As much as it pains us to share these secret gems, it’s our job to spread the news, so here goes...we’re letting you in on a smattering of people, places and things that are simply too good to keep to ourselves. But first, a disclaimer: although we may not be the best secret-keepers, share these places at your own risk - lest they become too crowded to enjoy and lose their clandestine charm. Some are mysterious and entirely unexpected, some are downright hard-to-find, and all are worth the time to seek out ASAP. Blink too fast, and you may just miss them.
Now you see me, now you…
Keep calm swim naked
Whatever size, shape or form, Tel Aviv Naked Swim is the perfect reason to throw all caution –and underwear – to the wind and skinny dip (or chunky dunk) in the Mediterranean. This event is so secretive that in order to find out its location and details, you must join their facebook group and privately message the organizer.
Facebook group: NAKEDSWIMTELAVIV
Break out the popcorn
Hatachana is best known for family outings and boutique shops, but did you know they also have a private movie theater? Don't expect your typical film-going fare; Muvix Concept is a modern-day movie date. Download the app and choose from a range of movie titles, then pick the day and time that you want to see it. Fourteen luxury cinema rooms are at your disposal and you can order in food, snacks, desserts, drinks and cocktails to boot. Plus, each ticket costs less than a falafel - at a mere NIS 10 a pop.
Hatachana, Neve Tzedek (test.muvix.co.il)
Eat pancakes in plaid
Though its new name has lost that hipster touch, there is nothing mainstream about Steve's Food Bar (formerly Oggie's). Tucked around the corner from the always-bustling Cafelix, this Florentin gem is a perfect quiet counterpart. Nothing says Florentin like a drool-worthy brunch of decadent ricotta pancakes, breakfast hash (potato obviously) and filtered coffee poured by a bearded waiter in plaid.
5 Merkhavya St, Florentin, Tel Aviv (03-5168244)
Forget size matters
The faint flicker of K Bar's florescent "K" is very easy to miss when you’re strolling down Herzl Street. After the traumatic closing of Tel Aviv’s iconic music bar, Shesek, this tiny Herzl hole-in-the-wall filled the hole in the White City’s revolutionary music scene. K Bar fits just about twenty partygoers, and the quaint space makes every experience as intimate as the wooden feel and playlist that accompanies each and every drink.
4 Herzl St, Tel Aviv (052-6703530)
What the hell, a bordel?
This sign-less art gallery/hangout is the place to go for rotating interesting and provocative art exhibitions, and to rub elbows with free-spirited creatives. Named The Bordel Gallery and marked by its signature red door, this hidden spot is inspired by the buzzing energy found in the local modern art scene and a “make-do no matter what” attitude. Meant for people who crave new art and transcendent conversation, it is a haven for the ultra-hipster community that exists in Haifa’s old port.
30 HaNamal St, Downtown Haifa
Stain your lips purple
Drinking wine in an underground, 160-year-old wine cellar that once housed a detention center under Turkish rule is just plain badass. Today, the ancient stone structure in Zichron Yaacov has been transformed into the intimate Kashtunyo Wine Cellar, with a mere eight tables and an extensive and impressive selection of wines from all over the world. Listen to owner and oenophile Amoz Meroz share his infinite knowledge of the humble grape while tasting a range of local and international labels.
56 Hameyasdim St, Zichron Yaacov (057-9440615)
Trek through an ancient village
Lifta, one of the last Palestinian Arab villages on the outskirts of Jerusalem, is laden with history and intrigue - and not to mention unexpectedly beautiful landscapes and views. The area is rife with primitive cobblestone houses and enchanting ruins imbedded on a cliff teeming with lush greenery, trees and foliage. From a bird's eye view, the village looks as if it has been trapped in time - or pulled straight from an epic movie reel. At its base there is a natural pool for cooling off.
Entrance to Jerusalem, from Route #1
Pick your own produce
Dizengoff Center is known for its labyrinth-like shops, but little do most people know that on its rooftop there are 750 sqm devoted to urban farming - grounds for a soil-less hydroponic farm yielding 10,000 veggie variations per month - all 100% organic and pesticide-free. Run by ‘Green in the City’, they offer fresh-off-the-roof produce (think kale, bok choy, herbs) sold in 'honesty stands' with price tags rivaling the shuk.
50 Dizengoff St, rooftop
Peep at porno
Hidden from public view in a secret nook of the National Library of Israel is a collection of Stalags, Nazi-themed pornographic paperbacks. Unleash your inner 1960s teenage boy and delve into these illustrated books that narrate POW camps run by dominatrix SS women, wherein the male inmates proceed to...we don't want to give away all the fun.
Giv'at Ram, Jerusalem (074-7336336)
Fall down the rabbit hole
If you’re fiending for the likes of City Lights, Powell’s or Shakespeare and Co., Halper’s Books is Tel Aviv’s answer. Prepare to spend whole afternoons crouched in its narrow, maze-like aisles stationed in a random alleyway off of Allenby Street, amidst the smell of used books. Owner Yosef Halper, an American expat, has been buying out collectors and libraries for over 25 years, filling his well-worn shelves with a whopping 60,000+ titles, including vintage sci-fi, detective thrillers and travel memoirs.
