Tel Aviv’s sunny shores, historic attractions and lively nightlife make it an intriguing and fun weekend destination, finds Ben West
There are few places in the world which pack such variety and excitement into a weekend break as Tel Aviv. With around 300 days of sunshine, its myriad attractions include bustling markets, spirited nightlife with bars and clubs galore, 10 miles of seafront with pristine sandy beaches, mouth-watering Middle Eastern cuisine and carefree cafes.
Tel Aviv’s youthful, modern, hard-partying vibe and high-rise towers contrast intriguingly with its traditionally Arab ancient enclave, Jaffa, to the south. The latter is peppered with historic buildings and boasts an al fresco restaurant and bar scene.
Wandering Tel Aviv reveals the differing sides to its neighbourhoods. The UNESCO-designated White City area contains the world’s highest concentration of Bauhaus-style architecture. Tree-lined Rothschild Boulevard harbours underground clubs, while chic Neve Tzedek is a haven for bars. Then there’s Gan HaHashmal, favoured by artistic types, and the bohemian Florentin quarter.
With its liberal attitude — it’s particularly gay-friendly — growing contemporary art scene, exciting new restaurants and funky boutique hotels launching almost every month, Tel Aviv is an inspired — and inspirational — choice.
MORNING: Vegan cafe Meshek Barzilay is a good spot for breakfast, serving smoothies, a chickpea ‘omelette’, pancakes and a whole lot more. Located in the attractive old neighbourhood of Neve Tzedek, take a post-breakfast wander along the small alleyways which house a thriving arts community. Stroll by the dried fruit, soap, nut, spice and pastry stalls, stores and delicatessens at Levinsky Market on Levinsky Street.
AFTERNOON: A simple lunch of fresh hummus, tabouli, falafel and fried cauliflower can be had at Garger HaZahav. Then take a taxi to Holon, a bit further south, to explore the Design Museum Holon (8 Pinkhas Eilon Street; +972 73 215 1525) and its design and fashion exhibitions, as well as its permanent collection.
Take another taxi to the Tel Aviv Museum of Art and check out its large collection of Israeli art alongside works by Anish Kapoor, Ai Weiwei, Roy Lichtenstein and other big names.
EVENING: Sip an innovative cocktail at the cosy 1920s-style Bellboy Bar at Hotel Berdichevsky. Then, for a memorable evening meal, head to dimly-lit Oasis. Later on, Port Said is a hip little bar that almost never seems to empty.
MORNING: Enjoy the wonderful views breakfasting at Manta Ray, on the seafront where Tel Aviv meets Jaffa. Nearby is Hatachana, a disused train station that now has exhibitions and art galleries, and if you walk southwards along the beach and via Charles Clore Park, you can wander the narrow cobbled alleyways of Old Jaffa. Kedumim Square houses St Peter’s Church, dating from 1894, and search for a bargain at Jaffa Flea Market. The Ilana Goor Museum has more than 500 Israeli and international artworks.
AFTERNOON: Northwards is HaCarmel Street and the colourful stalls of fresh produce, spices, clothes, sweets, toys and more at Carmel Market. There are loads of eateries here for a spot of lunch. Spend some time on the beach and play matkot, a raquet-and-ball game popular with locals.
EVENING: Check out the many bars: chic BuXa has a big dance floor, underground DJs, live bands and contemporary art everywhere. Sample Tel Aviv’s ongoing culinary boom at bustling Abraxas North, revamping Levantine classics. Head for HaHashmal Street for nightlife: cool club Kuli Alma has a maze of rooms and an open-air subterranean courtyard, or find pumping house and techno at Breakfast Club.