Luxury Israel

Tel Aviv

 

 

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.

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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. 

Advisor Insight:

Ricci Zukerman, president of Worldview Travel, knows Israel inside out, and shared some of her insights and favorite places with us.

“The most important thing for the travel agent in connection with a trip to Israel is qualifying the client,” she says. “More than any destination in the world, it is important to find out the reason for the choice—love of architecture or archeology, Bar Mitzvah at the Wall or on Masada, [or a] family reunion.”

 

Jerusalem Old City
Jerusalem Old City is a must-visit for history buffs or religious travelers.

When planning a trip to Israel, Zukerman advises considering Jewish holidays, when many popular sites and attractions may be closed. Also, the national weekend is Friday and Saturday (as opposed to Saturday and Sunday, which is a regular working day), so some businesses will likely be closed then, as well. Israel has no public transportation on the Sabbath, from sunset on Friday to sunset on Saturday. For local guides and assistance, Zukerman recommends Kenes, a ground operator in Israel. “They assist me in tailoring personal experiences for my travelers to great repeated success,” she says. A good local tour operator should also be used to help plan the visit from the get-go: “They know the restrictions.” There are many memorable sites and attractions throughout Israel, which is only the size of New Jersey and can be easily explored with day trips. In Tel Aviv, visitors should tour the historic neighborhood (Old Jaffa) and look at the Bauhaus architecture along Rothschild Boulevard. In the country’s north, many historic sites like the Hanging Gardens of Haifa, a Bahá’í shrine, or the underground crusaders’ compound in Acre are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. A tour of Safed (an ancient city) and a boat tour of the Jordan River or Sea of Galilee are also must-trys. In Jerusalem, Zukerman recommends visiting the Old City with the shrines of the three monotheistic religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam), touring the Western Wall Tunnels, exploring the Israel Museum and the Shrine of the Book (Dead Sea scrolls), and shopping in the city-center Machane Market and the Old City “Arab Market” bazaar. Other notable attractions include tours of the Knesset, Yad Vashem and the Mount of Olives. And in the south, visits to the Dead Sea and Red Sea are a must—go floating in the former and diving along the dolphin reef of the latter. Another major historical site worth exploring is Masada, the fortress where ancient Jews battled invading Romans.

For hotels in Tel Aviv, Zukerman recommends Hilton Tel Aviv and David Intercontinental. Small boutique hotels include Shalom Hotel & Relax and Hotel Montefiore. In Jerusalem, she likes the King David (she recommends asking for Deluxe Old City rooms and higher categories) and Mamilla. For boutique options in the city, she recommends Alegra in Ein Karem, just outside of Jerusalem, or the American Colony Hotel.

For the country’s north, Zukerman likes Scots Hotel Tiberias and Mizpe Hayamim in the Upper Galilee. Near Haifa, try the Carmel Forest Spa Resort, and for a boutique option, Villa Galilee and Efendi Hotel in Acre are both good picks. And in the south, she suggests Beresheet-Mitzpe Ramon and Royal Beach, Eilat.

Susan Weissberg, president and CEO of Wylly’s Professional Travel in Coral Gables, FL, also likes the Beresheet-Mitzpe Ramon. The hotel, which opened in May last year, is situated on the edge of a cliff in the Negev desert that slopes down into the Ramon Crater. “Rooms are luxurious and the décor of the property is tastefully understated with amazing panoramic views,” she says. “This property is truly an oasis in the desert and I recommend taking an exciting jeep ride of the crater during your stay there.”

Weissberg is also looking forward to the upcoming Waldorf Astoria Jerusalem, which is scheduled to open in the spring of 2013. “The original facade of the property is the Greco-Roman architecture of the Palace Hotel which was built in 1923; even the original grand staircase has been restored,” she says. The hotel will be close to Independence Park and within walking distance of the Old City, and will have a spa and fitness center, meeting rooms, a grand ballroom and a retractable atrium roof.

And in Tel Aviv, the upcoming Isrotel Royal Beach is due to open in April 2013. The hotel will have views of the Mediterranean Sea and dedicated rooms for families. In addition to executive suites and rooms, there will be a two-story business lounge on the 18th and 19th floors overlooking the sea and Old Jaffa, as well as an outdoor swimming pool and a sun deck.

  

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. 

Luxury travel advisors should reach out to Reservations Manager Helen Binyamin ([email protected]; 011-00972-2-620-8702) or General Manager Haim Shkedi ([email protected]; 011-00972-2-620-8700).

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. 

Themed Tours

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
Tel Aviv’s Beaches are a popular attraction for locals and visitors alike.

 

King David Jerusalem
King David Jerusalem is a top pick for celebrities and VIPs.

 

Middle Eastern fare
King David Jerusalem serves authentic Middle Eastern fare in its restaurants.

 

New City rooms
King David Jerusalem’s Deluxe top-floor New City rooms have views of Jerusalem’s New City.

 

David InterContinental Tel Aviv pool
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
David Intercontinental Tel Aviv guest rooms have views of the Mediterranean.

 

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