For such a small country, Israel is flush with antiquities and historical sites, world-class museums, outdoor adventures in the vast Negev Desert or Galilean Hills, endless culinary options, cultural events, and unique boutique hotels for visitors to choose from. Here is a curated list of ten attractions of special interest to judicious LGBTQ visitors.
THE NORMAN TEL AVIV (Old Tel Aviv)
Arguably the city’s most elegant boutique property, The Norman plays homage to Tel Aviv’s 1920s elegance. There’s thirty individually designed rooms, twenty suites in an adjacent building, and a Penthouse Duplex where you can enjoy a glass of cabernet in a Jacuzzi with a view of the shimmering Mediterranean. (One room and one suite are adapted for guests with mobility issues.) The avant-garde art pieces on display throughout the hotel are all for sale. After a day visiting museums and galleries, chill out in their spa and rooftop infinity pool with a 360-degree view of Tel Aviv’s skyline. On the third floor, Dinings restaurant offers both Japanese-style tapas and contemporary European cuisine. The high-end Alena with a menu of European and Mediterranean cuisine is a great choice, and their buffet breakfast is sumptuous and delicious, as are the waiters in the form-fitting suspender britches. Our favorite breakfast choice is their legendary French toast with bananas encrusted with caramelized sugar, tart raspberry sauce, and crème fraîche on a divinely silky hallah. www.thenorman.com
ELEMENTO DESIGN (Old Jaffa)
Established in 1998 by designer Yossi Goldberg, Elemento is a unique furniture and homewares atelier tucked away in Old Jaffa that will scintillate your visual and tactile senses. Liberating design from mass-manufactured industry, the brand’s distinctive, one-of-a-kind pieces combine a collection of vibrant, luscious textiles and cutting-edge craftsmanship with a 1960s and ’70s inspired aesthetic to create personalized décor for homes, hotels, and restaurants. While the prices in this designer’s Disneyland wet-dream delight may cause you to gasp, don’t shy away from a visit to their shop, which will leave you agog with ideas and inspiration.
URI BURI RESTAURANT (Akko)
The proprietor, 75-year-old, Uri Yeramias, a larger than life man with a bushy beard spent much of his boyhood in the sea, fishing and diving for shellfish as a salve against bad grades and boredom. Decades later, his iconic waterfront institution in Akko, Uri Buri, is famed for its fresh seafood guaranteed to bewitch your taste buds. Seared shrimp in a lemon, butter and turmeric sauce on black rice noodles; sashimi salmon with a dollop of wasabi sorbet; raw anchovies in olive oil that melts in your mouth; a delicious seabass caldron with coconut milk, apples, and chili. You can order ala carte, but to get the Full Monty, then go for the chef’s “tasting menu” with one sublime course following another–no dish has more than eight ingredients–until you exclaim “basta!” The fun is that you haven’t a clue what will arrive next, and by meal’s end you’ll have experienced a culinary symphony of flavors and textures that you’ll be ruminating over for days to come. Guaranteed to be one of the best meals of your lifetime! www.facebook.com/pages/Uri-Buri/197362996940734
THE EFENDI HOTEL (Akko)
Amongst the warren of stone alleys and markets of the Old City of Akko (a UNESCO World Heritage site) rises the enchanting Efendi Hotel overlooking the Crusader Wall and the Mediterranean Sea. With only twelve rooms, you’ll feel as though you’re an honored guest in an opulent, 19thcentury sultan’s manse, which it indeed once was. Each suite’s 22-feet high ceilings are graced with hand-painted moldings and rosettes, and the rooms feature modern bathrooms and free-standing tubs. Archaeologists, preservationists, and Italian artisans spent eight years restoring this diamond in the rough, including a four century-old hammam, an ancient chapel-cum-dining room, and wine tasting cellar. The elegant, airy, almost minimalist lounges are wonders of glass and light, and the rooftop deck is the perfect place to watch the sun slip into the sea with cocktail in hand. www.efendi-hotel.com