Jeannine Williamson spent two days in Israel's coolest city
A buzzing 24-hour city with a fantastic nightlife, beautiful beaches and laid-back cafe culture, Tel Aviv is only four-and-a-half hours from the UK and has year-round sunshine.
Called the White City after the pale buildings in the Unesco-listed Bauhaus quarter, the cultural capital of Israel is a diverse city with distinct districts and being flat, it’s easy to get around on foot.
It is also widely regarded as the most tolerant and gay-friendly spot in the Middle East, and has great nightlife, shopping and sunshine.
As the main airline gateway Tel Aviv is the natural starting point for a wider tour of Israel, but it works equally well as a short-break destination.
Start with the oldest part of town first. Jaffa is the ancient Arab port at the southern end of Tel Aviv’s sweeping golden beach and tourists love to wander around the charming labyrinth of winding streets lined with shops.
Look out for Adlers in Hatsorfim Street, a cool cross between a florist and art gallery with a mountain of peanuts to nibble as you browse. Then find your sign of the zodiac on the wishing bridge, gaze out to sea and see if your dreams come true.
On Wednesdays free English-speaking guided tours of this area set off from the clock tower and no advance booking is necessary.11.00:
The streets east of the clock tower are packed with all kinds of quirky collectables and lead to the jam-packed flea market, open every day except Saturday. Search through the junk to find some hidden treasures and be prepared to haggle.13.00:
A stroll away is Dr Shawarma, behind the entrance of narrow Yehoshua Ben Prahya Street off Yefet Street.
Dealing in meals rather than medicine, the Israeli lunchtime staple of meat carved off a spit and stuffed into pita bread with salad will cost about £4.50 with a drink.14.00:
A 10 to 15-minute stroll leads to Hatachana, one of Tel Aviv’s newest attractions. Last year the old railway station was transformed into an attractive shopping and leisure area with street entertainers and places to eat and drink.
Here you’ll find Made in TLV, a boutique selling souvenirs made by locals, but the products – including clocks, belts, candles and design books – are about as far removed as it’s possible to get from the usual tourist tat.16.00:
Around the corner is Neve Tzedek, Tel Aviv’s first Jewish quarter and now a leafy, arty neighbourhood to stroll around before heading back to base to freshen up.20.00:
The regenerated Tel Aviv Port, north of the city, is a great place to spend the evening with shops, bars and restaurants stretched along the boardwalk.
Try Boya for plates of starters to share, such as calamari, aubergine with goats cheese and deep-fried cauliflower (nicer than it sounds) and Mediterranean-influenced main courses.
Start the day with a walk along Rothschild Boulevard, the elegant main thoroughfare.
This area is home to the world’s largest concentration of distinctive Bauhaus buildings, designed in modernist style in the 1930s, that led to Tel Aviv being called the White City.11.30:
Have an indulgent break at Max Brenner’s Chocolate Bar on Rothschild Boulevard. Coffee is served but it’s hard to resist the hot chocolate drinks, milkshakes and other sweet confections at this chocoholics’ paradise.
Then make tracks to Carmel Market, a 15-minute walk away, and open every day except Saturday. The city’s biggest marketplace is one crowded narrow street lined with colourful stalls piled high with exotic spices, bread, fruit and vegetables, clothes and souvenirs.
For a sweet souvenir stop at the Halva-Center, where vendors allow you to try a slice before you buy.13.00:
An Israeli institution is falafel, deep-fried ground chickpea balls, found on every street corner and a great for lunch on the go.14.00:
Chill out with an afternoon on the long crescent of beach running from the city all the way to Jaffa, a great place to relax before a big night on the town.20.00:
Tel Aviv’s nightlife is legendary and if you’ve got the energy you can party all night.
Start or end the evening at the Dixie Grill Bar, Totzeret Haaretz, which is open 24/7, or the sophisticated Social Club bar and bistro combo off Rothschild Boulevard.
Close to the latter is lively Nanuchka in Lilienblum Street, with an outdoor tented area, and you can pump up the volume at Abraxas, which is popular for music and late night drinking.