An up and coming major Israeli city, Tel Aviv is the perfect weekend break for those who want to explore a city fringed with golden sandy beaches.
48 Hours in Tel Aviv
Thanks to the city’s multicultural heritage and Jewish influences, from America to Ashkenazi Eastern Europe, the Mizrachi Yemen, and, in recent years, many from Russia, Israel’s thriving second city is a melting pot of attitudes and flavours, set against fabulous beaches, Bauhaus architecture and some of the most beautiful people on the planet. Add a 24-hour party culture to the mix and you’ve got one helluva weekend. The picturesque port town of Jaffa is evolving into a destination in its own right, with easy access to some of Tel Aviv’s best beaches and a cool ancient-meets-modern vibe, thanks to the growing band of artists and young bohemians that are making it their home.
The phenomenal Museum of Art is another must-see, for its huge collection of Israeli art as well as highlights from the greats including Chagall, Klimt, Kandinsky and Picasso. Don’t miss the vast Lichtensteins that hang in the foyer – just a hint of what’s to come.
After a day of culture gear up for a night on the town with pre-party drinks at the latest hotspot herzl16. A shabby-chic café which spills into a one-of-a-kind inner yard, where stylish locals enjoy their cocktails with a Japanese-tinged bar menu. Then a night on the tiles at either Beit Maariv or The Block. These are the go-to clubs for intense house and techno nights, attracting the cream of international DJs.
The Norman is an Art Deco gem, situated on a quiet street near Rothschild Boulevard. Widely regarded as the best hotel in the city, movers and shakers check in here for all the five-star bells and whistles of a larger property. It’s popularity evident when all 50 rooms were booked up over the May bank holiday weekend we attempted to secure a stay. We did however manage to spend the evening there.
Starting with Izakaya-style Japanese Tapas on the open terrace of Dinings, we enjoyed tar-tar tacos and a buckwheat soba noodle salad with the most incredible goma-dare vinaigrette. Made all the more delicious with a side of panoramic views over Tel Aviv and the dreamiest of sunsets. Before moving down to Alena by critically acclaimed chef Barak Aharoni, with a fine dining setting offering unpretentious but suitably fine food. The spinach and cheese filo pastry pie served steaming in a mini skillet, and top notch spaghetti arrabbiata both building the case for quality ingredients simply cooked. While at our waitresses’ enthusiastic recommendation, the pannacotta with crunchy base is worth ‘leaving room’ for.
Thankfully, there was also room at the inn, after afters at The Lighthouse. Ideally located a few minutes walk from the beach, this hip hotel is based in a 16-storey, former 1970s office block of the same name. Recently reimagined by Brown Hotels, with an innovative architectural attitude. The stylish lobby with gold birdcage swing and black criss-cross library wall feature, setting the tone for the design led vibe of the rest of the hotel. Another highlight is the Haiku Skybar located on the 18th floor.
Said to be the city’s most spectacular open-air rooftop bars, with 360 panoramic vistas of Tel Aviv’s skyline and Mediterranean coast. For the morning after the Tel Aviv style night-life before, the breakfast buffet offering at The Lighthouse is unique. With a selection of grilled vegetables including the ubiquitous Israeli cauliflower, a had-to-try-it vegetarian caviar (me neither), and cake selection worth blowing your day’s calories for.
The Shuk Hapishpeshim flea market has been trading for over 100 years. A labyrinth of cafés, bars and shops, selling everything from antiques to hip clothing from young designers.
Food is the heart and soul of Tel Aviv. If hummus is a religion here then Abu Hassan is God. Creamy, rich in tahini and served still warm from the mixer. Port Sa’id, hidden in a square behind the Great Synagogue, is the place for people watching.
Shenkin Street is packed with Israeli fashion and design boutiques, from Maya Geller’s new store selling statement jewellery worn by the likes of Alexa Chung, to Scorcher, a favourite run by a mother/daughter team.