Sarona is a newly renovated complex in the heart of Tel Aviv, originally a German Templar Colony, the site sits at the heart of what is a new central business district of the city, with offices and apartments surrounding the beautifully landscaped complex, in which 33 original Templar buildings dating up to more than 140 years, have been painstakingly restored, and today house boutique stores, artist galleries, quaint cafes, and some of the city’s hottest restaurants and bars. Opened in early 2014, Sarona has quickly gained a reputation as one of Tel Aviv’s hottest spots and will continue to expand in the coming years.
History of Sarona
Sarona when it was just a suburb of Jaffa
Sarona was established over 140 years ago by German Templars, Christians who headed to Holy Land and created a ‘colony’ similar to those found in Haifa, Jerusalem, and elsewhere across Israel (Beit Lechem in the Galilee, for example). The Templar Colony, established before even the first construction of Tel Aviv took place, became a leisure and commerce destination until in the 1930’s a number of the Templars became engaged in activities with the Nazi Party. The British, who controlled the land at the time, declared the German Templars ‘enemy nationals’ following the outbreak of World War 2, and the Templars were exiled to Germany and Australia.
With the Templars gone, the British occupied the colony, fortifying it, and creating there a military base which was attacked numerous times by the Jewish underground groups in the pre-State era. The British handed the Sarona compound to the Jewish leaders in December 1947, and the camp was renamed “Machane Yehoshua” (Joshua’s Camp).
Following the Establishment of the State of Israel, in May 1948, the complex housed some of the original government ministries (Jerusalem was declared Israel’s capital, however, it sat under siege) until December 1949. David Ben Gurion, Israel’s first Prime Minister, renamed the Sarona, the “Kirya” (The Compound), and from then, until its renovation and reopening, it housed the headquarters of the Israel Defence Forces who still occupy the northern part of the Kirya.
Restoration of Sarona
The Tel Aviv Municipality approved the restoration of Sarona in 2006, an ambitious project which involved the total restoration of 33 buildings, including the total relocation of five buildings in order to expand a major road. Almost all of the buildings were successfully restored and the unique and charming character features which they embody were brought back to their former glory.
The Sarona was planned to be a new central business district for the city of Tel Aviv, and the Center of Israel, sitting close to the main north-south road and rail arteries, easily accessible from all directions. The newly renovated complex opened in early 2014, with further stages opening over the coming years.
The renovated Sarona. Image PR
The renovated Sarona. Image Timna Shetrit
Sarona has quickly become one of the hottest destinations in Tel Aviv, with the restored buildings housing an amazing array of boutique stores, and eating and drinking destinations, as well as a visitor center documenting the history and restoration of Sarona, and beautifully landscaped gardens. In the coming months and years, the northern part of Sarona (still in government use) will be renovated, and a large culinary market will open on the southern side of the complex.
The shopping at Sarona includes luxury brands such as Tommy Hilfiger (who have a large flagship store in the complex), Fred Perry, G-Star, as Liebeskind, as well as local fashion brands, upscale jewelers, design stores, beauty products, and other luxury goods. The complex has a number of art galleries.
Sarona’s food and drink offering is incredibly diverse. Among the most notable destinations are the Jajo Wine Bar, which sits in an underground cave, constructed as a wine press by the Templars, and Branja and Friends, a relaxed resto-bar with a selection of high-quality tapas dishes. Also sitting within the complex are cafes, burger bars, Italian restaurants, and a selection of bars and pubs. The Little Italy restaurant also rents picnic baskets which can be eaten on the grass lawns in the center of the complex.