The Berlin, Tel Aviv connection: why these two cities are so cool

Tags: , , , , , ,

A stencil in Tel Aviv...in German

A stencil in Tel Aviv…in German!

It might not be immediately apparent—especially to outsiders—but Berlin and Tel Aviv share a special bond. There’s no doubt that Germany and Israel have an historically important relationship, but the two countries’ central cities are much more connected than might be expected.

Berlin, the political capital of Germany, is more than just government and history. It’s also one of the trendiest cities in Europe and, maybe the world. Tel Aviv, though not Israel’s official capital is without a doubt the cultural capital of the small Jewish nation. Tel Aviv is the capital of cool for much of the Middle East, maybe the whole of the Mediterranean.

And though Berlin and Tel Aviv don’t share the same climate, time zone, or city size, they’ve got plenty of other things going for them that more than make up for their differences. Both cities are seemingly set up to become international hotspots for the cultural and creative—if they’re not already at the top of those lists. Here’s what makes both Berlin & Tel Aviv so cool.

coffee culture

A coffee culture served up in both cities

Coffee fuels creative types almost as much as inspiration and brainpower, but in both Berlin and Tel Aviv, coffee seems to flow as freely as the cheap beer. So much so, that both cities have their pick of 24-hour cafes for those that want to burn the midnight oil. In Berlin you’ve got Mein Haus am See—a 24-hour cafe and coffee shop (with free wifi) that caters to the many hipster Berliners, in addition to the Macbook-filled St Oberholz across the street. In Tel Aviv, there’s the always popular 24-hour The Streets, a cafe & restaurant with wifi and good music on the stereo.

The Tel Aviv coffee culture is almost legendary. With so many sunny days in the spring & summer, iced coffee is inevitably the way to go. My favorite place is the Saquella cafe across from Dizengoff Center on King George street. It’s hard to miss and they serve the best iced coffee (it’s more like a frappe or milkshake) in Tel Aviv.

In Berlin, with so many creative professionals making a living out of daytime freelance jobs, there’s a big culture for coffee and coffee shops. The Barn is often cited as one of the best places to find coffee in Berlin, but I’m also partial to Bonanza Coffee Heroes. TimeOut Magazine has a great listing of Berlin’s coffee scene. And one coffee shop that you’ll find in both Berlin and Tel Aviv is the Israeli chain, Aroma.

nightlife

Nightlife that never ends

Both Berlin and Tel Aviv host any number of international DJs for what are truly legendary parties. In Tel Aviv, the DIY Alternative Guide regularly posts information on the party scene there, while BANG BANG BERLIN publishes regularly bout Berlin’s club scene. The summer is obviously the more popular time of year for nightlife in each city, though winters are surprisingly alive in both Berlin & Tel Aviv. With 24-hour bars and clubs, neither city is boring—any time of year.

Besides having non-stop nightlife, there’s also overlap in the types of bars you’ll find. So much so that the drink that fuels Berlin’s club kids—Club Mate—is even available in Tel Aviv. It’s not a common drink outside of Berlin, but I found it for sale inside the Anna Lou Lou bar in Jaffa.

european beaches

Beaches in Tel Aviv…and Berlin!

Both Berlin and Tel Aviv have beach bars. Yes, Berlin’s got a beach despite being hundreds of kilometers from the coast! The River Spree winds through Berlin (the city has more bridges than Venice, did you know?) and during the summer, the river banks are arguably one of the best places to chill out in the city. There are plenty of beach bars and clubs located along the shores of the river as well. Sure, the beaches in Berlin don’t beat the Mediterranean coast in Tel Aviv, but hey, at least the city’s trying to make the most of what they’ve got!

Special thanks to rearviewmirror.tv for the photo of the Berlin beach bar

entrepreneurs

An entrepreneurial spirit

With Google headquarters in both cities, it’s no surprise to find out that Berlin & Tel Aviv are technologically-savvy cities. Plentiful co-working spaces, a thriving start up scene and an influx of creative professionals are just some of the reasons that make both cities standouts in the technology sector. Tel Aviv has been an established hotspot in the start up scene for a while now, and Berlin’s reputation is quickly rising.

For co-working spaces, Berlin has the Agora Collective, Betahaus and Co-up and Tel Aviv has Misanthrope, The Junction and the TechLoft. And each has many more!

