Hailing from the 1920s, the Norman Hotel, in Tel Aviv’s most culturally dynamic neighbourhood, is as glamorous as a silent-screen starlet. Architect Yoav Messer and designer David d’Almada have revived two of the White City’s original Bauhaus buildings, topping one off with a pool to pose by, filling rooms with bespoke and iconic vintage pieces, and marrying the two with a scented citrus garden. If the concierge hasn’t sent you on an immersive market tour, watch the sushi chef’s practiced slice in Dinings restaurant or get comfy with a cocktail in the Library Bar – and all that jazz.
Get this when you book through us:
A non-alcoholic welcome drink each at the Library Bar
Noon, but flexible, subject to availability. Earliest check-in, 3pm.
Double rooms from $680.00.
Rates usually include a Med-influenced buffet breakfast and à la carte dishes; valet parking, a selection of home-made snacks and a 60-minute personal training session with in-house trainer, Sam Stiller.
Ask for a cycling or jogging map if you want to experience Tel Aviv on the go. Adore your suite’s artwork? Most pieces are for sale, so you can recreate that ‘luxury Israeli hotel look back home – bonus points if you live in a Bauhaus original. The incredible wall candy is no fluke – the hotel works with the city’s up-and-coming art stars, and awards a prize to the most promising annually.
At the hotel
Garden, rooftop sundeck, spa and fitness room, concierge, study, free WiFi throughout. In rooms: flatscreen TV, iPod dock, minibar, Nespresso coffee machine, kettle and teas, beach bags and towels, and free bottled water.
Our favourite rooms
Bathrooms in the Grand Deluxe rooms have space for a full grooming arsenal and a bath tub deep enough for two to dive into. Corner Suite No 23 satisfies our inner eccentric diva, with a frou-frou feathered lamp, subtle shades of pink and hand mirrors hung haphazardly over the bed to admire yourself in. There’s even a circular balcony overlooking King Albert Square, if you’re expecting hordes of adoring fans.
If the view of sleek towers and the sea beyond doesn’t make you gasp, this dazzling blue number – with infinity edges running into the sky – will. Escape Tel Aviv’s stifling heat and float above it all in the glitteringly tiled pool, then pop on some shades and recline on a white sunlounger on the deck, occasionally relaying drink orders to the helpful (and handsome) pool attendants. Changing rooms are on the third floor, and the pool closes at sunset.
Whether you want a heady blend of oils kneaded into your skin, a foot rub or just to indulge, the spa delivers. Bring Mr Smith for a his-and-hers treatment on a terrace high above the city. Alternatively, let those urbane vistas inspire you as you work out in the TechnoGym-equipped fitness room. The spa’s open daily from 10am–7pm and has direct access to the pool.
Stow any Chanel wears in your suitcase (or steamer trunk) and brush up on your sushi etiquette (don’t dip directly into the soy sauce, use your chopsticks for sashimi, slurp your noodles…) to pay deference to Dinings top chefs.
All the hotel’s public areas, excluding the pool deck, are wheelchair-accessible. One room and one suite, both by the elevator, have been adapted for guests with mobility issues.
There’s space to spare in suites and a poolside lifeguard (under-16s must be accompanied), but architectural cred and a way with sashimi will excite adults much more.
Clock an eyeful of Tel Aviv’s after-dark panorama from Dinings’ alfresco terrace. Or watch the skillful chopping and filleting behind the sushi bar.
Rock a hint of flapper or go full-fledged dapper.
The buzz around the mirrored bar at one end of the Norman Restaurant spills over into the dining room with uncrowded, white-clothed tables. The menu is informed by Niçoise cuisine, but there’s a multitude of Med influences. With the sea so close, fish is a speciality, but the 45-day-aged sirloin is a sumptuous substitute. Minimalist in style, Dinings has delicate, Izakaya-style Japanese tapas, and a bar for admiring the sushi chefs’ sleight-of-hand. Light(ish) lunches – brioche-sandwiched burgers, truffled cheese toasties – are served in the Library Bar, and breakfast is a full house of pancakes, fry-ups, muesli, herrings… Try the typical Israeli breakfast with labane (yoghurt), tomato salad and eggs for a healthy start to the day.
