Tel Aviv, Israel: Where the City Is as Hot as the Sand
"Tel Aviv is often called 'the Bubble,' " says Leon Avigad, owner of the Brown Beach Hotel, a boutique inn that is one of the city's hot spots. "We love to say that we won't let anyone ruin our party." So while Jerusalem is seeing turmoil on a near-daily basis, in Tel Aviv it's business — and pleasure — as usual.
The epicenter of the revelry is Gordon Beach. This is not the Israel you see on the evening news. It's more like Miami with a world-weary European shrug — a sandy strip packed with guitar-wielding hippies, tattooed hipsters, and some of the best-looking people on the planet. Many will be engaged in a heated match of matkot, the paddleboard game that is a national obsession, or sipping cocktails on low sofas at beachside spots such as Lala Land or Café Gordo. Gordon is just one of 16 urban beaches along Tel Aviv's 8.5-mile waterfront. A more sedate option is Tel Baruch Beach, about 20 minutes away in the city's affluent northern neighborhoods; the water is calmer, and so is the vibe.
But perhaps the best part of a trip to Tel Aviv is what you can do when you're done soaking up rays and splashing around in the Mediterranean. A seemingly unremarkable residential neighborhood, for example, is actually a deep dive into Bauhaus architecture. In fact, Tel Aviv has been declared a unesco World Heritage site for its abundance of modernist whitewashed structures, built in the 1930s by refugee architects from Germany. The Bauhaus Center can arrange walking tours and provide maps.
For a look at Tel Aviv's current art scene, head south to Jaffa. The 4,000-year-old port city is full of winding streets, ancient mosques and churches — and artists, both Israeli and Arab. "Jaffa has an interesting diversity of people and cultures, which is very inspiring," says Amnon Ron, a filmmaker and owner of Yafo Creative, a guesthouse that hosts performances and exhibits. "There is a sense of community, a feeling of a small town," Ron says, "but we're a 15-minute walk from the center of Tel Aviv."
That's fortunate, because no trip here is complete without a night on Nahalat Binyamin Street. Eat at Mizlala, where Israeli- and Arab-inspired dishes are served side by side. Then head to the city's Florentin neighborhood, an artists' hub that's often compared to New York's Lower East Side, where the party also often lasts until dawn — just in time for starting another day at the beach.