Secret Israel

Explore the weird & wonderful side of the country with our guide to secret Israel – featuring lesser known foodie finds, hidden geological gems, under-the-radar art galleries, and other scandalous secrets

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It's not that Israel's best museums and major attractions aren't well worth the visit, but sometimes the "been there, done that" mentality kicks in, welcoming some discouragement. Time Out's goal is to keep our readers enthralled at all times by the unique Holy Land offerings. That's why we've compiled the ultimate guide to secret Israel – to remind visitors and tourists alike how fun, fresh, and exciting every inch of this country can be, whether in a brilliant bathroom inside a Tel Aviv bar or a secret cave up north. Just don't spill the beans, eh?

Top secret days out in Israel

Israel's best kept secrets REVEALED!
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Israel's best kept secrets REVEALED!

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 © Shutterstock   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

Stranger Than Fiction: Israel's Oddball Locales
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Stranger Than Fiction: Israel's Oddball Locales

We all know about Israel's world-class historical, religious and natural landmarks. But, what about Israel's stranger features? From Biblical giants and vegetarian Utopias, to Harry Potter's grave and Prehistoric cavemen, welcome to the lesser known side of Israel.   Gilgal Refaim, Golan Heights Discovered in the Golan Heights a year after its capture in 1967, Gilgal Refaim is a mysterious display of concentric stone circles that has long baffled archaeologists. Dating back between 5,000 and 6,000 years, Gilgal Refaim ("Wheel of the Ghosts" in Hebrew) or Rujm el-Hiri ("The Stone Heaps of the Wild Cats" in Arabic) is reminiscent of England's famous—and similarly puzzling—ancient Megalithic structure, Stonehenge. The site consists of around 42,000 tons of basalt rocks forming four circles, and archaeologists believe that the walls of the structure once towered nine meters high, making the structure an especially impressive site when viewed from the air (and from Google maps). Like Stonehenge, Gilgal Refaim appears to be connected to the earth's place in the cosmos, as every year it aligns with the summer and winter solstices. Unsurprisingly, theories abound as to Gilgal Refaim's role. From common hypotheses revolving around astronomical observations and calendars, to more intriguing whispers about Biblical giants from the heavens, no one can pinpoint exactly why the mysterious rock formation was arranged in such a meticulous manner and in this particular location. Gilgal Ref

Things to do in Jerusalem if you've been here before: touristy adventures for the local-at-heart
Things to do

Things to do in Jerusalem if you've been here before: touristy adventures for the local-at-heart

So, you’ve prayed at the Kotel, you’ve been inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, you’ve tasted the finest of cuisine at Jerusalem restaurants in and around Machne Yehuda, but do you really know this central city of Jewish history? Have you truly experienced the sheer diversity of sights and sounds that this 3000-year-old city has to offer? We’ll guess for you - probably not. Aside from being just a capitol for the Abrahamic religions, Jerusalem equally holds the crown for being the capital of hidden gems. And while there are just too many to choose from, we’ve handpicked a specific seven that may shine the brightest to the curious - yet accustomed – tourist.

What lies beneath: Israel's secret caves and hidden springs
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What lies beneath: Israel's secret caves and hidden springs

Israel's famous (and infamous) historic sites, national parks with scenic views and well-known trails are a given. But if you scratch the surface a little, there is a whole host of hidden treasures lurking beyond what can be seen at first glance. Nestled within many of Israel’s mountain ranges are some incredible secret caves begging to be explored, and hidden throughout the country are hundreds of intimate springs and pools just waiting to be jumped into.  Sorek Cave Hidden within the western slopes of the Judean Hills is a magical fairy-tale world of stalactites and stalagmites in a multitude of shapes and sizes. The cave, which is also known as Avshalom Cave, was discovered accidentally in 1968 and was kept secret for years, for fear of causing damage to its incredible natural beauty. Luckily, now its fascinating formations, made from years of dripping water (some of which date back 300,000 years) are on display to the public.  From Jerusalem, follow signposts from Bar-Giora Junction for about 5 km. From Tel Aviv, turn south from the Shimshon Jct, then east to the sign posted road for 5 km.  Bell Caves   Not exactly hidden, but still well worth a visit, Beit Guvrin, the 1,250-acre national park,  was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site three years ago - and for good reason. This significant archaeological site houses more than 800 bell-shaped caves in the park and 2,000 in the entire area - some of which are linked by underground tunnels. There is even one that is 1

Secret seduction

Secret seduction: Israel's more secret & sordid gay spots
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Secret seduction: Israel's more secret & sordid gay spots