The Library Bar’s most-engrossing read is its cocktail menu – a ripping tome of classic libations and the ensuing revelry. Its vintage bar has art deco detailing, and huddles of leather armchairs make this an intimate spot, but if things get rowdier no-one’ll shush you. Guests get exclusive access to the Conservatory bar in the glass atrium connecting the two buildings, too. Bask in the late-afternoon sun on its terrace, which leads onto the citrus, rosemary and jasmine-scented garden.
The Norman Restaurant serves breakfast 7am–11am (till 3pm Friday and Saturday), lunch 12.30pm–3.30pm Sunday to Thursday, dinner 6pm–11.30pm Sunday to Saturday. The Library’s menu runs from noon–11.30pm. Lunch at Dinings from noon–3pm, Friday and Saturday.
Breakfast in bed – or on your terrace from 7am–11am. Pastas, salads, seafood and charcuterie plates are available till 11pm, then a lighter night menu sates insomniacs till 3am.
Amid the Unesco-protected Bauhaus buildings of Tel Aviv’s White City, on Nachmani Street, sit the Norman Hotel’s two 1920s townhouses, within walking distance of the financial district, shops and restaurants. The city’s beaches are a 10-minute walk.
Ben Gurion Airport is the closest, a 30-minute drive from the hotel. The concierge team will arrange for a car to whisk you to the door (€100 for a one-way trip; free for guests in Penthouses).
Patience quickly runs thin, and traffic jams are a frequent occurrence, but driving in Tel Aviv is do-able. Acquire a set of wheels at Ben Gurion then hit Route 1 to reach the hotel. Leave your motor with the valet when you arrive; parking is usually around US$20 for 24 hours, free for Smith guests.
Worth getting out of bed for
Tel Aviv is a rare jack of all escapades, with a beachy outline, and art, food and fabulous shops within. The hotel’s concierge can map out the best bits for you. Start by wandering the White City’s curvilinear and cubed Bauhaus buildings, including an amble along tree-lined Rothschild Boulevard, home to Habima Theatre, Israel’s national playhouse. Also within walking distance are the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra and Batsheva Dance Company in the historic Neve Tzedek neighbourhood. To the north of the hotel, throughout the city centre and Mahane Rabine, lie grand museums: the Tel Aviv Museum of Art and the historic miscellany of the Eretz Israel Museum. Learn more about the architectural ‘form follows function’ movement at the Bauhaus Centre, and swan through the cobbled streets of saffron-hued Jaffa Old Town. Or, rack up a credit-card bill nabbing one-off pieces from Hamashbir department store’s Fashion Designer’s Bazaar, hip homewares at Asufa Shop or all things that glitter at jewellers Agas & Tamar. The hotel’s ‘unique experiences’ certainly fulfil their promise, with trips to Zielinski & Rozen parfumerie to mix your own signature scent with owner Erez Rosen; a tour of local artists’ studios with their in-house curator Tamar Dresdner; or a sensory tour of Shuk Ha’Carmel market. The breakfast tour is a hearty feast, waltzing you through Israeli delicacies: squeezed on the spot juices, Druse pancakes, boureka pastries, home-made pickles, olives, nuts and max-strength coffee – it’s worth rising early for.
In the Carmel area, wine bar Ha’Basta (0972 (0)3 516 9234) has more than 250 wines to try, with plentiful Israeli picks; but it’s no one – or several – drink pony; tempting dishes include crab meat-stuffed boureka pastries in a buttery sauce, mussels cooked with bacon and wine, and some outré choices – veal brain on toast, anyone? Dr Shakshuka, on the other hand, does only have one trick: shakshuka, the ultimate in Israeli comfort food (eggs in tomato sauce with vegetables mixed in). But, that one thing is superb. And Gedera 26, in the Yemenite quarter, serves up Swedish-Iraqi cuisine.
It’s not strictly a café, but fromagerie Davka Gourmet is well worth a visit for some dairy goodness, Ma'adanai Ha’Carmel in the market has superlative sausages, too; and Lechamim’s seeded loaves and toothache-sweet pastries are bought by the bag-load. The Jerusalem Grill in Shuk Ha’Carmel serves omelettes and salads, and tasty meatballs with rice, and warming Yemenite meat soup is served throughout Kerem HaTeimanim neighbourhood, AKA the Yemeni vineyard.
