While we don’t have favorite cities, our design guide for Tel Aviv is our love letter to one of the cities we most adore. Once you land in Tel Aviv and take in its cinematic beauty, be sure you don’t miss the splendor of its unique skyline. You’ll see how this thriving urban center earned the name of the White City, and its place as a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site. Originally a suburb of ancient Jaffa, it is now the bustling commercial and cultural capital of Israel. We’re here to help you make the most of your visit, and see the best of the city with our design guide to Tel Aviv.
What to See
The city is full of gorgeous sites, from historic museums and contemporary galleries to sweeping avenues filled with swaying trees and hidden fountains. Whether you’re looking to explore the city’s layered past or dive into the bustling present, it’s the perfect spot to play. Spend a morning walking the sprawling beachfront and Tayelet promenade before heading to the city to see modern marvels!
After the first wave of immigrants to Israel, a number of German-Jewish architects redefined Tel Aviv’s design. These citizens were at the heart of the Bauhaus movement and its success in the 1920’s and 30’s. Tel Aviv was the only city at the time built entirely in the International, or Bauhaus, style. It is still home to more of these unique buildings and architecture than anywhere else. Although the city is multi-hued and diverse, it more than deserves the title of the White City. These myriad works earned the coveted UNESCO designation of Outstanding Universal Value, often saved for antiquated sites.
Along with preserved buildings, there has been an ongoing effort to restore historic Bauhaus buildings. If you spot one that looks original on the bottom and modern on top, these are original buildings with a modern addition on top of the original architecture. Most of these building are protected by the municipality and designated architectural landmarks. While some have become hotels or restaurants, like the Cinema hotel at Dizengoff Square, some are still every day residences. The best way to explore Tel Aviv while learning about its design history is to join an architecture tour.
Habima Square is a popular gathering point in the city, and a beautiful one. Patrick Geddes, the master architect of all of Tel Aviv in the 1920’s, wanted Habima Square to be the city’s cultural heart. It’s in the center of a hidden garden, theaters, art galleries, and neighborhood style restaurants.
To the left is the Habima Theater, Oscar Kaufman’s Bauhaus masterpiece from the 1930’s, as well as a sculpture from Yaakov Agam of 3 stacked circles. The sculpture is often decorated for holidays and special events. It also houses the Helena Rubinstein Pavilion of Contemporary Art and the Charles Bronfman Auditorium, home of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. Both of these came to life in 1952. Habima also boasts some stunning Tel Aviv design with its sunken garden and reflecting pool. Come for a concert or opera, enjoy the sultry sun from the garden, or just take a walk through this bustling plaza.
Tel Aviv Museum of Art
Our design guide to Tel Aviv could never forget the Tel Aviv Museum of Art. This sprawling complex includes the main building on Shaul Hamelech, along with its divine restaurant Pastel and the sculpture garden. It also houses the Herta and Paul Amir Building, and the Helena Rubinstein Pavilion for Contemporary Art. Meir Dizengoff, the city’s first mayor, oversaw the building in 1932 of the “Tel Aviv Museum” with hopes of Tel Aviv becoming a cosmopolitan cultural hub. Using his connections across the globe, he secured important works by Chagall, Modigliani, Picasso, and others to build the museum’s first collection. In 1948, Israel’s Declaration of Independence was read at the museum, marking a turning point in the country’s history.
The Tel Aviv Museum of Art quickly became a playing member in the global artistic and cultural scene. Numerous cultural institutions, including the Beit Ariella Public Library, the Cameri Theater, and the Performing Arts Center, are now part of the museum complex. Modern additions mean that you can enjoy Bauhaus, Modernist, Brutalist, Postmodernist, and Digital Architecture all in one building. The collections include early pointillism by Signac, cubism by Picasso, abstract impressionism by Picasso, and modern works by local artists. We recommend giving the museum a full day to enjoy all its offerings.
