Jerusalem may have the gravitas, but Tel Aviv has the fun. This Mediterranean city—a.k.a. The Bubble—is remaking itself as a hub of progressive art, ambitious cuisine, high-end shopping and matkot by the sea.
Author Joe Keohane Photography Ronen Goldman
DAY THREE Today is Shabbat, so Tel Aviv is unusually quiet, making this a perfect time for a walk. You start by heading south along the beach toward Neve Tzedek, the first Jewish neighborhood to be built outside the walls of Jaffa, in 1887 (though it remained part of Jaffa). Today it’s the trendiest, artiest neighborhood in the city. You stroll the leafy streets, past design shops, restaurants and late-Ottoman-era homes before settling in at Tazza d’Oro, on the eastern edge of the neighborhood, for a cup of coffee.
From here, you amble along Ahad Ha’am into Noga, another creative hub. Crisscrossing the peaceful, tree-shaded streets, you happen upon Bookworm, a pretty bookstore and café, and pick up a volume of short stories by Tel Aviv literary light Etgar Keret. You briefly wander along Shenkin Street, the city’s toniest shopping strip, then head west until you hit the Yemenite Quarter, home of the famous Carmel Market, in which everything from fresh produce to luggage is peddled at a furious rate and deafening volume. By now you’ve worked up a hunger, and are in the mood for hummus. You ask an elderly couple for a recommendation and they walk you several blocks to their favorite stand, only to find it’s closed for Shabbat. The wife apologizes profusely, but you tell her not to worry. “But what will you eat?” she frets.
Following the husband’s advice, you make for Hummus Mashawa, a renowned Arab-run establishment (meaning it’s open). The menu is in Hebrew, but the waitress guides you through it. You order the house hummus, ground to order, served hot, topped with crushed, spiced fava beans and accompanied by hot sauce and mekhalel (pickled) veggies. It’s nourishing and flavorful, and, finished with a cup of strong coffee, costs about six dollars.
Next stop is the Tel Aviv Museum of Art. You enter through the old wing, passing under a mural by Roy Lichtenstein, and explore the formidable collection, with works by Klimt, Pollock and Kandinsky. In the museum’s erratic, angular Herta and Paul Amir Building, you check out a fascinating exhibit titled “The Museum Presents Itself,” which plots the history of Israeli art, from the pastoral scenes intended to convince people to relocate here to the more jarring political pieces of the modern era.
After a lazy dip at the beach, you point your feet north to the Tel Aviv Port, a new development best known for the Port Market and the Tel Aviv Farmers Market. Here you find Kitchen Market, a restaurant that overlooks the Port Market and draws most of its ingredients from it. Dinner is a mind-blowing marriage of locavorism and molecular gastronomy: corn foam consommé with mussels and shrimp; porcini crème brûlée with bresaola (spiced, air-cured beef); warm terrine of slow-cooked lamb with crushed chestnuts; and duck breast served with pickled cherries, prosciutto and sherry sauce.
Immensely satisfied, you stroll outside to the restaurant’s wooden deck and lean against a railing over the restless sea. You stay here for a while, resisting the urge to hit the town one last time. You keep on resisting, too, right up until the moment you succumb.
Hemispheres editor in chief JOE KEOHANE is still recovering from Tel Aviv.
Area, in square miles: 19.85
Number of nightlife-sector employees: ≈100,000
Number of bars and clubs: 450
Percentage of residents under 35: 50+
Age of Tel Aviv, in years: 103
Age of Jaffa, in years: ≈3,000