We like the living-room feel of the Imperial Craft Cocktail Bar on HaYarkon Street – cane-back chairs, higgledy-piggledy liquor displays, friendly barmen. Less like a living room: Erlenmeyer flasks filled with curious and colourful potions. Minzar, is an unpretentious, well-loved 24-hour pub in the Carmel area – visit for a good-natured knees-up.
As our taxi pulled up outside the Norman on Nachmani Street, Mr Smith muttered ‘wow’ under his extremely well-travelled breath. For while we’ve visited impressive hotels before, there’s something arresting about this baby-blue Bauhaus facade with its manicured lawns and handsome bellboys.
It’s eye-catching, unique and enough to transform your mood. A moment ago I was a jaded Londoner in seek of respite. Yet now I was Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, ready to don dark glasses and skip through the city’s streets. But Tel Aviv and her eclectic boulevards would have to wait: I had a 398-square-foot Grand Deluxe Room to explore first.
Tastefully furnished in an antique colour palette of muted greys, whites and cream, our room had a huge double bed, a writing desk and a posy of flowers with a pair of pink macarons to welcome us. Yet it was the bathroom we both flocked to. I hopped into the rain shower, which had perfect water pressure and acoustics, while Mr Smith was hypnotised by the deep soaking bath tub.
‘Let’s skip the cocktails and have a hot bath,’ he suggested.
It was a tempting proposition, but with a cocktail menu to examine in the Library Bar, we had to press on. It was Wednesday, which meant the Norman’s weekly ‘DJ and cocktails’ party was getting underway. But this is no Ibiza nightclub: even with vinyl spinning, the Library Bar retained an intimate atmosphere. We loved watching the highly skilled female mixologists set to work behind the bar. Mr Smith ordered a Tom Collins which I somehow ended up drinking – it was delightful.
We snacked on seared calamari with tomatoes, fresh herbs and tartar sauce. As the hip Israeli actor at the bar next to us said in Hebrew: ‘Tayim mayod’ (‘very tasty’).
By 1am we were on first-name terms with everyone on the adjacent bar stools, including the sous chef who came to greet us personally when we praised her work – always a nice touch.
Eventually we tumbled upstairs to our room and put the blackout drapes and luxury bed linen to the test. They passed. We fell asleep snuggled under the duvet while listening to the light December rainfall outside. We could have been on the Orient Express or in an Embassy club in Colonial India; the frenetic pace of the city outside contrasted nicely with the romantic mood inside our room.
We awoke hungover, keen to revive ourselves with breakfast in the Alena restaurant. Weekend brunch here is a Tel Avivian institution, with people driving from all over Israel to eat here (the hotel offers valet parking, which Israelis love) but even on a Thursday morning the restaurant was buzzing – clearly it’s a place to eat and be seen eating.
Mr Smith had eggs Florentine; I had shakshuka with copious salads from the impressive buffet, all washed down with black coffee and juice.
At this point we should have donned our walking shoes and headed out to explore the architecture in this part of Tel Aviv – which is Unesco-protected and particularly beautiful – but I couldn’t leave without sampling the infinity pool on the hotel’s rooftop first. All alone up there in the winter sun, I laid out before taking the plunge and jumping into the unheated pool. It was a bracing experience; the hotel’s lifeguard told me that at just 18 degrees, the water was three degrees colder than the nearby Mediterranean sea (heating is due to be installed this year, I believe), but a hot shower in the spa area soon brought me back to equilibrium.
For dinner that night, we took an early sitting at the world-renowned Dinings, which is said to offer a unique fusion of traditional izakaya style Japanese tapas and modern European cuisine, all served with flair in an informal setting. What this means in practise is that you sit at a pristinely laid table, with a view of the Tel Aviv skyline, while expert sushi chefs chop, roll and fold food at a central marble counter in an open kitchen. The menu here is exciting – we loved the yellowtail sashimi with caviar and yuzu lemon garlic, and the seared beef with truffle salsa and ponzu jelly.
We also appreciated how absolutely dapper the maitre’d looked and how exclusive the restaurant felt.
Leaving the Norman the following morning was hard. What was life like outside of these extremely stylish walls? After 48-hours in such chic environs we couldn’t remember – and we didn’t want to. The Norman felt more like a member’s club than a hotel – a place we were so happy to be a part of, that we could quite happily never leave.
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