9 Reasons Why Tel Aviv Should Be Your Next Getaway
March 31, 2016
Tel Aviv is a fascinating bubble where history, culture, and what might be the wildest nightlife on earth come together. Wander its meandering streets and you’ll encounter beautifully restored Bauhaus architecture and century-old stone buildings, vibrant markets, and beautiful locals and expats sipping espressos at sidewalk cafés. Did we mention the farm-to-table restaurants and tantalizing cocktail scene? It’s all here and just steps from scenic sandy beaches and the sapphire blue Mediterranean. Here are nine reasons why Tel Aviv should be on your list.
1. Art and Architecture Design Museum Holon features an archival collection and gallery spaces for permanent and temporary exhibits. But for architecture fans, the attraction is the Instagram-worthy building itself. Architect Ron Arad chose bands of Corten weathered steel that undulate around the museum’s internal spaces, like ribbons wrapping a present. Located in the city center and opened in 1932, the Tel Aviv Museum of Art houses a comprehensive collection by local and international artists. A new building of twisting geometric surfaces, designed by Preston Scott Cohen, is one of the city’s landmarks. But you don’t have to go to a museum to be immersed in art and design. In a city with the largest concentration in the world of Bauhaus buildings, fascinating architecture is everywhere you look.
2. Brunch The Israeli weekend starts on Friday morning and Tel Avivans kick it off with an all-day brunch. Set in a restored mansion in the chic neighborhood of Neve Tzedek, Dallal’s brunch menu of breads and cheeses, dips and spreads, and shakshuka (an egg dish with roasted eggplant and spinach) is great for sharing. Located steps from the Jaffa market, the vibe is decidedly more bohemian retro at Café Puaa. Sit at a sidewalk table, order the Balkan breakfast—a phyllo dough pastry filled with cheese and spinach served with cucumbers, tomatoes, olives, and labneh—and strike up a conversation with the locals at the next table.
3. Beaches Tel Aviv’s west side faces the Mediterranean Sea and has nine miles of beaches where couples, families, surfers, and sunseekers hang out. Most offer clean bathrooms, outdoor showers, and chairs or loungers you can rent for the day. The beaches just south or north of the Tel Aviv marina have volleyball nets, as well as kayaks, surfboards, and snorkelling equipment for rent. One of the most popular surf breaks can be found at Hilton Beach, named after the nearby hotel. Gordon and Frishman Beaches are also near hotels and attract pretty little things who flaunt their toned bodies in tiny bikinis and swim trunks. You’ll spot drum circles, jugglers, and capoeira dancers at Banana Beach. Bordering a park and playground is Alma Beach, and past Jaffa Port is Ajami Beach, which is popular with Arabs and Jews alike.
4. Ports and Markets Walk down the ancient alleyways of Jaffa’s Old City to the port where fishermen bring in their daily catch, artists exhibit their work in renovated warehouse spaces, and musicians perform to an eclectic crowd. Nearby is the flea market where locals and tourists bargain for vintage finds, Arabic pottery, rugs, and more. In recent years, a number of designer boutiques selling one-of-a-kind fashions, jewelry, and furniture have cropped up. Neighborhood cafés set up tables, chairs, and sofas to turn Jaffa’s sidewalks into laid-back lounges for eating, drinking, and hanging out. Meanwhile, you can find just about anything at the Carmel Market—from exotic herbs and spices to Technicolor candies and food stalls by celebrated chefs. Not far is Sarona Market, a more swanky indoor culinary complex featuring food stalls, wine shops, and restaurants such as Arais, which serves amazing grilled meats and vegetables, and Segev Concept, where chef Segev Moshe presents his take on East-meets-West street food.
5. Hotels Steps from well-heeled Rothschild Boulevard and set in two perfectly restored 1920s buildings, The Norman fuses the sophistication from a bygone era with modern elegance. Original works by Israeli artists decorate the 50-room property and public spaces. Ask the concierge to arrange a private tour of artists’ studios. Dinner at Dinings, the elegant Japanese tapas restaurant, and drinks at the Library Bar are a must. Nearby is Hotel Montefiore, a beautiful and intimate 1920s mansion with 12 rooms featuring high ceilings, hardwood floors, and marble bathrooms stocked with bespoke products. Across town in Jaffa is Market House Hotel, a 44-room property set atop the archaeological remains of an eighth-century Byzantine chapel. Rooms feature balconies that look out onto the lively street and flea market. The latest addition to the hotel scene is Cucu, a cozy little hotel on popular Dizengoff Street.
6. Shopping Pick up a bracelet or ring at Agas & Tamar, where two designers make simple jewelry in gold and silver. Let Erez Rozen create your signature scent at Zielinski & Rozen, a no-frills Jaffa perfumery where the beakers, flasks, and brown glass jars that line the shelves lend the space a laboratory ambiance. Sharon Brunsher is all about slinky tops and pastoral chic dresses in a monochrome palette of black, white, and grays. Influenced by her Danish background, Daniella Gelfer adds a touch of whimsy to her collection of colorful clothes. Find her pieces at Numero 13 and One Bedroom.
7. Dinner At Oasis, chef Rima Olvera works with seasonal ingredients, including those she picks from her own rooftop garden, to create dishes that are complex yet perfectly balanced. Try the grilled onglet with crispy tempura broccoli and eggplant in a white miso and yuzu sauce. Celebrity chef Haim Cohen holds court at Yaffo Tel Aviv, where diners who sit at the bar can watch the drama unfold in the open kitchen. Located in an impressive Templar building from the 1800s, Claro’s chef Ran Shmueli serves Mediterranean dishes that focus on raw ingredients, such as the fish tartare with freekeh tabbouleh, green purslane, tomatoes, and yogurt. Tucked between chic boutiques on Sheinkin Street is Orna & Ella. Ask for a table in the back patio, with its fragrant herbs and African violets planted in large tomato cans, and order the cucumber chicken salad with rocket and avocado.
8. Cocktails You wouldn’t know it from the unimpressive facade of the building where it is located, but the Imperial is one of the city’s coolest watering holes. Reserve a seat at the bar and order the Jungle Bird, their take on a classic tiki drink made with pineapple, passion fruit, almonds, lemon, Jamaican rum, and Campari. Newcomer Lima Nippo serves tantalizing Japanese-Peruvian fusion dishes and equally delicious cocktails to a soundtrack of clubby beats. Set in the hipster Florentine neighborhood and inspired by the legendary Egyptian singer, Dalida occupies two spaces across the street from each other where the menu and decor fuse French and Arabic influences. Handcrafted cocktails, such as the Artemisia (vodka, absinthe, coconut syrup, passion fruit, berries, and tonic), are almost too pretty to drink.
9. Nightlife Behind an unmarked black door in a quiet Jaffa street is Anna Loulou, a small and cavernous bar where the crowd is as eclectic as the vibe. Here you’ll find Arabs and Jews, both young and old, drinking, smoking, and dancing to Middle Eastern house music, Palestinian hip-hop, funk, and soul. Named for its address, Rothschild 12 has a café restaurant up front and an outdoor patio and bar in the back where live bands play almost every night. Go to Breakfast Club for techno and deep house grooves by local and international DJs.