carmel Market. This area is also full of Bauhaus style residential buildings.
The White City Centre at the Liebling House and the neighbouring Bauhaus Museum are good resoources to learn more about the Bauhaus movement in Israel. is a museum decdicated to the Bauhaus movement in Tel Aviv. You can go on a guided tour with the Bauhaus Centre for 80NIS. It appears to run on Fridays only.
The City of Tel Aviv offers a free walking tour of the White City on Saturdays, starting at 11.00 on 46 Rothschild Blvd.
I had an old Bradt Guide to help me guide through Israel but it was little use in Tel Aviv.
Long before travelling (in 2001, in fact) I read “When I lived in Moden Times” by Linda Grant, a little known but wonderful novel about a 1940’s emigre to Israel, which is great on local colour and Tel Aviv life. Some reviewers say it is quite political, however, I found it is extremely well written and in my view, rather neutral and definitely more story than textbook.
If you want to learn more about Bauhaus architecture of Tel Aviv, the little “Bauhaus Tel Aviv: An Architectural Guide” by Nahoum Cohen is a nice one to start – a handy format quality pictures and alittle bit of history about notable buildings, many of which are scattered all over Tel Aviv. It is slim on Bauhaus History or architectural theory on the whole, but for the price and quality, I highly recommend it.
The Small Print
I visited Israel in November 2017 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.
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! 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.
Another benefit of writing this now we have been in pandemic-related lockdown for nearly six months, was to retrace my steps in Streetview and re-live the good memories while Israel is still closed to foreigners at the time of writing. I do not recommend you travel righ tnow but save this for a later date when travelling is safe and feasible again.