Israel is without a doubt the best country in the Middle East for gay and lesbian individuals to live. In addition to the fact that gay people can serve openly in the Israeli military, Israeli governments have been promoting social equality for LGBT people for more than a decade. It should come as no surprise then that Israel’s capital of cool, Tel Aviv, has gained a reputation as one of the world’s top destinations for gay men. If you haven’t yet added Tel Aviv to your travel itinerary, here are some reasons you should make a last-minute addition.
Tel Aviv Gay Nightlife
Although Tel Aviv’s nightlife is generally regarded as among the best in the world, this is particularly the case when it comes to gay establishments. One reason gay nightlife in Tel Aviv is so exciting is that the Tel Aviv gay scene revolves around weekly parties, rather than specific bars or clubs like most cities around the world.
This isn’t to say that certain gay bars in Tel Aviv aren’t extremely popular. Evita, for example, located just a block south of trendy Rothschild Boulevard, is one of Tel Aviv’s oldest gay bars and is a popular meeting place for gays seven days per week. Some visit Evita prior to whatever party is going on that night, while others stay there all night for events like Bingo, Eurovision Karaoke, and other festivities.
Even if you don’t plan to stay there, Evita is a great place to figure out what’s going on later in the night. Both bartenders and fellow bargoers can give you an overview of the parties that are happening – and if you’re lucky, you might even get put on the VIP list for free entry.
Once you arrive at the venue for the party, be prepared for a night unlike any other. Tel Aviv parties tend not only to be large – one of the best ones I attended was held at Bloq, a large arena located near the Tel Aviv bus station – but Israelis know perhaps better than any other people in the world how to let loose. Copious amounts of alcohol, dancing and some things I can’t mention here are to be expected.
Gay Beaches in Tel Aviv
Tel Aviv’s nightlife isn’t the only reason millions of tourists from around the world flock there every year. The city’s incredible Mediterranean beaches have also received international acclaim, both for their crystal clear waters, white sands and the number of attractive people that can be found sunbathing there.
Although gays swim at nearly every beach in Tel Aviv, the surest spot to find “family” is at Hilton Beach, located just in front of the Hilton Tel Aviv hotel. Although heterosexual people come to this beach as well, you can expect most of your fellow patrons to be gay. Single men, couples, and groups of friends alike flock to Hilton Beach to enjoy sun, sand and surf.
Hilton Beach tends to be most crowded on Fridays and Saturdays, which constitute the weekend in Israel. If you aren’t looking to flirt or socialize, avoid visiting Hilton Beach on these days and go instead during the week when the beach is empty enough that you can focus your energy or catch rays or go for a swim.
Tel Aviv’s Hilton Beach is a quick cab ride from anywhere in the Tel Aviv area. Or, if you’re staying in central Tel Aviv, you can walk to the beach. Simply head north on Dizengoff Street until you hit Jabotinsky Street, then take a left and walk down to the water.
Tel Aviv Gay Pride
Tel Aviv hosts the only public gay pride parade in the entire Middle East, which is held annually the first weekend of June. As being gay is legal and mostly accepted in Israel, locals and visitors alike hold nothing back in the parade, which is a wild party in and of itself. Expect lots of sexy men dancing on floats and in the crowd, as well as drag queens and queer people of all sorts.
Tel Aviv Pride has quickly become one of the most popular pride events in the entire world. Last year more than 100,000 people attended, both Israeli and foreign. The parade is typically kicked off by Tel Aviv’s mayor and travels through the heart of the city, ending at the Tel Aviv Beach – in particular, Hilton Beach and Gordon Beach.
The best part of Tel Aviv pride is not the parade itself, but the fact that Tel Aviv’s gay nightlife gets even wilder during pride. Not only will bars and clubs be packed to the gills, but you can expect a dramatic increase in the number of parties, as well as the number of people you find there. The most difficult part about attending Tel Aviv pride is choosing which of the many Pride events in Tel Aviv best suits you.
Acceptance of Gays in Tel Aviv
Israel is without a doubt the most accepting and open Middle Eastern country when it comes to gay people. Not only is being gay in Israel perfectly legal, but public opinion about gay rights is decidedly positive. Although it is always possible to experience discrimination, you are not likely to encounter more than the occasional stray comment or dirty look.
