By Ron Bernthal
Israel has 3,000 years of history, warm and sunny weather for most of the year, and a trendy culinary scene — but never enough hotel rooms for its increasing number of business and leisure visitors (over four million in 2018).
That’s been good news for investors and hoteliers, who never tire of creating, renovating, restoring and constructing new accommodations for tourists to Israel.
New hotels, whether in the trendy city of Tel Aviv, the historical Jerusalem region or in the farr-flung regions of the Negev and Galilee range from intimate boutique offerings to beach-side resorts. As interest in Israel expands from North American and Europe to Asia, there has been a push in recent years to cultivate a new era of high-end travel to Israel. Israel reported a record 4.4 million visitor arrivals in 2018, an increase of 13.6% over the previous year, according to the country’s Ministry of Tourism, and those visitors helped fuel a 3.9% increase in hotel occupancy, according to the bureau.
Below are some of the best new hotels and restaurants in Tel Aviv.
Situated in the Neve Tzedek neighborhood of Tel Aviv, The Levee offers eight, spacious and stylish apartments available for short-term rental, for travelers seeking space, comfort and a home-away-from-home experience when visiting the White City. Featuring an on-site concierge, turndown service and valet parking, The Levee offers many elements of a hotel but with the space and feel of a private home.
Originally built in 1913, the property, which is part of Tel Aviv’s UNESCO World Heritage Site underwent nine years of meticulous restoration before reopening in April 2019 as The Levee. The interior design couples the building’s loft-like interiors, untreated cement walls and high-windows and ceilings with European furnishings, warm wooden floors, design-savvy accessories and minimalist lighting schemes. Each apartment is finished with the highest level of amenities, top of the range kitchens and technological gadgets, en-suite bathrooms and Egyptian cotton linens, and furnished with luxury, European brands including Minotti, Molteni, Cassina, Moroso and Paola Lenti to name a few.
The Lighthouse, which opened in October 2018, is located in the center of Tel Aviv, just a two minute walk from the beach. Occupying several floors of the Migdalor (“Lighthouse”) office tower, the hotel combines a savvy architectural attitude with a fresh and innovative design, creating a stylish, unconventional hotel experience.
Part of the Brown Hotels Collection, the 102-room hotel’s design was created and carried out through the collaborative vision of Leon Avigad and Argentinian-Israeli architect, Nestor Sandbank. The Lighthouse offers a stunning rooftop bar (see banner photo at top of article) on the 18th-floor with a 360 degree view of the city. It is one of only a few rooftop bars in Tel Aviv. The “Haiku SkyBar” offers top-shelf bottle service, a Japanese-style menu, panoramic views, and rotating DJs.
Open since August 2019, Dave Levinksy is the latest hotel to open by Brown Hotels, an affordable, urban boutique hotel collection. Offering just 27 cozy, trendy rooms in a neighborhood just south of downtown Tel Aviv, the proopety is a few steps from Rothschild Boulevard and the bustling Levinsky Market. The property is a “playful” hotel with a sleek retro design by Alona Eliasi known for its minimal, clean lines with a pink, beige and oak color scheme.
All rooms are outfitte with sophisticated, tiled bathrooms with high-quality linens and bath robes, waterfall showers and toiletries by the Israeli brand, Maapilim.
Situated on the 5th floor, the rooftop is a space where guests can relax on sunbeds or take a dip in the jacuzzi, with a stocked bar and views of Tel Aviv. In addition, there are two popular cafes nearby where guests can enjoy the complimentary breakfasts, as well as the lively streetscape.
In a country considered a destination for food lovers, the new restaurant Opa offers amazing Israeli cuisine without a pita or falafel in sight. On a nondescript street in the vibrant and bustling Levinsky Spice Market, a plain, unassuming white facade marks the entrance to Opa, a 35-seat restaurant that combines the minimalist of European design with one of Israel’s most vibrant menues. Opened in 2018 Opa’s interior design is owed to the firm Craft & Bloom and the interior designer Vered Kadouri.
