Gay Vacations in Tel Aviv

Aerial view of the beach and downtown Tel Aviv, Israel
Tel Aviv, Israel (Sylvester Adams/Photographer's Choice/Getty)

Tel Aviv Highlights

  • Plan for questioning at the Tel Aviv Airport. The airport, which nearly everyone flies into and out of, is one of the most security-conscious in the world, so expect to be questioned within an inch of your life. Don't take it personally.
  • Don't expect much of a gay scene outside of Tel Aviv. The rest of Israel is more conservative, particularly Jerusalem.
  • Expect fewer services during Shabbat. From sundown on Friday to after nightfall on Saturday (the Jewish Shabbat), public transport runs less frequently and more expensively, and many establishments (except restaurants) are closed as well. But the beach gets going Friday afternoon, and the clubs pump all night.


For those who know Israel only via the six o'clock news, Tel Aviv is nothing less than a revelation. Looking more like South Beach than the Middle East, this modern, robust city (nary an ancient wall in sight) is filled with surfers, men in bikinis, girls in thongs, restaurant tables on the beach, and outdoor shopping malls. The place feels like party central compared to buttoned-down Jerusalem, and Tel Aviv's gay scene pumps until dawn.

It's perhaps not the most picturesque city in the region, but it's by far the gayest and most Westernized. Gays are encouraged to participate in the army, there's a strong lesbian community, the government recognizes same-sex marriage performed in other countries, its parliament has had gay members, and an Israeli transsexual singer even became a local hero when she won first place in the Eurovision Song Contest. There is no gay neighborhood in Tel Aviv (although the hip areas of Dizengoff Street and Sheinkin Street attract a queer following), because the gay establishments are nicely integrated into the overall city. Most gay nightclubs are found in the southern parts of the city. Gan Ha'atzmaut, or Independence Park, is queer-social rather than simply cruisy, and the city's gay beach is just below its cliffs. Tel Aviv's large pride parade draws more than 100,000 in June, along with TLVFEST, the annual gay film fest held at the Tel Aviv Cinematheque.

The city has gone out of its way to try to spruce up in recent years. The once-derelict Tel Aviv Port has trendy oceanfront eateries and shopping, and the City Center now showcases its once-derelict Art Deco masterpieces. The Israel Philharmonic Orchestra and the New Israel Opera have become recognized around the world, and the city is home to the Diaspora Museum and Eretz Israel Museum Complex. To be sure, you won't want to spend your entire Israeli vacation just in Tel Aviv, but you'd be sorry if you missed its happening energy.

Published: 15 Aug 2008 | Last Updated: 7 Aug 2012
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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