I fell in love with Israel earlier this year while traveling to Tel Aviv for work. I knew immediately that this place would have a piece of my heart forever and returned for a second trip in May.
What made me travel to Israel? As many of you know, I work as Head of Community at HoneyBook—a start-up based in San Francisco and Tel Aviv. My amazing coworkers span two continents and are truly some of the most brilliant and dynamic human beings I have ever met.
Whether you go for work, to experience a piece of history, to embark on a religious journey, or simply to eat some of the most delectable food in the world—Israel has a lot to offer!
Today’s post includes sponsored experiences that were a part of my trip to Israel. All opinions included in today’s post are my own and reflect my genuine experience.
Things to Know:
I have adapted this list from the amazing suggestions that HoneyBook gives all of the American employees when they go to visit Tel Aviv for the first time. (Huge shout out to Inon for creating such a killer list and for sharing it with us!)
Israelis love tourists—prepare to be greeted and cared for every step of the way. I got lost a few times when I first arrived in Tel Aviv and I was blown away by how kind everyone was.
There is NO dress code. Anywhere.—I was nervous about what to wear while traveling in Israel and was surprised to see how casual and progressive the style is. Israeli style is somewhere between LA chic and San Francisco casual.
You don’t need to be fluent in Hebrew! You can get by with – ‘shalom’: ‘hello’. ‘toda’: ‘thanks’. ‘sababa’: ‘ok’.
There is no Uber or Lyft—Download Gett instead for cars on demand. It works exactly the same way and will ensure that you can get around the city seamlessly.
The culture is a little different—There are cats everywhere in the city and some of them are super friendly. People smoke: walking down the street, at dinner in fancy restaurants, and in the bars. Oh, and no one sleeps. Everything stays open until dawn and it reminds me a little of New York in that respect.
Where to stay:
As a first time tourist to Israel, I recommend using Tel Aviv as your homebase and booking an AirBNB or hotel in the city. There is so much to see there—every wall in this city is covered in art. Every street is collision of ancient and modern. Every person has a story—a life that is packed with adventures, challenges, and resilience. Staying in the heart of Tel Aviv was one of the best decisions that we made during our stay.
If you’re looking for luxury + comfort: On my first trip to Tel Aviv, I stayed at Hotel65 and had the most extraordinary time. A luxury hotel nestled on Rothschild Boulevard, one of Tel Aviv’s most vibrant and popular areas, with a daily breakfast that I still find myself dreaming about months later. The rooms are super bright and modern with easy access to walking and biking paths along Rothschild. I felt super safe walking back alone from the office to the hotel at night and it’s location was incredibly convenient.
If you’re looking for a true taste of Tel Aviv: Consider skipping the hotel and booking one of Tel Aviv’s incredible AirBNBs. Our Israeli hosts were incredible in each of the AirBNBs that we experienced during our time in the city. Our host at our Jaffa apartment even baked us a homemade bread that was the perfect treat after a long night of dancing at our friend Erez’s wedding!
What Tour to Book:
Day Tour through Tourist Israel
Of all the things we did in Israel, my favorite was a day trip with Tourist Israel to Jerusalem, the Jordan River, Dead Sea, and Bethlehem. I will cherish this tour day for the rest of my life.
The tour bus picked us up from a hotel in Tel Aviv and before noon we had descended through the Judean Desert to the lowest region on Earth and dipped our hands into the Jordan River at Qasr al Yehud (the baptism site of Jesus). Then we drove from the Israel-Jordan border to the Dead Sea for a relaxing float in the salt water and I crossed a major bucket list item off my list! Boom!
After floating in the Dead Sea, we made the drive to Jerusalem for a tour of the Old City—a cherished area holy to Jews, Christians, and Muslims alike. This included stopping at the Western Wall, exploring the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and grabbing falafel in the Muslim quarter.
Our last stop of the day was in the West Bank in Bethlehem, the city of Jesus’s birth, where we explored the Church of the Nativity.
