Are you looking for a top vacation destination on the Mediterranean? One with great weather, splendid beaches, top chefs cooking for a new culinary elite, world-class museums, concert halls, and theatres, maybe adventure travel for yourselves or your kids, a swinging night-life scene, and a history that dates back more than 3,000 years? Then take a look at the new Israel … the Amazing Israel.
With the increase in luxury hotels, the burgeoning culinary scene, and the rapidly growing taste for superb food and wine cultivated in Israel as well as chic clothing and jewelry designed and made-in-Israel, this is a country truly on the move that deserves your attention. If you went there a while ago to visit “the Holy Land’, let me suggest you think about Israel now as a hot and trendy spot to consider for a fabulous and fascinating vacation. Plus, if you are looking for comfort and luxury, you can now find it easily in Israel … from the desert http://www.wsj.com/articles/a-luxurious-adventure-vacation-in-a-place-youd-never-expect-1462306965 … to the metropolis!
While you are contemplating your next trip to Israel, here are a few luxury hotels we’ve enjoyed that we can recommend for their service, food, location and ambiance …
TEL AVIV ~ THE DAN TEL AVIV
We had the pleasure of staying at the Dan Tel Aviv Hotel twice this year. Both visits were superb. Service is extremely impressive and so is their sea-front location just across the street from the city’s fabulous boardwalk and beaches. From the Concierge providing the extra TLC by following up after every request to make sure we were satisfied to the daily phone calls from the front desk to confirm that we had everything we needed, we felt truly pampered. The Dan Tel Aviv Hotel has certainly become our favorite hotel in Tel Aviv.
We took two boardwalk & beach walks while staying at the Dan Tel Aviv Hotel. We headed north to the marina and up to the old port, where we enjoyed drinks and appetizers at Kitchen Market restaurant as we watched the majestic sunset over the Mediterranean. We were also impressed by the restaurant’s actual market, situated on the ground floor below, with its bounty of magnificent produce and fresh fish. On another day, we headed south towards Jaffa where we ended up enjoying an awesome late lunch at Manta Ray Restaurant as we gazed at the ancient townscape of nearby Jaffa and watched the Israelis express their joie de vivre on the beach (see our article The Multi-Faceted and Beguiling Tel Aviv Beach).
Interested in visiting some of the city’s hottest tourist spots? The Dan Tel Aviv Hotel is just a short taxi drive or a 30-minute or less stroll to almost all of them. Some of my Tel Aviv favorites are feeling the pulse of the city at the Carmel Market, shopping for Israeli-designed clothes and jewelry on Neve Tzedek, visiting the Tel Aviv Museum of Art which houses one of the world’s best collections of contemporary art, attending a concert at the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra at the Charles Bronfman Auditorium, and strolling down both Rothschild Boulevard and Sderot Ben Gurion. Of course, if you are a night owl you will have easy access from the Dan to Tel Aviv’s famous swinging night life.
One of my favorite places to relax and rejuvenate at the Dan Tel Aviv Hotel is at their impressive and spacious King David Crown Lounge. There Denis and I often enjoyed watching the sunset from comfy love seats in alcoves over-looking the Mediterranean while being pampered with Israeli wine and hors d’oeuvres from their attendant staff. The hotel also offers a host of other attractions for vacationers, including an outdoor pool with sea water as well as an indoor pool, and two restaurants, including the top-rated Harykon 99 for fine-dining with a focus on fresh produce. Speaking of food … I will never forget that this hotel is where I had my Israeli breakfast coup de foudre (The Israeli Breakfast – Best in the World!).
The Dan Tel Aviv is expertly managed as part of the Dan Hotel group, the largest luxury hotel group in the country which was founded in 1947 just prior to Israeli statehood. The legendary King David Hotel in Jerusalem is their flagship hotel.
For more information on the Dan Tel Aviv and the Dan Hotel group, please visit www.DanHotels.com
JERUSALEM ~ THE INBAL & THE MAMILLA
In addition to the King David Hotel, our favorite hotel in Jerusalem (see our article Israel’s Legendary King David Hotel), there are two other hotels in which we recently stayed which are just outside the old city walls of Jerusalem. If your taste leans towards the contemporary, then you may want to take a good look at these top-rated hotels, the Inbal and the Mamilla.
Luxury and service both rule at the Inbal Hotel. Even the basic rooms in the hotel are luxurious as is the huge breakfast buffet overlooking the magnificent gardens of Liberty Bell Park. Plus, the hotel features a magnificent heated 25-meter long pool, which is covered in winter, offering water aerobics and swimming lessons, an impressive fitness center with trainers available for hire, and a spa with certification from the International Spa Association. Throughout the hotel, from room service to the restaurant, we found the Inbal staff to be very eager to please and surprisingly adept in English.
After returning to the Inbal late on a Saturday night, we saw that the spacious and architecturally stunning semi-enclosed atrium was hosting a large catered event with music and dancing. Curious, we wandered over and stood at the doorway. The event was clearly winding down but one of the guests beckoned us in. We accepted the invitation and found ourselves enthralled by the festivities of an Israeli Bar Mitzvah. Joy was everywhere … another memorable example of the Israeli joie de vivre.
On a couple of occasions, we went up to the Executive Lounge on the roof of the Inbal. We poured two glasses of Israeli wine, helped ourselves to some delicious appetizers, and sat outside on the spacious balcony to enjoy the magnificent view of the old city. Awesome.
