Feel free in Tel Aviv
Discovering the vibe of Tel Aviv with Anna Kopito, the founder of TELAVIVIAN Magazine
interview by Veronica Yudkevich
Photography by Ofra Ron Mazor
Anna and the city
Although Anna moved to Tel Aviv from her native Stockholm in April 2012, she still feels like she has just arrived. During her childhood she had visited Israel numerous times for family events and school breaks, which helped in creating close ties to the country. After high school Anna came to Israel for a year with a number of friends and traveled all over - that visit made her want to stay for good. She returned to Sweden for university studies and came to Tel Aviv again as an exchange student for one semester. That was the visit that actually closed the deal for Anna.
What do you like most in Tel Aviv?
A: I think it’s the freedom. I’m a person that needs to feel free in every sense, and I really get it from the city. There’s no judgement. It allows people to do what they want, the way they want it. I think it’s quite rare.
What has changed in the city since you moved here?
A: The architecture - many neglected buildings are being renovated. There are a lot of skyscrapers, and it starts to feel a bit crowded. I don’t think people can say that Tel Aviv is an ugly and dirty city anymore. I really hope it will stay welcoming to everyone and not too expensive or too crowded.
Tel Aviv has its own values and a strong identity. It feels more and more like an island or a nation inside a nation, relating, to a greater extent, to other cities of the world rather than to this country. In many ways a person here is emotionally and mentally closer to a person in Paris or London than to a person in Jerusalem.
When is the best time to visit Tel Aviv?
A: My favorite period is May - June and late September - October. During those months the weather allows you to be outside all day long, and it’s not too hot.
Telavivian - the birth of a magazine
While studying business in Stockholm Anna was writing for different Swedish fashion online magazines. Interested in the decisions the brands were making to further their development, she reviewed the fashion industry from a marketing perspective. Armed with the knowledge of running an online magazine, Anna decided to create a magazine of her own in Israel.
“I started by asking everyone I knew: who is the best in art, who is the best in architecture, who is the best in culture, who is the best in design, who is the best in music?” Telavivian was conceived in Sweden and born in Tel Aviv in August 2012, just a couple of months after Anna’s arrival. “[Israel] is a tough place, and a lot of my friends went back to Sweden. Developing Telavivian allowed me to feel more at home. It gave me the chance to really get to know the place.”
“I didn’t know it would become my job. For 5 years I was not taking it seriously. I didn’t feel secure as an entrepreneur, because I come from a background that says ‘you should have a profession and not fly around’.” It took a long time for Anna to accept the fact that she is allowed to be an entrepreneur, and a year and a half ago she went all in. “It made such a difference for me to be calm about it. The world is changing so quickly. It’s scary, but everybody needs to learn to adapt [to switching careers and projects]. People should embrace the changes because that’s how the world looks like now, and you can’t do anything about it.”
Although the magazine started as a few personal blogs on specific subjects, today it’s much more about the people, the city and the places that define the city. “I want Telavivian to be a platform where we can promote and give exposure to as many people as possible. Since Tel Aviv has become a tourist destination, I feel much more confident to start creating a platform for visitors as well. I’m eager for visitors to have a good stay here or be inspired to come. So it’s very important for me that all the places we recommend are really good.”
How do you find the places to write about?
A: The best way to discover new things in Tel Aviv is by walking. It’s such a small city, relatively. I go into the small streets, ask around and listen.
How did you pick the places for our ‘true local’ tour?
A: I wanted to have places with different styles. There’s no one way to define Tel Aviv and that’s what defines Tel Aviv. It’s the mix of everything that defines the country as well, I think. There’s lots of good stuff happening in Tel Aviv, and any new place will usually be interesting in one way or another.
Cafe Trumpeldor (4, Trumpeldor St.) - timeless design, just off the beach
The cafe (and Bar 51) is part of the hotel Renoma that was opened recently. The most interesting part here is its design by Tal Neery and Edith Kofsky (Studio Ponee) with Tal Halevi. It doesn’t take over; everything is relaxed and simple. You can see that architects did the design - the size of the tables and benches is perfect. Places in Tel Aviv tend to open and close really quickly. I think the mistake many are making is that they try to be trendy. Usually, after a while the design feels too much, and people get tired of it. Cafe Trumpeldor is an example of good design. It would still be relevant in 10 years.
