A 24-hour, cosmopolitan beach city, Tel Aviv’s hotel scene ranges from home-grown super brands to eye-catching boutiques, amiable hostels and the odd memorable curve-ball
For all its cosmopolitan charm, Tel Aviv is, above all, a Mediterranean beach city — just try to ignore the bland concrete residential towers and hotels on the waterfront. The Tayelet (promenade) and beaches offer an entertaining carousel of lithe, suntanned locals playing matkot (beach tennis), joggers, selfie-snapping teens and other assorted posers. Another must-visit in this part of the city is Ben Yehuda Street, with its array of world cuisines and ice cream parlours.
We recommend: Sheraton Tel Aviv Hotel
For travellers who like to have everything under one roof and the beach on their doorstep (literally), the 313-room Sheraton is hard to beat. The rooms are stylish, comfy and spacious, and while they’re classically decorated, they feel more chic than corporate. Ask for one with a view over the Med, or even better, a balcony.
Rooms with access to the 18th-floor Club Lounge guarantee a wide selection of food and drinks, including wine and spirits, available all day. But it’s the breakfast buffet that provides the epic feast, with locally sourced produce, many helpfully signposted healthy options and enough decadent ones to ruin any good intentions.
The hotel is home to the Cielo Spa, a haven offering a range of inviting massages and treatments using Dead Sea mud. The large pool overlooks the sea, so you can sunbathe in relative privacy without missing out on all the beach action. Tel Aviv has a host of excellent restaurants, but if you’re in a romantic mood, head to the hotel’s Mediterranean Olive Leaf Restaurant or international Kum Kum Restaurant, which both have panoramic sunset views.
Rooms: Doubles from US$377 (£265), B&B. sheratontelaviv.com
Best for singletons: Gordon Inn
Wake up to the smell of freshly baked goods wafting out from the breakfast room; at night, hang out on the rooftop. The dorms and rooms at this laid-back 29-room hostel may not boast cutting-edge design but they’re immaculate. It’s a great place to meet fellow travellers, the staff are friendly and you’re just five minutes from the beach and popular cafes, bars and restaurants.
Rooms: Dorms from US$30 (£21) a night, B&B; four-bed dorms from US$80 (£56), B&B; bedroom with private bathroom from US$100 (£70), B&B. gordoninn.hostel.com
Best for food: The Dan Tel Aviv
The Dan’s beach-facing facade is a colourful pop art affair that’s elevated the hotel to landmark status. Things feel slightly different inside: the lobby is clad in opulent gold and black marble and the 280 rooms and suites are reassuringly luxurious. Highlights include the outdoor and indoor pool and a spectacular breakfast buffet. Dining options include Hayarkon 99 and kosher dairy spot D-Restaurant, where gourmets can sample the best of the Israeli food scene.
Rooms: Doubles from US$420 (£294), B&B. danhotels.com
In the 1930s and ’40s, European exiles transformed much of Tel Aviv into a showcase for sleek, elegant Bauhaus architecture. The highest concentration of these buildings is to be found in the White City, within the area enclosed by Rothschild Boulevard and Allenby and Pinsker Streets. Many are now boutique hotels, posh addresses for start-ups or stylish private residences. Busy from dawn till dusk with families, businessmen, tourists and night owls, the White City is perhaps Tel Aviv’s most emblematic neighbourhood.
We recommend: The Norman Tel Aviv
Tour guides in the White City like to play a game with visitors. “In which style was this building designed, Bauhaus or Eclectic?” they’ll ask, pointing out a balcony curve here, a window angle there. And when they reach The Norman, they ask their groups to guess whether it’s a hotel or a residential block hidden behind restored pale blue and yellow facades. The hotel is made up of two 1920s buildings, one with 30 bedrooms, restaurants (Med cuisine and Japanese tapas-style Dinings), bars and a rooftop pool; the other with 20 suites and two stunning penthouse suites.
Guests are welcomed at the gates and shown to their room for a private check-in. Exquisite craftsmanship is evident throughout, from floor and ceiling patterns that echo original features to the stunning art deco lobby. Elsewhere, the ground-floor Library Bar manages to be both classic English lounge and louche Tel Aviv hangout. Individually decorated and featuring local artists’ works, rooms have high ceilings, dark wood furniture and large bathrooms featuring handmade tiles.
Rooms: Doubles from US$420 (£294), B&B; suites from US$650 (£454), B&B. thenorman.com
Best for couples: Hotel Montefiore
This cosy 12-room hotel is housed in a restored 1920s mansion. Couples can hide away in the corners of the dimly lit public areas, enjoy afternoon tea with scones or sample the bar’s killer cocktails. The brasserie serves up excellent Vietnamese fare and French desserts. Striking contemporary photographs adorn the walls in the corridors leading to the rooms, which are all of different size and shape. Inside, they look minimalist, expensive and understated, and house the largest selection of multilingual books you’re ever likely to find in a hotel room.
Rooms: Doubles from US$410 (£288), B&B. hotelmontefiore.co.il
Best for techie bohemians: The Diaghilev
The hotel’s namesake would be proud the owners are living up to his creative ideals. The founder of the Ballets Russes, Sergei Diaghilev was something of a polymath, and in this spirit, the self-styled ‘bohemian boutique hotel’ tries to be many things. As well as hosting art exhibitions and cultural events, it provides a workspace for start-up entrepreneurs, musicians, designers and assorted creative types. Each of the 54 suites has been individually designed with quirky furniture, colourful furnishings and art. A nightcap at the onsite Backstage cafe bar is a must.