For more information, please visit … www.inbalhotel.com
The newest of the hotels in which we stayed in Jerusalem, the Mamilla Hotel, stands out from the others with its unique focus on providing an array of “lifestyle” experiences for the mind, body and soul. Moreover, the hotel’s uniqueness clearly extends to the blending of the ancient Jerusalem stone with the ultra-modern architecture by the famous architect, Moshe Safdie, and with the equally ultra-modern design by the minimalist designer, Piero Lissoni. Clearly, “less is more” is part of the central theme of the Mamilla, from the design of the hotel’s reception lobby to its rooms and suites. As a result, depending upon what you seek from a luxury-class hotel, design may take precedence over practicality and comfort.
An intriguing element in the design of the hotel’s guest rooms is the liquid-crystal bathroom and shower walls which, adjacent to the bedroom, frost over at the touch of a button to separate or combine the bathroom and bedroom spaces. Our bell-hop said that you could tell how long a couple had been married by whether they used the frost to separate the spaces and add the privacy factor – or not – but he never did tell us whether longevity of marriage meant frosting or not (!)
The most memorable spaces in this original hotel were the relaxed, outdoor rooftop bar and restaurant with its stunning view over the old city of Jerusalem where we enjoyed a light dinner with a bottle of wine, the Akrasha Holistic Wellbeing Center offering a myriad of treatments from music and aroma therapies to Watsu pool hydro-treatments, and the unexpected wood-paneled Cigar Bar just outside the Mirror Bar serving cocktails and wine.
Modernity and design aside, one clearly outstanding feature of the Mamilla is its prime location. Actually, the hotel is architecturally integrated into the Mamilla Mall which, not too surprisingly was also designed by Moshe Safdie and opened just one year prior to the Mamilla Hotel. You can conveniently enter the mall from several of the hotel’s exit doors, and then you simply have a straight eight minute or so walk through the mall until you reach the Jaffa Gate of the Old City of Jerusalem. How easy is that?
For more information, please visit www.mamillahotel.com
TIBERIAS ~ THE SCOTS HOTEL
The afternoon prior to our visit to the Sea of Galilee we headed south from the small towns of Tzfat and Rosh Pina to The Scots Hotel in Tiberias. Truly, as I looked up at this exquisite hotel I had to ask myself … were we really in Israel … just a stone’s throw or so from the Sea of Galilee? Yes, the name does says “Scots”, but I was totally unprepared for the vision of this exquisite hotel masterfully built into the hillside with its predominantly Scottish features located in an ancient Roman town on the biblical Sea of Galilee. What a potpourri of history and culture, almost fairy-tale like … and at the very least, magical.
The reality, however, is much simpler. Constructed by the Church of Scotland in 2004 in the historical compound of the Scottish Hospital, the goal was to preserve the historical character of the original buildings while providing the comfort of a 5-star hotel in no less than “an atmosphere of calmness and mystery”. I am amused by the “mystery aspect” but it appears that the Church succeeded in its mission. In fact, with the addition of the hotel’s Lakeview Wellness Center with its treatments such as “Angelica Fountain of Glow” and “Immortelle Secret of Youth”, I would say the Church surpassed its mission.
Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to fully explore the hotel, savor a magical spa treatment, or get a good feel for the level of service offered, but I can say that the hotel is not only very elegant and comfortable, it also has an aura of mystery. Plus, the Israeli buffet breakfast is as interesting as the restaurant dotted with huge tropical plants that serves it.
If you are going to the Sea of Galilee … and you really must include this magical place with its fascinating history in your tour of Israel … then The Scots Hotel is the perfect place to stay.
For more information, please visit … www.scotshotels.co.il
ONE LAST OPTION …
Articles have been appearing in the last few years about trendy new boutique hotels springing up here and there in Israel. In fact, The Scots Hotel has been categorized as “boutique”. While size and number of rooms are key criteria to enter into this trendy category, so apparently is the hotel’s personality, style, character, and so on …
Although the only hotel characterized as “boutique” in which we’ve actually stayed is The Scots Hotel, we did have the pleasure of meeting friends for cocktails at the Rothschild Hotel on Tel Aviv’s famous Rothschild Boulevard. Named after Edmond de Rothschild, whose support helped lead to the establishment of the state of Israel, this boutique hotel at #96 Rothschild Boulevard, which opened in 2013, is considered to be the most famous one is Israel. For more information, please visit www.the-rothschild-hotel.com
We also enjoyed a delicious lunch and delightful tour of The Norman Hotel in Tel Aviv. Also a newcomer to the Tel Aviv scene, the Norman promises the ultimate in luxury both for business and pleasure. For more information, please visit www.thenorman.com
So if you are looking for a top vacation destination along the sunny Mediterranean, consider the cool newcomer … welcome to Israel!
Stay tuned to BonVoyageurs.com for our writings about other Countries of the World as we share our joie de vivre from around the world. Luxury escapes, cruises and city breaks to Quebec City, New York, Washington, Buenos Aires. In Europe and the Mediterranean, places like Paris and Nice in France, Florence, Rome, Napoli and the Amalfi Coast in Italy, Tel Aviv in Israel. In Asia, countries like China, India, Nepal and so much more!