High-Status Choice of Presidents and Kings
Symbol of a bygone era, the venerable King David Hotel has been compared to London’s Savoy and Singapore’s Raffles Hotel for its quality, style, and sense of traditional grandeur. Exceptional, uninterrupted views of Jerusalem’s Old City from its gardens and terrace and the not-to-be-missed breakfast buffet are but two of many attributes that have secured this Israeli landmark’s position as the country’s highest-rated hotel.
Whether ending your day with a sense of awe as the setting sun softly illuminates the yellow stone of one of the world’s great cities, or beginning it with the justifiably famous sobra extravaganza that boasts as many as 100 deliciously fresh breakfast offerings, there’s no place like the King David. Built in the 1930s, during the period of the British Mandate, the King David’s ambience and history (and its consistently high-profile roster of famous guests) have survived a recent face-lift directed by theatrically inclined Adam Tihany.
If only to dally until you can stand up again after breakfast, seek out a corner of the grand Art Deco, Egyptianesque lobby for some excellent people-watching.
A National Showcase for History, Anthropology, Art, and Culture
Even if you had no time at all to pause, an amble through the 20-acre Israel Museum would still give you a sense of the mother lode of Israel’s history and heritage. The complex itself, opened in 1965, is an outstanding example of modern Israeli architecture, and it houses the world’s most complete collection of Judaica, emphasizing the Ashkenazi and Sephardic cultures.
Interiors of centuries-old synagogues from Germany, Italy, and most recently India, have been dismantled and reconstructed here. The Shrine of the Book is the subterranean home of a number of the fascinating Dead Sea Scrolls from the 1st century B.C.; its white onion-shaped dome was contoured to resemble the lids of the earthenware containers that held the scrolls when they were discovered by a shepherd in 1947.
An archaeology wing displays a huge collection of important objects found throughout Israel. The 20-acre Billy Rose Sculpture Garden is the most exciting of the many outdoor exhibits; landscaped by the renowned Japanese American artist Isamu Noguchi, it contains classical and modern sculpture by major and lesser-known Israeli and international artists.
A Mud Bath and a Good Soak for Whatever Ails You
Like a gondola ride in Venice or a camel ride at the Great Pyramids of Giza, a good bob in this famously buoyant body of water and a post-dip roll in the mud is the ultimate travel cliché – and, like many travel clichés, it is not to be missed.
At 1,305 feet below sea level, the Dead Sea is the lowest point on the face of the earth (Death Valley, in California, is America’s lowest point at 282 feet below sea level), and its waters contain the highest concentration of salt anywhere Join the tourists, grab a newspaper, and bob about like a human cork in – more specifically, on – waters with a salt concentration seven times greater than the Mediterranean’s. Dead Sea mud has been part of the Holy Land’s restorative and beauty regimen since the Queen of Sheba (Cleopatra was also known to come and take the cure).
The mineral-rich area and its hot springs have spawned a treasure trove of spa facilities in and around the shoreside kibbutz En-gedi, a florid green oasis on a hillside of red desert rock. For years, the kibbutz’s inn was the only place to stay, but more recent arrivals, such as the luxurious Hyatt Regency, now fill out the spectrum. The Hyatt’s supermodern spa treatments include facials and baths using mud, and rubdowns with Dead Sea salt crystals mixed with the scents of ancient oils.
The Style and Charm of an Old Pasha’s Palace
More than 100 years ago a wealthy landowning pasha built this fortress-like villa, including summer and winter rooms for his four wives. Today, as the American Colony Hotel, it is the city’s most evocative and atmospheric hostelry.
A well-known meeting place for international diplomats, correspondents, British and American expats, and – if one can believe the rumors – spies, it’s as suggestive of romance and intrigue as Casablanca’s Rick’s Café. Moorish arches, hand-painted tiles, and painted wooden-coffered ceilings adorn some of the more exotic guest rooms.
The cool enclosed courtyard, complete with splashing fountain and lemon trees, is an inviting oasis for a drink or the Colony’s famous Saturday buffet lunch of Middle Eastern and continental choices. English-owned, Swiss-managed, and with a predominantly Palestinian staff, a stay here is worth the splurge, especially for those checking into the Pasha’s Style rooms, traditionally furnished and located in the original buildings.