Tel Aviv has been on my travel wish-list for a while and I finally had the opportunity to take some much-needed time off for a personal trip and explore the city with a couple of friends last month. We spent five days wandering through its streets, sunbathing on the golden beaches, cycling to Tel Aviv's old town, Jaffa and dining out on tasty cuisine. I took fewer photos than I usually do when travelling as I truly wanted to switch off and have a break from work and social media, but I couldn't resist snapping a few of this beautiful place. I returned to Paris marvelling at its culture, food, people, history, beaches and scenery. There's nothing like exploring new city or country - it does wonders for the soul.
Scroll down for my city guide.
I've included a few photos of Jerusalem below as we fortunately had enough time to take a day trip. We decided to take the public bus instead of hiring a guide, which was surprising easy (the huge queue of tourists and Israeli soldiers waiting for the bus is hard to miss) and made our own way around the city, which is often what I prefer to do when travelling, rather than following set directions. Jerusalem is a place like no other, you can almost feel the history emanating from its stones. Witnessing prayers, as well as making our own at the Western Wall and inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre was an incredibly humbling experience. I'm not religious, but I have faith and an enormous respect for religion and beliefs, so having the opportunity to experience the melting pot of people and religions in this city was powerful. And it's beautiful to behold - from the sand-coloured cobbled stones to the golden dome of the Mosque that sparkles in the sunlight, it's incredibly photogenic. For a panoramic view of the city, make sure you visit the Mount of Olives.
TEL AVIV CITY GUIDE:
One thing I noticed about Israeli food, is there's a lot of garlic. Now I like garlic, although I don't thoroughly enjoy waking up in the morning with last night's garlic sauce taste in my mouth.. but when in Rome! So be warned, if you don't like garlic, you better steer clear of all the sauces!
- Romano - owned by the Eyal Shani, the chef behind one of my Paris favourites (and Tel Aviv original) Miznon, they serve up similar fare to Miznon, but with a buzzier atmosphere and cocktails - expect pittas, roasted cauliflower and grilled octopus
- Nanuchka - is a vegan restaurant. Now I'm not usually a vegan food fan, but the food here was inspired and seriously tasty! Even the vegan shawarma gave the real one a run for its money. Oh and the cocktails are great too.
- Brunch at Hotel Montefiore - if you happen to be in town on a Saturday, I suggest you go eat here. Saturday means Shabbat, which means most places are closed during the day. Luckily Hotel Montefiore is a great options especially for foreigners who have no family home to go to for a good dose of (what I imagine), home cooking.
- Port Sa’id - our first furore into Israeli food on the night we arrived. It was the perfect place to start, busy, buzzy, good music and great Israeli tapas-style food
- Bicicletta - this was probably my favourite dining experience, as most of the restaurant is outside in a garden. You need to walk down the side of the building and round the back to access it and make sure you book in advance (a day should do it). It reminded me a little of The Ruined Garden restaurant in Fez that I went to a couple of years ago.
- Cafe Yom Tov - is a great option for Breakfast or lunch. We ordered the avocado on toast (which was huge) and French toast. All were delicious and they do good coffee and fresh orange juice. Bag a table outside if there's space.
- Miznon - sadly I didn't get over to the original. It was a toss up between Miznon and Romano and I wanted to try the latter as it was their newest spot and better for an evening out. But I'll certainly be heading straight there when I go back.
- Bread Story - a good place for breakfast, they do good coffee and as you might guess from the name, lots of bready things. I had the pesto filled croissant sandwich. Israel does surprisingly good croissants!
- Bucke cafe - we didn't make it here, but it was recommended by various locals as a good breakfast/lunch spot
- Cafe Puaa - we tried to go here, but it was full and there was a long wait, so it's on the list for next time, but again it was highly recommended to me a few times.
- Market House Hotel - we only peeked in at the interior, which was very aesthetically pleasing.
- Milk - serving up good breakfast things & coffee in Jaffa
- Cafelix - touted the best coffee in Tel Aviv, it was indeed very good and had Japanese/ Kyoto vibes about it.
DRINK / DANCE
- Teder.fm - is more of an outside bar located right under Romano, so you could kill two birds with one stone, but they also serve the best pizza I've had in a very long time. The pizzas come in a huge box with drizzled spicy and garlic sauces - which of course I gobbled up and then spent the rest of the evening wondering just how bad my breath must be!
- The Prince - a fun rooftop bar that is probably best visited late afternoon, early evening
- Speakeasy - serving up the best spicy margarita cocktails I've had outside of New York (or my own apartment). I'm a connoisseur when it comes to margaritas (it's my favourite cocktail) and these were surprisingly excellent. So too was the smoky margarita.
- Herzl St 16 - good casual bar
- Bordel - meaning 'mess' (or brothel) in French, this place seemed like the perfect place on our last night and it was. There was dancing on the bars, fire-blowing and swinging from the ceiling (literally) - the staff put on a quite a show. Definitely one to visit if you're up for dancing!
- Carmel Market - Tel Aviv's largest market, it opened in 1920 and sells everything from fresh fruit to clothes, electronics and jewellery. Wander through to enjoy the hustle and bustle.
- Jaffa - a former port city, this is Tel Aviv's oldest part of town, dating back to 7500 BC! Purchase a freshly squeezed juice from one of the many fruit stalls, wander through its narrow streets, visit the market (great for trinkets and Levis vintage jeans), the church and lunch near the market. I suggest hiring one of the local city bikes and cycling over.
- Bauhaus Center Tel Aviv and architecture - the city is full of beautiful Bauhaus buildings (over 4,000 to be exact) that were constructed between 1920 and 1940, thanks to the architects who moved to Israel from Germany to escape the Nazis. You can find most of them in White City - now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A few of the best are: Bruno House, 3 Strauss Street by Ze'ev Haller / 61 Rothschild Boulevard by Salomon Gepstein / Rubinsky House, 65 Shenkin Street by Abraham Markusfeld