Israel’s cool coastal city is an electrifying mix of stylish hotels and high-design landmarks—all along miles of white-sand beaches.
Lay of the Land
Jaffa: This mixed Arab-Jewish area is known for its Flea Market, historic city (Old Jaffa), and the restored port lined with open-air restaurants.
Neve Tzedek: Tel Aviv’s first neighborhood was established in 1887 and is filled with Eclectic-Era and Bauhaus buildings. Along the main artery, Shabazi Street, you’ll find independent fashion boutiques and tony cafés.
Noga: Design ateliers, art galleries, and loftlike apartments now occupy the renovated warehouses and Arabesque tenements here.
White City: Named in honor of its whitewashed Bauhaus architecture, the White City is also a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Getting Around: The best way to navigate Tel Aviv is by taxi or bus. Sherut (shared taxis) are popular; they follow set routes but can drop you off wherever you’d like.
Looking for a traditional hummus joint? Or an haute temple to gastronomy? These places deliver in spades.
Delicatessen: Entrepreneurs Mati and Ruti Broudo, from the city’s popular Brasserie M&R, have expanded into the gourmet takeout arena. The two-story building, west of Rothschild Boulevard, bundles a trio of culinary concepts: a proper “deli” stocked with meats and daily-made breads, a takeaway option offering dishes ranging from poached salmon to chopped liver, and a restaurant with updated bistro classics (try the chicken schnitzel), ideally enjoyed from the sun-drenched patio. $$
Raphael: At this legendary waterfront spot, young chef Raphael Cohen serves contemporary interpretations of the Middle Eastern recipes he learned both from his grandmother and his training at Jerusalem’s iconic King David Hotel. The restaurant lures celebs and politicos alike, thanks to standouts such as grouper-and-fatty-tuna kebab, and calamari with sweet peppers and tomato cream. $$$$
Mizlala: In a meticulously renovated building, Mizlala (“stuff your face,” in Hebrew) pairs pan-Med comfort food—tahini-doused beef tartare; milk-fed lamb souvlaki; chicken confit with a warm wheat salad and caramelized carrots—with signature cocktails like a martini with halvah and date honey. Dishes are served family-style along the curved marble bar or on wooden tables. $$$
Ali Karawan: This bare-bones hummusiyah near the Jaffa Flea Market has been a local favorite for decades. The highlight? Hummus, of course—made daily and served either as mosabaha (warm, crushed chickpeas and tahini) or with ful (stewed fava beans). Both versions are spiked with house-made lemon-and-garlic sauce and flecked with slices of fresh onion before being slathered onto fluffy pita. Arrive early: the kitchen closes once the day’s hummus has disappeared. 1 Hadolfin; 972-3/682-0387. $
Cassis: There are plenty of places here to enjoy a snack along the sand, but for a proper beachfront meal, the city offered surprisingly few options until the arrival of Cassis. Small plates such as whitefish ceviche and grilled peppers with goat cheese are preludes to heartier seafood mains such as sea bream with crisp polenta. Be sure to ask for the flatbreads—baked to order on a stone hearth in just seven minutes. $$$
Restaurant Pricing Key
$ Less than $25
$$ $25 to $75
$$$ $75 to $150
$$$$ More than $150
Tel Aviv is full of independent and timeless boutiques celebrating the city’s homegrown style.
Olia: The extra-virgin olive oils at this shop close to City Hall are sourced from around Israel by owner Hilla Wenkert. Since the store’s debut, Wenkert has expanded its offerings to include prepared foods—spice blends, fruit and vegetable chutneys, and flavored vinaigrettes.
Elemento: In the heart of Old Jaffa, Elemento carries colorful, modular furniture (couches, lamps, and tables) made by native designer Yossy Goldberg. There’s also an impressive collection of affordable contemporary photography and paintings by local artists.
Hatachana: Set between Neve Tzedek and Noga, Hatachana houses a series of clothing and houseware boutiques showcasing Israeli designers. Don’t miss Naama Bezalel for flirty feminine dresses and Made in TLV, filled with quirky accessories and gifts (bags printed with vintage city maps; mini ceramic Bauhaus buildings).
Sketch: Yossi Katzav founded Sketch, one of the country’s first upscale men’s labels, after leading the design team at DKNY, in New York. His impeccably crafted pieces range from simple slacks and finely woven shirts to slim-cut leather jackets.
Talents Design Gallery: A three-year-old incubator of Israeli talent, this shop manufactures and promotes the work of regional furniture makers. The pieces—stainless-steel origami wall art; earthy stone tables—are increasingly found in top restaurants and hotels across the globe.
