There is no shortage of historic buildings in the 3,000-year-old city of Jerusalem — among them the former Palace Hotel, built in the early 20th century as the Holy City’s first luxury hotel. Now, after a facelift six years in the making, the venerable edifice has come back to life as Israel’s only hotel bearing the Waldorf Astoria name.
The latest addition to Jerusalem’s roster of luxury hotels opened in the spring of 2014, with 226 rooms, including 23 suites. The renovation, at a cost already in excess of $100 million, is still ongoing, as the spa and pool, due to open in 2016, still remain to be completed.
Even unfinished, the Waldorf Astoria Jerusalem has raised the bar for luxury not only in Jerusalem and Israel but even beyond. In a region known for what have been termed seven-star hotels, the Waldorf Astoria Jerusalem took the industry by surprise when it was named the 2015 Best Hotel in the Middle East by Conde Nast Travel & Leisure. The honor catapulted the hotel to the stratospheric ranking of #7 in the world, eclipsing all its sister Waldorf Astoria properties.
The splendor of the hotel is apparent from the moment one enters the lobby, graced by a magnificent, custom-made crystal chandelier and huge vases of the brand’s signature orchids. Just a few steps further, and one enters an indoor avenue: a cross between an atrium and a boulevard with a high glass ceiling that can be opened to blue skies in good weather. The inviting enclosed streetscape is flanked on one side by the King’s Court, a lobby bar cum coffee shop and restaurant that serves light meals, and on the other side by the Palace, the hotel’s fine dining restaurant.
Between the lobby and the atrium is the concierge station — the headquarters of each guest’s personal concierge. Personalized service is a hallmark of the Waldorf Astoria — from the way operators answer phone calls from rooms by guests’ names, to the smart 46-inch HDTVs in every room that welcome guests by name every time they are switched on.
The advanced technology does not stop at the giant-screen TV; on the desk of every room is an iPad tablet for guest usage throughout the hotel, and all rooms are equipped with a multi-device charging station and an iPod docking station. The latest generation espresso machine will brew coffee or tea. Lights are controlled either from the tablet or multiple touchpads situated strategically throughout the rooms. But the pièce de résistance is the television embedded in the huge mirror in the bathroom — perfectly situated for watching while soaking in the bathtub.
Indeed, the bathroom as a whole is as good as they come: heated Italian marble floors, sit-down shower stall, and dual massaging showerheads in both the bath and shower. The bath amenities are by Salvatore Ferragamo and Ahava Dead Sea mineral products. Plush cotton bathrobes, and actually comfortable felt-like slippers, round out the pampering.
It is hard to beat the feeling of emerging from a revitalizing bath or shower, wrapped in a soft robe, and climbing into your large Waldorf Astoria bed with customized Serta mattress to get a restful night’s sleep — perhaps after watching a free, recent-release movie on your large-screen TV. For a nightcap, enjoy the complimentary carafe of the house red, chased by San Benedetto mineral water (a large bottle is also complimentary).
And when you awake, the hotel’s complimentary breakfast buffet is easily one of the finest in a country known for its sumptuous morning buffets. While choosing from a lavish array of hot and cold dishes — including no fewer than three kinds of smoked salmon — fresh breads, rich cheeses, flaky croissants and pastries, the kitchen will gladly prepare your individual order of eggs, pancakes or waffles.
Finally, for fun — and a spiffier appearance — put your room’s valet service to the test: no sooner had I put my phone down after requesting the complimentary shoe shine, than a man appeared at my door and told me to expect my shoes back in three minutes. I did not believe him — and turns out I was right: it took four minutes!
Text by Buzzy Gordon, who was a guest of the hotel for purposes of review. Photos courtesy of the Waldorf Astoria.