While Tel Aviv prides itself on having a very visible and inclusive gay scene, that doesn’t mean there aren’t also darker, more secret spots where guys go under the radar to get their freak on - all across the country. Ga’ash Beach © Shutterstock   About 20-minute’s drive north of Tel Aviv lies Ga’ash Beach, Israel’s unofficial gay nude beach. There are no pride flags showing the way, and getting to the actual beach involves a mini hike down a steep cliff, but once there, it’s a rugged getaway with a sexy atmosphere. Guys of all shapes and sizes head to Ga’ash, either alone or in groups, to strip down and enjoy their naked freedom. Some go to work on their tan lines, while others go to find someone to share the stunning views with. Whether it’s behind the rocks, on top of the cliffs or on the open beach, there are plenty of guys exploring each other’s naked bodies in more ways than one.    By car or public transport, arrive at the gas station at Yakum Intersection on Route 2. Cross the pedestrian bridge towards the beach, walk through the field and then turn left and go up the hill, then down the cliff towards the water.    Sauna Lucas, Kiryat Ata Set in the heart of a quiet industrial area in the Haifa suburb of Kiryat Ata, Sauna Lucas is a discreet gay bathhouse where guys from the North go to unwind. It’s not like the more mainstream centrally-located Tel Aviv saunas. It’s housed in an old industrial building with no sign on the outside. If you get lost,

Clothing-Optional: 4 places to rock out with your c*ck out this summer
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Clothing-Optional: 4 places to rock out with your c*ck out this summer

Throw all caution – and clothing – to the wind and hang loose (literally) at these top places in Israel to be in the buff. We’ve weighed the pros and cons of where to slink down to our skivvies and less, and these four prime places made the cut.  Don’t be a prude, go nude!    1. Working Those Beach Balls © Shutterstock   Pro: You won’t have to worry about uneven tanning. Con: Getting sand where you really don’t want it.    While Ga’ash Beach is more of an ‘unkept’ secret, it still retains its charm. Located just north of Tel Aviv, the beach is named after the nearby Kibbutz. Ga’ash North is mostly a gay beach, paralleled with Ga’ash South, which does not specify. During any given summer weekend, you may find close to 50 naturists showing off their stuff. Looking for a skinny dip with a more ballsy adventure? Arsuf’s small nudist beach is popular among nudists due to its remoteness.     2. Mooning by Moonlight © Shutterstock   Pro: The moonlight gives your skin that extra glow.  Con: You aren’t the only creatures of the night enjoying the serene desert.    While no places are officially recognized as clothing-optional in the Dead Sea (yet), summertime in and around the area can inspire a different kind of naturist activity: moonlight nature walks. By day, the Dead Sea’s natural desert spots are packed with tourists, AND their kids. However, when the summer sun sets and the tourists retreat, these areas become serene, beautiful and perfectly warm. Wait

Secret places to sink and drink

Tel Aviv nightlife: five hidden speakeasies
Bars

Tel Aviv nightlife: five hidden speakeasies

Shhh! Don’t tell anyone, but Time Out Israel has rounded up the finest speakeasy bars in Tel Aviv. Step out of your cozy café comfort zone and into the roarin’ American jazz age at these hidden bars where the art of mixology is no joke, especially at the newest addition: Butler. When you’re sick of the Lonely Planet tourist traps and looking for a more exciting evening out, why not dive into the coconut infused “Pearl Diver” at the Louisiana themed French 57 or spice it up with a chili-salted passionfruit margerita at The Prince. You don’t need to bob your hair or put on a flapper skirt to enjoy these whimsical bars. All you need is a thirst for discovery that’s itching to be quenched.

A "Pooper's Guide" to the funkiest bathrooms in Tel Aviv
Things to do

A "Pooper's Guide" to the funkiest bathrooms in Tel Aviv

It's no secret that Tel Aviv doesn't exactly have the most 'user-friendly' bathrooms. The White City's unwritten rule is that the closer in proximity you get to the beach, the lesser the odds are that your bathroom stall will come equipped with toilet paper. Have no fear! The "Pooper's Guide" is here with a roundup of the funkiest, freshest, cleanest, most-heavily Teepee-stocked bathrooms in town. From crazy mathematical equation-laced wallpaper set to Edgar Allen Poe's "The Raven" to a beautiful Buddhist oasis, these toilets will transport you into an alternate state so euphoric, you'll never want to leave (though your date might start to worry).

Ariel Leizgold unveils his newest cocktail bar creation: Butler - a Wes Anderson meets Charles Dickens meets Jekyll and Hyde masterpiece
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Ariel Leizgold unveils his newest cocktail bar creation: Butler - a Wes Anderson meets Charles Dickens meets Jekyll and Hyde masterpiece

