DESTINATION FOCUS • September 2019
With global eats, swish new hotels and a party atmosphere that lives on long after Eurovision, Tel Aviv has never been hotter. A long weekend is all you need to take in the best of this buzzy, compact city – though its postcard-perfect beaches will tempt you to linger for longer. Alicia Miller, assistant editor at The Sunday Times Travel Magazine and Tel Aviv obsessive, shares her highlights
Tel Aviv is a young, vibrant city, and its inhabitants – including its chefs – come from every corner of the globe. This is great news come lunch time: you can down Bavarian sausages or Mexican tacos at polished Sarona Market, housed in a former Templer colony, devour sublime seafood at waterside Manta Ray, or munch Turkish mezze at chilled-out Onza. But you can’t leave this city without trying crazy-good hummus or fluffy falafel – look no further than bustling Carmel Market, where stall holders serve traditional local fare including halva (sesame sweets), stuffed pitas and plump olives.
Creamy, powdery and lapped by azure surf, Tel Aviv’s seafront is the finest in the Middle East. Wander south from Old Tel Aviv Port and you’ll encounter a chain of more than a dozen exceptional beaches, each attracting a different crowd. There’s Gordon Beach and its rows of volleyball courts filled with bronzed sporty types; Ha’Maravi Beach, an open coastal strip, for surfers; vibrant Hilton Beach, a favourite with Tel Aviv’s large LGBT community; or Dog Beach (pictured above), where owners let their pooches splash in the waves, leash-free.
Cool, fern-lined piano lounge; bohemian, alfresco café bar, or all-night raucous club – Tel Aviv loves to party, especially on Thursday and Friday nights (the Israeli weekend), when the whole city turns out to sink a cocktail or two. In summer, rooftop bars pop up around the city – after all, night-time temperatures hover well over 20°C – and the latest go-to is Mondo 2000, where cool kids sip beers as a DJ plays infectious beats. Prefer to keep it low-key? Join the throngs outside cult restaurant-bar Port Sa’id.
Tel Aviv has the whole cool-boutique-hotel thing nailed. Just off leafy central artery Rothschild Boulevard, The Norman, with its chatty brunches, rooftop pool (pictured above) and parquet-floored lobby, has a whiff of bygone glamour to it – as does nearby Brown TLV, with its open-air, palm-studded bar and Mad Men-gone-modern lounge. In historic Jaffa, newly opened and aptly named The Jaffa mixes old-style accommodation with sleek contemporary design. A former French convent, its crowning glory is a clubby, candlelit bar in the former chapel.
Tel Aviv proper is blissfully compact, which means you can easily wander, in just half an hour, along the seafront to neighbouring Jaffa (pictured above). Rather than the glittering high-rises and Bauhaus curves that typify Tel Aviv, in this ancient core you’ll find narrow cobbled streets, atmospheric old churches, and fishing boats bobbing around in a small port. You’ll also find Jaffa’s buzzy, magnetic Flea Market – grab a fresh pomegranate juice from a stall, and spend the afternoon drifting between antiques and interiors shops.
The show begins on the streets: the city is filled with eclectic, ever-changing street art, with some of the most striking clustered around Jaffa Flea Market, boutique-lined Shabazi Street and the creative Florentin district. When you’ve had your fill, make for the indoor highlights – the Tel Aviv Museum of Art has a compelling international collection with works by Rothko, Picasso and Chagall in the mix. Smaller spaces abound, too, including Sommer Contemporary Art Gallery, displaying Israeli art, and avant-garde Raw Art Gallery.
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