Before I visited Tel Aviv, one of my friends there told me that it was more difficult to find straight men in Tel Aviv than it was to find gay men. Although I doubt this is actually the case, gay people are very visible in Tel Aviv and are not shy about publicly expressing their affection for one another. If you enjoy an evening stroll along Ben Tsion Boulevard, for example, it’s common to see gay couples and families walking right along straight ones.
The best part of homosexuality being so tolerated in Tel Aviv is that Israeli men tend to be very open about their feelings for you, if they have them. While you might spend hours in another city wondering “Is he or isn’t he?”, you’ll learn very quickly whether an Israeli man is into you. If he is, he’ll make very obvious eye contact and may even ask if he can sit down at your table.
Indeed, whether you come to Tel Aviv for the gay nightlife, to lie on a gay beach, to experience gay pride or just to enjoy the company of fellow gays, there is perhaps no better gay destination in the Middle East and very few others in the world.
Insider Tips – Gay Tel Aviv for Beginners
Jason Wood, architect and local guide who is a part of the LGBTQ community and loves sharing his city with visitors shares a few tips for first-time visitors to Tel Aviv. Here are Jason’s recommendations for the perfect experience for gay Tel Aviv for beginners.
Wood says, Tel Aviv is really an amazing place and a one of a kind LGBTQ community because you can walk around everywhere, be yourself 100% without judgment, and feel accepted by everyone around you: “I think every city should learn from Tel Aviv a bit about accepting the differences and listening to others. Tel Aviv should be a role model for every city not only for the gay community, but the diversity here is inspiring, and you feel it.”
According to Wood, Tel Aviv offers many activities and spots and different ways of experiences the city. Whether you are a night owl or party animal or you prefer relaxing and soaking up the sun at the gay beach, it doesn’t matter because there are so many ways to feel the vibe of Tel Aviv.
Gay Tel Aviv Beach Tips
When visiting Hilton Beach, you can rent an umbrella and chair but the best way is to go classic, bring a towel and hang out on the beach. It’s good all day, at any time. During Pride Week, at the Hilton Beach, every day there is a different DJ is on the beach, setting the mood. Speedos are welcome! After spending the day on the sand and in the sea, the perfect way to end the day is to go up the hill to the grassy area near the hotel and enjoy an amazing view of the sunset. Bring blankets, snacks and enjoy the beauty of the Mediterranean Sea.
Gay Tel Aviv Bars Tips
The newest spot in the scene is called DTM (Don’t Tell Mom) opened in Florentin. Ironically one of the gayest neighborhoods didn’t have a gay bar until now. DTM is the perfect spot for drinks around 23:00-24:00 on weekends, during the week around 21:00-22:00. Not to be missed, a great spot for any first-time visitor to Tel Aviv. Another must visit is Shpagat, it is welcoming with chill vibes and good drinks. It is a nice spot around 21:00 to enjoy some small bites and a drink
Tel Aviv Pride Parade Tips
For those who are attending the parade for the first time, they should remember that it is SUPER hot! It is also crowded but at the same time very joyful, fun and exciting. According to Wood, “You need to imagine the hottest place on earth – both temperature and people”. Bring sunscreen, water, hat, good shoes. Also, there are people selling cold water everywhere, for about 5-10 shekels, worth buying and staying hydrated.
Very important – visitors should be aware that because there are so many people, phones don’t work, so it’s hard to communicate if you’ve lost your friends. Wood says, “Take your bestie and stick to him/her. Pick a meeting spot and just have fun”. The afterparty at Charles Clore Park is the perfect time to catch you breathe, enjoy the party and the open park for everyone and can also go down to the beach. Wood recommends to travel light, wear minimal layers and don’t bother bringing much because of the heat!
Gay Tel Aviv Workout tips
In Tel Aviv, along the beach, there are many outdoor gym spaces. These gyms are free to use and are a great place to get in a quick workout. Running along the beach is also one of the best ways to stay in shape.
For beginners enjoying their first visit to Tel Aviv, experiencing Pride in Israel is an unforgettable experience unlike any other city in the world!