Tel Aviv/Berlin museums

World class museums & galleries

Neither city is necessarily renowned for their big museums or art collections, but Berlin and Tel Aviv each have quite a bit of support for independent artists and galleries. And their respective city museums aren’t bad either. Berlin’s got well over 100 museums dealing with archaeology, culture (the Film Museum is pretty cool), modern & classical art—just to pinpoint a few topics. Tel Aviv has it’s fair share of history museums, as well as an impressive Design Museum. The city’s largest museum, the Tel Aviv Museum of Art regularly hosts international exhibits.

politics-israel-berlin

Political activism & street arts

Both Berlin & Tel Aviv have a bold history, ones marked with social change and political movements. Tel Aviv’s Rothschild Boulevard was the site of the popular Tent City protests two years ago, and in the past year, African migrant workers & refugees have taken to the streets. Political activism is increasingly more alive in the Middle Eastern city that is often referred to as being in a “bubble.” Berlin, for its part, is no stranger to activism. With its sordid history, and as the capital of Germany, the city hosts demonstrations & protests almost every week—if not every day.

In both cities, much of this activism manifests itself as graffiti and street art. In Tel Aviv, you’ll find street art in both Hebrew and English (and maybe even some Arabic), purple eggplants, stencils and painterly murals. Berlin covers the gamut with as much political street art as pretty graffiti.

israel/berlin fashion

A sense of style

In cities as hedonistic as Berlin and Tel Aviv, the cultures seem to thrive on a certain level of independence and culture. That’s probably why indie designers and artists find such a strong sense of style in both cities. While I found Tel Avivians to be generally lazy in regards to street style (oftentimes in the summer, people pretty much just wear a swimsuit and call it a day), that doesn’t mean the city doesn’t have its fair share of fashion designers. Just walk along Shenkin Street and I dare you not to shop!

In Berlin, Fashion Week is oftentimes a big deal for the city when designers flock to the city. But with all the hipsters and design-savvy individuals in Berlin, the city’s fashion is often photographed on more blogs than you’re able to count (try überlin). Berlin is also home to the annual Bread & Butter trade show each winter—a great showcase for t-shirt designers.

Gay Israel & Berlin

Hotspot for the gays

Maybe it’s the open-minded, liberal attitude from each city. Or maybe it’s the legendary nightlife, the relaxed atmosphere and the young demographics. But both cities have been declared among the top travel destinations for LGBT travelers. Tel Aviv’s annual gay pride on the beach is often one of the most photographed around the world (something about those Israeli men…), and Berlin’s Christopher Street Day is one of the largest pride events in Europe.

And if Berlin and Tel Aviv weren’t connected enough, there’s a monthly party in Berlin called Meschugge—heavily targeted to the queer Jewish & Israeli demographics.

Berlin & Israel

The Israeli flag superimposed over the German flag at the East Side Gallery in Berlin

Berlin & Tel Aviv—sister cities

Germany and Israel share an incredibly unique bond—tied together by an unfortunate history and plenty of political relations in the past 20+ years. The people who cross between the two cities—immigrants, tourists, expats and visitors—are only strengthening the bond. A Facebook group of Israelis in Berlin has over 4,000 members and there are new Israeli immigrants to Berlin every year. The Israeli embassy in Germany even maintains a blog about Israeli events in Berlin and beyond – check their blogroll for additional resources.

Germany and Israel are connected with several flights a day from numerous budget airlines. And while each city shares many similarities, the atmosphere of each is unique and original—so much so that you can it’s hard not to notice how each city is hip in its own way.

Check out my hipster city guides below

tel-aviv-guide  berlin-guide

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Have you visited either Berlin or Tel Aviv? What were your impressions?

Blogs published by Adam Groffman • Please note some posts do make me some money, but I never sacrifice my integrity in exchange for a favorable review. Read the full disclosure policy.

33 total comments on this postSubmit yours
  1. I am getting ready to move to Berlin indefinitely on Sept 1! I’ve found your posts extremely interesting and useful! I’d love to hear more about where you are now. Thanks for the guides!

    • Congrats on the move Elizabeth!! Be sure to follow me on Twitter for the real-time updates, but yes… I still live here in Berlin :)

  2. I had forgotten many people see Tel Aviv as a place of war and camels. Thanks for writing about it as a cool, happening place!

    • Yep, it’s hard to imagine that once you’ve been there. I think it’s one of those cities you really have to see to believe

  3. Two places I was already dying to visit and you just made them both sound even cooler!

    • They’re both great cities! And actually I’m revisiting Tel Aviv (again!) in June :)

  4. The title of this post really caught my eye because I fell in love with Berlin the same way I fell in love with Tel Aviv – laid back lifestyle and people, the very hip sense of style which I can really relate to, countless unique shops, beautiful and friendly people, history, and lots and lots of colorful street art! I yearn to be back in both amazing cities soon, preferably this year!

