Tel Aviv, Israel: A city of surprises, from electric bicycles and 13th-century fortress walls to the best hummus in the world

A magical mixture of modern and ancient, Tel Aviv combines inovation with preservation, in a city that bows to its ancient traditions while celebrating its modern atributes. Hetty Lintell paid a visit.

You might be surprised to hear that Tel Aviv is home to the most tech start-up companies per capita in the world – until you visit, that is. It’s a vibrant, culture-heavy city on the Israeli Mediterranean coast, home to welcoming, forward-thinking, creative types.

Just 4½ hours from London, come sunset, the air buzzes with anticipation of the evening ahead. Ours were filled with exotic and exciting things to eat – this foodie haven has a gem on every corner, whether it’s Israeli classics, modern fusion or simple hummus. Service is impeccable everywhere and booking – best done through your hotel concierge – is essential.

View over the Alma Beach, behind Tel-Aviv-Jaffa, Old Town, Tel Aviv, Israel.

It’s also remarkably safe. Electric bicycles and scooters rule the streets – simply download an app – and I zoomed happily from beach to museum to market to restaurant. It’s the ideal way to get around in a short space of time. Just make sure you take time to soak it all up from a portside cafe in Jaffa Old Town.

Accomodation and tours were arranged by Pomegranate Travel, an Israeli travel expert specialising in bespoke trips.

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What to do

Honouring Shabbat, the superb flea market is open from Sunday to Friday. You’ll find eclectic jewellery and boutiques galore, so pack light: Walkaholics sells colourful handmade mules and sandals. Combine with a trip to the magnificient Tel Aviv Museum of Art. Allow time for a day trip to Jerusalem and Masada, home to spooky Roman ruins, brought to life by stories from our guide, Danny. Don’t miss Jerusalem’s Yad Vashem, The World Holocaust Remembrance Center – heart-wrenching, but important.

Where to eat

You’ll find the best hummus on the planet at Abu Hassan – a hole-in-the-wall affair. For fine dining, visit The Norman hotel. Try HaSalon for local cuisine with a twist (they set fire to the bar – on purpose).

At Abraxas North, cauliflower is centre stage and Mona, Jerusalem, ( has delicious steak tartare.

Where to stay

The Norman (from £435 per night) is worth it for the rooftop pool where I whiled away a lazy hour. It has the best brunch in Tel Aviv – chef Barak Aharoni’s French toast is a treat. The decor fuses 1920s glamour with modern panache and the architecture is true to the area’s Bauhaus character.

The Jaffa Hotel (from £465 per night), a 17th-century hospital and monastery, was abandoned for decades until it was spotted by real-estate tycoon Aby Rosen, whose parents were Holocaust survivors. When excavating, a fortress wall from the 13th-century Crusades was found, now a celebrated feature in the orange-blossom-fragranced lobby.