Where we’re at: Here, I’m recapping my travels in 2019, including this time in Israel in October.
A joyous wedding celebration was just the excuse I needed to book a flight for my fourth trip to Israel in just two years. The bonus? Everything else I got to squeeze in while I was there.
I’ve written a plethora of blog posts about Tel Aviv at this point, and sometimes wonder how many more you all are keen to read. I mean at this point you get it, right? I’m in love with this city where I obsess over the beach, I go wild for the yoga and the running routes and the aerial community, I drool over the food, I relish in the nightlife — rinse, repeat.
So I thought I’d treat this one somewhat like the “what’s new” section of guidebooks — a few exciting discoveries, and of course a few old favorites.
My New Where to Stay Discoveries
I was lucky to be invited to check out two of the quirky and beautiful small hotels that are the hallmark of Tel Aviv’s travel scene. I’ve really experienced a gamut of accommodation in this city — I’ve stayed at sleek boutique hotels, waterfront and award-winning hostels, and with local friends in various parts of the city.
So I loved adding these to my recommendation list for a city and country that I’ve considered writing my own guide to, a la The Wanderland Guide to Koh Tao!
The Cucu Hotel
From the moment you check in, you can see Cucu Hotel is a hotel that doesn’t take itself too seriously. With free candy jars sprinkled through the reception, balloon sculpture dripping from the balconies, and an elevator that makes silly sounds each button you push, staying here is kind of like going back in time to child hood.
But there’s more to eat than gumballs — there’s free breakfast included each morning at the Cafe Cucu out front.
Cucu is located right in the heart of Dizengoff, just steps away from Dizengoff Center, the largest shopping center in Tel Aviv. It’s a super buzzy area, not my personal favorite part of Tel Aviv but you can’t miss a nigh strolling by the famous (and beautiful) fountain at Dizengoff Square!
I absolutely loved how bold they went with the room design — though it should be no surprise based on the playful vibe of the entire property. From the big heart mural on the wall, to the egg chair on the balcony, I can’t think of a more fun hotel stay. Rooms are small here — think New York sizes — but you’ve got all of Tel Aviv at your fingertips.
And it’s easy to explore it with free bicycles, one of many amenities including onsite massages in a small spa, access to a nearby gym with a rooftop pool, and a complimentary coffee and tea bar in the lobby.
Sam & Blondi
Looking for something that feels a little more sophisticated? Check out Cucu Hotel’s stylish older sister hotel, Sam & Blondi in Lev Ha’ir. I love this area, and the hotel is easy walking distance to many of my favorite cafes and markets in the city.
During my stay, an onsite cafe was under construction which is now open, serving complimentary breakfast to guests, along with a lux complimentary coffee bar in the lobby. Other amenities include a tucked-away massage treatment room where I had a sublime treatment, free bicycles for jaunting around town, and vouchers for a nearby gym.
The rooms are small but so chic! The mermaid in me swooned over the seashell-inspired bed frame, and the workaholic in me loved the little desk nook.
What really elevated this place to perhaps my favorite place to stay in Tel Aviv? The roof deck! I’m beyond obsessed with the views, the various seating areas, and the plunge pool — more like a big oversized tub, really. If you’ve got cash to splash, some suites have private ones on their balconies, too.
There’s not a better place in Israel for a sunset soak — or a sunrise flow, when you’re jetlagged!
While I’d hoped that one of the above hotels might be perfect for my Wander Women Israel retreat, I left convinced that while they are perfect for an Israel vacation, they just weren’t right for our group. Hence, I did a lot of hitting the pavement looking at private penthouse and apartment rentals.
I can’t wait to show our sold-out retreat group where we ended up! Itching to come to Israel with me still? Don’t miss our High Flying Tel Aviv trip, which still has a few spaces!
My New Where to Eat + Drink Discoveries
I admit, with all my time in Tel Aviv under my belt, it’s easy for me to run through a rotation of old favorites! But this city is bursting with amazing restaurants and bars — I am constantly adding to that list of “must returns.” Here’s a few of the new top hits.
