Founded in 1909 as a small Jewish settlement on the outskirts of the ancient port city of Jaffa, Tel Aviv’s growth quickly outpaced the older city. The two cities incorporated in 1950, soon after the establishment of the state of Israel. The second-largest economy in the Arab world behind Dubai, Tel Aviv is now a thriving cultural, performing arts and economic center. Because many foreign governments don’t recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, numerous foreign embassies are also located in the city.
Tel Aviv is one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the Middle East. Dubbed “the city that never sleeps” and “the party city,” it offers a youthful energy and an active night life. Tourists flock to its miles of sandy beaches to enjoy the sun and water. It’s also the greenest city in Israel, with electric car charging stations and an extensive bike-sharing program. Gan HaHashmal (“Electricity Garden”), a former power station repurposed as a public park, now features cafes, bars, clubs and shops, and is a popular destination within the city.
Tel Aviv is one of the most LGBT-friendly cities in the region, with a feel similar to San Francisco or Sydney. Its annual pride parade is the most popular in Asia, and it hosts an LGBT film festival. With its many restored historical neighborhoods, parks, and cultural attractions, the city provides more to do and see than any traveler can possible experience in a single visit.
Must see: The White City neighborhood is the largest collection of Bauhaus-style buildings in the world. It was constructed largely by German Jews who emigrated to the city in the 1930s, fleeing the rise of Nazism.
Lodging: Hotel Montefiore–This boutique hotel, one of the oldest in Israel, offers 12 unique rooms, each of which features period furniture and large windows for a spectacular view of the city. Each room also displays the work of a different Israeli artist.
Cuisine: Israeli cuisine, which incorporates elements of traditional Jewish and regional Arab dishes, is well represented in the city, which is renowned for its culinary scene. Tel Aviv also boasts an exceptionally high concentration of sushi restaurants and a variety of innovative ice cream shops.
Ground Transportation: While its extensive bus system is an excellent way to see the city, Tel-O-Fun, a bike-sharing program, makes it easy to rent a bicycle and explore by cruising along more than 60 miles of bike paths. The city is generally flat, which makes cycling easy and convenient.
Packing Tips: Insect repellant is a must. And be sure to bring your beach wear, including a pair of shoes that can be easily rinsed–the sand can be scorching in the summer.
Recommended Books: Amos Oz’s A Tale of Love and Darkness is an autobiographical account of the author’s growing up, first in British-occupied Palestine and then in the young state of Israel. Oz is one of the most well-known and widely translated Israeli authors.
Currency: The Israeli new shekel is the local currency.
Calling Code Israel: 972
Best Travel Dates: Head to Tel Aviv in March–April or September–November to avoid the crush of summertime tourists. The city is a popular destination year round, however, so you’ll find plenty to do and decent weather whenever you decide to hop on your private jet and fly there.