By Sheila Pierce
March 04, 2013

Forget the beachfront, skyscraper hotels overlooking Tel Aviv's historic Jaffa. To see what really makes the White City tick, book a boutique hotel in a Bauhaus neighborhood and absorb the design and architecture of some of the spots that have been blooming in this Middle Eastern metropolis that sometimes feels like Miami-on-the-Mediterranean.

Alma Hotel, the newest of the bunch, opened in November 2012. It was founded by siblings, Adi and Irit Strauss, who also run three of Tel Aviv’s most popular restaurants. They have woven together a patchwork of bohemian luxury in 15 studios and suites with elegant, zany decor that mirrors the eclectic architecture of its newly renovated 1925 building.

Each luminous room, some with balconies, meshes traditional décor with the contemporary, blending Eastern and Western cultures that recalls the intimate sexiness of hotels in Paris’s Le Marais district. A rooftop terrace, sandwiched between synagogues and skyscrapers, provides an urban oasis for sipping any of the Israeli boutique wines available in each room's mini-bar.

Alma also lures wealthy foodies, ranging from Israeli socialites to Russian businessmen, to its ground floor bar and restaurant. Its celebrity chef Yonatan Roshfeld (also a judge on Master Chef Israel) serves Mediterranean tapas in microscopic yet succulent portions.

While staying at the Alma may feel like slipping into satin stilettos, Brown Urban Hotel screams suede hush puppies. Its lobby is a time warp of seventies mahogany décor, with cowhide rugs, plaid-upholstered chairs, a mustard-yellow refrigerator and background disco music. The old-school cocktails served in either the hotel lobby’s newly opened “baryard” (which overlooks a seventies-style garage) or, on its rooftop attract local hipsters after sunset.

Never to be overlooked is Tel Aviv’s original boutique Hotel Montefiore, whose success over the past five years (with its twelve modern colonial suites) continues to inspire its neighbors. Its restaurant offers one of the city’s most soothing spots for brunch, dinner or a glass of Israeli Petit Castel wine.

A five-minute walk from the beach yet still in the thick of the Bauhaus backyard in Neve Tzedek, The Varsano Hotel offers 10 ground-floor suites that feel like Mediterranean bungalows, each with outdoor space. In March 2013, an annex-restaurant will open up with chef Yaron Shalev, of the award-winning Italian restaurant Toto’, at its burners.

On the tree-lined Rothschild Boulevard, where surfers saunter past rabbis, there are a number of cafes and restaurants that distinguish Tel Aviv as a city of harmonious hamlets unique in its Bauhaus style.