With its white-hot beaches, cosmopolitan cities packed to the brim with art, shopping, and pulsating nightlife, and sites full of rich historical and religious significance, it’s no wonder travelers have caught on to the allure of Israel. In fact, visitors to the country in 2017 were up a record-breaking 26 percent, according to the Ministry of Tourism. Due to the county’s relatively small size—roughly the same as New Jersey—this bucket-list destination gives honeymooners the unique opportunity to pack a little bit of everything into their trip: There’s wine tasting in the north, desert R&R in the south, endless beaches that line the Mediterranean Sea, and mouthwatering cuisine at every turn. Here’s everything you need to know about a honeymoon in the holy land:
What to Do:
There’s something undeniably cool about Tel Aviv. Part beach town, part big city, and close to Israel’s international airport, it's an obvious first stop. In the White City—which gets its nickname from an omnipresence of white, Bauhaus buildings—you can just as easily spend a lazy day relaxing on the Mediterranean shoreline as you can exploring the hipster neighborhood of Florentin. This changing neighborhood’s street-art scene has transformed an otherwise grimy ‘hood into something of an outdoor art museum, so book a graffiti tour through Grafitiyul to truly take it all in. Next: spending an afternoon exploring the ancient port neighborhood of Jaffa and its vibrant flea market—a blend of trendy shops, cafes, and antique treasures—or cruising the more traditional Carmel Market, where gorgeous food stalls packed with spices, teas, pastries, and juice shops are the norm. The local guides at Secret Urban History can take you to all of Tel Aviv’s hippest spots when it comes to food, art, and nightlife—which you’ll want to take full advantage of, since the city is known for its nonstop party scene. Tons of lively bars dot Rothschild Street, and you can find a sure bet at The Prince, a cafe that turns into a chill rooftop hotspot, or Anna Loulou, a divelike bar and dance club hidden behind a secret door in one of Tel Aviv’s oldest neighborhoods. (Pro tip: If you or your bae love to party, visit during the Purim holiday—basically, it’s Israel’s version of Halloween, with elaborate costumes, lots of dancing, and tons of different events.)
Couples seeking solitude can cruise to the Negev Desert, where the landscapes will make you feel like you’re in one of the most isolated, otherworldly spots on earth. The highly photographed pool at Beresheet Mitzpe Ramon, which overlooks the splendid beauty of the craterlike Ramon makhtesh, is reason enough to check in at the luxury property—where some of the rooms and villas even have their own private plunge pools so you can enjoy the sun in total seclusion. Or, elect to go completely off the grid by checking in at one of the chalet and cabin-style rooms at Carmey Avdat, a desert winery that uses ancient farming practices to produce its delicious wines. Whatever you do, make sure a camel ride is part of your plans in the desert, and getting a taste for the ancient Bedouin culture that has been prevalent here for centuries.
If you’re renting a car, your itin should also include a trip to the north, where you can get a taste of the unique and up-and-coming Israeli wine scene. Snuggle up for a glass at Tabor’s boutique tasting room, check out the perfectly planted vineyards of Stern Winery, or sip some of the yummy varietals—many of which you’ll want to pack in your suitcase—at Yarden.
No trip to Israel is complete without seeing Jerusalem: The compact, walkable Old City and its distinct Jewish, Christian, Muslim, and Armenian quarters are full of important religious and historical sites, including the Western Wall, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and the Temple Mount. Outside the Old City walls, the First Station Jerusalem is a former railroad station that has been restored into a vibrant recreation space to eat, shop, and play, while the Machane Yehuda Market offers visitors traditional market delights with a trendy mix of restaurants, beer tasting, and medicinal juice shops. Day trips from Jerusalem to The Dead Sea are quick—and chilling out for an afternoon at Neve Midbar Beach offers newlyweds a chance to partake in the famous mud-soaked float with an après-cocktail in hand.
Another excellent—and affordable—way for honeymooners to see different parts of the country is by water on one of Crystal Cruises’ many luxury, all-inclusive offerings, including the notable three-day Panoramic Israel cruise, which begins in the gorgeous beach town of Eilat and continues on the Suez Canal and through the glittering Mediterranean Sea to Ashdod. From here, guests can use the port city as a home base and visit Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, both an hour’s driving distance without traffic.
Where to Eat:
No matter where you are, the food in Israel will not disappoint. Spend a day eating your way through the Levinsky Market in Tel Aviv, a small part of the city packed with beautiful teas and spices and casual lunch spots, like Yom Tov. The sodas, also known as gazos, at Levinsky 41 are all one-of-a-kind. Let the workers there read your mood and concoct something special for you both—you won’t be disappointed by their refreshing creations. In Jaffa Market, Shaffa Bar and Puaa are great casual lunch spots, and you’ll dream about the mezzes at waterfront restaurant Yulia for years to come. In Jerusalem, the seafood dishes and Israeli wines at Adom are top-notch, as are the cocktails at The Gatsby, a romantic, Gilded Age speakeasy bar with some of the most beautiful cocktail presentations you’ll ever cast your eyes on.
Where to Stay:
Setai Tel Aviv
In Tel Aviv, the stunning new Setai Tel Aviv is setting the bar for casual beachfront refinement. The hotel is built in Jaffa, the city’s ancient port neighborhood, in a former Ottaman-era jail—though honeymooners could hardly ever imagine feeling imprisoned in such digs. Comfortable, contemporary rooms which feature Turkish rugs and Moroccan-inspired sconces open up to small balconies that overlook the Mediterranean Sea and a a stunning urban rooftop infinity pool, making it the ideal place to relax or explore all that Tel Aviv has to offer.
Publica Isrotel, Autograph Collection
In Herzliya, which has a wider, quieter beaches—but is a short Uber ride from all the action of Tel Aviv—you and your bae can be the first to check in at Publica Isrotel, Autograph Collection, another new hotel with a communal-cool vibe. With live acoustic shows in the lobby, creative cocktails next to the rooftop pool, and a serious hotel gym with boutique-style group classes, it’s a great option for active honeymooners or those looking to stay social on their trip.
In Jerusalem, you’ll want to camp out at Villa Brown, a brand-new luxury boutique hotel located in a 19th-century villa just a short walk from the Mahane Yehuda market and Old City walls. Here, you’ll find one of the town’s most intimate hotel settings with a cozy courtyard garden out front, plush rooms, and a sundeck, spa and hot tub on the roof overlooking a beautiful Ethiopian church and the Russian Compound.
King David Hotel
In the posh Mamilla neighborhood, where newlyweds will find the Rodeo Drive of Jerusalem, the storied King David Hotel has housed guests from Elizabeth Taylor and Marilyn Monroe to Eleanor Roosevelt and President Obama through the years, and it’s easy to see why. The grand hotel is the definition of refined Old World luxury, with an impressive 30-foot-tall lobby decorated in biblical scenes and handsome rooms and a gorgeous pool area that both overlook the Old City and Western Wall. The King David also boasts one of the finest breakfast spreads in town—making this historic property a splurge-worthy treat if your budget allows for spending some extra shekels.
Waldorf Astoria Jerusalem
The elegant Waldorf Astoria Jerusalem’s Greco-Roman, Gothic, and Ottoman-era architecture blends the old with the comforts of the new for honeymooners. Handsome rooms that will make you want to put your feet up post-nuptials blend traditional and contemporary elements as well, while the hotel's large indoor lobby courtyard sits under a giant skylight, allowing guests to enjoy sun and moon-drenched dining at the acclaimed Palace Restaurant throughout the year.