48 Hours in Tel Aviv, Israel
Bring history and modernity together in this cultural hotbed.
There are few world cities as bursting with contradiction and juxtaposition as Tel Aviv. The city is equally about the ancient (historians estimate its port, Jaffa, was inhabited as early as 7500 BCE) and the future (its bustling tech center is one of the fastest growing in the world). As such, visiting can be overwhelming. Here’s how to plan a weekend in Tel Aviv that will let you see it all without making your head spin.
Hyper-stylish The Norman is right in the heart of Tel Aviv and represents the very best in Israeli luxury and taste. It’s a grand Modernist building (though it manages to maintain a boutique feel) just off Rothschild Boulevard, the Bauhaus strip of restaurants and shops that binds the city together. The rooms are plush and airy with midcentury modern touches in neutral shades, and many of the larger suites have ample outdoor spaces. The hotel also features a stunning rooftop pool as ideal for swimming laps as it is for sunbathing.
Alternatively, stay in the heart of Jaffa at the Market House Hotel. Built in the ruins of a Byzantine chapel (bits of which have been beautifully preserved under the hotel's glass floors), it's just a few minutes from the port's lively cafés and bar scene.
Start your day in Jaffa where the neighborhood’s Muslim, Jewish, and Christian communities live peacefully within feet of each other. In the area’s bustling flea market, sit down for breakfast at Puaa café and order shakshuka, a traditional Israeli breakfast of eggs baked in a flavorful tomato sauce. You could trawl the market for hours, but be sure to stop by Sharon Shalev’s jewelry studio and store. Here, you’ll find beautiful handmade rings and necklaces made with gemstones and antique Israeli coins.
Take your time exploring the ancient streets as you get closer to the sea. Walk down to the boardwalk where you can grab lunch at the Old Man in the Sea. The wait staff will serve up countless small dishes of hummus and salads; Sample all of them, they are fresh and light.
Rent a bike at one of the many stands along the water and cycle the boardwalk north towards the city center. Stop at Manta Ray for a glass of Israeli rosé, and then join the myriad swimmers on the sand until the sun hits the horizon. Head back into the city center for dinner at Port Said, a short five-minute walk from your hotel. This is the quintessential Tel Aviv dining experience: hip, relaxed, and brimming with fresh and flavorful food. They don’t take reservations but the bar is a great place to wait with a drink and some nibbles.
Do as the local’s do and rise early for a run on the beach, Tel Aviv’s center for everything active. Along the boardwalk, you'll be among cyclists, joggers, and those out for a stroll just to enjoy the early sun before it gets too hot. If you’re feeling social, join a Matkot game, a popular racket sport similar to beach tennis. Stop for a quick coffee and cheese bourekas on the sidewalk terrace of Rothschild 12, and then wonder the few blocks over to the gentrifying Florentine neighborhood (Tel Aviv’s Brooklyn). You’ll never have a juice like the ones served at Café Levinsky 41. Each one is completely unique and comes filled with whole preserved fruits, rose water, kombucha (if you wish), and is finished with edible flowers and plants. The whole thing, along with the truck parked out front and overflowing with plants, is begging to be on Instagram.
Juice in hand, wonder up Levinsky Street and stop in at the various shops selling fresh teas, nuts, and spices. Don’t miss Yom Tov Deli, an institution where the owner’s grandmother hand makes their Dolma (stuffed grape leaves) every day. Take your time over lunch at Ouzeria, a tiny, whitewashed spot a block from Levinsky Street, that serves Israeli influenced Greek food. Must-try items include their main lamb dish and tuna bruschetta.
Spend your afternoon at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, a spectacular building that houses Israel’s largest collection of contemporary and modern masterpieces. End your day at Abraxas North, where the gourmet food is served on cardboard. Sit at the bar for the liveliest seat in the house and finish with a glass of arak, Israeli ouzo, to toast a full and successful weekend.