I’m not alone in thinking that when you go on holiday, hotels provide a great “home” from home for the duration of your stay – but there are disadvantages.
Rather than just a place to crash, opting for a hotel can mean several things: the chance you’ll bump into your ex, or get stopped by 20 family friends and acquaintances on the way to the lobby, or the need to visit the pool by 6am to secure a sun lounger.
For the first time, I decided to shun hotels and stay in a flat during my recent visit to Tel Aviv for a friend’s wedding.
While the extortionate prices of many hotels were enough to put me off, I also wanted the privacy you just can’t get in a hotel: the option to eat breakfast in your PJs, have friends over whenever you like, and cook rather than always having to eat out.
I headed to Sea N’ Rent’s website to browse for flats in the bustling city of Tel Aviv, and with 60 luxury options, there was plenty of choice.
My husband and I were staying with cousins, so we decided to go for a three-bedroom flat on Hayarkon, with space for up to eight people.
With an enormous rooftop terrace to laze on, plenty of room within the flat, and three sizeable bedrooms, we had all the space in the world.
The Israel-based company has booked more than 12,000 guest nights in the past 12 months, appealing to those tourists visiting for a beach getaway, the city’s nightlife or to visit family.
It carefully selects short-term rental apartments in prime locations across the city, whether you want to be close to restaurants and beaches or want a guaranteed quiet spot – not so easy to find in such a buzzing city.
Our accommodation provided the perfect base from which to see the hustle and bustle of Tel Aviv. We took it all in – from people watching in the achingly cool Neve Tzedek, to enjoying a delicious coffee on Ben Yehuda Street or listening to the shouts of lifeguards on the popular Frishman beach.
Every day, we enjoyed the vast choices of kosher restaurants and cafes just minutes from our flat: Pizza Fino, a relaxed Italian restaurant on Ben Yehuda Street that even serves up pizza and pasta during Pesach, Suduch, a casual sandwich bar teeming with teenagers right across from the beach, and the fancier L’Entrecote, a dream spot for carnivores.
Foodies should also head straight for the neighbourhood of Sarona, a hotspot for picking up quirky finds and enjoying a varied selection of local and international food. The enormous indoor Sarona Market offers nearly 9,000 square metres of foodie choices. Within it, there are countless speciality food shops, from Asian offerings to European products, while outside, you can pick up everything from books to clothes.
But as much as your diet will inevitably go out of the window when you visit Tel Aviv, it’s not all about the food.
There’s a simple joy in strolling the sunny streets, marvelling at the mix of cultures and nationalities eating at bustling outdoor restaurants, the quirky cafes and bars hidden behind plain-seeming facades as well as the sheer number of adorable puppies.
If you’re into markets, then don’t miss the hustle and bustle of the farmers’ market that takes place every Friday in the Tel Aviv Port and in the Jaffa Port. If you love fresh food and buzzing surroundings, you’ll enjoy the chaos of the open air market: there are plenty of local products to buy, from tahini to honey, as well as restaurants, luxury shops and galleries.
Carmel Market is also worth a visit for its street stalls, and haphazard collection of things for sale, from hummus to carpets.
Once night falls, it’s time to see why Tel Aviv is one of the Middle East’s best spots for nightlife and head to Allenby Street, where there are more than 20 nightclubs to choose from.
If you’re after a tamer night, but still want to experience the warm evening, great music and fascinating people-watching, visit the nearby Shenkin Street to enjoy the city’s most stylish cafe-bars.
It’s hard to capture in words everything that Tel Aviv has to offer. There’s a feeling of excitement, of delights hidden in surprising corners, of constant contrasts.
The striking Bauhaus buildings you’ll come across when you least expect it. The fact a religious, separate beach is located next to a gay beach. The sleek, polished restaurants and hotels situated smack bang next to cacophonous markets. The taxi drivers who will try to be your best friend while subtly charging you more.
The hectic buzz of the city is addictive, and we soon found we couldn’t get enough of its heat, of its noise, of its quirks. Yet every day, as we trudged back to Hayarkon with sandy feet, heavy beach bags and sea-soaked hair after a day of sipping Limonanas on the beach, we were thankful for an hour or two in our quiet flat – before heading out for a bit more Tel Aviv fun.
Where to stay:
Deborah was a guest of Sea N’ Rent, which has more than 60 luxury apartments in sought-after locations across Tel Aviv. She stayed at the Hilton Luxury Apartment – North, which costs between $200 to $550 per night. For more information, visit seanrent.com or call 00972 54 450 5833.