When choosing your hotel, would you be better off in the North or the South of the city? Anthea Gerrie helps you decide
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Manhattan by the Med: coastal hotels are designed to maximise your chance of a sea view
Until a couple of years ago, there was only one answer to visitors inquiring where to stay in Tel Aviv - to paraphrase Bill Clinton: "It's all about the beach, stupid!"
Indeed, magnificent hotels at all price points line the swathe of sands which runs the length of this city, correctly described as "Manhattan by the Med" - a metropolis that unusually enjoys all the lazy beach life of a resort during its downtime - Fridays, Saturdays and pretty well every night, with visitors getting the beach and its bars to themselves during the Tel Aviv working week.
However, the beach is not the only place to stay any more, as Tel Aviv develops its centre and regentrified old neighbourhoods come into their own. Visitors who are not beach bunnies may prefer to stay close to the cultural attractions of the city centre - particularly if combining pleasure with business - or hang out near the galleries and cafés in the Rothschild district, with its Bauhaus buildings (the "White City"). And those who do want to enjoy the beach ought to consider whether they are more interested in the nightlife of the buzzy new port area or the ancient and atmospheric warrens of Jaffa, since several miles divide the hotels that are a pleasant stroll from either.
There is a lot to be said for starting at the southern end of the beach, like the pioneers who established Neve Tzedek as Tel Aviv's first neighbourhood. It's a 15-minute stroll north of Jaffa, the exotic Middle Eastern city which existed centuries before modern Israel was conceived and is a favourite location for locals in pursuit of authentic hummus or shakshuka, for evening drinks or to have wedding photographs taken against a backdrop of old stones and archways.
Beach babes have an array of choices, right from South to North
While Neve Tzedek, which crumbled for decades before being spruced up into Tel Aviv's most happening neighbourhood, does not border the seafront, it's only a couple of minutes' stroll inland from the Dan Panorama. Designed so that almost every room has a sea view, the Dan Panorama enjoys surely the best location of any budget hotel in the world.
Neve Tzedek also now has its own clutch of boutique hotels, as does the gallery area behind Rothschild Boulevard, where the Montefiore Hotel has made a name for itself as Tel Aviv's most elegant and sophisticated boutique lodging. You don't have to stay here to get a taste, as the whole ground floor is given over to one of the city's buzziest bars and restaurants (though these are not supervised-kosher, which is surprising for a Tel Aviv hotel restaurant).
There is also much to be said for staying in North Tel Aviv, which includes the top of the beach strip with its elegant Hilton and the revamped Carlton, which has a beach restaurant and a boutique-y feel. Each is close enough to stroll to the port, for top restaurants like Mul Yam and the fabulous beach bar/nightclub Shalvata, open from spring till early November.
The northern strip of beach hotels is also closest to the elegant shopping of Kikar Hamedina and North Dizengoff and a shortish bus ride from the Museum of the Jewish People (formerly the Museum of the Diaspora) and other attractions of the university area.
Those who come to town on business, want to be close to major museums, opera and theatre, or simply requires the easiest possible access to Jerusalem and other parts of israel, should consider some of the newer hotels which have sprung up in the heart of the city, like the Crowne Plaza in the Azrieli Centre. What this particular hotel lacks in beach views it makes up for with the city's finest hotel health club and access within a few steps to both the Azrieli shopping centre and the train station. From Azrieli it's just a few minutes' ride from Ben Gurion Airport, wherein lies sherut access to Jerusalem, as well as planes and trains to all parts of Israel.
The City Centre is also convenient for the museum of modern art, the Tel Aviv Opera, Cinemathèque art-house complex, Rabin Square and nearby Masaryk Square, another new enclave of boutiques and cafés defining the newly-decentralised 21st century Tel Aviv.