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When you’re thinking of things to do in Tel Aviv, it’s easier to list what you can’t do because this is a city that simply has everything you need to feed the mind, body and soul.
There’s breathtaking Bauhaus architecture and world-class museums, über-cool restaurants serving food fused from the best of the Middle East and the Med and nightlife that led Lonely Planet to list it among the world’s top 10 places to party. Work off the indulgences with a brisk seaside stroll along the tayelet, before wandering aimlessly around the boutiques of Neve Tzedek. For the soul, head to Jerusalem, or float in the Dead Sea, the lowest point on the planet.
Gone are the days when Israeli haute cuisine meant deep-fried falafel and a large blob of hummus. Sample five star seafood till midnight at Manta Ray, drop your jaw at Messa’s décor, or get the full White City dining experience at Orna & Ella, set inside a lovingly renovated Bauhaus apartment. If you can’t resist, Abu Hassan in Jaffa is a hummus legend.
Take in Tel Aviv’s 13 beaches for sun, sea and the national sport: matkot (racket ball). For a classic coastal strip, head to the Herbert Samuel Esplanade with its beachside hotels and cafes. Surfers go north to Hilton, also Tel Aviv’s unofficial gay beach. Young trendies hang out on Frishman, or on Bondi-esque Bograshov next door. For families, Jerusalem Beach has a playground, an outdoor gym and the Manta Ray restaurant.
Why drive when you can walk, bike or run? The revamped tayelet, or beachfront promenade, extends north from Jaffa to the gentrified Marina. Stop at cafés or gelaterias along the way. Then break for some retail therapy. Watch out for electric bicycles – the current craze for Tel Avivians.
Israel is small. If you have time, the one-hour drive to Jerusalem is a must. Have a drink on the King David Hotel’s veranda. Then dive in to the magical Old City. Leave a prayer in the Western Wall, gaze at the gilded Dome of the Rock, light a candle at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. And haggle (you must haggle!) in the markets.
Start at the ancient port of Jaffa. Watch trawlers bring in their catch then shop in the delightful flea market and quaint jewellery shops. Don’t miss the Nalagaat Center, a blind-and-deaf theatre and restaurant where meals are served in pitch black. The Museum of Art houses masterful works from Picasso, Matisse and Gaugin.
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