Jerusalem is a city that sits close to my heart. I’m not sure why. Just like London (my current hometown) and Budapest (the place I was born), I love this place. Even hearing its name brings a smile to my face.
I’ve visited Jerusalem a few times but the novelty never wears off. On this most recent trip, I wanted to stay as close as possible to the city centre. Which is why I ended up in luxury boutique hotel, The American Colony. Here’s what I thought of it…
When I visit Israel, I usually fly into Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport, hop in a hire car and head straight to Jerusalem. It’s just the one motorway and, because the airport is on the right side of the city, you don’t have to faff around driving through or around Tel Aviv.
Once you’re in Jerusalem, ditch the car. The narrow streets are a nightmare for even the most confident of drivers. And I always think it’s best to discover a city on foot.
The American Colony is close to Jerusalem’s Old Town. Which is – no doubt – where you want to be. Religious sights like the Wailing Wall. Streets full of vendors encouraging you to get your haggle on. And astounding historical building after astounding historical building.
The American Colony is magical. Even for a sarcastic, old Hungarian like me. Once you enter the grounds of the hotel you find yourself instantly lost. But in a wonderful kind of way.
You tread a route through winding pathways, each turn discovering some new, tranquil, romantic little spot. And then you eventually find the reception, which feels a little shoehorned in.
All is forgiven when you realise that much of the building stands as it did back in the early 19th century and many of the hotel facilities sit within those old, original walls.
Originally a pasha’s palace, The American Colony became home to an American Christian commune when they bought it at the back end of the 19th century.
From the early 20th century it became a lodging place for Westerners and pilgrims visiting the city and eventually evolved into The American Colony Hotel that stands today.
Lawrence of Arabia, Winston Churchill, Bob Dylan… Since then no end of famous heads have bedded down here for the night. So I felt pretty lucky joining my little name to that list.
The hotel’s history is one of the reasons I picked it out. When you’re visiting one of the most ancient cities on planet Earth, it seems plain wrong not to stay at a place that comes with its own long and chequered past.
A little oasis in the hot city, The American Colony gardens are something else. So much so that they almost managed to keep me from those Jerusalem city streets. Almost.
Mulberry trees, fountains, a herb garden and a fish pond. Wander around and you’ll find plenty of quiet, secluded areas in which to read, chat or quaff to your heart’s content.
There are 94 rooms at The American Colony Hotel located within the Main House, the East House, the Palm House and the Cow Byre. They range from a Standard Double, through Deluxe Pasha rooms (that once upon a time housed the pasha and his four wives), then onwards and upwards to the suites.
My room was pretty spacious and the design had a colonial vibe. Vintage-style furniture and a fully kitted out bathroom with black and white checked tiles.
There was air-conditioning, of course, a flat screen TV and a mattress on which I had some of the best nights’ sleep of my life. A balcony sealed the deal. I sat there to drink my morning coffee overlooking that gorgeous garden and listening to the call to prayer from the local mosque.
To be honest, I didn’t partake much of the hotel’s food and drink offering. The list of outstanding Jerusalem bars and restaurants is just too long.
But the hotel has a number of options to choose from, all serving international and Middle Eastern cuisine. You can eat in the courtyard and in the summer they serve up an al fresco barbecue, which sounds pretty cool.
And whilst I didn’t eat at the hotel, I absolutely loved savouring a cocktail in the garden. Sat there in the evening, before heading out into the city to eat, I got another chance to soak up the enchanting vibe that this place does so well.
A stunning outdoor pool (open from May to October), a sauna and a fitness room tick lots of boxes. And if your muscles are aching after a day exploring the city, you can treat them to a spa massage. There’s also a great concierge who can help you with tips, tours and reservations.
A magical, historical oasis.