Por Do Sol TLV
From the moment I saw Por Do Sol on Instagram, I knew I had to go. It was like a tiki bar — but in the middle of the Mediterranean. Even better? It was steps away from Jose Rodrigues Pole Studio, a famous pole place I also had on my research list for my aerial retreat.
So after working up a sweat, I went over for a sip! The upstairs was sadly closed, but I had a drink and an app on the ground level while soaking up views of the sunset and the sea.
I absolutely loved this place — next time I’m heading back on the weekend, with a group of friends! (Don’t forget — in Israel, the weekend is Friday and Saturday.)
Sometimes, even in the lands of one of the best cuisines in the world, you do crave a taste of home. The topic of best burgers in Tel Aviv was as hotly debated as my friends in Israel as it is among those in American cities, and the name that came up over and over again was Vitrina Lili.
I can confirm it’s delicious — and as a buzzy hotspot, it’s so much fun!
Again, while this is the total opposite of what I normally rave about with Tel Aviv eats — you know, fresh and healthy and all that — I couldn’t resist trying Nununu after stumbling upon it on a retreat research errand one day. These are total indulgence eats — but hey, the motto is “dirty dining,” after all.
And it’s so bad it’s good.
It’s not a new favorite, no — but I can’t talk about dining in Tel Aviv (or confess to all that comfort food I indulged in, ha) without shouting out one of my consistent favorites, Citizen Garden. Stop here for a gorgeous back garden, beautiful plant-fueled food, and the pet-friendly vibes Tel Aviv is famous for.
The Little Prince Bookshop
Speaking of pet-friendly, I was loving taking on my new side-hustle as dog sitter for Gil’s adorable pup Tupac during the day. And conveniently, around the corner from his apartment is, Little Prince Bookshop, my favorite place for a cafe workday. Tucked in the back of a bookshop, there is literally a tree growing in the middle of this backyard eatery.
Tel Aviv is known for it’s remote work-friendly cafe culture, but at Little Prince it’s next level — you could bring your laptop charger and literally spend all day here, interrupted only by friendly chats with your waiter from time to time.
I fell head 0ver feels (not a typo!) for Cafe Xoho on this trip. I found it on a list of eco-friendly Tel Aviv eateries, since they’ve ditched the straw and gone single-use plastic free, meaning they basically won me over pre-arrival. But had they not, the Halloween decorations, essentially the only I’d seen in the city (more on that later in this post!) would have sealed the deal.
By the time my insanely delicious halloumi burrito arrived, it was final — I’d never visit Tel Aviv without a stop here again (and I haven’t!)
Nope, Bicicletta is definitely not your usual coworking space, but my waiter didn’t seem to bothered when I had a happy hour drink and some bites here with my laptop! I swooned over the small, well-curated menu and the painfully hip back garden vibes. Later the same trip I came back with one of my girls for a friend date — it’s a new fave.
My New What To Do Discoveries
I have to confess — I don’t always do much when I’m in Tel Aviv. Work from cafes, hit the beach, check out yoga and movement studios, enjoy the nightlife. Like I said, rinse, repeat. Sightseeing is rarely a top priority. But this trip had some fun surprises in store.
Tel Aviv Museum of Art
It’s a shame that it took me so long to get to the Tel Aviv Museum of Art.
Like museums in many major cities around the world, they have extended hours on one night a week — in this case, they stay open until Thursdays at 9PM. Which made it the perfect after-work date for Gil and I. I arrived early and wandered the galleries until he snuck up on me, and took me straight to his favorite collections.
I was truly so impressed with the collections, which showcase both Israeli and international artists, including works by Dali, Monet, Henri Picasso, Klimt, Kandinsky, Cezanne, and Chagall — works I learned about in my art history classes in college! And it was enormous. I later learned the Museum opened in 1932, before the state of Israel was even established, with the new wing opening in 2011. In two hours I didn’t see it all before the security guards came to warn us they were closing.