87 Allenby St, Tel Aviv (03-6299710)
‘Ooh and aww’ at paper crafts
If you’re on your way to Halper’s, you could literally pass this teensy shop without even a thought - but it is well worth the stop for those who delight in paper crafts, book binding, and finding the perfect gift. Daniel Bloom’s Studio is a closet-sized store with intricate handiworks on display – each showcasing the meticulous work of hand-bound books, boxes, dioramas, sketchbooks and more. If you’re looking to customize anything from a portfolio to a photo album, this is the place.
87 Allenby St, Tel Aviv (054-6882310/binddaniel.co.il)
Become a night crawler
Hotspot restaurant OCD is a tucked-away gem in its own right, but this month it’s adding another culinary concept to its winning dining experience. Twenty-six-year-old chef Raz Rahav will be offering an immersive foodie adventure once a month, on Friday nights. Dubbed ‘Night Crawlers’, the nine course tasting menu costs NIS 320 per person, and is made to eat with your hands. Expect the unexpected - and reserve well in advance - this place only seats a total of 19 people.
Starting March 17 at 22:00. 17 Tirtsa St, Noga Qtr, Jaffa (03-5566774/ocdtlv.com)
Jachnun at noon
Most pass right by Café Pachut (‘Simply Coffee’) with tunnel vision for the ‘balagan’ that is Miznon brunch. However, for those in the know, jachnun at this tiny neighborhood coffee nook is an obligatory weekly event. Every Saturday, the flaky treat is hand-prepped by “Aunt Tzipi” and baked to order by Oshrit, the owner. One bite will win you over for life. Come early before they run out.
26 King George St, Tel Aviv (03-9092559)
Take a walk down memory lane
Gazing at old photographs conjures up extreme nostalgia; the colors, the fashions, the expressions of people you will never meet but who may be connected to your ancestry somehow. Thankfully, Israel’s progression has been well documented - and The Photohouse’s archives are here to prove it - with a massive collection of negatives numbering close to a million images for perusal.
5 Tchernichovsky St, Tel Aviv (03-5177916/thephotohouse.co.il)
Geek out on how things are made
Since opening in 2010, the Design Museum of Holon, designed by Israeli industrial designer Ron Arad, has become an international sensation. Next to it is a building that is rather less comely: The Holon Mediatheque, a post-modern mishmash of circular windows, porticos and needless columns. Being design snobs, we are normally ones to judge a book by its cover, but in this case we won't: The Mediatheque itself houses a cinematheque, a theater, and what might be one of Israeli design's most fascinating and unsung gems: The Materials Library. Showcasing over a thousand samples of the world’s most cutting-edge materials, the display includes the very latest in plastics, wood, ceramics, paper, metal, composites, textiles and biodegradables, and the space looks something like a kindergarten class on steroids. It's also one of a handful of material museums in the world that is actually open to the public. (Extra bonus: An entrance ticket to the Design Museum includes admission to both.)
6 Golda Meir St, Holon (imatter.org.il)
6 Golda Meir St, Holon (imatter.org.il)
Feel the rhythm
Every Friday afternoon, just before Tel Aviv's endless sand strip bleeds into Jaffa, a wild cast of characters welcomes Shabbat with a communal drum circle. Tel Aviv's most eccentric and talented drummers (plus the occasional horn player and other instrumentalists) jam out to the ebb and flow of the waves. Bring your own percussion instrument or dance to the local beats while enjoying the exquisite sunset view.
The Dolphinarium, Tel Aviv
Hike with hospitality
Just steps from Mitzpe Ramon's crater edge is the adorably quaint Green Backpacker's hostel. Not only does the hostel itself have an extremely homey feel, the staff are equally hospitable, offering their guests fleece sweaters to brave the chilly desert evenings, plus personalized hiking advice and trail maps of the area. Don't forget to wake up early to catch the breathtaking sunrise and start out while it’s still cool.
2 Nahal Sirpad St, Mitzpe Ramon (08-6532319)
Streamline your wardrobe
Indie French label Homecore may be a coveted cult brand that has amassed a host of in-the-know devotees in Europe, but the local Israeli fan-base is even more niche. French expat Greg Abou sells a perfectly curated collection of the brand's seasonal hits out of his minimalist studio-cum-boutique. You would never know this spot even existed unless someone told you, and Abou keeps random opening hours, so definitely call in advance. Once you find the address, unassumingly placed in one of Neve Tzedek's hidden small streets, walk upstairs to a zen-like retreat meticulously arranged with a select grouping of Homecore's expertly tailored, thoughtfully-fitted blazers and durable bomber jackets, plus other covetable brands like leather goods from Balagan, all-natural, hand poured candles by Astier de Villatte Yakushima crafted in Paris and light-as-air 8 speed bikes by Tokyobike.
2 Shar'abi St St, Tel Aviv (052-6363844)