A hundred years ago, if you landed on the shores of Tel Aviv you would have been greeted by a vast swathe of untouched sand dunes skirting the ancient port of Jaffa. Widely regarded as the founding of Tel Aviv, in April of 1909, several families met atop one such sand dune and parceled out the land by lottery using seashells. These dunes, unsuitable as farmland, forced the residents of Tel Aviv to rely more on their brains than their brawn.
Several generations later, Tel Avivians have adapted well to their environment and now enjoy the benefits of a prosperous economy. Tel Aviv is Israel’s financial and tech hub with a flourishing nightlight and arts culture. The quaint, winding streets of neighborhoods like Neve Tzedek beckon a sophisticated and cosmopolitan crowd. A jigsaw of the city’s iconic Bauhaus architecture juxtaposes modern skyscrapers springing up along the beachside boardwalk, facing out towards the Mediterranean Sea. The city itself seems to be in a perpetual renaissance, with ever-trendier cafés and shops satisfying the aesthetic demands of stylish residents. Tel Aviv is a relatively new city and, as such, it has the opportunity to craft its own unique future.
|Where to Stay
Tel Aviv offers a wide array of lodging options. For the budget traveler, check out the Hayarkon 48 Hostel. It’s located conveniently near the beach and within walking distance of the Carmel Market. If you’re traveling solo and looking for good nightlife, this is the place to be. For a more local perspective, we suggest Airbnb. If you’re lucky, your hosts might even take you around to several watering holes that only locals know about (read on). Tel Aviv also has a nice selection of luxury and boutique hotels, most notably Hotel Montefiore, Hotel Varsano, Alma Hotel, Rothschild Hotel, The Brown TLV and the Norman Hotel.
|Where to Eat
Some of the best food in the Middle East can be found in Tel Aviv. After a 12-hour flight from the states, coffee is always the first stop. For a local brew with great atmosphere (and free wi-fi) try Cafe Sheleg, which also has rooms for rent above it. For food, try The Brothers restaurant. Everything on the menu is classic with a modern twist. For the best hummus in Tel Aviv, be sure to stop by Abu Hassan. Dr. Shakshuka is a classic for the eponymous egg and tomato dish. Best atmosphere award goes to Port Said, near the Carmel Market, which captures the Tel Avivian vibe perfectly, spilling out into the street and looking something like an Irish/hipster pub mashup. Order the chicken sandwich. While you’re near the Carmel Market, be sure to sample some treats from each of the local vendors. For a more upscale experience, try The Blue Rooster. It’s farmhouse fancy and, if you like truffle oil, you’ll love this place. They use it on everything in all the right proportions. For drinks, Patio Bar is truly a local favorite. Spend an unforgettable night drinking local brews and dancing in a crowded room. The morning after Patio Bar will be a rough one, which is why you’ll want to stop in for breakfast at Benedict. Their famous pancakes are served all day. If none of that sounds good, tapas at Tapas Ahad Ha’am are always a good choice.
|What to Do
In a part of the world where violent conflict is commonplace, Israel’s cultural capital is emerging as a stylish, fun locale that has embraced the 21st century. At the center of the city, the Tel Aviv Museum of Art is a must-see. The Herta and Paul Amir Building was built in 2011 and is worth the visit on its own. The museum primarily houses leading artists from the early 20th century including select works from Chaim Soutine and Pablo Picasso. Ben Yehuda St. is a five-minute walk from the Art Museum and has an array of boutiques and bistros — a perfect stroll to while away the afternoon. Be sure to stop for some gelato at Anita’s Cafe in Neve Tzedek. The Neve Tzedek neighborhood boasts fine boutiques, art galleries, fantastic dining and Bauhaus architecture. Neve Tzedek has been called the SoHo of the Middle East, an apt description. The beach is never far from any point in the city. You’ll see cyclists, runners and fitness gurus all along the beach. This is a very fit city that feels a little like Crissy Field in San Francisco. Pick a spot at a boardwalk café (we suggest Landwer’s if you like good coffee) and watch the sunset over the Mediterranean Sea. That’s a view you won’t easily forget. To the south is the ancient port city of Jaffa. You’ll want to spend an afternoon walking through the old streets and haggling with the merchants at the Jaffa Flea Market. The arts are flourishing here, from the architecture to the fashion, and every aspect of this city is begging to be photographed. Take your camera along and keep it always at the ready.
Israel is roughly the size of New Jersey but, surprisingly, supports a broad spectrum of vegetation. To the north, you’ll find vineyards and lush farmland with a claim to some of the best tomatoes in the world (tried ‘em, they’re good). Jerusalem is a 40-minute drive and attracts visitors for Holy Land tours. The other 60 percent of the country is vast desert, perfect for adventure. Sand boarding, rafting on the Jordan river, floating in the Dead Sea at 1,400 feet below sea level, rappelling and off-roading in the world’s largest crater (Mahktesh Ramon), and snorkeling with dolphins and coral in the Red Sea are all par for the course. For a tailor-made Tel Aviv travel experience we highly recommend leaving it to the professionals at Eager Tourist. Ross and his team will guide you through the city like a local.