Where to Eat
The White City is also one of the country’s culinary hubs. From seaside fish restaurants to upscale luxury dining experiences, every taste is catered to. If you’re looking for the best restaurants in Tel Aviv or the best vegan food in Tel Aviv, we’ve got you covered. In addition to the numerous restaurants scattered throughout the city, it’s also a vegan and vegetarian capital!
A neighborhood favorite famous for its focus on fresh fish and local seafood, HaBasta’s seasonal delicacies more than makes up for its small space. Close to the Shuk HaCarmel in the Kerem HaTeimanim, all of the ingredients in the restaurant come straight from vendors to the kitchen. Founded by Maoz Alonim, this cult favorite’s market to plate cuisine draws in visitors from all over. The quaint interior and outside seating combined with a handwritten daily menu makes HaBasta an unpretentious hidden gem. Their wine list and staff sommelier don’t hurt either!
HaShomer St 4, Tel Aviv-Yafo
OCD Tel Aviv is a major local player in small plate gastronomy that only serves a tasting menu. The 19 course meal is a total mystery, which means every dish is a delightful surprise. Under Raz Rahav, this innovative international kitchen has blossomed into a constantly in-demand dining experience. Service is impeccable, and operates like a beautifully choreographed dance. Diners sit next to the open kitchen, watching the professionals assemble seasonal produce into small works of edible art. The extensive wine list and local drinks don’t hurt the experience either. While this may not be a family-friendly experience, it’s perfect for small groups or couples looking to taste the best of Tel Aviv. We recommend you reserve in advance and remember that a portion of the meal prepaid due to the space’s limited size.
Tirtsa St 17, Tel Aviv-Yafo
Where to Stay
This international hub offers travelers everything from vibrant hostels to luxury resorts. No matter the star rating, hotels in Tel Aviv don’t skimp on décor or fabulous furnishings. Find the best area in Tel Aviv to stay or explore the best boutique hotels of 2020 in Tel Aviv. Below are two of the most refined stays in the White City.
One of the Leading Hotels in the World, the Drisco Tel Aviv is a historic restored property nestled between lively Florentin and bustling Jaffa. Dating from 1866, this was the first hotel outside of Jaffa, and has a long history of wowing guests. The 5 star property’s rooms are clean and airy, with unique touches making it a singular stay. Relax in the deliciously decadent beds, or refresh yourself in the Carrara marble bathroom suites. For an extra wonderful touch, you can book rooms with a private terrace. Indulge at George & John with an award-winning modern Mediterranean feast, enjoy the Israeli breakfast spread in the dining room, or taste Tomer Tal’s offerings from the comfort of your room. You can also partake in the a la carte spa options or relax on the rooftop.
4-6 Auerbach Street Tel Aviv-, 6811910
Famous for its refusal to skimp on luxury and opulent offerings, the Norman is in the heart of the city. It’s a complex of buildings in the 1920’s modernist style right off of Rothschild Boulevard, perfect for escapists and design lovers alike. The different buildings offer clean lines and pergolas, Renaissance accents and local eclectic furnishings. All the rooms are different, offering a cool and elegant style with splashes of color from unique textiles and artwork. The restaurants are upscale dining experiences, both at the rooftop Japanese tapas bar and Alena. Alena serves a fusion of Mediterranean and European cuisine in a fine dining setting. Relax at the rooftop, the iconic Library Bar, or the wellness center. If it’s not enough luxury for you, read our article about how to experience Tel Aviv like a VIP.
Nachmani St 23-25, Tel Aviv-Yafo, Israel
Traveling Tel Aviv
This design guide to Tel Aviv is here to help you stay and play in the city that never stops. From unique street art tours to museum days, this bustling international hub has a little bit of everything. A uniquely Israeli and international mix, its rich architectural and culinary history is the perfect place for a deeper exploration. We recommend our Best of Tel Aviv and Jaffa Walking Tour to see the best of the best, and our Tel Aviv Carmel Market Food Tour to taste the best of the best.