Inside Tel Aviv's Rise to a Global City

Tel Aviv’s clean and friendly beaches, new sophisticated hotels and booming nightlife have made it a hot tourist destination.

Tel Aviv’s clean and friendly beaches, new sophisticated hotels and booming nightlife have made it a hot tourist destination.

In terms of international cities, Tel Aviv is a relative newcomer. Founded by the Jewish community in 1909 as an extension of the ancient port city of Jaffa, Tel Aviv has come a long way in a little over a hundred years as the second most populous city in Israel, after being incorporated into the state of Israel in 1948.

Regarding tourism, Tel Aviv has become a hot destination in recent years. A combination of the Mediterranean climate with hot summers and temperate winters, along with clean beaches, thriving culture (including museums, dance and theater), world-class modern cuisine, and a new crop of sophisticated hotels, all in a friendly relaxed atmosphere, make the city attractive to travelers. Tel Aviv also has a booming nightlife scene and has become a world hub for cutting-edge clubs, techno music, and nightclubs. Popular with LGBT visitors, Tel Aviv was named the best gay city in the world by American Airlines.

Architecture buffs will have a visual feast as Tel Aviv has the largest configuration of Bauhaus buildings in the world. Often called The White City, there are more than 4,000 certified Bauhaus structures in Tel Aviv, built by Jewish German architects who fled Germany in the 1930s because of the Nazi regime. In 2003, UNESCO declared the Bauhaus buildings in Tel Aviv as a World Heritage Site and since then many of them have been restored. Visit the Bauhaus Center to learn about the history of the Bauhaus movement, and the Center also offers guided group tours or self-guided audio tours.

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The Montefiore Hotel offers its guests ultra-luxe and unique experiences and amenities, such as a large library in each room, containing books in several languages.
The Montefiore Hotel offers its guests ultra-luxe and unique experiences and amenities, such as a large library in each room, containing books in several languages.

One of the most popular places in Tel Aviv for residents and tourists is the Carmel food and flea market. The busy and bustling market—with boisterous merchants hawking their wares in Hebrew and Arabic—has a dizzying array of local produce, aromatic spices, Middle East pastries such as baklava and ma’amoul, oils, fresh pressed orange and pomegranate juice, poultry, fish, pickles, olives, dried fruit, nuts, hummus, and locally made cheeses. Sample artisanal challah bread and rugelach at Lehamim, a bakery specializing in classic Jewish pastries, and don’t miss the stalls offering hummus, baba ghanoush and falafel served with warm pita bread.

Sidestepping the expected traditions of serving hummus and falafel, a new breed of chefs is reinventing Israeli food with wit and dynamism. Delicatessen, a two-story complex encompassing a food market, bakery, wine cellar and restaurant, is wildly popular among locals. A must-try is the genuine home made chopped liver. Hidden in an alleyway in a commercial area is Joz ve Loz, a Bohemian restaurant with a most charming outdoor garden setting. The menu focuses mainly on vegetarian fare. Housed in a cavernous former warehouse space, Nana is a restaurant and wine bar with an intimate and romantic setting. Named one of the top five restaurants of Tel Aviv, the menu is fusion of local and French flavors.

The trendiest area in Tel Aviv turns out to be the oldest in the city. Neve Tzedek, a mix of former industrial spaces and Mediterranean-style, turn-of-the-century pastel buildings with decorative iron gates, is now the premier neighborhood for upscale fashion, jewelry, and home boutiques, featuring Israeli designers and craftsmen. Some of the city’s best restaurants dot the narrow streets and alleyways including Dallal, where Chef Golan Garfunkel turns out an eclectic menu, and A Place for Meat, a straightforward steak, chops and hamburger restaurant with a separate beef aging room.

Tel Aviv’s hotels of late have expanded in terms of selection and location, shifting away from the densely occupied beachfront to inner areas of the city. The Shenkin Hotel, the newest entry into the boutique hotel market, is located near Shenkin Street, a former area for Orthodox Jews, now an up-and-coming café and boutique street. Thirty rooms are decorated in all-white with dark hardwood floors with white-tiled bathrooms. The hotel also caters to the business traveler with an executive lounge that provides a computer, printer, copy and fax machine.

Near Rothschild Boulevard, the Montefiore Hotel is a small luxury hotel with 12 rooms in a meticulously restored 1920s heritage house. The elegant restaurant and bar has become the hot spot of the neighborhood with its Vietnamese-inspired food and early evening cocktail menu.

Inspired by Diaghilev, ballet impresario and creator of the legendary Ballets Russes, the Diaghilev Live Art boutique hotel has 54 rooms, each individually decorated by an artist or interior designer. The ever-changing environment has alternating art shows and cultural events throughout the year.

Culture vultures will have plenty to feast on in Tel Aviv. The Tel Aviv Museum, founded in 1932, is the leading contemporary museum of Israel, with one of the largest collections of Israeli art in the world along with an extensive international collection of painting, sculpture, prints and drawings. Recent exhibits have included American photographer Jeff Wall, and an installation of drawings by Israeli artist Ilana Salama.

Israel takes its architecture and design seriously and commissioned Israel-born, world-renowned architect and product designer Ron Arad to create the Design Museum Holon. The museum houses one of the world’s most important collections of modern furniture, objects, and products incorporating design works from Israel from 1930s to 2000 and the latest design from 2000 to the present.

The Suzanne Dellal Center for Dance and Theater presents modern Israeli and international dance troupes. Centered in the Neve Tzedek neighborhood, it contains four performance spaces, and in summer presents shows in their outdoor plaza. Resident companies include the Batsheva Dance Company, Inbal Pinto & Avshalom Pollak Dance Company, and Orna Porat Children’s Theater.

Superior Suite, one of 54 individually decorated rooms at the Diaghilev Live Art hotel.

Superior Suite, one of 54 individually decorated rooms at the Diaghilev Live Art hotel.

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