    • Glad to hear it Antoinette! I’m also kind of curious if someone would have a different opinion of the two cities if they visit one or the other first. Personally I visited Tel Aviv before I ever set foot in Berlin, and months apart at that.

  5. i have only been to Berlin but I would love to see the similarities you found to Tel Aviv. I definitely didn’t know Berlin had “beaches” so to speak. Very neat!

    • Yeah, the Berlin beaches are nice but not entirely practical since summer can be pretty short here. Not surprised that you haven’t heard of them!

  6. Never been to Tel Aviv but I did enjoy Berlin very much, so I might just pop in to Tel Aviv soon! :)

    • Glad to hear it Aggy. I think it’s pretty safe to say that if you liked one, you’d like the other :)

  7. This is great. I went to Berlin and Tel Aviv in the same week a few years ago, and they’ve always been linked for me since then!

    • Very cool that you went to both cities in the same week. I think the connections are pretty clear when you visit them back-to-back.

      • Oh yeah! Finding myself on Ben Gurion Strasse in Berlin and flying into Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv definitely made the connection clear :-)

        • Hahhahaa Katrinka! Yes, that’s definitely an easy connection to make :)

  8. Nice post. I will be heading to Berlin next month, but have been there a few times already. Every time I go I discover something new though, so I can’t wait to go again. Never been to Israel. I can’t make up my mind whether to go or not though, because of their political opinions and supression of Palestine.

    • Hey Tammy. Berlin always has something new to discover. You’re completely right to have doubts & questions about visiting Israel — something I covered in this post.

  9. Fantastic post! One of your best! I lived in Berlin for 3 years (and even prepared a float in the Christopher Street Day parade each year) and this summer we’re going to Israel for the Maccabi Games. This post has made me really excited for Tel Aviv. Having lived in Berlin, this post gives me an idea of what to expect in Tel Aviv.
    I really like how you did the pics too, perfectly highlighting your content.
    Again, great post!:)

    • Oh that’s awesome to hear, Ligeia! Thanks for the compliments :)

  10. It’s really ironic that you write this. The only time I have ever been to Berlin I pretty much hung out with two Israeli girls the entire visit. They were the first people from Israel I ever met and I thought it weird that I met them in Germany, for obvious reasons. But yea-I can understand where you’re coming from. Berlin is definitely one of the best cities I’ve ever visited and I’ve heard amazing things about Tel Aviv. Great post.

    • Thanks Bobbi. I’ve met so many Israelis here in Berlin, but, if I think about it, I’ve probably met far fewer Germans in Israel. Both cities are among the best I’ve ever visited, too!

  11. Loved Berlin – so much to do there, but never had thought of Tel Aviv as that, but gives me a good reason to check it out!

    • Glad to hear it Anthony! I’ve lived in both cities for brief amounts of time and really love each city’s energy. Hope you get the chance to visit TLV someday!

  12. great article i liked this comparison.

  13. I’m a big fan of Berlin, Adam. Would never have connected it with Tel Aviv, though. But now if you have, it makes me want to go there.

    • Glad to hear it Matthew! Both are probably in my top 5 favorite cities around the world.

  14. Nice post, Adam! I’ve read a lot about both cities, but never really connected them together in this way before, well apart from the LGBT factor. Nice to know about the beaches in Berlin – will be heading there in early June. Hopefully warm enough to enjoy them! Tel Aviv will have to wait though – would like to make it to Lebanon and they don’t look too kindly on the Israeli passport stamp.

    • Hey Tom,
      I think you’ll really enjoy Berlin in the summer – best time of year here! I understand having to wait to visit TLV. Beirut is supposed to be an awesome city… it’s high on my list of places to visit!

  15. Tel Aviv is soooo high on my travel wish list! I’ve bookmarked your city guide! Thank you for sharing :-)

    • Glad to hear it Miret! I’ll be updating the city guide with some additional finds in the coming weeks.

  16. Loving this. I’m off to Berlin in 10 days and I’m a total caffeine nut so I will most definitely be hitting some of these coffee shops!

    • Glad to hear it Kate! Be sure to check out Bonanza Coffee – they’re one of my favorites ever since I visited late last year.

© 2014 Travels of Adam All Rights Reserved | Contact | G+ | Privacy Policy | Sitemap

Created by Adam Groffman