The 77 year old tourist city is awakening to a new life and is offering visitors a varied and colorful vacation: well-kept promenades, a new park, inexpensive hotel rooms, historical attractions, ethnic restaurants, a colorful market, and little boutiques.
The thousands of new immigrants from France have added their own rhythm. Between the Russian gefilte fish, French bistros, Tunisian hamins, and Irish beer on the beach, the city is teeming with life even in the winter.
Fitness on the promenade
Prepare your walking shoes. There is nothing like a walking tour along the Netanya beach on a winter’s day, in sun or rain. You can choose between five promenades, each of which has their own unique character. The Nitza promenade sprawls from the “Mini Golf” restaurant until the intersection of Nitza Boulevard.
Along the promenade there are walking paths, sitting areas, and grassy playgrounds. The Shaked promenade, which is parallel to Nitza Boulevard, has a spectacular observation balcony over the water. It passes the amphitheater and coffee houses that sit under pagoda roofs and overlook the blue water.
Photo: Yaffa Raziel
The Maapilim promenade is situated along Maapilim Street and is characterized by its artist’s square, which at its center has the municipal gallery displaying exhibits of the best Israeli artists. One of its exhibits “On the soccer field”, includes personal interpretations by the artists on the complex relation between man, ball, and field. Along the promenade there is a skating rink for skating enthusiasts.
The Rishonim promenade is parallel to Gad Machnes Street, and is unique for its nine wooden pergolas that cover nice pubs, restaurants and cafes. In its center an elevator was built, the first of its kind in the country, which allows bathers to reach the beach without steps, and is suited especially for the handicapped.
The Cliffs promenade sprawls along Ben Ami Boulevard, curves around the cliff, climbs up the small sandy hills and creates secluded, romantic sitting areas in front of the waves. The promenade has a new playground and a paragliding site, for those who wish to see Netanya from a bird’s eye view.
East of the Cliffs promenade, near the famous Iris Reserve, a winter pond park was recently built around one of the last winter ponds left in the country. The park has wooden climbing structures, for the brave who like to climb ropes and leap over bridges.
A little bit of history
The Sycamore tree: The most famous site, which symbolizes the birth of this city, is the ancient sycamore tree, which some people insist was discovered between hundreds and thousands of years ago. Under the shade of this impressive tree, negotiations were conducted to purchase the land from the Arabs of Umm Khalid.
Beit Habe’er: This founder’s museum is an essential stop on any visit to Netanya. The house (17 Sokolov) is a remnant of an orchard farm that specialized in citrus fruit that was established in 1925 by the veterans of the Hebrew Brigade, who received a permit from the high commissioner to purchase the land.
Until the establishment of the state the farm and orchard served as a base for Hagana activities. The building of Beit Habe’er has been renovated and the site, which has been decorated in good taste by Zohara Dotan, displays permanent exhibits and artifacts that document the way of life during the beginning of the settlement, at home and in the field.
Beit Habe’er is open Sundays through Wednesdays from 8:00- 14:00 (groups should be coordinated in advance). Entrance fee: Ten Shekels. Tel: 972-9-5706415
Spices and diamonds
A walking tour of the streets of Netanya should start on Yahalom Street, where the local market is held, and which offers good and cheap merchandise - starting with vegetables, fruit and spices all the way to clothing, shoes and house wares.
In 1934 Netanya’s first industrial zone was built here, and it developed with the establishment of the diamond polishing business in the early 40’s. The only remainder of the diamond industry, which crashed in the beginning of the 1990’s, is the fancy jewelry store and polishing workshop “Diamond” (2 Gad Machnes), where you can watch a movie that describes the industry’s past and present. Groups must coordinate in advance, no fee. Tel: 972-9-8611182.
In Atzmaut square there is a fountain in the shape of a coastal lily, which is the symbol of the city of Netanya. Next to it is a memorial wall to the fallen soldiers of the War of Independence and behind it is the Esther Theater, which served as the first cultural center and starting in 1936 was a hiding place for illegal immigrants.
The theater has been renovated and the main hall has recently become a fancy Russian restaurant named “Maestro”, which has a menu, which combines home-style food and French gourmet. From the square a pleasant path was paved to the ocean.
A city for every taste
Many different ethnic groups have gathered over the years in Netanya, and each one has contributed to the enrichment of the local flavor. There are simple restaurants, French bistros, Russian delis, and obviously falafel. Here is a representative sampling.
Kochav Hayam (Sironit Beach): On this beach, which is open 24 hours a day (with a lifeguard present all year long), sits a pleasant restaurant which specializes in grilled fish. The surrounding décor: sand and blue. On Thursdays you can clap along to Mediterranean music until dawn. Tel: 972-9-8879666.
Falafel Tova (13 Shmuel Hanatziv), for falafel enthusiasts. This falafel store has been deep-frying for three generations, and the taste of the falafel has not changed a bit. The pitas are soft and warm, the salads are excellent and the falafel melts in your mouth.
Chacho (10 Hashoham): In the center of the market is a Tunisian worker’s restaurant whose menu has been the same for years. On kerosene burners, just like Grandma did in her kitchen, they cook mafrum, chareima, kokla and couscous. Tel: 972-57-7518600.
Mifgash Haemek Hayarok (2 Shaar Haemek) is better known as “Uzi Hummus”. The seed grinders who really know hummus are invited to a culinary visit at this small and crowded Hummous shop. Uzi Ginati, a humorous man, cooks, grinds, mixes and seasons the hummus according to his secret recipe. The place is tiny and the lines are always long. Tel: 972-9-8616182.
Yiddishe Mama (33 Gad Machnes): A Russian flavored restaurant for those who are nostalgic for traditional Jewish food from the Eastern European kitchen: chicken soup, gefilte fish and chulent are just some of the pearls. Tel: 972-9-8870487.
Bordeux (12 Habonim, Poleg Industrial Zone): a new bakery and café with beautiful aesthetics that specializes in Moroccan cookies baked according to the recipes of the owner Eddie Amar’s grandmothers. All the breads are made from a base of rye and whole wheat. The hot hit - amazing low calorie bread. They serve breakfast and the menu changes throughout the day. Tel: 972-9-8654935.
In Netanya, which was declared a tourist city more than 60 years ago, there are more than 1,000 hotel rooms, many of which have recently been renovated. Most of the rooms are fair (here and there sometimes less) and are priced accordingly.
The exception is the “King Solomon” Hotel, which recently invested NIS 3-million in renovations. The hotel has 102 rooms, rests on one of the prettiest cliffs in Netanya and has a Jacuzzi, saunas, tanning porch, and fitness center. The dining room, café and bar are designed in a youthful and colorful style and the red couches in the lobby are daring and sexy. The prices until the end of February are NIS 550-750 per couple per night for the weekend. 18 Maapilim, tel: 972-9-8338444.
Go Carting: Those who love wheels and racing heartbeats are invited to vigorously drive at the “Go carting Poleg” site. The site is covered and operates all year. At the site you can rent the most advanced cars in the world, a four stroke engine with 200 cc capacity, that provide seven horsepower and turn driving on a race track into an experience. At the end of each track the driver receives full details on his driving technique and his rating in relation to the other contestants. Tel: 972-9-885-4477.
A bird’s eye view: Netanya looks lovely from atop the cliffs. Twenty minutes in a paraglide on top of the city demonstrates this in a relaxing manner. The paraglide is powered by nature alone, without the need of an engine, and anyone over age six can try it. You must call 24 hours in advance to check weather conditions. Tel: 972-9-9541112.