Turn the clock back five years and Tel Aviv’s hotel scene was dominated by large chain hotels, mostly along the beachfront, largely uninspiring, uninviting, and unimpressive. Today, the sector has been totally transformed, with almost twenty boutique hotels in the city, all of which are newly opened or fully refurbished within the past five years.

These boutique hotels are the hottest place to stay in Tel Aviv, but not only are they fashionable, they way outshine the big hotels when it comes to service and satisfaction (14 out of the 15 top hotels in Tel Aviv on TripAdvisor are boutique hotels), they way outshine the big hotels when it comes to what they offer (for instance, none of the boutique hotels charge guests for wifi – a major revenue stream for the big chains), and they way better reflect what Tel Aviv is today, a hi-tech hub.

As a city that’s so close to being a truly global city, Tel Aviv needs these bastions of quality that other great cities such as Berlin or New York count among their greatest assets. 

A boutique hotel (also knows as a design hotel) is generally a smaller property, most of the boutique hotels in Tel Aviv have less than 30 rooms. By their very nature each hotel is unique – Brown TLV for instance recreates the glamor of the 1960’s and 70’s with huge Playboy posters dominating the lobby. In the Shenkin Hotel, the design is modern and cutting edge, and the theme is about the urban surroundings, Tel Aviv. What’s common throughout them, however, is a sense of place, and a sense of experience. Big hotels vary little from city to city, and the big hotels in Tel Aviv are in no way able to compete with the world’s best. Tel Aviv’s boutique hotels can, and do, compete with the best urban hotels in the world, and provide their guests with experiences that should not be taken for granted.

Tel Aviv (and Israel) are changing fast, and ever year more new visitors are coming to experience a modern beach city. The disappointment that many of them receive when staying at the larger traditional hotels is huge, whilst the amazement they take away from the service and experience of the boutique hotels is incomparable. Those who are unfamiliar with boutique hotels, as many guests in Tel Aviv’s boutiques are, are perhaps the biggest testament to the greatness of the city’s newest hotels.

Hotels are one of, if not the most, important parts of any visitors experience in a city, especially at the luxury end of the spectrum. Friendly staff, good service, and a warm atmosphere will make or break a visitor’s experience.

So instead of being excited about a new swimming pool or a huge beachfront hotel, visitors to Tel Aviv need to accept that at the expense of a huge list of facilities, they can have a really unique experience, which reflects everything which is great and cutting edge about Tel Aviv, and everything which is hospitable and world-class about Israel. It’s worth the sacrifice, and changes the impression and experience visitors to Tel Aviv have once and for all.

Ben Julius is the founder of Tourist Israel, Israel’s information site for independent tourism. He tweets @BenJuliusPlus