The sitting area and the rooms at the Bezalel Hotel in Jerusalem.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Someone finally realized that with the resurgence of Mahaneh Yehuda as a culinary magnet in Israel’s capital, the downtown area of Jerusalem was ripe for the invasion of the boutique hotel.
With the user-friendly light rail system providing an attractive, novel and efficient way for visitors to get around, downtown Jerusalem has evolved into a desirable location to use as a base to explore its historic neighborhoods, sample its varied range of restaurants and, with the proliferation of hotels like the Bezalel, retire to a quiet, comfortable night of sleep above the bustle.
The latest in the Atlas boutique hotel chain (also boasting Jaffa’s The Market House and Tel Aviv’s 65 Hotel on Rothschild St. among others), the Bezalel rises to the high standards of its precedents.
The third Atlas hotel in Jerusalem (along with the Arthur and the Harmony hotels) the Bezalel is housed in a restored landmark building on the corner of Bezalel and Mesilat Yesharim streets, across from the popular Nocturno café.
The 37-room hotel combines hominess, style and class. A quaint garden courtyard in the entranceway immediately removes the visitor from the city scene outside and introduces a tranquil environment.
According to manager Ayala Dekel, the hotel is dedicated to Israeli design, with all details from decorative wall hangings to the lobby and room furniture combining Israeli designers and artists, with innovative material.
Many of the art and fixtures are the work of students from the Bezalel School of Art, whose original site is around the corner.
Curator Dina Ikrson chose works of contemporary Israeli artists with Jerusalem as a theme, like the sculpture in the hotel courtyard made of Jerusalem stone by artist Zohar Gutman.
The interior of the hotel was designed by architects Uri Ben-Dror and Michael Ankooh and features a ceramic Armenian wall hand-painted by Armenian artists from the Old City. Artistic light fixtures designed by Naama Hofman can be found throughout the public spaces that present a hybrid between functional lights and suspended works of art.
But man doesn’t live – or sleep – by art alone, and the rooms at the Bezalel are also detail-oriented to offer aesthetics and comfort as one. The limited space is utilized well and provides ample room to move around. About half the rooms are equipped with small porches, but even those without the outside space don’t feel cramped.
A happy hour from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. gets guests into the mood with wine, juices and pastries – and on this day, a caldron of delicious Jerusalem artichoke soup and a pan of steaming homemade lasagna.
With so many great eateries in such close proximity, it takes a lot of willpower not to turn a stay at the Bezalel into a food fest.
But the best advice is to eat lightly until breakfast time.
That will whet the appetite for the deluxe gourmet breakfast that is waiting in the morning. Based on raw ingredients procured a 10-minute walk away in Mahaneh Yehuda, the compact buffet is stunning in its detailed quality.
Served in the hotel’s common room, which evokes a funky library vibe, the ample spread is catered to personally by a chef who is constantly refilling plates and moving back and forth between the kitchen and the dining room.
One egg dish was offered, and it was a doozy – shakshuka with spinach and a cream sauce. It’s unlikely anyone will go back to the traditional tomato-based shakshuka after sampling this.
Competing for the palette were meticulously designed salads featuring ingredients like couscous and pomegranates, a cheese platter for every taste and a dish of lightly cured smoked salmon that puts the industrial-style lox to shame.
Of course, it’s impossible to leave without trying the deliciously delicate pastries like soft croissants filled with milk chocolate or the sublime chocolate fudge cookies.
The food is all kosher, but there is cooking taking place on Shabbat, for those of stricter religious observance.
The non-smoking hotel features free wi-fi in all guest rooms and the common areas. Parking is a slight challenge, with metered or Pango parking on the street and a number of nearby parking lots with fees that will run around NIS 80 for a 24-hour hotel stay. That will add to the average price of NIS 600-700 for a couple for a midweek stay (add a couple hundred shekels for weekends). But it’s a sacrifice that isn’t very painful for the reward of enjoying such a singularly enjoyable stay in the heart of Jerusalem.The writer was a guest of the hotel.
Mesilat Yesharim St. 1, Jerusalem, Israel
Reservations: (03) 542-5555