Tel Aviv is a bustling, cosmopolitan beach-side city that surpasses any food scene or nightlife on the planet. English is spoken everywhere, public transportation is readily available, and trips to Jerusalem are just a stone's throw away. I am a pretty avid traveler and can confidently say that Tel Aviv is one of my favorite cities in the world. The laid-back beach culture brings together some of the world's best DJs, chefs, designers, and artists to create a magical scene comprised of sea, sun, and sensational experiences. If you haven't made your way to Israel yet, I suggest you do so soon. Based on my summer 2023 adventures in this striking city, below are my recommendations for where to stay and eat when you visit.
There are countless outstanding hotels in Tel Aviv that serve every budget and lifestyle. Although the Renoma Hotel is not inexpensive, I selected it as the best place to stay for several reasons:
its proximity to the beach
located in the heart of the city, walking everywhere is a sinch
the service is superior - the staff go out of their way to welcome you and make sure that everything you desire is taken care of
complimentary beach tents, towels, games, and even a cooler filled with water and beers are set up for you on the beach
complimentary bikes are available to help make exploring the city easy
a daily box of homemade pastries and freshly squeezed orange juice is delivered to your door
one of the city's best restaurants, Bar 51, is located in the lobby
the rooms are spacious and some include oversized balconies
Renoma Hotel is stylish with a touch of glam, yet unpretentious. We've stayed in many hotels in Israel during multiple visits; no other hotel competes with the level of service guests receive while staying here.
pros: location, exceptional service, great restaurant, stylish rooms
cons: lobby isn't as impressive as it can be
Best New Fine Dining Restaurant: A Restaurant
Chef Yuval Ben Neriah brings a superior level of creativity into creating a masterful culinary experience. We had one of our best meals, ever, at A Restaurant. The "couples tasting menu" allows diners to select two items from each category: bites, firsts, sushi, mains, and dessert. Each dish has a modern interpretation of Japanese cuisine (think tuna spaghetti with blue fin tartare, white nikiri, yuzu, ponzu, brown butter, pickled carrots, and furikake) that kept us on our toes and left us giddy in anticipation for the courses to follow.
pros: spectacular Japanese-inspired decor, great service, a dining experience you will never forget
cons: reservations are hard to come by
must order: "Pillow" (koji-buckwheat foam, fish tartar, mushroom garum, macadamia garum, egg yolk cream, and charred leak), "Carpaccio" (Netherland kingfish, black yuzu, blueberries, crispy rice, and shiso), and "Butterflied whole fish" (sea bream from Greece, shio koji, ginger, pickled shiso, Turkish spinach, and beurre blanc
Best Falafel: HaKosem
No visit to Tel Aviv is complete without a pita stuffed with falafel, that purposefully overflows with tahini. Ask any Tel Aviv local where to find the best falafel and you'll unanimously be directed to HaKosem (translation: The Magician).
pros: tastiest falafel in Tel Aviv, a self-serve sauce bar, great schnitzel cons: absolutely none
must order: a falafel sandwich with hummus, tahini, salad, and homemade spicy salad
Best Restaurants for Dinner:
1: Bar 51
Located in the Renoma Hotel, Bar 51 serves a memorable dinner using seasonable ingredients to create mouthwatering recipes that are fresh, innovative, and light. Chef Moshiko Gamlieli, the former chef of the acclaimed Mona in Jerusalem, does a fantastic job of offering a menu comprised of a variety of vegetables, seafood, and meat that are packed with tremendous flavors.
pros: family style menu encourages you to try many delicious dishes
cons: outdoor seating is along a busy road and gets too loud with street traffic
must order: potato and mascarpone agnolotti in sage butter, tuna bluefish sashimi topped with yogurt and horseradish
Chef Eyal Shani is the mastermind behind forty restaurants across the globe and three other of my favorite Tel Aviv restaurants: Port Sa'id, HaSalon, Miznon. He is well-known for using seasonal ingredients and is famous for his grilled cauliflower, which I cannot replicate despite how seemingly simple it seems. The extensive menu is jam-packed with seasonal veggies: fennel, eggplant, green beans, broccoli, corn, sweet potato, zucchini, spinach, etc. These are perfectly combined with a protein, or served on their own, grilled on an open flame, and served on butcher paper which showcases incredible opportunities when relying on simplicity and an open flame to deliver incredible results.
pros: extremely fresh ingredients, lots of vegetarian options, open kitchen
cons: patio seating can get noisy due to traffic
must order: grilled cauliflower, whole sea bass prepared on an open flame, free hand dessert for the table (a selection of desserts picked by the chef)
Best Restaurants for Breakfast:
Israel does breakfast like no other country and below are my three top restaurants to start your day with.
Breakfast is only served on Saturdays and Sundays at this elegant, new restaurant found in the lobby of the lux R48 Hotel and Garden situated on one of Tel Aviv's most bustling streets, Rothschild. Your $60 breakfast tab comes with a carefully curated cocktail, a divine spread of cheeses, pastries, bread, and jams, a main dish, and of course unlimited coffee and juices.
pros: tasteful interior, a sprawling spread of freshly baked goods, you won't be rushed - the pace of the courses is perfectly timed
cons: only one bathroom for the entire restaurant, albeit it's one very cool bathroom must order: eggs en cocotte with charred eggplant and tomato matbucha
The Norman is a lux hotel in the super chic neighborhood of Neveh Tzedek. It offers a couple of superb dining options, and breakfast at Alena is a staple when visiting Tel Aviv. The prix-fix menu starts your day with freshly squeezed juice, a plethora of homemade baked goods, an assortment of cheeses, organic veggies, and a selection of nine delectable main dishes to choose from.
pros: located in a stunning hotel that is situated in a great shopping district
cons: at $45 per person, it is a bit pricey, but certainly worth it
must order: bruschetta with avocado and poached eggs
Tucked behind the Sarona Market (think Chelsea Market in NYC), lies one of my favorite breakfast spots in all of Tel Aviv. I've probably eaten here five times on five different visits and never get FOMO for not checking out another breakfast hot spot instead. This casual eatery serves fantastic fare in an expansive space with an open kitchen. After dining, it's always fun to stroll over to Sarona and check out all the vendors, nibble on something sweet, and stock up on some tasty snacks to savor throughout the day. The Sabich dish is outstanding; loaded with fried eggplant, a browned egg, vegetable latkes, green tahini, and tomato salsa.
pros: reservations with two or more weeks' notice are not hard to come by
cons: the red shakshuka is not as good as it use to be
must order: the "breakfast tray for two"- a large tray stacked with salads, a basket of baked goods, cured salmon, and local cheeses.
Best Casual Beach Clubs
The vibe and views of this beach club are unbeatable. Sunset is the time to visit Louillie for great cocktails, island music, plush seating, and the chance to witness Tel Aviv's magnificent golden hour. pros: trendy setting with beautiful decor overlooking the ocean, great ambiance
cons: the walk to the bathroom can be a trek, depending on where you sit, but at least it is super clean!
must order: a spiked limonana (mint lemonade), Israel's "national drink"
2: Gazoz Beach
If you've been to Tulum and like its boho-chic feel, you'll love a late afternoon drink at Gazoz Beach as soon as you peel yourself out of the warm Mediterranean Sea and make your way back to your hotel. The onsite DJ mixes Middle Eastern Funk tunes adding to the clubby scene which is loaded with people of all ages hanging out in their bathing suits with their feet in the sand.
pros: fun, lively atmosphere with great tunes
cons: the bathrooms are public bathrooms, and the floor is covered in sand and water
must order: surprisingly their hummus is fantastic