Daniella Lehavi: For classic women’s shoes, head to Daniella Lehavi. Her color-block and patterned leather sandals and wedge-style heels are popular among the city’s sophisticated set. The place itself is a work of art, with a 1930’s-era façade that changes colors to match Lehavi’s seasonal collections.
See + Do
Four cultural stops not to miss.
Design Museum Holon: Created by the Israeli-born, London-based Ron Arad, this instant architectural icon in the suburb of Holon was built using five curvaceous ruby-red steel bands. Inside, there are rotating exhibitions by international and Israeli stars such as Ayela Serfaty and Dror Benshetrit.
Tel Aviv Museum of Art: The museum’s new 200,000-square- foot Herta & Paul Amir building, designed by American Preston Scott Cohen, is made up of concrete geometric surfaces that form a gleaming white triangle. A 90-foot-high internal atrium links galleries devoted to contemporary art.
Tel Aviv Port: Tel Aviv’s restored historic port originally served as a welcoming station for Jewish immigrants in the 1930’s; now it’s home to top restaurants, a weekly antiques market, a bike-friendly promenade, and Shuk HaNamal—an Eataly-like complex with two dozen organic and artisanal purveyors.
Peres Center for Peace: In Jaffa’s beachfront district of Ajami, Italian architect Massimiliano Fuksas has built the Peres Center to promote tolerance in the Middle East. The four-story building, clad in alternating layers of concrete and translucent glass, offers hour-long guided tours and lectures.
Tel Aviv’s hotel scene is heating up. Here, the latest arrivals and the classics we love.
New and Noteworthy
Alma Hotel & Lounge: This tiny newcomer close to Rothschild Boulevard has 15 airy, boho-chic rooms inspired by the 1920’s: stained-glass windows; handwoven carpets; dark tiled floors. Yonatan Roshfeld, the chef behind the nearby tapas restaurant Ahad HaAm, oversees the hotel’s Alma Lounge, where the city’s style crowd gathers. $$$
Brown TLV Urban Hotel: Hidden between the White City and Neve Tzedek, the Brown is housed in a restored 70’s-era bank building that pays homage to Midcentury Modern design. The cozy lobby is done up with clubby leather sofas and a vintage Playboy cover on the wall. Upstairs, rooms are chic (canopied beds; black marble baths), but on the small side. Still, the rooftop lounge and complimentary bikes more than make up for it. $$
Hotel Montefiore: With its original Bauhaus-era furnishings, Juliet balconies, and Arabesque dome, this revamped 1920’s mansion in the White City lures tastemakers and designers. A small but capable staff is at the ready to handle everything from picnic lunches to reservations at Tel Aviv’s hottest tables. $$$
Intercontinental David Tel Aviv: In Neve Tzedek, the mammoth InterContinental David Tel Aviv is where political power brokers like Condoleezza Rice and A-listers such as Madonna and Sacha Baron Cohen stay when they visit. With 594 earth-toned rooms and suites, the hotel is far from intimate, but it has one of the best beachfront locations, not to mention the standout Aubergine restaurant. $$$
Dan Tel Aviv: Contemporary Israeli artist Yaacov Agam’s multicolored, Modernist façade sets the tone for the Dan Tel Aviv, a 280-room grande dame that opened in the 1950’s. The property is spread out among a group of additions that now occupy nearly an entire seafront block. Book a Deluxe room, decorated in neutral beiges with elaborate paintings of trees on the ceilings. $$$
Hilton Tel Aviv: Just north of the city center, the 48-year-old Hilton sits high on a bluff facing the water. Its boxy, 60’s-era exterior may feel dated, but the property remains a favorite of business travelers, who come for the spacious rooms and large fitness center. $$$
One to Watch: This October, Ritz-Carlton is set to open its first Israeli property, the Ritz-Carlton Herziliya, overlooking the area’s yacht-filled marina.
Trips Out of Town
Acre: A 90-minute train ride north of Tel Aviv, this ancient port city was conquered by the Romans, Byzantines, Turks, and Crusaders, and has a wealth of archaeological excavations to explore. Make your base the Hotel Efendi ($$), set in a pair of 19th-century palaces.
The Negev: Staying in Israel’s stark Negev desert used to mean roughing it in tents and low-key guesthouses, until the opening of the Beresheet Hotel ($$). Abutting the 200 million-year-old Ramon Crater, the resort’s rooms and villas are crafted from ipe wood and local stone.
Galilee: Leave time for a trip to the holy region of Galilee, site of Mount Tabor and Megiddo, a two-hour drive northeast. The Scots Hotel ($$), in the town of Tiberias, is the perfect jumping-off point.
Hotel Pricing Key
$ Less than $200
$$ $200 to $350
$$$ $350 to $500
$$$$ $500 to $1,000
$$$$$ More than $1,000
Four insiders share their go-to places.
