Sparkling Tel Aviv

Michele Ross

The story

Tel Aviv may be the new kid on the block as far as towns and landmarks go in the storied Land of Israel—yet what it lacks in history, it more than makes up for in both substance and style.

The Mediterranean coastline along the First Hebrew City’s western edge offers no shortage of sights that’ll give you a quick glimpse of Israeli culture, plus a therapeutic dose of sunshine for good measure. From the commercial “namal” (port) in the north to historic Jaffa in the south, you have your pick of beaches for every type and taste - Hippie, French, LGBT, and dog friendly are only a handful of options on offer. You’ll hear the cacophony of “matkot” (paddleball) rallies as you ogle sun-kissed surfers and stand-up paddlers (SUP) literally going with the flow. You’ll inevitably pass a few hula hoop artists, a handful of yogis, some tightrope walkers, and pull-up competitions at the open-air workout stations before heading inland to the urban bustle.

Peruse the Carmel Market for the city’s freshest produce before skipping over to the neighboring Nahalat Binyamin Artisan’s Market. From home goods and jewelry to artworks and Judaica, this pedestrian market is your best bet for locally handcrafted souvenirs and keepsakes. Pass the eclectic Pagoda House and take a detour through the Bauhaus architectural district to walk up the bustling, prestigious Rothschild Boulevard. Here’s as good a spot as any to get into the spirit of the “Start-up Nation” by rubbing elbows with entrepreneurs, executives, and engineers. Once you tap into the city’s beloved coffee culture at one of the many kiosks that line the boulevard, you’ll be struck by the abundance of dogs and bikers that rule the streets, plus the acute sense that Tel Avivans have life pretty made. Get some well-deserved shade and a quick bite at the new Rothschild-Allenby Market, where there’s a culinary offering for every appetite.

Head back “home” for some R&R before hitting the town once the sun sets. You’ll find out sooner than later that Tel Aviv earns one of its many monikers, “Non-Stop City,” on account of its endless bar, restaurant, and after-party options that operate into the wee hours of the night. Feast on melts-in-your-mouth Mediterranean fare at a chef’s restaurant, enjoy a drink or two at one of the city’s award-winning bespoke cocktail bars, and—if you’re prepared to party like a true Tel Avivan—hit up an after-hours club till the sun comes up. Israelis like to say “yalla balagan,” which colloquially means “let’s party,” though it more directly translates to “let’s get messy.” No matter how hard you go, we promise we won’t judge—and neither will this sparkling, beautiful mess of a city on the sea.

When to go?

“Endless summer” vibes abound with warm beach weather from April through October. We recommend visiting on the tail ends of this period—though perhaps excluding Passover and autumn’s High Holidays if you’re set on beating the tourist rush.
However, parts of the busy periods also prove to be the most festive, most notably with Independence Day (mid-April/mid-May), Gay Pride (early/mid June), and Yom Kippur (mid-September/mid-October). The city truly lights up and gets into its best groove on these days of celebration and reflection. An additional word to the wise: Unless you can really take the heat, avoid August in particular, which is guaranteed to be scorching hot all across the Holy Land.

How to get there?

All commercial international flights land at Ben Gurion Airport, which is an easy 20 minute ride from central Tel Aviv. For a more chi-chi mode of transportation upon settling in, consider a boat rental to sail along the glittering Israeli coast. On the whole, Tel Aviv is easily navigable by foot.

Experiences

Market tour & more with the culinary king of Akko

Start your day in the luxe Efendi Hotel's Byzantine-era wine cellar, where you’ll quickly become a pro at selecting the perfect fillet of fish. You will then embark on a culinary tour at Akko’s centuries-old market with legendary chef Uri Buri Jeremias, and finally wrap up the journey at his namesake restaurant. While dining together, you’ll gain pockets of wisdom from the master himself, and understand firsthand why his eatery’s been repeatedly named the best restaurant in the Middle East.

One-of-a-kind boat tour at the lowest place on earth

Take your Dead Sea experience to the next level with the help of our knowledgeable and passionate guides. Floating atop the mystical Dead Sea, they’ll have you hop aboard a one-of-a-kind boat that resists the salinity of the sea’s supremely potent water. Learn all about the diverse locale and life forms that call this salty seawater home, all the while engaging in lively discussion with your enthusiastic hosts.

