48 Hours In Tel Aviv

view of the Tel-Aviv public beach on Mediterranean sea (Photo credit: Aleksandar Todorovic/Shutterstock)
view of the Tel-Aviv public beach on Mediterranean sea (Photo credit: Aleksandar Todorovic/Shutterstock)

Israelis are well known for their twisted sense of humour. They like to say, “Jerusalem is for praying; Tel Aviv is for playing.” That’s an accurate description of this stylish seaside urban playground known for its fabulous urban beach, non-stop party scene and fashionable haunts.

What to see

The beach, of course! Perched on the Mediterranean Sea, Tel Aviv has gorgeous, long stretches of sand. Gordon and Frishman beaches attract an equal mix of locals and tourists (staying at the big-name hotels nearby). You’ll be in awe of the bevy of beautiful bronzed bodies walking on the sand. The buff physiques can be credited to the compulsory military service for young people. (For men, it’s 36 months and for women, 24 months.) Now you might start to understand why some of the best swimsuit models (like Bar Refaeli and Esti Ginzburg) come from Israel.

Venture a bit outside the city to the fantastic Design Museum in Holon. Created by architect Ron Arad, it’s made up of giant rings of steel and it’s among the coolest looking buildings anywhere.

Where to get a history lesson

Bordering Tel Aviv, Jaffa is a picturesque port city that is a nice break from the urban hum. Jaffa is ridiculously ancient. Archaelogical findings hint that it was inhabited around 7,500 B.C. Its natural harbour made it a key spot for military defense. Take a stroll through Jaffa’s streets, visit the local flea market and people watch over lunch.

Where to eat

You’ll find that Middle Eastern staples like kabobs and falafels are inexpensive and plentiful. They’re great when you just want to grab and go (couple them with a glass of fresh squeeze pomegranate juice), but treat yourself to one of the stellar eateries in the city like Herbert Samuel. The menu shows off global influences in dishes like black risotto, hot and spicy Goa oysters and Calcutta orange BBQ ribs. For good local cuisine, head to Social Club, a casual eatery with awesome seafood choices like grilled calamari, paired with fava bean salad and tahini (sesame seed paste), or tuna tartar, kicked up with a spicy tomato salad and coriander.

What to buy

If you’re looking for souvenirs not of the cookie-cutter variety, head to the Dizengoff Centre where you’ll find stores specializing in local designs for fashion and accessories. Vintage is hot, too, so snag a skinny tie from the 1960s when it was hot the first time around. For your foodie friends, pick up bottles of local olive oil or wine. Israel has some of the best red wines on the planet. Most are consumed there, so very few end up in our liquor stores. For your mom, sister or girlfriend, bring home packages of Dead Sea bath salts and body scrub, found at super cheap in the Bezalel Market.

Where to party

Don’t even think about going to a club before 11 p.m. The action doesn’t start until midnight at most places. Spend your time beforehand having a late dinner or sitting on a patio at one of the bars along Rothschild Boulevard. In that hood, you’ll also find White City, the nickname for area home to more than 4,000 minimalist Bauhaus buildings (circa 1919-1933), recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. Or sip your way through Israeli wines and Goldstar beers at Nana in the trendy Neveh Zedek neighbourhood. Then head to raucous, glitzy nightclubs like TLV or Maxim. Top DJs from around the world come here to spin. Go ahead and chat up the locals. Most Israelis seem to be introverted so they are happy to give you their views on everything from what you’re wearing to the hornet’s nest that is Middle East politics.

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Michele Sponagle

Canadian journalist Michele Sponagle is a prolific creator of lifestyle editorial, from travel to style, from relationships to food trends. She has been there and done that in more than 60 countries — and still counting. She has contributed to most of Canada’s leading media outlets and racked up more than 10 National Magazine Award nominations and one win from the Travel Media Association of Canada for best family feature.

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