Tel Aviv’s first neighbourhood is its prettiest. Neve Tzedek is a sort of Middle Eastern Notting Hill, an enclave of houses painted sugared-almond shades of pink and mint green and white, alongside bakeries and cafés and independent stores selling the most exquisite jewellery, homeware, clothes – the whole place scented with jasmine and bubbling over with bowers of bright bougainvillea.
It’s older than the hills of Judea, Jaffa – the oldest port in the world, founded, so they say, by Noah’s son Japheth. And it’s the city’s most diverse enclave, a honey-stone jumble of antiquity, punctuated by the minarets and spires of mosques, synagogues and churches from denominations of all stripes. Its labyrinthine alleyways are a delight to amble around without much of a plan. Stumble across galleries, shops, restaurants and bars, which are popping up constantly in its ancient vaults, bazaars and at the regenerated port. But it’s not just artsy bohemians as there’s also a more monied crowd these days: Soho House Tel Aviv opened recently and John Pawson overhauled the local five-star hotel, The Jaffa.
Between gentrified Neve Tzedek and picturesque Jaffa, lies tatty old Florentin. It’s always been the poor neighbour – full of commercial wholesalers and dingy workshops for cobblers and carpenters – but as with all urban neighbourhoods, its resident artists, musicians and young creatives drawn by the cheap rents are breathing new life into the grid of streets with their groovy ventures. It’s like Shoreditch 20 years ago – there’s an edge and a palpable thrill, as it balances on the cusp between the underground and emerging into the light. Discover vegan restaurants, Arab-fusion joints, late-night music bars and a new generation of artisans and chefs in Levinsky Market.