The Waldorf Astoria opened in 2014. It was a completely new hotel at that date, although it is behind the façade of the former Palace Hotel, which opened in 1929 and closed in 1935. The Palace Hotel had just three storeys, while this one has a larger block behind it which is nine storeys high, and with three storeys beneath, including one for parking. In a passageway on one of the subterranean levels you can see some ‘before and after’ pictures to appreciate the extent of the rebuilding. Across the road is another building with 30 Waldorf Astoria residences.
Where is it?
On the corner of Gershon Agron and Ben Shim’on streets near Malmilla shopping mall, which gives access to Jaffa Gate and the Old City. It is a ten-minute drive from the train station, from where there are fast trains to Tel Aviv airport.
What’s it like?
When you enter the hotel the reception desk is to the right and is smaller than you’re expecting. Instead there’s a lobby then a circular staircase, similar to the one in the old Palace Hotel, with some original marble on the floor. There is also a central free-standing clock with four faces, with different numerals (Hebrew, Arabic, English and Roman) to reference the different faith traditions and architectural styles in the city.
The hotel is arranged around a central atrium which is designed to do the same, as the balconies giving on to the room corridors have different style arches. The first storey balcony has rectangular arches (Jewish), then ‘Christian’-style arches and then Arabic ones as it rises towards the glass roof. Throughout the hotel there are some impressive chandeliers and bespoke glass ornamental sculptures from Czech design firm Lasvit, though the ones in the Grand Ballroom are from Swarovski.
The staff are extremely well-trained, both in terms of language (including excellent English) and with unrivalled levels of patience with a minority of guests who were, on the evidence of my stay, very rude.
The hotel has 226 rooms in total with 27 suites and two presidential suites. There are a few rooms at 37 sqm but the majority are 40 sqm, including 154 rooms which are either Deluxe or Superior in either a twin or king bed set up. All rooms have a 46-inch HDTV and complimentary wifi. Rooms have either Salvatore Ferragamo Tuscan Soul or Ahava amenities, although I think these are gradually being replaced by Aesop under a global deal signed this year. The rooms are traditionally furnished with dark wood furniture, crystal chandeliers, a very comfortable Waldorf Astoria bed with Serta mattress and lovely linen (the beds seem to get changed daily).
Bathrooms have heated Italian marble floors, a mirror embedded TV, a bath and shower stall with a marble bench. There are cotton bathrobes, an espresso coffee machine, and the buffet breakfast is included in the room rate.
The room categories then rise to the 40 sqm King Deluxe rooms (there are 40 of these) which, with a balcony measuring another 20 sqm, are large and luxurious. King Grand Deluxe rooms are slightly larger at 42 sqm. Some family rooms (six of these) have connection options. Many of the suites have a separate bedroom and living room, two bathrooms and a balcony.
Food and drink
There are two main venues: King’s Court restaurant offers lunch and has a bar with a good list of cocktails, while Palace Restaurant is where breakfast is served (a very extensive buffet) with the addition of an à la carte menu. In the evening this is the fine dining restaurant serving Mediterranean cuisine.
There are multiple meeting rooms one floor down from the main lobby, with seating of up to 500 for a banquet. There is a synagogue on a lower floor.
There is a large swimming pool and a sauna as well as a Guerlain spa and a hair salon. There is also a fitness centre, although this is only open 7am-7pm daily (shorter hours on the sabbath).
This is a traditional old-world luxury hotel with superb and attentive staff.
- Best for A step back in time behind the historic façade, yet with 21st century amenities
- Don’t miss The buffet breakfast is opulent and delicious
- Price Internet rates for a flexible midweek stay in December started from US$635 for a King Deluxe room
- Contact 26-28 Gershon Agron Street, Jerusalem 9419008; +972 (2) 542 3333; hilton.com