Getaway: Tel Aviv city guide

Israel's creative hub combines non-stop nightlife, striking Bauhaus architecture and breezy beachside living

Tel Aviv Israel Jaffa Port
Yang Jing

Much of the Mediterranean suffers from ‘out of season’ syndrome beyond the summer holiday window, but the party will still be going strong on its most easterly edge, where balmy temperatures are almost guaranteed in late autumn and early spring. Flanked by 10 miles of sandy beaches, Israel’s creative capital boasts a famously lively and LGBT-friendly landscape. Just over 100 years old, the city is a bustling dichotomy of old and new, where the markets of ancient port Jaffa – officially absorbed into burgeoning Tel Aviv in the middle of the last century – sit alongside an ever-expanding roster of boutique hotels, drinking dens and slick eateries.

Bauhaus architecture in Tel Aviv
Eddie Gerald

WHERE TO STAY

Conceived by British designer John Pawson, converted monastery The Jaffa may be Tel Aviv’s grandest new address but its splendour is offset by a host of sleek city centre properties, many of which have opened in the past two years. Among the most notable newcomers is The Vera, where rosy, raw plastered walls and Crittall-style windows give its pared-back palette a refined yet industrial feel. Don’t miss the dual-level rooftop terrace (from £187 per night; theverahotel.com). There’s more rough-hewn appeal at The Levee, a series of eight meticulously renovated apartments in the pretty, village-like Neve Tzedek neighbourhood, where pieces from Molteni & C and Cassina elevate exposed concrete walls (from £495 per night; leveetlv.com). To live like a local, try two-bedroom pad The Drawing Board, where Japanese-style low-slung furniture and calligraphy artworks sit harmoniously against ornate tiles and olive green walls. The owner’s tableware, teas and scents are available to buy too (from £236 per night; theplumguide.com).

Levee Hotel room Tel Aviv Israel
The Levee / Sivan Askayo

BREAKFAST & LUNCH

Few of the diminutive coffee and snack ‘kiosks’ that once peppered Tel Aviv’s boulevards remain, but those left are institutions. Most storied is the blue-shuttered Kiosk Est 1920–on Lilienblum St – restored to its former glory by its present owners. If you’re after a guaranteed seat, opt for café Bana –one of the city’s 400 vegan-friendly eateries, lined by a wall of pretty pink-framed windows. Try the roasted cabbage with almonds, dukka and fava cream (banatlv.com). Explore one of the area’s shucks, or food markets, ranging from the vast, spice-scented Carmel Market to innovative Sarona, which offers up counters of the finest international foods alongside exclusive chef concepts (saronamarket.co.il).

Cafe Bana Tel Aviv Israel
Cafe Bana / Amit Geron

WINE & DINE

Launched earlier this year, restaurant L28 Culinary Platform provides a mentored residency for emerging chefs, who offer their interpretation of Israeli cuisine during six-month stints. The dining space, with its sculptural use of timber slats and screens, is the perfect spot to admire the fresh foodie talent (l28.co.il). More striking ceilings can be seen at Ya Pan bistro, where colourful mesh diffuses light over heads of diners enjoying inventive Japanese dishes. Try the steak tartare with sushi rice, white miso, green onions and Japanese mustard (yapan.co.il). For minimalist plant-based fare, head to Opa, the Levinksy Market haunt designed by architect Vered Kadouri and local studio Craft and Bloom (opatlv.co.il).

Food at vegan restaurant Opa Tel Aviv
Opa / Aviv Shkury

ARTS & CULTURE

Tel Aviv’s museums are worth a visit for their architectural appeal alone. Start at Ron Arad’s DesignMuseum Holon – the first Israeli institution dedicated to design. An exhibition celebrating the decade of design since its launch opens in December (dmh.org.il). Also see The Steinhardt Museum of Natural History, where the exhibition space is wrapped in wooden panels to create a ‘treasure chest’ effect (smnh.tau.ac.il), and Tel Aviv Museum of Modern Art, with its design award-winning restaurant, Pastel (tamuseum.org.il). And no tour is complete without wandering theWhite City, named for its 4,000 Bauhaus buildings erected in the 1930s by former German-Jewish students (bauhaus-center.com).

Holon Design Museum Tel Aviv Israel
Holon Design Museum / Takumi Ota

SHOP

Start at the sprawling Jaffa Market, with its heady mix of antiques and crafts, and prepare to haggle. Those in pursuit of a curated offering should visit concept store Edition by Sagit Goldin, where sleek homeware sits beside its compact café (editionby.com). Design store Hibino is a wood-accented showcase of well-crafted Japanese furniture, ceramics and artwork (hibino.co.il) and a counterbalance to Jaffa’s colourful, print-laden Elemento, a cavernous showroom of the studio’s 1960s and 70s-inspired pieces (elemento-design.com).

Hibino design store Tel Aviv
Hibino

ESCAPE THE CITY

Sacred to millions across the globe, Jerusalem is an unrivalled bastion of historical and cultural heritage – and the bus journey takes less than an hour. Head to holy site Temple Mount first. While only Muslims can enter the Al-Aqsa Mosque, its intricate exterior is a sight to behold (templemount.org). An hour north, you’ll find hilly port city Haifa, whose UNESCO site Bahá’í Gardens is a tiered wonder on the slope of Mount Carmel (ganbahai.org.il). Closer to Tel Aviv’s centre in Edith Wolfson Park lies modernist gem ‘White Square’, a series of architectural models by Israeli sculptor Dani Karavan.

This article first appeared in the November 2019 issue of ELLE Decoration

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