Last year, I was at a press event where the hotel manager from the Intercontinental Hotel in Tel Aviv was speaking. He spoke so enthusiastically about Tel Aviv- claiming it was electric- like the Las Vegas of the Middle East. I remember thinking how cool it sounded... and yet, how unlikely it was that I would actually be there anytime soon.
Fast forward a year, and what do you know? My family went to Israel for my dad's 60th birthday. Complete with my uncle and cousins + their spouses, needless to say- it was a party.
We arrived to Tel Aviv on an EasyJet flight direct from London. (£275 each way for all four of us + 3 bags + priority boarding/seats). The 4.5 hour flight was easy and non-eventful. We arrived to the hotel around 11:30pm on Thursday, worried that we might have missed our window for dinner.
Little did we know, Tel Aviv is a city that doesn't sleep... well, at least until Friday's when Shabbat rolls around and puts the country at a quiet standstill But Thursdays? Well, consider it their Friday night... and dinner at midnight? No problem at all.
We spent 5 days in Tel Aviv, and all I can say is- everything that I had heard at that event all that time back was spot on. The city is every bit as exciting as they say... and more. It's absolutely worth visiting. Think great food, great people, rich with history... and, of course, perfect weather.
Here are some of our favorite places for your trip to Tel Aviv.
DAVID INTERCONTINENTAL: Since I more or less was introduced to Tel Aviv by the manager of the Intercontinental, it only seemed fitting to start there when planning our trip. I figured it would be fairly similar to the other hotels in Tel Aviv, but after going, I can only say: it is above and beyond the BEST spot to stay. Right on the beach, gorgeous amenities, friendly staff. Just trust me. You'll be regret staying anywhere else if you veer from this advice. (We did on our last night in town when other plans had been made for us... and we all were very sad about it, especially the "other" hotel's disregard of air conditioning.)
When you're there, don't miss spending an afternoon by the pool. Not only will you have some luxe respite from the heat, but you'll also hear some of the most fascinating conversations from the guests around you. I was having the best time people watching while munching on a giant plate of watermelon. It was one of those unexpected moments that happen in a trip that you never forget.
MESSA: This place is beautiful. And the clever menu featuring entrees of veal baklawa and carmelized salmon in coconut milk meets the gorgeous decor perfectly. For dessert, don't miss the Sarkozy... named after France's former president upon his recent visit.
SOCIAL CLUB: This is the restaurant that welcomed us to Israel. It was the first place we went to and it opened our eyes to how alive Tel Aviv was. Everything about this place was cool. Tyler tried the waiters suggestion of the prime rib, and it was without a doubt the tastiest steak I have ever eaten. We were shocked. Not a place for kids, but definitely a place for great conversations and late nights.
ABRAGE: If you're looking for something that feels classic, this is it. Grab a table outdoors in the 6th century square where Abrage casually sits and enjoy having the friendly staff of this Jaffa gem take care of you. We spent our last evening in Israel here with all our family and it was a truly special setting atop historic Jaffa.
JAFFA: Along the beach of Tel Aviv, you'll find the ancient city of Jaffa. (Where Jonah set out to sea before his whale encounter.) Definitely not one to miss for great history, cool eats and excellent sunsets.
CARMEL MARKET: This busting market offers a great glimpse of life in Tel Aviv. You'll also hear it called "Shuk Ha'Carmel," but regardless of what language you speak- you'll find loads of things that will catch your eye. Expect to find everything here from designer knock-offs to religious knick-knacks. Save a lunch for eating here and grab a spot at the tiny eateries dotting the market for a real, local treat. (I'd recommend Bar Ochel for amazing grilled meats and roasted vegetables. Don't miss the homemade lemonade to wash it down.)
AMIEL TRAVEL: We were spoiled to have amazing guides take us around Tel Aviv and all of Israel. We got to see things and experience Israel in a way that would have been really impossible to do as unexperienced travelers to the country. Our driver and two guides, Yossi and Monte, unpacked the history in Israel and the cultures mingled there now in a way that has touched Tyler & I profoundly. (Warning: You may not want to ask us about our trip, because we can't be anything but longwinded in our response.)
Go to Israel. Have your eyes opened to the rich history of this small, unique place... and I'd really recommend to have Amiel take you there to make the most of your trip!
*images original to Aspiring Kennedy