"Jerusalem prays, Tel Aviv plays," locals in Israel's modern metropolis will tell you. And while it's true that Tel Aviv's defiantly optimistic, seize-the-day attitude is infectious enough to see you hanging up your party shoes long after your bedtime, it's also much more than a good-time city. Set on Israel's Mediterranean coast, Tel Aviv also has one of the world's most vibrant beach scenes, is one of world's start-up capitals, and is one of the Middle East's most cosmopolitan cities, bursting with extraordinary architecture, culture, shopping and food. Base yourself in bohemian Jaffa, the ancient port area in the oldest (as in Old Testament oldest) and most energetic part of town.
The artists' colony of old Jaffa is the prettiest part of the city, the cobbled laneways dotted with small art galleries, theatres and the makers' spaces. The museum of eccentric Israeli artist Ilana Goor (Mazal Dagim St 4) is a highlight. It houses a beautifully curated collection of Goor's work, alongside other Israeli, European and African art, in the 18th century building that Goor still calls home. Don't miss the sweeping rooftop terrace for incredible ocean views.
For polished home-style cooking with a relaxed, intimate atmosphere, Halutzim 3 (Ha-Khalutzim St 3) is a small farm-to-table restaurant where flawless share plates, organic local wines and candlelight combine to excellent effect.
Walk down Rothschild Boulevard, in the centre of the UNESCO World Heritage-listed area of White City, en route to the beach. Tel Aviv has the largest concentration of Bauhaus buildings in the world (approximately 4,000), mostly built by the influx of German Jewish architects who fled to Israel at the start of World War II. Rothschild showcases some of the best examples of these 1930s and 40s buildings, characterized by flowing lines and a lack of decorative details. Unless you're a real enthusiast, a highlights map is useful.
The beating heart of the city, Carmel Market (Shuk Hacarmel in Hebrew) is Tel Aviv's biggest open-air market. Dating back to the 1920s, it's a buzzing carnival full of hawkers selling everything from fruit and vegetables, to cheap toys and knock-off sunglasses. Choose the stall with the longest line and grab a pita pocket filled with hummus, falafel, salad and meat, washed down with your choice of over 100 Israeli craft beers at the Beer Bazaar (beerbazaar.co.il).
A five-minute walk from the beach in Jaffa, Market House hotel has 44 well-designed rooms (ask for one with a balcony and view of the market area below) and draws a hip crowd. There's a wine and cheese happy hour each night, and transparent sections in the impeccably-styled lobby's floor give you a glimpse of the ruins of a Byzantine chapel. From about $275. See atlas.co.il.
Tel Avivians party hard and late. 10.30pm is probably the earliest you'll be wanting to start your night out, since most scenes don't get underway until midnight. If you don't like queues, contact Get Real TLV (firstname.lastname@example.org) who'll escort you around the city's hottest bars and clubs and get you to the front of the line. Don't miss Kuli Alma (kulialma.com), where hipsters sip mojito slushies in the subterranean courtyard.
Nina Karnikowski travelled courtesy of the Embassy of Israel and Cathay Pacific Airways. See new.goisrael.com.