Oh So Arty customized tour

Yael, a local art scholar and cultural researcher, will take you to the streets to spot the city’s best graffiti, helping you to differentiate this form of artistic expression from other variants of street art. If mingling with artists and learning intimately about their craft is more up your alley, then have art writer and critic Shani walk you through an exclusive, behind-the-scenes tour of Jaffa’s most promising and prominent resident artists.

Our address book

Shila

Tried and true

Shila is as trendy yet classic as they come on the Tel Aviv culinary scene. It’s as hot as it ever was since opening ten years ago under the helm of gregarious Chef Sharon Cohen. You have your range of seating choices (outdoors, the bar, high tops in the smoking room, and low tables in the main room), as well as a diverse choice of eating options (caviar, beef, duck, and more), though we recommend their seafood selects above all.

Ben Yehuda 182

Dinings

Japanese fare with a worldly flair

Dinings is as good as it gets in terms of sushi and Izakaya-style tapas in a super-luxe setting. It sits atop the five-star Norman Hotel, whose whole essence oozes style and sophistication. Order the bite-sized tar-tar chips to awaken your palate before the shared bites continue to flow in from the at-the-ready, immensely attentive waitstaff.

Nachmani 25

HaSalon

Chef and “kef” (fun)

HaSalon is the crown jewel of Chef Eyal Shani’s famed culinary institutions, with limited hours and a menu that changes daily. It’s more of an experience than a meal, with lights increasingly dimmed and music gradually getting louder. Don’t be shocked when napkins are thrown and your neighbors start dancing on the bar; just be sure to finish the delectable carpaccio and Shani’s out-of-this-world whole roasted cauliflower before joining in on the fun.

Ma'avar Yabok 8

Montefiore

Here, there, everywhere

Montefiore is another incredible hotel bar, cafe, and restaurant that functions as a smart meeting point for international guests and sophisticated Israelis alike. There’s an old-world European vibe to the decor and an Asian-fusion menu from which to choose, in addition to fine sake and hard-to-find-elsewhere Japanese liqueurs.

Montefiore 37

HaBustan/Secret Garden

Outdoor neverland

Though only open in the spring/summer months, HaBustan/Secret Garden is a veritable see-and-be-seen hotspot for in-the-know locals, Israeli celebrities, and savvy visitors alike. Birdcages, ivy, and a fountain add fairytale charm to this hidden outdoor gem in the “Tachana” (Old Train Station).

Nitsana 1

Bellboy

World-class, cutting-edge cocktails

Beneath the Hotel Berdichevsky, mixologist Ariel Leizgold’s Bellboy has ascended to become one of the trendiest and tastiest cocktail bars in the White City, giving the ever-popular Imperial Bar to the west of the city a run for its money. The lights are dark, the mood is sexy yet not stuffy, and the inspiration is 1920s Prohibition, complete with a ice wagon bar cart and bartenders decked out in vintage uniforms.

Berdichevsky 14

Beit Ha’amudim

Live jazz in a warm environment

Beit Ha’amudim is a storied yet still low-key spot for talented jazz musicians to play every night, conveniently located on a side-street of the Nahalat Binyamin pedestrian mall. Located on the ground floor of a historic building called the Benjamin, it’s a warm and inviting spot that makes you feel like a real local.

Rambam 14

Independence Park & Dolphinarium

Sunsets on the sea

Pack a blanket, a bottle of wine, and gourmet cheese to sit back and relax for a stunning Tel Avivan sunset on the sea. You can find couples and groups congregating on the hilly lawn just south of the Hilton Hotel at the popular Independence Park. For more privacy, climb out to the jetty of rocks near Dolphinarium Beach, where you can be in the midst of the waves crashing at your feet.

Independence Park & just north of Charles Clore Park

Noga

Up-and-coming ‘hood

Noga is a trendy little neighborhood in northern Jaffa that’s full of local design shops, an abundance of cafes and restaurants, and hipsters idling on cobblestoned streets. Places of note include OCD for a semi-private experiential dinner and Par Derriere for a hidden garden happy hour.

Around Tirtsa & Bat Ami Streets