Netanya can officially call itself a “first-class tourist destination”, with hotel services on a par with the finest of nearby Tel Aviv. “The makeover of the beachfront area, which also features many new, upscale residential complexes, has truly turned Netanya into the Israeli Riviera,” says Olga Lurie, general manager of the Netanya Association for Tourism.
In the past year alone, several five-star hotels have either opened or entered fresh stages of construction. Older hotels have pumped tens of millions of pounds into renovation and upgrades. Everywhere there are new pubs, patisseries and restaurants.
One of the city’s biggest tourist attractions, Lurie says, is the weather. “It never really gets cold here during the winter. Even in January and February the temperature outside will be near 70°F (21°C) most of the time. Which is why we invested in also building year-round outdoor sports attractions.
“It’s not just about jogging along the nearly 14km beachfront promenade — which is fun — but we have attractions for people of all ages, including a skate park and of course, the beautiful outdoor football stadium, which hosts Maccabi Netanya and Maccabi Tel Aviv in the winter season and attracts many fans from abroad.”
Surf’s up — especially in autumn/winter, when the waves are particularly enticing for those who like to grab a board and ride a Mediterranean wave. “We boast most of the cleanest beaches in all of Israel, nine official beaches, where we feature several surfing competitions throughout the year and yes, one can learn how to surf as well,” says Lurie.
Netanya also has other indoor and outdoor swimming venues, as well as the new Planetaya Planetarium, which features a scientists’ garden.
The resort’s pristine coastline features some of the most spectacular new hotels in Israel. They include upscale Israeli and international brands. These are attracting new types of overseas visitors to Netanya — from business travellers and young holidaymaking couples from the UK and North America, to free-spending global trekkers from the EU and Russia.
Strolling along the 14km beachfront from the city’s southern Poleg entrance, the first hotel that catches your eye is the stunning Tamares West Lagoon.
When it opened last summer, West Lagoon became Netanya’s largest hotel, with more than 270 rooms. It also has dual-use halls for meetings or simchahs, overlooking the Mediterranean. The sea theme runs through the whole hotel,
from the seashells at the front desk to the aqua and white interior and exterior architecture, reminiscent of Malibu or Miami.
“We’ve built a concept hotel that revolves around the idea of ‘Sea for yourself’ and is enveloped with wellness,” says Oshrat Vazana Yoav, the general manager. “We have created a whole new experience for couples and families with children, where there are so many attractions and activities in the hotel and on our own beach area that one doesn’t have to leave the facility at all during one’s stay.”
A short drive along the beachfront will bring you to Northern Netanya, the original home of most of the city’s resort facilities and now the site of several luxury boutique hotels.
The David Tower Hotel Netanya — MGallery by Sofitel is part of the Accor European hotel chain. The 75-room hotel has five-star European interior design, an indoor spa and a mini swimming pool.
“We opened the hotel a little over a year ago, catering for four types of clientèle — business and corporate, groups, Israeli guests and incoming tourists from Russia, France and the UK,” says Danny Ronen, general manager. “Because we are part of an international chain, no one in the area can offer the standards and services we provide to our discerning clientèle.”
Two blocks away, the Medi Terre Hotel also has a European vibe. The 60-room independently owned boutique hotel includes a luxurious suite with its own spa and whirlpool bath.
“We designed the hotel to have the feeling of being on a ship and you are the captain,” says Ari Shklar, the hotel’s sales and marketing manager. “We have been able to attract many types of tourists from all over the world, including many from the UK and America. And, unlike other hotels, which serve buffet breakfasts, we are redefining breakfast with à la carte menus, where guests can choose from about a dozen different experiences from a British breakfast to Israeli, Russian, French and American.”
Of course, many tourists will still prefer the traditional full-service four-star-plus hotels, such as the Leonardo Plaza and the Seasons.
“Our hotel is known for making families feel at home,” says Avi Alon, general manager of the Leonardo Plaza. “The hotel is in the centre of town and close to everything, the beach, shopping, restaurants and even the football stadium, which is home to Maccabi Netanya and Maccabi Tel Aviv.”Naor Chen, who heads the Seasons, says his hotel — fully renovated in the past few years — is still a major destination for overseas visitors.
“My hotel is a combination resort/city hotel that has a cosy ambience. Most importantly, we have an excellent reputation among our customers, which is why we are fully booked even after the autumn holidays.”
Some of the city’s best-known synagogues near the beachfront have also become tourist attractions, offering a friendly minyan and a tasty kiddush. The Young Israel of Netanya and the MacDonald’s Street synagogue, aka the Beit Knesset Hachadash, have high numbers of English-speaking congregants.
To help travellers considering a trip to Netanya to discover what the city has to offer, from hotels to forthcoming events, Lurie’s staff have created a user-friendly and informative website: gonetanya.com/?lang=en
As she says: “All you need to do is to bring a swimsuit and a willingness to relax and have fun.”