Rooms: Suites from US$170 (£119), B&B. diaghilev-tel-aviv.com
Tel Aviv’s political, commercial and financial heart encompasses three landmark areas: Rabin Square; Dizengoff Center mall and Tower; and the Azrieli Center to the east. Their aesthetic shortcomings are made up for by the dynamism of
the surrounding streets. The centre is easily walkable, with all the major cultural attractions within close distance. And if you prefer to explore the heart of Tel Aviv on wheels, there are electric bikes to rent across the city, with safe cycling paths on the pavement.
We recommend: Cinema Hotel
The interior of this stylish white Bauhaus building — the former Esther Cinema — contains projectors, movie posters and other film paraphernalia, including complimentary popcorn, to cleverly set the scene. The rotund shape of the lobby, its art deco style and the black-and-white palette with scarlet and purple hues are found throughout the 83 rooms.
Overlooking Dizengoff Square, with its multicoloured fountain and buzzing vibe, bedrooms pack a lot of sex appeal in vibrant monochrome shades with purple accents and refined geometrical patterns.
Most genres of cinema are present on the walls. Rhett Butler and Scarlett O’Hara welcome guests in the mezzanine lobby, while Disney icons accompany them to their room and soft-focus stills from 1974 erotic romp Emmanuelle greet visitors on the way to the breakfast room. Guests are just as diverse, with this centrally located gem attracting businessmen, young couples and families alike.
Rooms: Doubles from US$210 (£147), B&B. atlas.co.il
Best for families: Arbel Suites Hotel
Tucked away in a tree-lined residential street, this 26-suite property is ideal for families who want some respite from the city’s sensory overload. At the same time, the main attractions are within walking or cycling distance — and the hotel offers guests free bikes. The beach and Rabin Square, Tel Aviv’s main plaza, are 10 minutes by foot.
Room: Suites from US$160 (£112), room only. arbelhotel.com
Best for views: Crowne Plaza Tel Aviv
The three Azrieli Center towers are the poster girls for modern Tel Aviv. Located within one, the sleek 273-room Crowne Plaza boasts an 18th-floor lounge with panoramic city views, and comfy rooms whose neutral decor is enlivened by citrus splashes and oversized mirrors. The hotel offers direct access to a well-equipped gym and indoor pool and is connected to the massive Azrieli Center in the adjacent tower.
Rooms: Doubles from US$206 (£145), room only. crowneplaza.com
NEVE TZEDEK & JAFFA
This is where it all began — Jaffa, the Biblical port where Jonah is said to have departed on his way to meet the whale, and Neve Tzedek, where settlers created the first Jewish neighbourhood outside of Jaffa at the end of the 19th century. Expect narrow, colourful streets, ancient sites and excellent dining and shopping opportunities.
We recommend: Margosa Hotel
Located between the endearing Jaffa Flea Market and the enchanting harbour, this elegant hotel is a real find for travellers looking to be in the heart of the southern city and stay in stylish accommodation without the boutique hotel price tag. Guests arriving at the 35-room hotel, which opened last year, are welcomed by an alleyway lined with fragrant citrus trees — a throwback to the original site, an orange grove. Rooms are spacious, homely and blend subtle oriental touches with more contemporary and colourful furnishings. The extremely comfortable ‘deluxe’ rooms won’t blow the budget — despite the fact they’re the size of small studios. The only deviation from the otherwise chic-but-functional ethos are the double showers for couples who want to share everything and the sink in the bedroom. The breakfast buffet served in a light-bathed courtyard is generous and tasty, providing a spread of Israeli staples. It also provides an opportunity to mingle with fellow guests — a mix of backpackers splashing out, religious families and couples only too happy to have discovered this hospitable and romantic hotel.
Rooms: Singles from US$120 (£80), B&B. margosa-hotel.co.il
Best for local sights: Market House
Since September 2014, eclectic Beit Eshel Street has been home to Jaffa’s first boutique hotel, Market House — built on a ruined Byzantine chapel (still visible in the lobby under a glass floor). Don’t expect any of the 45 rooms to be an explosion of textures, styles and colours. Instead, they’re elegantly decorated in a sober palette of grey, white and black livened up by specially commissioned artworks inspired by the charismatic neighbourhood.
Rooms: Doubles from US$210 (£147), B&B. atlas.co.il
Best for design: Lily & Bloom Hotel
Tel Aviv’s boutique hotel scene has blossomed in the past five years and the most recent addition to the chic list is this 37-roomer, a 10-minute walk from Neve Tzedek’s landmarks. Set in a stunning Bauhaus building on one of the liveliest streets in town, Lily & Bloom boasts a fabulous vintage-style interior, with a spacious lobby that’s ideal for hanging out and enjoying Mr Bloom’s happy hour. The elegant guest rooms feature wooden floors, white linen and retro geometric prints.
Rooms: Doubles from US$190 (£133), B&B. lilyandbloom.com
Published in the May 2016 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)