Kirsten Judson’s Guide to Tel Aviv

In Tel Aviv, there is a mindset of being understated. When you are in a place with such historical value and religious significance, fundamentals shine: 5,000 year old stone, turquoise waters, the music of prayer. Regardless of where, we are bombarded with consumer anxiety, and constantly assessing our productivity levels. But when I find myself leaning into that mindset, I try to think of Israel. I remind myself that the little things make all the difference – like eating a perfect simple plate of hummus with a small fresh onion. We can find so much joy leaning into the little things – especially the little things that are outside the humdrum routine. Israel made me pay attention to the tiniest details, made me search for the tiniest discoveries.

Streets of Jaffa

Streets of Jaffa

Where To Eat

Delight is connected to discovery, and most of the time discovery is connected to the things we get to taste. The discovery of food can be as nourishing as the food itself. In Tel Aviv, food is one of the most profound connectors. Every time I taste something delicious in Israel, I am constantly asked the question– who came up with this idea? What does it say about the people who made it? How does it grow? How does it bring people together? Food expresses our identity and community: our creativity and our values. The thing about Israel is that it doesn’t have to be fancy food. It can be simple. It can be cheap. The ingredients in Israeli food are far from mellow. They are vibrant and everything tastes exactly as you hoped it would.

Santa Katarina is nestled behind in the Great Synagogue in the more building heavy area of Tel Aviv. For lunch or dinner, Santa’s patio is a pass by spot for both locals and tourists. A bold, colorful and flavorful menu with the likes of ceviche, semolina cake, a one-of-a-kind red tuna fricassée have made Santa Katarina an esteemed eatery in the city. 

Santa Katarina Salad

Beit Kandinof: A contemporary art gallery meets an artist studio, a lavish cocktail bar meets Israeli dive. Beit Kandinof is a site for the culturally hungry. For those who want to kill four birds with one stone, walk up the white stucco stairs from the historic Jaffa Port to find the landmark that once belonged to Aaron Kandinof, the son of the minister of finance of Muzaffar Khan, ruler of Bukhara. Owners Amir Erlich and Arianna Fornaciai found the spot on a whim and knew it was the ideal spot for their multi purpose venue. Within the exposed vaulted ceilings and stone walls houses 5 galleries which rotate monthly, a DJ hosted dark bar, and candle clad dining room.

Abu Hossan has the best hummus in the city. Subtle and to the point, Abu Hossan is a lunch spot: hummus, pita, sliced onion on a plate with counter service. Prepare to never want to eat anything else again.

Meal at Abu Hossan

Don’t miss late night sandwiches at Jasmino. On Allenby, Jasmino serves the drunk club crowd, but is worth the visit regardless of your night plans. The four options on the menu include: housemade sausage, kebabs, chicken, and spicy veal heart. Add grilled onions, salad, tahini and pita and you found yourself a charcoal grilled delight.

When it comes to Manta Ray, location is incomparable – a view of both old Jaffa and the sea. Known for its seaside dining room, it is a perfect spot en route to the beach, after a swim, or for sunset. Known for its extensive mezze, Manta Ray has a cult following among locals. 

Manta Ray lunch spread

Settled in the Yaffo Flea Market, Cafe Puaa is famous for its vegetarian dishes. An iconic spot since 1999, Cafe Puaa is always packed. The decor feels like a retro living room. Its colorful carpets, antique ornaments and comfy couches give the restaurant a homey, authentic feel. Kadaif dessert is a must. 

Cafe Puua Patio

Where To Stay

The Setai Hotel

The Norman is a contemporary classic in the heart of Tel Aviv. Two restored pre-Bauhaus buildings are composed of two regarded restaurants, spa, and rooftop pool. A stone’s throw away from Rothschild Blvd (Tel Aviv’s main drag), The Norman lives on a picturesque street in the UNESCO White City district. The 50 pastel-colored rooms match the restored 1920’s buildings exterior – one powder blue the other pale yellow. The surrounding manicured citrus garden and terrace evoke a sense of Hollywood and Marseille.

The Norman Hotel

The Link is a new concept hotel next to the art museums in Tel Aviv. With a business minded approach, The Link is functional with smart graffiti design elements. If you are looking for a smart minded, straightforward place to stay, The Link is your best bet.

Luxury, location, and leisure are the three L’s that help divine The Setai. Originally a kishle, (Turkish for jailhouse) the building was repurposed as an Ottoman Empire compound, then a police station. Since it’s purchase in 2005, Twelve years and $100 million later, the 12th-century Crusader fortress was transformed into the breathtaking Setai. Melding historic details, modern amenities, the Setai is a top tier. Not to forget, the rooftop east facing infinity pool, which makes you feel like you are diving straight into the Mediterranean horizon. 

The Setai Hotel

Where To: Swim | Play | Visit

Jaffa Port is the Mediterranean coast of Jaffa’s Old City. Made up of galleries, boutiques, and flea markets, Jaffa has a strong bohemian identity. The beaches of Jaffa are always less crowded than those closer to the center. When swimming off of Jaffa coast you can look out onto Jaffa Lighthouse and Andromeda’s Rock, some of the oldest stone structures of the city.

Jaffa Port

Herzliya is in the central coast of Israel and part of Northern Tel Aviv. Many escape the hectic city streets and visit the seafront promenade. Pristine white sands and impressive wave breaks make Herzliya ideal for surfers and divers. Herzliya is also home to Apollonia National Park. The cliff-like terrain contains archeological remains of a crusader fortress that dates back to 1250. Don’t miss the seashell house, built inside the cliff by a hermit who has lived on the beach for 40 years.

Day Trips From Tel Aviv

No visit to Israel would be the same without the chance to float in the Dead Sea. Although quite built up and geared toward tourists, a visit to the Dead Sea is a unique experience. Have you ever swam in a hot pool of salt in the desert? Just do it.

The Dead Sea

The Holy Land – Jerusalem. The spiritual energy of this city is unprecedented. Any spiritual hub that can peacefully cater toward the three dominant religions of the world is a site worth seeing. Being in The Holy Land forces you into a spiritual mindset. As you step into a place of worship [ a church, a synagogue, a mosque ] you are confronted with a sense of remembrance, humbleness, gratitude, higher purpose. You only want to be a character of goodness. You are simply left to transcend to a place bigger than yourself.

L’Agent Goodies…