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Experience Israel’s Innovative Food Scene Overlooking Its Ancient Scenery

PHOTO: Sivan Askayo

More hotels are opening up rooftop bars, cafes, and restaurants.

From Jerusalem’s famous Old City to Tel Aviv’s vibrant beaches, Israel is a country brimming with history and cultural diversity. With thousands of years of various rulers, wars, and civilizations to keep straight combined with the hustle and bustle of modern life, a visit here can overwhelm the senses. In recent years, a growing number of hotels have begun offering visitors a new place of respite: rooftop cafes, bars, and restaurants where they can relax above the busy world below while taking in a wider view of the cities and landscapes. Concentrated mainly in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, most of these rooftops are open to the public, not just limited to hotel guests. This gives everyone a chance to experience unique views, sample gourmet food, and enjoy a bit of the luxury that is increasingly prevalent in this small corner of the Middle East.

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PHOTO: Adi Gilad
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Mamilla Hotel

WHERE: Jerusalem

Sitting eight stories high, the Rooftop Outdoor Lounge and Restaurant at the luxury Mamilla Hotel offers not only amazing views but a menu based on fresh ingredients that embody Israel’s modern dining scene. Built from the famous Jerusalem stone that can take on hues ranging from brown to pink depending on the angle of the sun, the Mamilla Hotel sits in the center of the city, just a few minutes walk from the Jaffa Gate that leads into the walled old city.  Dine on citrus sashimi salmon, lamb chops accompanied by juicily roasted Medjool dates, or gnocchi tossed with kalamata olives and eggplant while looking out at the sprawling city below. There is an extensive cocktail menu as well as fresh desserts like apple cobbler with almond cream, and polenta cookies topped with pineapple and coriander salsa.

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PHOTO: Shiran Carmel
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Herbert Samuel

WHERE: Jerusalem

Towering over Jerusalem’s central Zion Square, the modern Herbert Samuel Hotel serves its lavish yet innovative Israeli breakfast in a rooftop restaurant that offers 360-degree views of the city below. There is both indoor and outdoor seating with many tables facing out over the city. The buffet-style breakfast includes a large assortment of salads ranging from the Italian classic Caprese to Middle Eastern tabbouleh; cheeses like Gouda, feta and Camembert; and eggs, including the well-known local shakshouka dish of eggs cooked in tomato sauce. The European and Middle Eastern fusion theme continues to the selection of sweets, where diners can choose from homemade apple pie as well as a selection of dried fruits and nuts.

The rooftop restaurant is also the setting for the hotel’s festive Friday night Sabbath dinner, which offers a selection of grilled meat and fish accompanied by side dishes made from seasonal, locally-sourced ingredients.

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PHOTO: Waldorf Astoria Jerusalem
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Waldorf Astoria

WHERE: Jerusalem

The newest addition to the Waldorf Astoria Jerusalem is the rooftop Garden Terrace tapas bar and restaurant. Perched atop the hotel, the Garden Terrace serves international cuisine while amid the cool summer evening breezes. Like the hotel itself, built inside a meticulously refurbished century-old building, the rooftop terrace also combines the ancient and the modern. Mediterranean-inspired small plates showcasing contemporary Israeli fusion cuisine are served against sweeping views of the ancient city. The tapas menu is based on fresh ingredients and offers everything from fish ceviche to tempura-fried meatballs to veal spareribs. A lush series of gardens planted with seasonal flowers and trees, and wicker couches with soft cushions add even more luxury and tranquility. Open five evenings a week, the menu also offers wine, cocktails, and an extensive cigar list.

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PHOTO: Sivan Askayo
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The Norman

WHERE: Tel Aviv

Dinings restaurant on the roof of The Norman, a new boutique hotel in Tel Aviv, gives visitors a taste and view of this lively and creative Mediterranean city. Built in two restored buildings to reflect the grandeur of the roaring 1920s, the Norman’s shining crown is its rooftop—not just the infinity pool and sundeck, but also Dinings restaurant. This sister branch of the world-renowned London-based Dinings fuses Japanese and European cuisine and specializes in small plates.  Diners can enjoy traditional favorites like miso soup, but also indulge in more creative dishes like homemade potato chips dipped in a beef-based sauce, wasabi Caesar salad, mini smoked Cod fish burgers, or sea bass carpaccio. An aperitif menu offers everything from a sake martini to a Lima Mule—a twist on the classic Moscow Mule.

