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Sophisticated Israel

Written by  Maxine Albert

Akiva Weiss, recognized as the founding father of Tel Aviv, had a vision that it would one day become Israel’s New York City. This booming economic, artistic and cultural center is proof positive that his prophecy has come to pass. Driving along its Mediterranean coastline, with cafes, palm trees and luxury hotels fronting sandy beaches, I saw soaring buildings that were not there when I visited two years ago, and new ones being built. Tel Aviv’s star is definitely on the rise.

This vibrant city is attracting both the young smart set and well-traveled-sophisticates. It’s also gay friendly. Visitors can now choose from an ever- expanding variety of chic restaurants, outdoor cafes, art galleries, fashionable boutiques and luxe hotels. 

Tel Aviv is eminently walkable. Stroll the tree lined promenade on charming Rothschild Boulevard, like New York’s 5th Avenue, with striking architecture and posh cafes where the glamorous gather after dusk. The so-called White City district has gotten a facelift with its newly renovated Bauhaus buildings designated a World Heritage Site.  In picturesque, refashioned Neve Tzedek, people socialize in cool European style coffee houses by day and party at swank bars and dance venues by night. Don’t miss Suzanne Dellal Centre’s beautiful courtyard and lively Shabazi Street. Chic boutiques, cafes and stylish restaurants are flocking to this ‘in’ yuppie neighborhood. 

Visit the newly remodeled Tel Aviv Museum of Art and the sleek Holon Design Museum. Tuesdays and Fridays the action is at the lively art and crafts bazaar on Nachalat Binyamin Street for artisanal jewelry and handicrafts. For au courant lsraeli and international designers, head to fashionable Dizengoff Street. After sunbathing and a dip in the sea, cocktailing or dining in a seaside cafe with music, is the perfect way to view the golden sunset. Top it off with a lovely stroll along the
beachfront promenade. 

Called the city that never stops, Tel Aviv’s nightlife is renowned. With plenty of 24 hour cafes, piano bars, jazz and Middle Eastern venues, and hot spots like Nanuchka, Imperial Cocktail Bar, Cafe Europa and Anna Lou Lou, you can drink and dance the night away with the beautiful people. The Israelis know how to have fun. 

The ancient port of Jaffa enchants with its exotic ambiance. Wander the reconstructed old city with quaint shops on winding cobblestoned streets and alleyways named after zodiac signs and the must see Ilana Goor museum/shop. The new hot district known as the Flea Market, like Manhatan’s Soho, is bustling with creative types, art galleries, high-end eateries, and one-of-a-kind boutiques and yes, a fleamarket. Check out the Vintage Gallery, Zielinski & Rozen customized perfumery and voguish ‘L’Atelier.’ Grab a bite at local favorite Cafe Puaa and enjoy the scene. 

Where to Stay 

Dan Tel Aviv: Ideally located overlooking the Mediterranean and the beach, this 5 star ultra stylish hotel boasts 280 luxuriously appointed, spacious rooms and suites with sea views, Jacuzzis and balconies. Guests enjoy indoor and outdoor pools, excellent club lounge, newly redone lobby with floor to ceiling windows, and newly opened fine dining Hayarkon 99 Restaurant. Dan Hotels, the largest luxury hotel group in Israel, with 14 deluxe hotels, also has the Dan Panorama Tel Aviv, overlooking the seafront promenade.

InterContinental David Tel Aviv: With views of the Mediterranean, minutes from the beach and historic Old Jaffa, this stunning 5 star offers 555 expansive elegant, contemporary rooms and suites with sea views and luxurious bathrooms. The property boasts a large swimming pool with sun deck, the new ‘La Spa’ for customized pampering, exceptional international gourmet cuisine at signature restaurant Aubergine and a super helpful, knowledgeable concierge.

Alma Hotel & Lounge: For clients who prefer luxury boutique hotels, the new Alma in the White City district enchants. It features 15 stunning rooms and suites with balconies, each gorgeously decorated with bespoke furnishings plus cuisine by star chef Yonatan Roshfeld at Alma Lounge.   

Yafo Creative Residences: For those wanting truly authentic experiences, creative travelers can connect and collaborate with local insiders and artists in this newly opened space in Jaffa with 4 stylish rooms with terraces. Guests receive access to weekly art and leisure-focused events, screenings and exhibitions as well as a network of artists and creators.

Set to open this December is the highly anticipated posh Ritz Carlton Herzliya, in north Tel Aviv overlooking the Mediterranean, with kosher Herbert Samuel Restaurant and famed chef Yonatan Roshfeld. The fashionable W Tel Aviv will debut in Jaffa in 2015.


While the holy sites of the world’s great religions continue to draw millions, Jerusalem is fast becoming a trendy destination. A wave of new stylish restaurants, bars, boutiques, galleries and lively nightlife has the chic-ness quotient on the upswing. It’s not surprising that I would run into pop star Paula Abdul in a snazzy Jerusalem restaurant.  “I’m so happy, I’ve dreamt of coming here all my life,“ she gushed. The options for entertainment, socializing and dining now reach far beyond the lively outdoor cafes lining Jaffa Street and the Ben Yehuda promenade. Upscale wine bars and restaurants like Zuni, Cavalier and Chakara, open until all hours, have sprung up throughout the city. The new fashionable outdoor Mamilla Mall, with boutiques by Israel’s star designer Ronen Chen and others, affords many opportunities to shop in style - not to mention cool bars and bustling cafes. 

You can spend days visiting the museums. I was dazzled by the newly inaugurated Israel Museum with renewed galleries, new architecture and a rich program of exhibitions, events and activities. In addition to the wondrous Dead Sea Scrolls, you can see Picassos, Kadinskys, Van Goghs, Warhols, exquisite Mayan artifacts, fantastic collections from around the globe, striking jewelry and fashions.

After a long day of sightseeing, kick back at the swank Mirror Bar inside the new chic Mamilla Hotel with a resident DJ. Head to the glamorous roof top lounge for spectacular views and romantic dining. Journalists and glitterati cocktail at the elegant American Colony Hotel’s atmospheric cellar bar. 

King David Jerusalem: Located in the heart of Jerusalem, this legendary 5 star hotel frequented by world leaders and celebrities, strikes the perfect balance of elegant luxury and old world glamour. A total of 236 sumptuously decorated, posh rooms and suites with terraces offer glorious views of the old city. This grand hotel boasts a stunning lobby, lovely gardens, swimming pools and La Regence Restaurant. Dan Jerusalem, Panorama and Boutique, also in the city, are part of the Dan luxury hotel group.

Mamilla Hotel: Jerusalem’s newest luxury hotel is attracting the young, fashionable, trendy set. This slick property with walls of limestone and minimalist furnishings features 194 rooms and suites, fabulously chic lobby, Mirror Bar, Rooftop lounge & restaurant with panoramic views and Akasha Spa with watsu.

Set to open in 2014 is the luxurious Waldorf Astoria Jerusalem. Visit El Al flies from major cities to Israel.


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