This post will be a short guide the Alternative nightlife-scene in Haifa. This is written in favor of those wish to travel to the Holy Land, and want get wasted there. When talking about nightlife, tourists are usually naturally attracted to Tel-Aviv as they come to Israel. Amazing amount of ink and pixels were already used to describe the nightlife there. But, believe it or not, there are other large modern cities in Israel that are worth getting wasted at. Specifically Haifa.
Haifa is the third largest city in Israel(after Jerusalem and Tel-Aviv), and the capital of the second-largest metropolitan area. This post will focus on the Alternative nightlife. What is Alternative nightlife in this context? Basically, what’s opposite to the mainstream taste, and intended for audience with specific and different taste – including music, art, parties etc. Meaning, you won’t find on this list any of the most popular nightclubs and and bars. After all, they’re not interesting from the first place. What is really interesting when you travel – is the rare and the unique, and not what’s most popular and common. And this city is not just a good spot for music and nightlife that’s alternative to mainstream, but it’s also aspiring alternative to the nightlife scene of Tel-Aviv as a whole.
This wonderful place is located at the Jaffa street, downtown, and as the name suggests, this is first of all a gallery: a place for art. But instead of being just a regular gallery, this place(which also has a stage, and relatively non-expensive alcohol-bar) hosts a numerous musical events, concerts and parties. The music is traditionally something in the range of blues/ethnic/middle-eastern/folk, but sometimes they might surprise you with something like a Hip-Hop party. The environment at the place is somehow middle-eastern-hippie-like.
Recommended drink: just grab yourself a black bottle of GOLDSTAR – Israeli most popular dark-lager.
Syncopa is a place with style. When you enter, the first thing you
notice is the design – which is crazy, even psychedelic in a way. The bar has two floors: the ground floor is like a regular bar, while the second floor hosts concerts, parties and even poetry-slam and stand-up evenings. It’s probably one of the very few places where you can find Elecro-Swing, Rockabilly, Funk, and even Balkan parties – all of which are coming with a specific dress-code, that will make you feel like you’ve came back in time, or at least traveled to the Balkans. Except of that, the place hosts a large amount of Indie and Alternative concerts.
Recommended drink: Pint of Hobgoblin and/or Vodka-Caramel shot.
The first thing there’s to say about Wunderbar – is that it’s a REAL club. Not a pub with stage, not a dance-bar, but a real, full-blown, alternative-music club. It’s a large building, with 3 dance-floors with 3 well-equipped alcohol-bars, and monstrous sound-systems. There’s a different music on each floor. Wunderbar also has a stage for concerts where various alternative-music acts can preform. What concerns the parties – they vary: may it be Rock, Indie, Reggae, Dubstep & Drum’N’Bass, dark 80’s, and 90’s, or even Psy-Trance & Techno.
But nothing could be said about it without mentioning it’s legendary founder and owner: Shlomi Mangar. The guy is the UNDISPUTED GODFATHER of the Alternative-scene in Haifa. Wunderbar is the third reincarnation of Shlomi’s vision of the city night-life. The other two were “The Second City”(1987-1995), and “City Hall”(1995-2010) – both of which became mythological places for whole generations in the city. For me, personally, the name “City-Hall” will always bring-up warm memories of drunken nights and wild parties, crazy hook-ups, and awesome concerts. At one of it’s peaks, “City-Hall” have hosted a Rage Against the Machine concert. And to whatever concerns the legendary “Second City” club – it even makes appearance at Ari Fulman’s Waltz With Bashir movie, at the sequence where he returns shell-shocked from the war in Lebanon:
Both of those clubs were eventually closed only because of municipal bureaucracy and red-tape. Nevertheless, Shlomi refused to give-up, and so we got the new Wunderbar club.
Recommended drink: 0.5 litter of Tuborg-Red and/or Vodka-cranberry-juice.
Say whatever you want about Hipsters, but you can’t accuse them in having a bad taste. And “Kartel” is definitely the Hipster item on this list. First thing you see when you get there is those giant ruins of a building, covered from the ground to the top with mind-blowing graffiti. There are some tables outside, and a bar, and deep inside the building there is a dance-floor. In this way, it reminds very much the Tel-Avivi Teder-bar – or at least so it seems at first sight.
The truth is, if you really accept this term “Hipster” – you must understand that Haifa-Hipsters and Tel-Aviv-Hipsters are totally different breed. First difference: Tel-Avivi-Hipsters are assholes – while Haifa-Hipsters are not. Second difference: Haifa-Hipsters actually have talent – Tel-Avivi-Hipsters only think they do.
I think that’s makes “Kartel” so great: that kind of awesome combination of a party, a bar, and an art exhibition. Whether you came there to party hard, or just to sit with friends and talk, or maybe to see some interesting urban art – this place fits best for all these needs.
The man behind “Syrup” is Ben Rifftin. An ex-Tel-Avivi band-manager and one of the founders of the Indie-label “Pit/kit“. In it’s core, Syrup is a place for Indie music. Specially the more edgy/noisy/punk-rock/psychedelic/distortion spectrum of it… But it’s also a host for a bunch of other different events – like various parties, “random text” evenings, stand-up nights, and even “Syraoke”(typically, the song choice that you’ll find there is different from a regular Karaoke). And even though there are other places in Haifa that host Indie acts(Syncopa, for instance) I think that every local Indie-lover could feel the difference after “Syrup” was established in Haifa. It brought with it some kind of new spirit that finally managed to awaken this city from it’s sleep.
Recommended drink: For both Kartel and Syrup – I recommend to try Maccabi(an Israeli light-lager) from the keg with a shot of Tubi60(a local alcoholic drink, made in Haifa. Containing herbs and other awesome stuff. It is specially popular among Hipsters all over the country).