By Maxine Albert
For thousands of years the holy sites of Jerusalem have drawn millions of pilgrims and visitors from around the globe. Now, a wave of stylish restaurants, wine bars, on-trend boutiques, art galleries and lively nightlife is attracting the fashionable and fabulous to this wondrous and exotic city, adding chic new appeal to an age-old destination.
Meeting Paula Abdul
It’s not surprising that I ran into personable pop star Paula Abdul in a snazzy Jerusalem eatery. “I’m so happy, I’ve dreamt of coming here all my life,” she beamed. She was about to be bat mitzvahed in Jerusalem, a long held wish. Following the ceremony and jubilation, Ms. Abdul visited the city’s ancient sites then journeyed to the Dead Sea, Tel Aviv and the other amazing destinations the country offers visitors.
Things to Do
My first morning in Jerusalem I toured the mystical Old City and its Gates, and the Jewish, Christian, Armenian and Arab quarters. I marveled at the Cardo with its archeological remains, the striking Dome of the Rock, The Church of the Holy Sepulcher and the famed Western Wall where I left a note. At night the city was swinging with lively outdoor cafes, upscale bars and cool restaurants like Zuni, Cavalier and Chakra where I happened upon Paula Abdul and savored a delectable dinner of tasty mezzes, the freshest fish and excellent Israeli wine. Yes, I happily found many superb red and whites that are produced in Israel.
The following day I headed to the newly inaugurated Israel Museum, which houses the awesome Dead Sea Scrolls as well as Picassos, Kadinskys, Van Goghs and Warhols. Then some indulgent retail therapy at the new fashionable outdoor Mamilla Mall, with boutiques by Israel’s star designer Ronen Chen and others.
Early evening I zipped over to the elegant American Colony Hotel’s atmospheric cellar bar where journalists and glitterati cocktail. After quite some time my friends separated me from my beloved martini and we headed to our next stop, the glamorous roof top lounge of the chic new Mamilla Hotel for spectacular views of this most breathtaking city.
King David Jerusalem: Located in the heart of Jerusalem, this legendary 5 star hotel frequented by world leaders and celebrities (including Paula Abdul) strikes the perfect balance of elegant luxury and old world glamour. Posh, sumptuously decorated suites with terraces offer glorious views of the old city. This grand hotel boasts a stunning lobby, lovely gardens, swimming pools and La Regence Restaurant.
Akiva Weiss, recognized as the founding father of Tel Aviv, had a vision that it would one day become Israel’s New York City. This booming economic, artistic and cultural center is proof positive that his prophecy has come to pass. Driving along its Mediterranean coastline with palm trees, bustling cafes and luxury hotels fronting white sandy beaches, I saw soaring buildings that were not there when I visited two years ago, and new ones being built. Tel Aviv’s star is definitely on the rise.
Things to Do
This vibrant city attracts the young, attractive international set. Eminently walkable, I strolled the tree-lined promenade of posh Rothschild Boulevard, like New York’s 5th Avenue, taking in the stunning architecture and swank cafes where the glamorous gather after dusk. Then off to the so-called White City district with its striking, newly renovated Bauhaus buildings – a designated World Heritage Site.
Nearby is picturesque, refashioned Neve Tzedek, evoking Tribeca, where people socialize in coffee houses by day and party at cool bars and dance venues by night. Suzanne Dellal Centre’s beautiful courtyard and lively Shabazi Street are not to be missed. Chic boutiques, colorful galleries and stylish restaurants are flocking to this ‘in’ neighborhood.
The ancient port of Jaffa with its reconstructed old city enchants with quaint shops on winding cobblestoned streets and alleyways named after zodiac signs and the must see Ilana Goor Musem. A few streets away, the new hot district known as the Flea Market, like Manhattan’s Soho, bustles with creative types, art galleries, high-end eateries, and one-of-a-kind boutiques and yes, a flea market.
Check out the Vintage Gallery, Zielinski & Rozen customized perfumery and voguish ‘L’Atelier.’ Grab a bite at local favorite Café Puaa and enjoy the scene
Tuesdays and Fridays the action is at the lively art and crafts outdoor bazaar on Nachalat Binyamin Street for artisanal jewelry and handicrafts where I snagged a pair of gorgeous earrings. Fashionable Dizengoff Street showcases haute Israeli and International designers, as well as fabulous eclectic boutiques.
Food lovers will be delighted by the tasty cuisine at the city’s sceney eateries. My favorites are Herbert Samuel’s veal cannelloni, Kimmel’s tantalizing grilled meats and Dr. Shakshuka’s amazing lamb pitas – all washed down with glasses of fine Israeli wine.
Sun worshippers will love the sandy beaches and blue Mediterranean of Tel Aviv’s coastline. After sunbathing and a dip in the sea, cocktailing or dining in one of the many seaside cafés with music is the perfect way to view the golden sunset. Top it off with a lovely stroll along the beachfront promenade.
Called the city that never stops, Tel Aviv’s boasts a nightlife that rivals Manhattan. With plenty of 24 hour cafes, piano bars, jazz and Middle Eastern venues, and hot spots like Nanuchka, Café Europa and Anna Lou Lou, you can drink and dance the night away like I did - every night. The Israelis know how to have fun!
Dan Tel Aviv: Ideally located on the beach, overlooking the Mediterranean, this sleek, chic 5-star hotel is a haven of luxury and style. After a champagne welcome, I headed to my elegant, spacious room with beautiful sea views, large comfy bed and marble bathroom where I enjoyed a delicious bubble bath. Newly renovated spa, indoor/outdoor pool, excellent club lounge, lobby with floor-to-ceiling windows and Hayarkon 99 Restaurant happily met my requisite creature comforts. •
El Al flies from major cities to Israel.
Spa At The Dead Sea
A short drive from Jerusalem or Tel Aviv takes you to the lowest point on earth. The Dead Sea, 1300 feet below sea level and renowned for its healing properties, may be the ultimate spa. With its extreme salinity you can actually sit on the water and read a magazine. People clad in skimpy bathing suits slather themselves with potent clay-like mud from head to toe. They stand like statues on the beach as the sun bakes the mineralized crust into their skin before they rinse off in the Sea. Spa hotels offering treatments and all varieties of Dead Sea products abound near these healing waters. Post Sea, I actually felt better and my skin became soft and silky. Additionally, it was a hoot.