Not so very long ago terminally bland chain hotels were the mainstay of lodging in Israel—indeed, a certain generation of travelers can remember when they were practically the only choice in cities like Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. But the past decade has seen a total transformation of the Israeli boutique hotel landscape. Big chains are still amply represented, but with demand for innovation in the lifestyle space high even well-known brands are finding it necessary to get their style game on.
Often located in the heart of trendy neighborhoods where the locals live, work and play, the newer boutique hotels particularly in Tel Aviv are as much windows into contemporary Israeli culture as they are luxury boltholes, and it is for that reason that not including at least one in your travel plans would constitute something of a sin against travel savvy.
It’s a development landscape that changes quickly. Some of the early boutique hotel trailblazers in Tel Aviv are still going strong, such as the Brown and Hotel Montefiore (the latter, a personal favorite, I am still convinced has one of the best restaurants on the planet). The Varsano, where Gal Gadot once helped fold the sheets, is no more. The buzz once generated by the maximalist Alma has been replaced by breathy whispers about the minimalist Vera, scheduled to open March 15.
Though there is no relation between them, the two hotels might be seen as cousins. The Vera is the first hotel property of Israeli entrepreneur Danny Tamari, who enlisted the noted design firm of Yaron Tal Studio to bring “a vision of a distinctive local anthology” to life in a former 1950s office building in Lilienblum Street. That’s a slender byway which traverses a scruffy-chic neighborhood of eclectic architecture known for its raucous restaurants and nightlife. Inside, raw floors and unplastered walls support a light industrial aesthetic while premium quality materials (such as in-room toiletries and spa amenities by Israeli brand Maapilim) and luxe textures find their way into each of the 39 guest rooms. The Vera also has a bar and expansive rooftop terrace.
The Hotel 65 also made the transition from humdrum to happening. Its cylindrical structure is planted squarely on Rothschild Boulevard, famous for its Bauhaus buildings and pedestrian promenade down the middle peppered with coffee kiosks. With 74 rooms it’s larger than some boutique hotels but it integrates easily with the neighborhood. You won’t be right next to the beach but many of the rooms have great city views and staying here does put you where the local flavor is. When the building still contained offices (it opened as a hotel in September 2016) there was a Café Hillel on the ground floor, a popular spot with an elevated terrace facing Rothschild; it’s nice to see the hotel’s Café 65 keep that community spirit going. While I haven’t tried the food here myself, I can say unreservedly that the breakfast buffet at a hotel that’s part of the same group, in Jaffa, is fabulous.