Imagine walking up to a hotel reception desk reminiscent of The Grand Budapest Hotel. The concierge dials a number, hangs up, and as if by magic, the door you barely noticed when you first entered the building swings open and a dapper host gestures you inside.   You step into the jazz age: swing music plays fervently from every corner of the bar, bird cages swing by with burgers inside and you nearly trip over a pram filled with oyster shells on ice.   © Anatoly Michaello         And just when you think things can't get any quirkier, the host escorts you past this alternate universe you've just entered to a hidden door masked as a bookshelf of sorts. Waiting on the other side: a secret passageway into yet another alternate universe (a parallel universe as Leizgold describes it). Only this time, you've traveled more than a century beyond the 1920s into the Victorian era.   The quaint one-room bar nestled inside Bellboy is a visual orgasm – the animal-print walls are adorned with period pieces like paintings, key holders and other gems. Mason jars filled with octopi, squids, brains and other organs add a little extra "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" feel to the Victorian ambiance; an old rotary dial sits promptly at one end of the bar, mixology mastermind Ariel Leizgold at the other.   © Anatoly Michaello         Leizgold, Time Out's 2016 Best Bartender and the man behind 223 and Bellboy, tastes a cocktail whipped up by a bartender, Guy Avner. They are giving

The five best bars inside Tel Aviv hotels
Bars

The five best bars inside Tel Aviv hotels

When skimming over our list of top cocktail bars and speakeasies, you may be surprised as to how many are situated within boutique hotels in Tel Aviv. From the classy Library bar inside the Norman hotel to the Imperial cocktail bar, where Time Out Tel Aviv’s Eating and Drinking Awards winner for best cocktail is stirring up wild concoctions with a seasonal menu, to the newest addition to the Tel Aviv rooftop bar scene atop the Poli House, these five drinking establishments are a must. We advise you make reservations ahead as these places are quite intimate. Plus, be wary that on busier nights, these quaint Tel Aviv hotel bars may turn down drinkers under the age of 25. So, whether you’re staying the night or starting the night, looking for mixology or a fine glass of wine, on a date or with friends, these hotel bars guarantee satisfaction.

Art undercover

The 10 quirkiest galleries and museums in Israel
Art

The 10 quirkiest galleries and museums in Israel

While tourists flock towards the iconic Tel Aviv Museum of Art or The Israel Museum in Jerusalem to cross off their ‘Israeli culture’ checklist, the true hidden beauty lies in Israel’s more quirky museums and Israeli art galleries off the beaten path. Just outside of Tel Aviv, the quaint city of Holon houses some unique museums that feature everything out-of-the-ordinary from Israeli fashion design to cartoons and children’s games. Inside the cultural capital, Florentine’s hipster haven opened Tel Aviv’s very first street art gallery. And, up by Mount Carmel, the Ein Hod Artists’ Village has the works of Marcel Janco, one of the founding fathers of Dadaism, up on display. These museums in Israel are worth a visit, especially if you’re looking for a change of pace from giant crowds and long lines.

3 under-the-radar art galleries worthy of your perusal
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3 under-the-radar art galleries worthy of your perusal

Of course Tel Aviv boasts the well-known local art galleries with Israeli and international names to boot. But here are three under-the-radar, inspiring spots worth a gander.   Artemisia Artist: Shachar Avnet   The White City is full of art galleries showcasing the best of Israeli and international talent. Artemisia gallery stands out from the rest due to their simple premise: they work only with female artists. Artemisia is the brainchild of mother-of-two, Limor Zohar Shavit. Leaving her career as a stylist, Limor turned to her husband Eli Edri — owner of the uber-cool Under 1,000 Gallery - to show her the way. Literally, as the galleries are only a stone’s throw apart. “I saw that there were many women artists who had no place to go. I wanted to help them, to direct them within the art world. Working with women is the greatest thing ever”. The gallery does not seek to define “feminine art,” but rather to welcome and support local female artists — showcasing more established artists as well as those freshly graduated. “Artemisia aspires to be a home and a family for creative women”. This is girl-power at its best: inclusive, forward-thinking, and executed in the best of tastes.   31 Abarbanel St, Tel Aviv (03-5745524, 054-6070803). @Artemisiagallery    LUMAS LUMAS, a Berlin-based, worldwide home gallery chain that offers affordable art by creating a global community of artists, is coming to Tel Aviv! The curated selection of worldwide artists, who specializ

Covert culinary scene

Three restaurants in Tel Aviv with under the radar foodie deals
Restaurants

Three restaurants in Tel Aviv with under the radar foodie deals

When it comes to drinking and dining in the White City, both can get expensive if you're craving top chef quality. That's why we've singled out a smattering of blink-and-you’ll-miss-'em deals going on at the best restaurants in Tel Aviv to give your wallet a bit of a break. From half-off happy hour specials in the hip and happening Florentin neighborhood to all-you-can-eat brunch that takes the cake with everything from bourekas to sabich, you're stomachs will thank you now, while your bank accounts will thank you later.

Five hidden food treasures sprinkled behind the bustling Carmel Market
Restaurants

Five hidden food treasures sprinkled behind the bustling Carmel Market

Ever wondered what’s beyond the bustling main Shuk HaCarmel road? What treasures lie within the charming Yemenite quarter? Well it’s time to turn those dreams into a reality. Here are some must try places right outside Tel Aviv's famed Israeli market that will not only excite your taste buds, but also set the perfect ambiance for a perfect Tel Aviv day.

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