Were you to arrange Phaidon's Wallpaper City Guides by color, the new Tel Aviv edition would sit directly beside New York, a happy coincidence for my bookshelf as my most recent travel took me between the two cities. Perhaps the similar shades were chosen because Tel Aviv is often referred to as the New York of the Middle East? Though New Yorkers like to imagine that everyone who lives anywhere else has city envy, a local who has lived in both cities confided to me that while he likes New York the best of any American city, he'd much rather live in Tel Aviv. "It's like New York with good weather," he said.
You can't exactly fault him. The weather in Tel Aviv is miraculously warm all year round. When I left New York on a 55° morning and landed in Tel Aviv on a 70° night, I dropped my bags at my hotel and took a leisurely stroll through the buzzing city streets, which are safe, even for a young female traveling alone. But even with a nightlife scene to rival New York's, the city's best spots are spread out; Having the City Guide with me (it came out the day after I landed back in New York) would have been a big help.
The Guide does a good job of illustrating Tel Aviv's strengths and struggles in an introduction that describes it as "the world's first modern Jewish city...blessed with many of the amenities needed to be a sophisticated global destination." Tel Aviv not only has a promising culinary movement and a growing art scene with plenty of bars, shopping and miles of beaches, but the city is "aggressively permissive, tolerant and open-minded—a blend of European progressiveness spices with Levantine and Arab traditions... resolutely Jewish but today as gay, multicultural and wealthy as many European cities."
In a short two-mile walk from downtown Tel Aviv you can see commercial shops, independent boutiques and craft fairs. Coffee shops and juice bars dot nearly every street corner. By noon you'll be at the beach, hungry for a lunch of the daily catch. After a glass or two of surprisingly tasty Israeli Chardonnay (I had no idea Israel had such established wineries), follow up a tour of the 5,000+ Bauhaus buildings in the infamous White City with a very worthwhile 20 minute drive to Holon Design Museum, a stunning steel structure by Ron Arad where you can see work by local designers (see our coverage of Holon Design Week for more).
The City Guide is a great place to start your trip to Tel Aviv. It points out some of the best of what the city has to offer while leaving plenty of room for discovering your own favorite spots. Available through Phaidon for $9.95.