With the arrival of the Christmas and New Year holidays, also comes Gio’s birthday. After having chosen Russia over Israel a few years ago, it was time to visit this long-awaited destination. Exhausted from the past year, we decide to enjoy everything in peace and relaxation.
We land in Tel Aviv on Shabbat but, even if the whole country stops on Fridays, we manage to reach the city center on board a shared taxi.
The Brown Beach Hotel is located a few steps from the beach and is surrounded by tall skyscrapers and some older buildings. We get a little upgrade without even asking for it. The room is delightful, furnished with colored wallpaper, an ocher velvet sofa, a white marble table, a jacuzzi, and a small terrace from which you can glimpse the sea.
It feels like you’ve landed in Miami as there are large buildings lining the beach, palm trees framing the sky, and locals running, swimming, and exercising in the open air. The sun and the saltiness make the temperature as fresh as spring and we are ready to enjoy it all.
We order salads, sodas, and fries sitting in an easy restaurant with a sea view. The Israeli shekel deludes us that everything is cheap but, when the bill arrives, we immediately understand that the food is no joke here. In the afternoon we take the very long walk that takes us directly to the entrance of Old Jaffa, the ancient city which, restored and well preserved, has an enchanted and maritime atmosphere.
The port is packed with people while music resounds within the yellow brick walls. Walking through the ancient alleys one can see small shops and restaurants, small windows overlooking the sea, and some hidden churches. We walk by several of them to reach the square dominated by the ancient Saint Peter Church and a garden that overlooks the ultra-modern skyline of Tel Aviv.
When the sunset begins to color the sky in shades of orange, we enjoy the show while enjoying coffee and a delicious slice of Babka, a typical braided pastry, from Silvia Cafè.
The following day we have breakfast in the hotel with an all-salty fusion menu – I’m not a lover of salty breakfasts but this one is delicious. The city is still asleep, so we stroll along the deserted beach observing the flat sea and the sun, and the skyscrapers playing with their shadows on the street. Since early in the morning the locals love to work out and we can’t help but notice that many of them are handsome.
We continue towards the small and characteristic Carmel market. Smells and colors capture us among spices, vegetables, pastries, and delicious-looking bread. Then we walk a bit to reach Rothschild Boulevard, an elegant street filled with Bauhaus buildings and striking architecture. The pedestrian street that runs through it allows people to observe the buildings in all their beauty, to observe the sinuous buildings with white and neutral tones that stand out against the blue sky. There are even trendy cloisters for takeaway coffee and small tables for lunch. The gaze gets lost in the attempt to observe all the details that tease the eye and finally capture in one photo (after another) the sharp lines that stand out against the sky of the white city.
Even the large Habima Sq. houses modern buildings and walking towards the north of the city we arrive at the Sarona Market, a truly suggestive place. One of the first European colonies in Ottoman Palestine was located in this area of the city. Today those historic places, inhabited by the Germans since 1871, have become renovated shops and cafes faithful to their origins, they are surrounded by very tall skyscrapers, flower gardens, and pots growing various plants. A small contemporary oasis. The market that gives the place its name is one of a kind in the city and explores cuisines from all over the world in a super contemporary setting.
In the late afternoon we move to the Florentin area, the hipster area of the city, where in the evening the pubs enliven the atmosphere with live music and little places to relax in company. There’s no shortage of pop culture-inspired graffiti in this area either. Not far from here is the Flea Market where shopkeepers sell furniture, local crafts, and vintage clothes.
In the evening we always choose the road that takes us to the lively Dizengoff Sq. because it is full of restaurants to choose from and is always very busy. Although the cost is not cheap, every night we choose a different restaurant to eat at. We particularly like the Buti & Co cafe with its sandwiches and salads that combine Italian and Israeli tastes.
On the last day in the city, we dedicate ourselves to the Museum of Art, a multifaceted structure that rises from a square surrounded by sand-colored buildings. The museum houses international art in its large white-fronted rooms, divided into two adjoining wings. The exterior design is a mix of late 50s modernist architecture, 70s brutalism, and 90s aesthetics.
In the evening we reach the old port which has been redeveloped with co-working spaces, flagship stores, restaurants, and luxury hotels with private beaches. Maybe it’s the atmosphere of the sunset, it’s the palm trees in contrast with the sky or the forced union between sea and concrete, but it seems like an enchanted place. The light breeze fills us with peace as we walk watching old Jaffa shine from the opposite bank of the city.
The following day, after breakfast, Jerusalem awaits us. And we are ready to dive back in time and history.
Next > Jerusalem
FLYING: With Ryanair, you arrive at Ben Gurion airport. In about 30 minutes you can reach the center by metro.
SLEEPING: The cost of good quality hotels is around €130 per night, and the Brown Beach Hotel offers an excellent breakfast included in the price.
GETTING AROUND: With the metro card, you can use the buses. We walked around the whole city because everything can be reached in a maximum of about 30/40 minutes on foot.
EATING: There are many trendy and nice places to have lunch or dinner, and the cost is rigorously high for what you will order. 45/50€ are to be counted for a sandwich with a drink for two people.