Mayor of Tel Aviv-Jaffa
I drink roughly 10 cups of coffee a day and usually order my first café hafuch—Israel’s version of a cappuccino—at Café Tachtit (9 Lincoln St.; 972-3/561-8759), where creative types hang out. The city has nearly 10 miles of Mediterranean-front beaches, and we recently completed a new boardwalk from the northern to southern end, great for long strolls. My favorite stretch of sand is Frishman Beach, in the city center. For late-night cocktails, go to the Block (157 Salame St.). It’s a trek to get there, but the visiting European DJ’s are fantastic.
Chef-owner of Oasis Restaurant
Amrani Brothers (15 HaCarmel St.; 972-3/516-1358) is one of Tel Aviv’s best spice shops. It’s been selling herbs and condiments for almost 70 years, including Ras al Hanout—ginger, pepper, cardamom, and Turkish rose petals. In the Levinsky Market, brothers Yomi and Eitan Levy come from a long line of Turkish-Jewish delicatessen owners. Their shop, Yom Tov (43 Levinksy; 972-3/681-3730), specializes in cured fish and meats and extra-virgin olive oil from northern Israel. Another great place in Levinsky is Ouzeria (44 Matalon St.; 972-3/533-0899; $), which serves tasty tapas like burrata with Negev desert tomatoes.
Sahar Shalev & Eyal de Leeuw
Founders of fashion blog The Garçonnière
Sophisticated fashion is still in its infancy here, but a handful of newcomers are gaining attention. We love L’Etranger, a concept store in Neve Tzedek that stocks designers such as Rick Owens and Damir Doma along with its own goth-inspired men’s label. Nearby is Not For Sale (3 Merkaz Ba’alei Melaha; 972-3/600-6565), which sells unisex European denim and up-and-coming designer Adam Gefen’s line of floral- and polka-dot–patterned shirts and trousers. For dinner, head to Port Said (5 Har Sinai; 972-3/620-7436; $$), behind the Great Synagogue. We’re big fans of the steak with tahini and tomato tartare.
Bauhaus Tel Aviv
Thanks to a wave of German Jewish immigration in the 1930’s, the city is a hotbed of Bauhaus design.
Bauhaus Center: A split-level boutique and gallery, the center stocks books and home accessories from both Israel and abroad.
Bauhaus Tel Aviv Museum: Owned by cosmetics heir Ronald Lauder, this private museum features a collection of furniture and design pieces by seminal masters such as Marcel Breuer and Mies van der Rohe.
Open House Tel Aviv: Every May, architecture aficionados get insider access to hundreds of Bauhaus private homes, museums, and institutions.
Tel Aviv Museum of Art
Wedged into a tight, triangular site within the city’s central cultural complex, this piece of architectural origami uses a soaring, twisting, 87-foot-tall atrium, called Lightfall, to link a series of refreshingly uncomplicated galleries. In contrast to many dramatically shaped new art museums, it succeeds in being at once breathtaking and deferential to the art on display.
Bauhaus Foundation Museum
The Bauhaus Foundation Museum, housing original furniture and other designs by the likes of miens van der Rohe and Marcel Breuer, opened in April on Bialik Street.
A modern take on Mediterranean staples with a focus on Moroccan dishes.
Dan Tel Aviv
A shorefront hotel built in the late 1950's, recently renovated to preserve its original Modernist design. The property has 280 rooms and a popular new dining room, D Restaurant.
Run by siblings Nimrod Zaltsman and hilla Wenkert, six-month-old olive oil boutique, Olia, stocks regionally sourced products such as olive tapenade infused with Parmesan cheese.
Rooms have minimalist, design-forward décor at this hotel in the heart of the city.
Delicatessen, Tel Aviv
David InterContinental, Tel Aviv
Sketch is far from a simple place to come and dine. French master chef Pierre Gagnaire and restaurateur Mazouz created the space in a historic Mayfair building for more than fine dining: there's a whirlwind entertainment center spread out on two rambling floors. The food is imaginative, bold, and ground-breaking and comes in a variety of forms depending on the changing sections of the building, from the East Bar to the Parlour to the Art Gallery. Each section also has its own bizarre décor, ranging from electric pink and orange carpeting to a Swarovski crystal-encrusted bar.
Talents Design showcases works by such up-and-coming Israeli designers as Dor Carmon. Best finds: orchid-shaped couches and earthy stone tables.
Design Museum Holon
Israel has a new cultural icon—the Design Museum Holon, created by Ron Arad and home to a rotating exhibition of international furniture, product, and industrial designs.
Recommended by Rachel Epstein, one of T+L's 2010 A-List travel agents.