Gil had a surprise for me though — he’d made us reservations at Pastel, the museum’s flashy eatery. The restaurant overlooks a sculpture garden and has dishes as creative as the works on the walls. I can’t recommend combining a museum visit with a mean here more enough.
Hebrew Flying Trapeze
For one evening of retreat research, my friend Or and I had a night of driving around checking out Israel’s two trapeze schools before grabbing dinner in his home town in the north. Hebrew Flying Trapeze was our favorite and I can’t wait to bring my retreat here! If you’re an aerial enthusiast, it’s well worth renting a car for a night (or making an Israeli friend!) and heading here for a night of swinging through the stars.
Bowling in Ramat Gan
While I can’t say this is something I expect any other tourists to really do… ever, after a night of watching The Big Lebowski we couldn’t let the joke of a bowling date night go and ended up at Bowling Ramat Gan. Surprisingly, Tel Aviv doesn’t have any uber-hip bowling alleys (in fact, they have none at all!) but it was a fun excuse for a motorcycle trip to the suburbs.
It is now one of my favorite Israel memories!
My New Evening Adventure Discoveries
I had a super unique experience on this trip — Halloween in Tel Aviv! Now, I’d really agonized over where to spend one of my favorite holidays when booking my flights. Did I spend it in my next destination of Cancun, Mexico? Did I extend my obligatory layover in New York? In the end, I decided to take a gamble on celebrating in a country where to many, the word “Halloween” means nothing!
Knowing this, I arrived with costumes in hand for Gil and his roommates — including the canine variety.
I felt it my duty as a US Citizen to bring not just costumes but all the Halloween candy to Israel with me. Just think of me as a missionary of sugar.
Even Tupac wasn’t left out!
I was pretty proud of this whole look! I topped off my old skeleton bodysuit I’d picked up at an H&M sale ages ago with some skeleton hand jewelry, nabbed a dog bat costume that I knew would be an easy fit, and packed a roll of iron-on glitter vinyl for the boys.
I will say the Israelis had a really entertaining reaction to a dog in a costume. “I don’t think he likes it,” everyone kept commenting. I was like sorry, do you think us Americans dress our dogs for their entertainment?! No, it’s our reward for spending thousands of dollars and years of our life catering to their every whim and need!
(I feel like I need to add a disclaimer that I’m being a bit silly here — Tupac wore the costume for as long as he wanted to and then we took it off him and let him attack it as desired.)
So, Israelis have their own holiday called Purim in February which is one of the wildest parties in the country, which also involves dressing up in costumes and lots of similar imagery to Halloween.
Due to the number of Americans in Israel and the general connection between the two countries and the growing popularity of Halloween around the world, it definitely does exist in Tel Aviv — just not on the scale a New Yorker might be used to back home. But, determined to make the most of the night, we headed out to party in Jaffa with pretty much every aliyah-maker we knew.
And it was a party hop from there! After pre-gaming at the newleywed Jannah and Nim’s apartment, we went to a super fun dance party at Cuckoo’s Nest, before bouncing over to Le Mala, a hip little taco place hosting an intimate party.
It was pretty fun walking through the streets in costume — so many looked at us with total confusion, a few even calling out in Hebrew to ask, what’s going on? “American Purim,” the Israelis would reply.
Finally, I ended up with the girls at Radio EPGB, dancing the night away on bar banquets and eating bad street food pizza, the way the ghouls of Halloween intended.
Was it the most enthusiastically, widely-celebrated Halloween of my life? No. But I loved sprinkling a little bit of the magic of Halloween, one of my favorite holidays, around one of my new favorite cities.
And just like that, all too soon, another trip to Israel was over. But this time, I knew I’d be back — and soon.
Till next time, Tel Aviv… ’cause I was on my way to Mexico!