Tel Aviv’s New Central Bus Station is infamous amongst Israelis. Occupying nearly five blocks of space in the heart of South Tel Aviv, the formidable concrete station is the second largest in the world, and was an attempt by Dizengoff Center architect Ram Karmi to build what he imagined as a city under one roof. Although the station is protested for neither being new, or central, the building that so many love-to-hate is chock-full of mysterious oddities. From a Yiddish cultural center to the largest street art installation in Israel and all the non-profits and specialty market in between, the Central Bus Station has no shortage of things to do. Next time you’re (inevitably) running late and miss a bus, go check out one of these attractions–you might even find something else as you explore.
Whether you’re missing a taste of home, or a dish from that post-grad or army trip to Southeast Asia, Makati Cabalen has got you covered. This Filipino grocery store is stocked with specialty items from popular brands of prawn chips and dried fruits, to fresh coconut meat and sweet purple yams known as ube. Stop by on the weekends and there is a lively market where you can purchase home-cooked Filipino classics like sweet and savory lumpia (Filipino style spring rolls) and an assortment of fresh vegetables.
108 Levinsky St, 5th Floor (050-2525992, https://www.facebook.com/Makati.Cabalen.Delivery/). Sun 09:00-20:30, Mon-Thu 10:00-20:30, Fri 10:00-18:00, Sat 15:00-23:00
Tucked behind abandoned storefronts and dimly lit hallways lies a treasure trove of Yiddish books and culture. Yung YiDiSH, established in 1993, is a non-profit organization, boasting an extensive collection of timeworn texts in their 400 sq. meter multipurpose space in Tel Aviv’s central bus station. Beyond the library of preserved books is a cozy event space complete with a piano, stage, and colorful rugs, where Yung YiDiSH supports contemporary Yiddish creativity, such as live music performances and readings. Come engage with a language of Jewish heritage at this contemporary non-profit.
108 Levinsky St, 5th Floor - studio 5008 (03-6874433, http://yiddish.co.il/about/). Thu-Mon Closed, Tue-Wed 15:00-19:00
There’s no map for where to locate the bat “caves” in Tel Aviv’s New Central Bus Station, but follow your ears (and nose) through the hallways of the first and second floor, and you’ll find it. Under the hustle and bustle of the top-most floors, a colony of a few hundred Egyptian fruit bats have made the station their home. Here, the dimly lit and mostly abandoned hallways mimic the bat’s natural habitat–a cave–and offer a viewing area for environmental science students and urban explorers alike.
108 Levinsky St
It’s fitting that the original branch of Israel’s preeminent backpacking, hiking, and travel brand is located in a bus station packed with people en route to their next journey. What began as a single store in the station in 1993 has expanded to a chain with locations from Rosh Pina to Eilat, supplying Israelis and tourists alike with the highest quality travel accessories–think: backpacks, tents, boots, and more. Forgot something for your tiyul? Need advice on what pair of hiking shoes to get? Stop by Rikushet before you get on a bus to your next adventure!
108 Levinsky St - shop number 6816 (03-6880795, http://www.rikushet.co.il/rikushet/Branches/144/). Sun-Thu 07:00-20:00, Fri 07:00-15:00, Sat Closed
African Refugee Development Center
African asylum seekers along with Israeli citizens founded the African Refugee Development Center (ARDC) over ten years ago in order to assist, protect, and empower African refugees and asylum seekers. The organization is largely volunteer-based and volunteers come from around the world to offer support and practical advice. The ARDC also focuses on education and many of the volunteering roles involve teaching the asylum seekers relevant languages, as well as giving them the tools to continue any studies they were forced to abandon–give them a call or check out their website for ways to get involved.
108 Levinsky St, 4th floor - shop numbers 4919-23 (077-4909800, https://www.ardc-israel.org/). Wed, Sun 10:00-16:00, Mon-Tue, Thu-Sat Closed
The 7th Floor: Graffiti and Street Art Exhibition
If you thought that the greatest displays of Telavivian street art were in the streets of Florentin, think again. On the 7th floor of Tel Aviv’s Central Bus Station is the largest graffiti and street art exhibition in Israel, commissioned with the support of the station and municipality in 2013. The floor-to-ceiling, inside-outside installation features the work of hundreds of international artists and Israeli favorites, such as Maya Gelfman, Dede, and Know Hope. Come for your Dan bus ride, stay for the colorful art.
108 Levinsky St, 7th floor (https://www.facebook.com/The-7th-floor-graffiti-and-street-art-exhibition-309175675875389/). Sun-Thu 05:00 to 23:30, Fri 05:00-16:00, Sat 15:00-23:30
Easily identifiable by the life-size enamel pirate statue and neon red sign outside its doors, Planet Tattoo is a professional piercing and tattoo parlor in Tel Aviv’s Central Bus Station. Whether you’re finally getting that tattoo you’ve dreamed about for years, or made an impulsive decision to get a piercing en route to Jerusalem, Planet Tattoo guarantees high-quality service and artistry. With a second branch in Dizengoff Center, there’s something about Ram Karmi’s architecture that lends itself to permanent body art.
108 Levinsky St, 5th floor (https://www.facebook.com/PLANETATTOO/, 03-6871266). Sun-Thu 10:30-21:00, Fri 10:30-15:30, Sat Closed
The Onya Collective is a community of designers, permaculturists, and activists, seeking to create gathering places where people and nature meet. Many of their pre existing and imagined future projects are in Tel Aviv’s Central Bus Station; an infamously large, concrete giant, with little existing place for connections between people, or people and nature. Projects include VegiBenches–benches that double as vertical community gardens–on the 7th floor, and “The Ramp”–a garden and multi-purpose community space at a former entrance to the station, which hosts cultural events such as the Grassroots Festival. In their Next Station project, the collective has imagined 30 art installations that would bring nature and community to the station in the future.
CTLV Central Bus Station Tour
Promising nothing short of bat caves, dungeons, and buses, CTLV offers monthly tours of the Central Bus Station– perfect for urban explorers looking to learn more about the infamous building. Explore the mysterious oddities of the building (think: six abandoned movie theaters, and an informal breakdancing studio) as well as the history of its establishment and the surrounding neighborhood. We can’t guarantee you won’t get lost, but at least it’ll be in a group!
Monthly tours meet at 118 Levinsky, gate #42-43 (https://www.ctlv.org.il/tours-english/#/central-bus-station-tel-aviv/). NIS 85 per single ticket, NIS 160 for a double ticket, reservations available online
Performance Art Platform
Between the stalls of discounted clothing and heaps of bourekas on the entrance level of Tel Aviv’s Central Bus Station is the home of performance art in Israel. The Performance Art Platform, located on the 4th floor of the bus station, is a space for all performance artists in Israel, as well as a permanent home to Ensemble 209–a diverse group of interdisciplinary artists who comment on contemporary Israeli society through their performances. The platform also boasts an extensive archive of performance art literature, lectures and discussions, public workshops, and their ongoing performance tour of the bus station. Visit their website, or call them directly, to hear about events, and sign up to be entertained and surprised!
108 Levinsky St, 4th floor (03-5372096, http://www.miklat209.org.il/home-page.html). Periodic events and workshops, all published online.