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Places

Tel Aviv

Words: Jack Moss
|
Date: 30.4.2020

Once the garden suburb of the ancient port of Jaffa, the buzzing beachside metropolis of Tel Aviv is now a destination all its own. Israel’s most easygoing city, where long days spent on its pristine beaches melt into even longer evenings getting lost in its 24/7 party scene, it makes for a welcome break from the quotidian. So where better to train the mind than Israel’s so-called non-stop city (and its 3300 hours of sunshine a year).

Visitors will join a centuries-long trail of travellers who have arrived in the locale since its beginnings – from Egyptian pharaohs to a seafaring Napoleon, and the biblical prophets and Israelite kings who came between. It gives Tel Aviv its unique flavour: melding the sights, smells and tastes of the Middle East, Europe and the traditions of Israel itself, it gives the travelling visitor a myriad ways to spend a weekend – or indeed weeks on end – in a city where old and new collide.

There is the White City at its centre, a UNESCO-protected collection of white-hued buildings designed by Jewish-German architects in the Bauhaus style in the 1930s which encapsulate Tel Aviv’s longtime quest for modernity; while the ancient streets of Old Jaffa (now Yafa, and consumed into the city’s limits) dotted with palm trees, recall bygone eras – albeit breathed with new life as restaurants, hotels, and stores appear in the neighbourhood’s repurposed buildings. One such place is The Jaffa, an impossibly luxurious bolthole in a former monastery, which feels far and away from the busy streets which surround it.

Yet Tel Aviv – which largely lacks the big-name historical sites of Jerusalem, Israel’s capital – is best embraced for its carefree pleasures. Not least the long slither of beach which snakes along its coastline – unlike other city beaches, it is entirely pristine, and available to sun-seeking residents year-round. Join the locals rollerblading or cycling along the Tayelet promenade, or settle in for the evening in one of the many beachside bars. For those after more serene bathing, escape the city through the Judean desert and head to the mythical Dead Sea, where you can wallow in the salt-rich waters or slather yourself in its healing muds.

Base your stay at The Norman, an understated and elegant hotel with a serene oasis-like pool in a former Bauhaus building (the interiors follow a similarly clean-lined mid-century design scheme), or Hotel Montefiore, a more intimate 12-room hotel in the central Lev Hair district which channels Parisian glamour with a distinctly Tel Avivian spin. Make use of its brasserie-style restaurant – a popular haunt for hip lunching locals – with Parisian-meets-Vietnamese cuisine (breakfast is served with a low-level jazz accompaniment).

A myriad of other places to eat can be found across the city, from noisy cafés and food stalls in Carmel Market – the city’s largest shuk, or marketplace – to polished upscale eateries. Try the popular Port Sa’id, now something of a local institution, where famed chef Eyal Shani serves Israeli classics with new flair, or Shila by Chef Sharon Cohen, an always-busy spot which makes use of its beachside proximity with some of the best seafood in the city.

Nighttimes in Tel Aviv rarely have an end point – the city’s residents show little sign of party-fatigue, even in the early hours. Our favourite after-dark spots? Dive bar Lucifer, a bohemian enclave on Allenby Street, hip restaurant-cum-bar Romano, or Par Derrière, a bistro and wine bar made for long Tel Avivian evenings.

A perfect day in Tel Aviv, Israel

9am: Breakfast at Hotel Montefiore

Whether you’re staying or not, do as the locals do and head to Hotel Montefiore for a long breakfast – from Challah bread to Parisian omelette, and an array of morning-time cocktails

11am: Swim in Tel Aviv’s waters

There are plenty of beaches to choose from, each with their own distinct feel: from Gordon Beach, with its looping saltwater pools, to Bograshov Beach, a favourite with locals

2pm: A late seafood lunch

Stay coastside for a late lunch at Shila by Chef Sharon Cohen – the legendary seafood draws diners from all four corners of the city

5pm: Explore Tel Aviv’s White City

The centre of Tel Aviv boasts a district of white-hued Bauhaus architecture of such volume it’s now a UNESCO-recognised site – wander through its streets for a truly transporting experience

9pm: A nightcap at Lucifer

End (or begin) your evening at the culty Lucifer, a hidden bar where in-the-know locals emerge after dark for beers and hard liquor

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