Tel Aviv isn’t one of those classic tourist attraction cities like Jerusalem or Rome. That’s great actually – there’s no to do list so you can finally relax and have a blast. There are, however, some quirky un-attractions scattered around town. Here’s a suggested walk perfect for exploring the city on a cool evening in a strange mood.
Start off at Rabin Square in the heart of town. Tel Aviv doesn’t have much open space, so appreciate it while you can. We’re here for the Tel Aviv City Hall though. Big and communist looking, it was built in 1966 in Brutalist style. Yes, that’s correct, stare at it and feel its concrete totalitarian brutality!
Head to small & sleazy Masarik Square right around the corner to check out the duck statue. It was unveiled in 2009 in honor of satirical author and cartoonist Dudu Geva. The duck was his staple character, a symbol for optimism and silliness (it says “always an optimist” at the bottom of the statue). He, and I mean the duck, was made an honorary citizen of Tel Aviv in 2008 with another duck sitting on top of City Hall to commemorate the event. Grab a coffee or beer in one of the nearby cafes or just relax on a bench next to the ugly fountain with locals and their pups.
Walking on along King George st., take a right on Zamenhof right to Dizingof Square. On your right you’ll see Cinema Hotel Tel Aviv, a cinema converted to a hotel as the name suggests, but the main event is Yakov Agam’s Water & Fire kinetic fountain. It was built in 1986, neglected for years, and finally renovated a year ago.
This fountain may appear in your guide book, but it is a definite un-attraction. It puts on a “show” with orchestrated water squirting to the sound of classical music and…fire. Fire! Fire! The flame thrown from this colorful neo-kitschy fountain comes as a big surprise . Watch it and have a laugh with the punks and hobos who frequent the square. Showtimes are daily at 11:00, 13:00, 19:00, and 21:00.
Venture on through Pinsker and take a left on Trumpeldor right through Meir Garden. It may look fishy in the dark, but it’s totally safe. Take a right on King George and stop after several blocks when you see the mighty obelisks at Simta Plonit.
This alley, and the one parallel next to it, were built by millionaire businessman Shapira Getzel back in 1922. Walk to the end of the alley where you’ll see the palace Shapira built for his love, Sonya, including a lion-in-Zion statue at the front to protect the property. It used to have red glowing eyes back in the day, wish they would restore that! If you’re hungry and lazy, try Sonia Getzel on the parrallel Simta Almonit, an awesome cafe with a huge secret backdoor garden.
Go up to Allenby and take a left. Take another left on Balfour street and enjoy a detour of attractive architecture. Go right on Melchet up to the small King Albert Square where you will see the Pagoda House. Take a seat on a bench and enjoy this weirdly awesome structure. It was built back in 1924, a time of aesthetics long before the Israeli concrete box was invented. Look closely and notice the eclectic styles – Doric columns meeting Islamic arches topped with a crazy Asian pagoda.
These days the Pagoda House is owned by Robert Weil, a Swedish Jewish billionaire, though I’ve never seen him or anyone inside the house. He has replaced the Synagogue that used to be on the first floor with a swimming pool + sauna combo. Typical. This is one of the most expensive properties in Tel Aviv and Israel.
Ending our tour with a surprise, walk on Montifiore, take a right on Nahalat Binyamin, and left on Gruzenberg right to Gruzenberg Parking Lot. Stroll right in and head up to the top floor for an urban view of the city. It’s open 24/7, so you should always be able to get in and out, worst case through the car entrance. If you fancy a drink to take it all in, try one of the bars back on Nahalat Binyamin. Take some random turns and find your own un-attractions. The city is full of them.