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The Poli House

WHERE: Tel Aviv

Calling itself a “design boutique hotel,” the new Poli House in a restored Bauhaus-style building near the city’s bustling outdoor Carmel Market welcomes guests with its soft futuristic curves and blue, yellow, and green interior paying homage to 1930s Tel Aviv. Perched atop the hotel is a sleek, partially-covered bar with vintage tile floors and seating arranged around the edges, looking over the city and the Mediterranean Sea. This provides the setting for an extensive menu of 50 cocktails, including a handful of creative concoctions that stick close enough to the originals to still be considered classic, something hard to find in the highly experimental Tel Aviv dining scene. Among what the bar refers to as its “playful” cocktails is a green daiquiri made with rum, cucumber, lime, and ground coriander seeds. Aside from being a popular gathering place at night, the rooftop bar is also open in the morning, offering Bloody Marys, Sangria made from fruit and white wine, and an Apple Zubrowka.

PHOTO: Mosh Benjamin
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Brown TLV Urban Hotel

WHERE: Tel Aviv

Located in the city’s urban core and surrounded by bustling high-tech start-up companies, The Brown TLV Urban Hotel is tucked away on a tree-lined street. After exploring the hotel’s library or the rotating variety of pop-up shops in the lobby, visitors can head up to the rooftop bar.  Lounge-style couches and candle-filled lanterns create a relaxed and sensual atmosphere each evening for enjoying a variety of homemade cocktails. The rooftop offers an ideal spot for observing urban life In Israel’s 24-hour city. The Gadi & Flora cocktail combines fresh cilantro, passion fruit, and lime with Gin and ginger ale. The Belvedere Spritz is a mixture of vodka, dry vermouth, thyme, and grapefruit served in a wine glass. The ice cold Martini Vesper is mixed from Belvedere vodka, gin, and Lillet Blanc wine.

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The Ritz-Carlton

WHERE: Herzliya

Most rooms in the beachside Ritz-Carlton, Herzliya have terraces overlooking the sea. But the hotel’s rooftop cafe offers even more dramatic views, not only of the sea but the surrounding rolling hills. Although the rooftop pool is for hotel guests only, anyone is welcome in the cafe. From the tables here, visitors can look out at the boats in the marina or gaze inland to Tel Michal, the cliff-top archaeological site dating back to the Bronze Age. Open for lunch as well as afternoon and evening drinks, the rooftop’s food selection combines Latin American food with local favorites. This results in dishes like nachos with salsa and avocado alongside a Mediterranean sandwich made from roasted zucchini, eggplant, and peppers on ciabatta bread.  Seasonal platters of fresh fruits and vegetables are also served, and bartenders mix up customized cocktails.

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PHOTO: Assaf Pinchuk
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The Efendi Boutique Hotel

WHERE: Acre

Constructed inside two ancient stone houses that were joined together, The Effendi Boutique Hotel on a small street in Acre’s Old City is full of surprises: a Turkish-style hammam; an 1878 mural of Istanbul painted in honor of the opening of the new train station the Orient Express service. The hotel’s rooftop also offers a place to further enjoy the enchantment of this city, looking out at its Crusader-era walls, bustling fishing port, and a maze of winding streets. Partially-owned by well-known chef Uri Jeremias, who operates the nearby Uri Buri Fish & Seafood Restaurant, the hotel’s rooftop is the setting not just for views, but for desserts and drinks.  Diners can choose from a selection of Middle Eastern pastries and homemade ice cream in flavors like cinnamon or cardamom, as well as an extensive list of wine and champagnes.

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PHOTO: Carlton Tel Aviv
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Carlton

WHERE: Tel Aviv

This chic boutique hotel is close to the beach, which means guests can enjoy a view of the sea from the rooftop, which includes a pool, a restaurant, and a bar. The rooftop pool is surrounded by a wooden deck with sun loungers and enclosed in glass walls, which means there’s an uninterrupted ocean view. Blue Sky restaurant serves a light menu focusing on fish and vegetarian dishes for lunch and dinner, and Esperanto Bar has views of Tel Aviv and the Mediterranean.