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Bold architecture, a laid-back attitude and sun-kissed beaches — Tel Aviv may sizzle at the edge of the Negev desert, but the Israeli city is Mediterranean cool personified. Words: Connor McGovern. Photographs: Sivan Askayo

Looking at Tel Aviv’s soaring skyline, it’s hard to imagine that not too long ago little more than a modest port town occupied this secluded corner of the Med. Over the course of a century, Tel Aviv grew outwards and upwards: a ‘New York of the Middle East’, or so its founders envisaged. Parallels between the Big Orange and the Big Apple are probably less obvious than its creators had hoped; visitors looking to tick off landmarks might leave disappointed. But that’s because Tel Aviv’s charms lie elsewhere — its quarters bubble with creative spirit; full of art studios, bold architecture, and locals who know how to have a good time. Just make sure you leave time for a night on the tiles.

Old Jaffa

“You know, Jaffa feels like you’re in a completely different city sometimes,” says friend-of-a-friend Anat. We’re having a coffee outside a colourful little cafe called Puaa. “And I guess that’s because it is a different city.”

Strictly speaking, she’s right. Tel Aviv-Yafo (as the entire city is rightly called) nods to two cities: Tel Aviv and Yafo, or ‘Jaffa’. A ripe fruit at over 3,000 years old, it’s here Tel Aviv owes its humble beginnings: when Jaffa’s old sandstone walls became too crowded, plans were made to develop a new garden suburb to the north. While most of those who settled in Jaffa were Arabs — who still make up the majority of the local population — there’s a lingering multiculturalism as I wander through the shady steps and alleyways of the Old Town. At St Peter’s Church, mass is held in four languages, and sitting cheekby- jowl in the town are Greek Orthodox and Armenian monasteries, a former Libyan synagogue, and a mosque originally built for Muslim sailors who would come to pray before heading out to sea.

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About National Geographic Traveller (UK)

We grab our binoculars and set out to discover the awe-inspiring wildlife of India, scouting out the likes of Bengal tigers, one-horned rhinos and snow leopards in some of the subcontinent’s most dramatic national parks. Elsewhere, we explore the winelands of southern Australia; cross the frozen frontier of the Antarctic Circle; and spend a long weekend in the city of Leeuwarden. Other highlights this issue include the Faroe Islands, Tel Aviv, Manhattan, Tokyo and Santiago, while our photo story takes in the fresh air and Alpine beauty of Switzerland.