The Weekender: 48 Hours in Tel Aviv
Bauhaus buildings on the Mediterranean coast, Tel Aviv has it all...
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
Tel Aviv is a city of contrasts. Built in the 20th century when the influx of Jews fleeing Europe threatened to overrun neighbouring Jaffa, today it’s a unique melting pot of cultures. Bauhaus architecture blends into glass skyscrapers that tower over palm trees at the edge of the white sand beach. There’s a world-class buzzing food scene; independent shops and artist studios; and a lo–fi good-time party vibe. All of which adds up to a fabulous 48 hours in Israel’s cool, coastal hub.
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The Jaffa Hotel
A 20-minute stroll south of Tel Aviv’s hipster neighbourhoods Florentin and Neve Tzedek (the former is reminiscent of East London, the latter is known for its boutiques and restaurants), is Jaffa, one of the world’s most ancient port cities. It’s here, on a hilltop with Mediterranean views, that The Jaffa Hotel is housed what was a former 19th century convent and hospital. Sensitively renovated and restored by local architect Ramy Gill and designer John Pawson, rooms and suites are set around a peaceful inner courtyard and connecting outdoor pool. Those in the original U-shaped buildings are pared back, with sandstone floors and soaring ceilings. In the new wing, everything feels more contemporary: a photographic triptych of trees by Israeli artist Tal Shochat above the bed nods to the swaying cypress’ in the courtyard, glimpsed through glass doors and delicate honeycomb-like white lattice shutters. All-day restaurant Golda’s serves up classics such as shawarma, falafel and hummus; there’s a cocooning subterranean spa and bicycles you can borrow to explore. A storied alternative to the modern metropolis.
The Norman an Art Deco gem on a quiet street near Rothschild Boulevard – and widely regarded as the best bells-and-whistles hotel in central Tel Aviv but on a boutique scale.
It also has one of the city’s top restaurants: fine dining Alena. Last year childhood friends Omer Shadmi and Daniel Zur (both have done stints at The River Café and been guest chefs at Carousel in London) from the Jezreel Valley took over the kitchen as joint head chefs – and they’ve been making culinary waves ever since. Weaving together influences from Europe with their Galilean roots, must-try dishes include a roasted pumpkin starter, followed by charred octopus skewer served with bonfire potato, vegetables and yoghurt. thenorman.com
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 must-try vegetarian caviar (me neither), and cake selection worth blowing your day’s calories for.
Tel Aviv is home to the largest collection of Bauhaus buildings in the world. Designed by architects between the 1930s and the 1950s who had been working in Europe but were among the Jews escaping oppression, these extraordinary buildings are collectively known as White City. A UNESCO World Heritage site, the majority can be seen on Rothschild Boulevard (it’s worth picking up a map from the Bauhaus Centre at 99 Dizengoff Street and Dizengoff Circus where you’ll find one of the best examples – the restored Cinema Hotel.
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.
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.
In up-and-coming Florentin, a heavy black door covered in stickers swings back to reveal festoon bulbs strung across a bustling galleried courtyard: on the ground floor is Teder FM, a radio station, bar and pizzeria; upstairs is Romano, a restaurant by pioneering chef Eyal Shani (he has others in the city, including perhaps his most famous, Miznon). Perch at the wooden counter or a table on the balcony overlooking the action and order sharing dishes such as fish shawarma, challah bread and his signature green beans with lemon and garlic which come in a brown paper bag. ontopo.co.il/romano
For those wanting to taste the best hummus, you can’t beat Abu Hassan. One of the oldest hummus restaurants in Israel, the original is a tiny place with a handful of tables in Jaffa.
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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. Head to Shabazi Street in Neve Tzedek for handcrafted gold jewellery, chic homeware and independent fashion labels. There are several markets in Tel Aviv worth a visit, including the Levinsky Market in Florentin (it’s a great place to pick up spices) and famed Carmel, 10 minutes-walk from the beach, which sells everything from fashion to fresh produce.
The Jaffa Hotel: Doubles from around £478, Book it here
The Norman: Doubles from £810 per room per night. Find out more here
Flights from London to Tel Aviv with Elal, from £284. Book it here
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