Israel isn’t just a religious destination anymore. These days, top-notch entertainment, haute cuisine and luxury hotels are making the small state a must-visit across many interests.
Where to Stay
In Jerusalem, the King David Jerusalem has played host to iconic names like Richard Burton, Vidal Sassoon, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, and political leaders like Winston Churchill, Nelson Mandela, Margaret Thatcher and U.S. President Barack Obama. (The hotel was also used in the 1960’s Hollywood epic Exodus, starring Paul Newman.) Recently, while performing in town, U2 front man Bono stayed at the hotel.
And while we can’t say for sure, we bet Bono would have booked the sixth-floor Jerusalem Suite (No. 636, with a separate dining and meeting room), Royal Suite (No. 634, with a meeting or dining room that can seat up to 16 people) or the duplex Presidential Suite (No. 534, with a Jacuzzi and sauna). All these suites can have connecting rooms, but if families need other accommodations, the Family Rooms, Junior Suites, Club Suites, Duplex Two Bedroom Suites or connecting deluxe rooms are also good options. Rooms on the top floors have views of the Old City, and butler service is available upon request.
The hotel’s spa has only two rooms, but treatments can be booked on the same day of service. (Four hours in advance is usually sufficient.) We hear the signature therapy is the 90-minute King David Treatment, a combination of Swedish massage and reflexology. For Swedish massages, ask for Inga; for deep tissue massage, Svetlana; and for reflexology, Mazal. Julie is the spa’s top esthetician. Spa Director Asaf Sidi ([email protected]; 011-00972-2-620-8779) can arrange any special requests, like a couples’ massage with an aromatic candle.
And then there’s the cuisine: La Regence-Grill Room uses local ingredients, especially traditional Middle Eastern herbs and spices. (Important: The restaurant is closed on Friday evenings and all day Saturday.) King’s Garden Restaurant serves dairy, fish and vegetarian cuisine. (We hear the gefilte fish and sabih are highly recommended.) Scotch fans should be sure to try the selection of single malts at the Oriental Bar.
Head Concierge Eyal Avalon can arrange any kind of outing throughout the city from individual private tours to group tours. Depending on where the visitors are going, cars or walking tours can be arranged.
In Tel Aviv, the David InterContinental Tel Aviv recently emerged from a renovation to the Atrium lobby that added an executive lounge and a restaurant/bar combination. The Club InterContinental on the 24th floor was also redesigned.
Chief Concierge Ronen Alkalai ([email protected]; 011-972-3-795-1242) is also president of Les Clefs d’Or in Israel, and can arrange any kind of private tour to historic sites in the area.
The top room at the hotel is the Mediterranean Suite, which has panoramic views over the Mediterranean Sea and Tel Aviv. In the bathroom, the soaking tub also has a sea view. Good to know: The hotel’s Presidential and Royal Suites will undergo complete renovations toward the end of the year. The North View Rooms have top views of the Mediterranean, and the Presidential and Royal Suites provide butler service.
Kosher diners will appreciate the à la carte menu at Aubergine restaurant, which changes according to seasonal produce. Dishes are prepared using French techniques while maintaining a Mediterranean flavor. Also, the restaurant’s selection of kosher wines has a good reputation—those who have only ever tried Manischewitz will be very pleasantly surprised.
Note: The hotel’s spa is currently under renovation. As of press time, no reopening date has been announced.
Luxury travel advisors can contact Director of Sales Tali Ginot ([email protected]; 011-972-3-795-1209) with any questions or special requests.
More luxury hotels are in Israel’s pipeline. For example, the Ritz Carlton Herzliya is due to open in about a year, and a general manager should be announced by the end of 2012.
Tour operators are also focusing on higher-end experiences throughout Israel. For example, Cox & Kings is rolling out a 10-day/nine-night “Israel: A Touch of History, A Taste of Wine” journey that covers Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, the Dead Sea and Nazareth. On the food-focused tour, travelers will explore wineries from the Golan Heights to the Negev desert; eat lunch with a family at an Arab home; taste local specialties at markets; enjoy a dairy lunch at an Ein Camonim goat farm; participate in a chocolate workshop (wine tastings included, of course); and sample “real” bagels at a Jerusalem bakery, where the locals dip their bread into za’atar, a blend of herbs, toasted sesame seeds and salt.
Next year, meanwhile, Steele Luxury Travel will host “Milk & Honey 2013,” a nightlife-focused tour that includes visits to the Dead Sea, Masada and excursions to the Negev desert…but also includes plenty of parties in Tel Aviv’s gay nightlife scene when the sun goes down. (How many tours offer a dedicated 24-hour nightlife manager and concierge?) By day, visitors can relax at Tel Aviv’s Hilton Beach, which was ranked among the “Top Ten Gay Beaches in the World” in a survey by GayCities.com.
|Tel Aviv’s Beaches are a popular attraction for locals and visitors alike.|
|King David Jerusalem is a top pick for celebrities and VIPs.|
|King David Jerusalem serves authentic Middle Eastern fare in its restaurants.|
|King David Jerusalem’s Deluxe top-floor New City rooms have views of Jerusalem’s New City.|
|The David InterContinental Tel Aviv pool is a great place to get some sun if beaches don’t appeal.|
|David Intercontinental Tel Aviv guest rooms have views of the Mediterranean.|