We’ve yet to stay at another hotel in town offering quite the level of service available at the Waldorf Astoria Jerusalem. Run by an exceedingly warm and welcoming team, the 2014-opened property is within easy walking distance of the Jaffa Gate, one of the main entrances to the Old City. It’s an obvious choice for luxury travellers looking to have everything under one roof – dining, wellness and a deluge of friendly smiles.
Of all the days we could’ve possibly checked into the Waldorf Astoria Jerusalem, we just so happened to arrive on Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year for Israel’s Jewish population. There was no way to escape the celebratory atmosphere (not that we would’ve wanted to) as we walked up to the reception desk right around the time the hotel’s Jewish guests broke their fast, joyfully heading towards a scrumptious buffet. To respect the holiday, the kitchen was to remain closed for the remainder of the day, but anticipating that we might be hungry, the team surprised us with a selection of fish and cheeses they had delivered straight to our room for dinner. What they didn’t know then was that we don’t eat animal-derived ingredients, but after just a few words and some ten minutes, a total of eight vegan-friendly dishes from the buffet were brought up to our lodgings – we knew there and then that we were in excellent hands.
And we were in a rather comfortable room, too. As you’d expect from the upscale brand, all accommodation features luxurious amenities including King size beds, TVs embedded within bathroom mirrors, rainfall showers and toiletries by renowned Israeli skincare brand AHAVA. Our room, one of 197 at the Waldorf Astoria Jerusalem, also came with a freestanding bathtub and a private balcony that was especially nice to have seeing as we were on one of the top floors, offering beautiful city views. If you’re looking to go all out on luxury, there’s a total of 26 suites here, with two huge Presidential suites that come fully equipped with private saunas, whirlpools and kitchenettes with dedicated service entrances. Albeit not the most stylish, with some furnishings looking just a little tame, accommodation at the hotel is certainly opulent.
We also enjoyed using the spa, run in collaboration with French cosmetics giant Guerlain. For a chance to reflect on the spellbinding sights this ancient city has to offer, nothing beats an hour or two of lounging by the hotel’s generously sized subterranean pool. Situated under a vaulted ceiling and surrounded by walls made from the region’s famous, champagne-coloured stone, the brightly illuminated pool is the centre of a moody and atmospheric wellness area. A hammam and saunas are just a few steps away, while a total of nine treatment rooms next door mean that guests can get the jet lag massaged out of their tired muscles and any dermatological damage from the Middle East’s intense sun exfoliated off their faces – phew!
Right on time
While you’re Out There
While not around the corner, Jerusalem’s outstanding Yad Va’Shem, a Holocaust Remembrance Centre and Museum is just 20 minutes by car from the hotel. It’s not an easy visit, for obvious reasons, but if you’d like to pay your respects while in the country, there can be no better place to do so. A visit to Yad Va’Shem can also be hugely educational, though children under the age of 10 are not permitted.
If you haven’t quite ‘toxed’ enough to warrant a detox just yet, head to the rooftop Garden Terrace, where tapas and cocktails are served alongside pretty views and a lively ambience. Making the Waldorf Astoria Jerusalem a popular choice for Jewish visitors from around the world, its two kosher eateries, The King’s Court and The Palace Restaurant, form the property’s gastronomic heart. We dined at the former and were disappointed by the total lack of vegan options, not least because the hotel had done so well bringing an array of plant-based dishes to our room the night we arrived. In the end, we ordered a green salad alongside a veganised pizza, both of which were tasty, albeit nothing special – and certainly nothing you’d travel to Israel, one of the world’s most exciting food destinations, for. There was more for us to choose from on the breakfast menu, though frankly, the plant-based chickpea omelette we ordered tasted like exactly the sort of thing that sends shivers down the spines of non-vegans when they think about the prospect of a plant-based future.
That said, the wonderful staff was certainly helpful and tried their hardest to make our meals as enjoyable as they could be given the shortage of options. They even asked for our advice on how to do things better, which is exactly the attitude we’d expect from a five-star address, although rarely encounter. To our surprise, a very attentive waiter, who brought a cocktail up to our room that’s usually topped with egg white foam, was all ears and promised to pass on our feedback to the kitchen when we told him about the fabulous Fife Arms hotel in Scotland, where they’ve replaced the eggs with aquafaba, which makes for a better quality foam that everyone can enjoy. It’s this openness towards new ideas and a mindset of wanting to cater not just to the masses, but also to the individual, that we found sets the Waldorf Astoria Jerusalem apart from other places to stay in town.
Many a traveller will simply choose to stay here because they know and appreciate the standards of accommodation associated with this high-end hospitality brand. Others, meanwhile, will be drawn towards the property’s location right between the old city and the new city, with some of Jerusalem’s most fascinating sites a leisurely stroll away (a stroll which, we ought to add, conveniently leads you through the city’s prime upscale shopping mile). What made the hotel so special to us, however, was its highly communicative and perfectly sweet team who cannot do enough to elevate your stay. From the moment we checked in until the day we left, we felt treated like royalty: it’s not a bad feeling at all if you ask us.