Nahat - Micro roastery & Cafe (1 Harav Raynes St., Dizengoff Square) - specialty coffee
I love this place because it’s just across the Dizengoff square, which looks so beautiful now after the renovation. To me it feels like the old Tel Aviv. That’s how I imagine people were sitting in cafes on Dizengoff drinking coffee. The curvaceous shapes of the building above the cafe make me happy. I just want them to be less white, but slowly they’ll lose their shine. Dusty, that’s how buildings are supposed to be.
There’s a really welcoming vibe here. The owners (Dan and Assaf) are really great guys and they’re experts in coffee. It became one of the spots I return to a lot. Every time I come here, it’s very relaxed and chill. I try to taste something new every time, so I ask Dan to choose for me. On Fridays it feels like the whole city is here, it’s so packed.
The Vera Hotel (27 Lilenblum St.) - a tribute to everything local
What’s great about this place is that almost everything in it was made by Israeli designers (Meira Sitton’s textiles, Ohad Benit’s lamp, Tomer Nachshon’s table, Telavivian’s The Vera Magazine, photographs from The Print House by different local photographers, organic bath products by Arugot). The breakfast here is also made with local produce. The owners of the hotel value the local feeling. I really appreciate it. I’m always looking for everything local.
We started working on the The Vera Magazine during the construction of the hotel. The 3rd issue came out recently. It’s divided into 3 categories: local brands, people, where to go. I don’t want people to be overwhelmed with information, so it has short articles and stories.
A: This whole building is really amazing. It was renovated quite recently by AN+ ( Avital Gourary & Natanel Elfassy). Their architecture firm offices - one of the most beautiful spaces in the city - are upstairs.
The R2M Group owns both restaurants here. Herzl 16 is a restaurant/bar. I can eat here all day basically - breakfast and lunch (that I have here a lot) or come for drinks really late. Disco Tokyo has an Asian fusion cuisine with a different menu.
I love this place. This is really Tel Aviv for me that you can come here at whatever hour of the day. Herzl 16 has a stage where bands and DJs perform. Almost every day there’s live music. They post the schedule on their Instagram account.
Thai at Har Sinai (1 Har Sinai St.)- a place to share and unwind
A: There’s a really nice and welcoming vibe here. You can feel that the owners (Zvi, Niv and Nela) are good people. Usually we come in a big group on Thursday nights. We just tell them about our food restrictions, and they serve us a lot of amazing dishes and really colorful cocktails. In the evening there’s usually music, so it’s half party vibe but also relaxed. It’s Thai food made telavivian way. You really get the feeling of how Tel Aviv is - chill and relaxed, fun and good food. I like those kind of places that you can come with your friends, eat well and be in a festive vibe.
This whole area is amazing and close to everything. Behind the Great Synagogue of Tel Aviv, which is such an iconic building, you discover all those culinary gems. Port Said - a typical Tel Aviv place - and Santa Katarina are there as well.
Saga Gallery (4 Rabbi Pinhas St.)- a home for Israeli designers
A: It’s important for me to support the designers that are living in my city. One day I would like to become this person, who only buys high quality, timeless objects and clothing that have a story behind them and would last a long time. I think Saga agrees with that way of living, because they have all those really amazing products, showcasing high quality local craftsmanship, but also modern and accurate. I also like the wide selection of objects of different size and price range - from furniture to ceramics and paper goods. Cafe Saga is also great.
Lior (from the gallery) told us that Saga is a sister gallery of Asufa Design. It was opened about 5 years ago as an additional space to exhibit local design, specifically one-offs, delicate or large pieces. They work with about 80 Israeli designers, ceramicists, architects, woodworkers and other makers in order to promote Israeli design and make it accessible. Cafe Saga is an extension of the gallery. It offers a curated and quiet place for designers and locals to flee the bustle of the nearby flea market. Over the years people have come to appreciate good design and seek inspiration at the cafe’s venues that include lectures on design, screenings of documentaries and new collection launches.