The Perfect Week in Israel
Where to begin?
We wanted to go to Israel basically just to eat. I mean, also to learn more about and see firsthand the history of the region, but mostly for the hummus (I mean c’mon).
We broke our trip into two cities: four days in Tel Aviv and two days in Jerusalem. Usually we prefer to stay in a country for longer than a week and see more than just the popular tourist spots, but we knew we were stretched for time so we focused on the main cities with the intention of going back to venture out more.
We split our stay between two hotels:
Jacob Samuel Hotel - A new, hip boutique hotel that even the locals think is cool. There’s a restaurant on the main floor and a popular bar with fun music on the basement level. Amazing location near all the best shopping and food.
Prima City Hotel - You’re basically steps away from the beach here. The lobby was super chic and well decorated, and the included breakfast buffet was really yummy. Located in more of the ‘hipster’ area.
But the star of the show was the food:
Cafe Popular - This is the, indeed, popular restaurant attached to the Jacob Samuel Hotel. They have a modern take on traditional Israeli dishes, as witnessed in their eggplant falafel and foie gras baklava. The wine list is to die for, and the upbeat energy and posh crowd makes you feel like every night is the weekend.
Cafe Xoho - We are notorious brunch lovers, and this place did not disappoint. Everything here is made in-house if possible, and sourced from local farms. They bake their own bagels, brownies, and cookies (including vegan and GF options), and the baristas there can craft the most beautiful lattes. The crowd there is very international, and the eclectic menu is more reminiscent of Australia or Bali than Israel. Hot tip: order the beer bread special of the week!
Betzavta - Sometimes we get tired of eating out 24/7 — it can be a really impersonal experience. We discovered this amazing company connecting travelers to local hosts who are willing to have us join them for a traditional Israeli dinner in their home. We were lucky enough to be able to join for a typical Friday Shabbat dinner. Betzavta means ‘together,’ and this was definitely the highlight of our trip.
HaKosem - Okay falafel lovers, this one’s for you. After tasting falafel from around the world, we can officially say this is our #1. Like…DAMN. You can order a meal with creamy hummus and fried eggplant, or get your crispy balls of goodness (or shawarma, if you prefer) in a fresh pita with all the fixings — either way, you will surely call this one of your favorite stops in Tel Aviv.
Cafelix - Legitimately the best cappuccino we’ve ever had. We were not coffee snobs by any means, but after drinking this, we might be now. We should mention that it pairs perfectly with one of the fresh pastries they feature.
Aside from eating, we also managed to explore the Carmel Market (crowded, but fun to peep at all the different foods and tchotchkes), historic Jaffa, and the boardwalk on a sunny day. There’s a beautiful stretch of coastline right in Tel Aviv that’s easily accessible by bicycle or on foot. We definitely recommend taking a stroll if you can!
We managed to catch the train from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem (a 1.5 hour ride for about $5), and even though it was a rainy cold couple of days, we got a good feel for the Old City. We stayed at Hotel Yehuda, and it was so lovely. We had an excellent view right out our window, and the breakfast buffet has a huge selection of Israeli salads. The spa there is what really takes the cake though — book a massage if you can squeeze it in, you won’t be sorry!
After warming up in the sauna, we ventured to the Western Wall and explored the maze that makes up the Old City, grabbing some fresh pomegranate juice from a vendor along the way.
All-in-all, we loved our time in Israel. There are so many more restaurants we’d love to try, and we NEED to go back to Tel Aviv so we can enjoy the beach on a warm summer day. We are already plotting our next trip!