Unlike many cities with boroughs and communes, Tel Aviv is not really divided into districts, but rather into over 50 small neighborhoods. Many neighborhoods have distinctive cultures (e.g. Neve Tzedek, Florentin, Ramat-Ha'Chayal). Historically, the city grew from the south to the north, so, as a rule, the northern neighborhoods are newer and in some cases wealthier. However, in a sense, all the neighborhoods are relatively young because the city was only founded in 1907; this stands in stark contrast to many of the other cities in Israel, which could be thousands of years old!
Merkaz Hair (City Center): Bound by Ibn Gvirol Street to the East, Arlozorov to the North, Bugrashov to the South, and the Mediterranean Sea to the West, the Merkaz is the heart and soul of Tel Aviv. Its close proximity to the beach forms the basis for the laid-back, fun, and friendly attitude that pervades the area. With no shortage of cafes, bars, shops, and restaurants, this Merkaz is a favorite of both Israelis and internationals.
Kikar Rabin (Rabin Square): Named after the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who was assassinated in the square in the mid-90s, Kikar Rabin contains the city hall and serves as a main commercial hub for Tel Aviv. Bordered to the East by Ibn Gvirol Street, which is home to solid bars, food stands, and nice apartments, Rabin Square is only a 15-minute walk from the beach along Frischman Street.
Old North: Historically known as a more upscale and exclusive neighborhood, the Hebrew slang word “Tzfoni” (Northerner) is used to describe residents of this area as slightly pretentious and snobby. It’s hard not to be—the streets are lined with beautiful cafés, wine bars, and restaurants. This area north of Arlozorov Street is home to many of the Bauhaus buildings that gave Tel Aviv its moniker “The White City,” and the area is located near great (but touristy) nightlife in the Namal (port). Living here makes for an easier commute north to the two main universities, Tel Aviv University and the IDC, and high tech firms in Ramat Aviv and Herzliya.
Nahalat Binyamin: Enclosed by the famous Sheinkin Street and Rothschild Boulevard, this area just south of the Center is home to some of the best shopping, restaurants and nightlife in Tel Aviv. The spacious Rothschild Boulevard was home to the famous tent city protests in the summer of 2011, which brought residents of all backgrounds to the streets to protest the lack of income inequality. Despite the protests, the area is home to some of the most high-end apartments in the city.
Neve Tzedek: Neve Tzedek was founded in 1887, before Tel Aviv itself, and therefore has a historic charm not found in other areas. These days it retains the feeling of a sleepy village despite being sandwiched between the beach and the business districts. Owing to its fortuitous location and fashionable cafes and shops, Neve Tzedek has become one of the most sought-after and expensive places to live in Tel Aviv.
Jaffa: The ancient biblical port of Jaffa (Yafo in Hebrew) far predates Tel Aviv and has legendary associations with Perseus, Andromeda, and Jonah (of whale-swallowing fame). Mentioned by Egyptian sources as early as 1440 BC, name-checked several times in the Bible, and conquered by Arabs in 636 AD, photogenic Jaffa is as close as you can get in Tel Aviv to the “Holy Land” feeling of Jerusalem. Jaffa today is one of the interface areas between Jews and Arabs and contains thousands of both living next to each other. Outside of the main touristic center the area is not so expensive but also wrestles with persistent crime and interethnic violence, explored at length in the award-winning film Ajami, which is set just south of the neighborhood.
Florentin: Located in South Tel Aviv, Florentin has become gentrified in the last two decades and has drawn comparisons to Soho in New York City with its hipster/trendy style. It is less upscale than more Northern areas and still has very low-income areas where mostly migrant workers live. The neighborhood is located east of historic Jaffa and southeast of the artsy and upscale Neve Tzedek. While you’re there, check out a walking tour of the street art and graffiti.