“Style has to do with where you’re born,” says fashion designer Nili Lotan. “The aesthetics you see around you as a child, the standards of beauty you grow up with. As an adult you add your own intuition and experience but those early impressions are a big part of it.”
Lotan is from a small beach town near Tel Aviv, a city she describes as, “casual, laidback and sexy.” It’s a trio of adjectives that are tailor-made for Lotan’s designs, which have an undemanding chic that makes them ideal travel companions.
Though now based in New York, Lotan visits Tel Aviv frequently, often accompanying her husband, the Israeli singer/songwriter David Broza, when he performs there. Israel’s second largest city, she says, is first and foremost a Mediterranean town, with none of the reserve that characterizes Jerusalem. “It’s wild,” she says. “It’s open 24 hours. You’ll find people dancing on the tables in the middle of the night.”
Though more glamorous now than it was in the 1970s, when Lotan was a student at Shenkar Fashion Institute there, it still retains its beach-loving, easy-going vibe.
Where to stay: The Norman Hotel “It’s the most luxurious hotel in Tel Aviv,” says Lotan. Located in a historic building in the White City, a neighborhood that’s home to the world’s highest concentration of Bauhaus buildings, this boutique hotel houses an impressive collection of Israeli art.
Where to eat:North Abraxas “The food in Tel Aviv is the best in the world. The produce is all fresh and local,” says Lotan. She recommends this French-Mediterranean restaurant at night, when the its “trendy, sexy, cool” vibe is at its peak. (Lilienblum Street 40, +972 3-516-6660)
Insider secret:Fortuna del Mare Eliezer Peri 14, Marina Tel Aviv-Yafo
Lotan is so fond of this romantic Mediterranean seafood spot and its incredible view that she and her husband had their wedding reception here. “You know you’re in the Mediterranean when you’re here but you don’t know where," she says. Though hidden away in the Tel Aviv marina, it’s worth hunting for.
Must see:The Ancient Port of Jaffa The port city of Jaffa, from which modern Tel Aviv developed, is more than 4,000 years old and is mentioned in both the Old and New Testaments. At various points in its history it’s been ruled by the Turks, the French and the British, all of whom left their mark on its mix of European and Middle Eastern architecture. Now home to artist’s studios, restaurants and boutiques, it’s “a romantic and beautiful place,” says Lotan.
Have to try:Humous at Hummus Ashkara “The best humous in Tel Aviv,” says Lotan. “It’s been there since 1976 and is decorated with photos of celebrities from the ’70s and ’80s. It’s open 24 hours so it’s the place to go after a performance.” (Yermiyahu 45, 052-2532296)
Have to buy: Spices at Shuk HarcarmelShuk Harcarmel This market, located along Carmel Street and bordered by Allenby Street and Magen David Square, is one of the city’s liveliest and sells everything from food and flowers to art. Lotan especially recommends Shimon Levy’s spice shop. “Amazing smells and colors,” she says. “Bring some home with you!”