This tour was truly amazing and it’s hard to describe it in words. I stood with tears in my eyes in places that I never thought that I would experience in my lifetime… places whose history has shaped so much of the person that I am today. I am so grateful. Thank you to Tourist Israel for gifting Martha and I this extraordinary experience.
What to eat:
It was hard to find a bad meal in Tel Aviv. Don’t believe me? CondeNast has ranked Tel Aviv as the 5th Top Food City in the World and I can personally attest to the incredible flavors of the falafel, hummus, and malabi for dessert.
Some things that you have to try while here (according to my coworker Inon via the HoneyBook guide for Americans traveling to TLV), and yes, a lot of stuff in Israel comes in a Pita:
Falafel – you know Falafel. There are many good ones throughout the city. Hakosem is one of the best
Hummus – you think you know Hummus but probably don’t. Abu Hassan is undoubtedly the best in the world, and maybe even in Tel-Aviv. When you’re there get a Masabacha (not Hummus). They have 3 places in Jaffa. Mashawsha at Pinsker St 40, and Abu Adham are also great.
Sabich – You don’t know Sabich. Eggplant, Egg, Pickles and salads, all in a Pita of course. Best one is Sabich Frishman.
My top five favorite restaurants while I was in Tel Aviv include the following:
1) Yakimono [Dinner]
Yakimono is known as the best sushi restaurant in Tel-aviv and if you plan to splurge one night while in Israel, I recommend you book a reservation here. I know what you’re thinking—sushi in the Middle East? Really, Natalie? YES. Trust me. You will discover a new love for sushi at Yakimono. It was the best dinner we had in Israel.
Also—Our friend Maya is family friends with the owner and we trusted them fully to choose our dinner selection. Within minutes, we were eating an array of fish that had been flown in from around the world. It was an experience unlike any other.
2) Cafe65 [Breakfast / Brunch]
The best breakfast in Tel Aviv, hands down. While I was staying at the hotel, I enjoyed my daily breakfast at Cafe65 and I tried nearly everything on the menu. My biggest recommendation is to order the tomato shakshuka with fresh apple and beet juice or the breakfast croissant with eggs, cheese, and leeks.
3) Port Sa’id [Dinner + Drinks]
Port Sa’id has an Israeli-hipster vibe with a modern take on middle-eastern food. Run by celebrity-chef Eyal Shani, this was my last meal before heading to the airport to return to the states… and it was so delicious that I debated missing my plane and making Huey move to Tel Aviv. The vibe was perfect for a night out with friends—we did a round of shots and it was completely in line with the aesthetic of the place. When you go, you’ll see what I mean.
4) Miznon [Lunch]
By the end of my second trip, the entire office knew that I had a deep love for Miznon. The perfect lunch spot for a quick pita sandwich and grilled head of cauliflower—you won’t regret the entire experience of ordering (amidst the shouting and bustle from the open kitchen) and getting a true taste of Israel.
5) The Restaurant at Hotel Montifiore [Lunch]
My friend + coworker Maya took me to lunch at Hotel Montifiore after my podcast interview with Lior Frenkel and it was absolutely delightful. A charming atmosphere in a darling hotel with delicious food options that were perfect for a late lunch.
— Download the Gett App: Uber and Lyft aren’t available in Israel, so Gett is the dominant car-booking app. It’s super simple to use and makes traveling around the city super simple. You can load your credit card directly into the app so you don’t need to worry about having shekels on hand.
— Take a day trip to Jaffa: This ancient port city is one of the most beautiful spots in Israel. Adjacent to Tel Aviv and sitting along the coast, you’ll fall in love with the picturesque views and little boutiques. Be sure to pick up a cup of Malabi from the booth in the flea market square.
— Stroll down Rothschild boulevard: My favorite walk in Tel Aviv full of bustling restaurants, bars, and boutiques. It’s super charming and was one of my favorite areas of the city on both of my trips.