Directing the kitchen at Opa is 28 year-old, Culinary Institute of America graduate Shirel Berger, who combines health and sustainability with innovative cooking techniques using a limited, strictly vegetable-only ingredients. By using organic and locally sourced produce, Opa’s kitchen features a nine course, seasonal tasting menu of carefully curated, plant-based dishes. Believing that fruits and vegetables should be the focal-point of each dish, Chef Berger ages all fruits and vegetables for 3-5 months, salting and vacuum packing with olive oil to preserve the cells, yet maintaining the structure and hydration. Through salting, dehydrating, braising and fermenting techniques, Chef Berger manipulates the flavours and essence of the produce with fascinating results.
Herzl 16 & Disco Tokyo
Through a narrow walkway and lots of foliage is a courtyard resembling an urban garden, in what was formerly Tel Aviv’s first shopping mall, and with Israel’s first elevator. Originally built in 1921, the four story eclectic architecture-style building, re-designed and renovated by the Tel Aviv-based hospitality group, R2M, opened in 2018 is Herzl 16 & Disco Tokyo, where two of the city’s most desirable dining locales are located. This unique, multi-used location with a garden terrace, restaurant, bar and concert venue, offers a great experience in the city for music, food and people watching.
Disco Tokyo offers an intimate dining experience with an open kitchen and Japanese-industrial style decor. If you look into the central kitchen will notice Chef Ido Lev preparing Pan-Asian inspired dishes with an Israeli twist, like his famous Fried crab, pistachio miso, with sake and coconut milk and robata grilled drum fish with bok choy, spinach, sake and dashi.
Herzl 16 gives a new meaning to the term, ‘eating out’. Hot coffee and spicy shakshuka breakfasts are served for early risers, mid-day diners choose from the business menu, supper suggests Pan-Asian inspired dishes, and as the evening gets closer, local and international DJ’s and musical artists take the stage. Herzl 16 hosts a weekly line up of live concerts and performances open to the public, free of charge. Since opening in 2018, this all day dining and event space has emerged as one of Tel Aviv’s most trendy and upscale venues for tourists and locals alike. In addition, Herzl 16’s upper floors are split up into office spaces, inhabited by creative agencies, architects, and tech/start-ups companies.
Located in the historic American Colony neighborhood of Tel Aviv, close to the port of Jaffa, The Drisco Hotel is a landmark heritage property that opened in 2017, revived as a grand hotel. The Drisco hotel is comprised of two perfectly restored Ottoman-style buildings from 1866: the historic Jerusalem Hotel and the adjacent Norton House.
Built over 40 years before the establishment of Tel Aviv, the property had been empty since the 1950’s, but after 10 years of meticulous renovations by designer and architect Ari Shaltier, the building has been converted into a luxury hotel in Tel Aviv’s dinstinctive and historic American Colony neighborhood. The original stone building, built in 1866 by American Colony members, brothers John and George Drisco, was later bought by the leaders of the Temple Society, Christoph Hoffmann and Georg David Hardegg, who turned it into the prestigious Jerusalem Hotel, now renamed The Drisco.
The hotel’s George & John restaurant serves dishes inspired by modern Israel, paired with broader Mediterranean influences, and served in the unique atmosphere of the historical and luxurious property. The restaurant and its chef, Tomer Tal, have received numerous awards since its opening, including Best New Restaurant in Israel (2019, Walla.com) and Most Promising Chef of the Year (Gault & Millau guide 2020). The hotel’s Israeli-style breakfast buffet in the authentically restored dining room, offers a generous selection of freshly prepared vegetables and salads, yogurts and fresh fruit, meats, cured fish, fragrant cheeses, cereals, irresistible sweet and savory pastries, a variety of breads and eggs, washed down with a choice of juices, gourmet teas and coffees.