In Jerusalem, Boutique Opulence Without the Ungodly Price
A jewel-toned boutique hotel in Jerusalem pairs modern design details with the glory of old-world architecture.
JERUSALEM, Israel – Bleary after two overnight flights from Los Angeles and London and a cab ride from the Tel Aviv airport, I showed up at the brand new Villa Brown Jerusalem very early one morning. So early, in fact, I was the very first guest to ever check into the city's first boutique hotel of this caliber.
So many firsts! Hotels are all about smoothly hiding chaos, but my initial moments at the Villa Brown involved a different flavor of busy, with employees still setting up small details and apologizing along the way. That said, my stay was as calm as could be.
Rates start at $245. Click here to book.
The Villa Brown lobby has a whiff of the old world — it was originally a 19th-century villa built by a Jewish-Italian doctor — until you get to the desk at the rear of the lobby, in a light-flooded atrium that's part of the building's tasteful addition.
A quick walk to Jaffa and the Old City, Villa Brown on Rehov HaNevi'im (Street of the Prophets) is directly across the street from the uber-historic (as is the case with just about everything in Israel) Mayer Rothschild Hospital and the original Hadassah Medical Center. In other words, it has all the benefits of a central location without being on an annoyingly loud main drag.
Villa Brown's purple, orange, and red jewel tones and glam brass elements contrast with the building's beautiful stone work. The overall concept is a much-needed and welcome alternative to the massive hotels that house the hordes of tourists in this city. The Brown Hotels group, known for their buzzy, energetic Tel Aviv properties, bring a design-forward sensibility to Jerusalem in a manner that comfortably blends old and new.
This Place Is Perfect For
If I were traveling with my family, I might go big at the iconic King David Hotel, but for solo travelers and couples who want to avoid anything resembling a cookie-cutter stay, Villa Brown is definitely the right choice.
What's on Site
The seating on the patio entrance to the building does double-duty as an outdoor lobby of sorts and has a languid Mediterranean vibe. My compact room had access to a shared outdoor balcony with comfortable chairs and sunset views. Oh, and let's not forget the front dining room and breakfast service. Breakfast is THE meal in Israel, and at the center of all things tahina, shakshuka, and more that are trending these days is chef Meir Adoni, of Nur in Manhattan. Chef Adoni consulted on the menu, and I was blown away by the range and deliciousness of starters and salads. Be prepared to laugh when the waiter asks what your main course will be … after you've eaten about ten other things. Regardless, eat it all anyway. Villa Brown doesn't have a full spa, but there are treatment rooms by the roof deck. The jacuzzi on the top level wasn't yet finished during my stay, nor was the downstairs bar.
Number of Rooms
There are 24 rooms and suites, the smallest of which are, well, quite small.
Excellent WiFi (thank you, thriving Israeli tech industry!), TVs, plush linens. The junior suite has a private terrace and the Grand Attic has a freestanding bath tub and access to the rooftop terrace and spa.
Because of the compact size and its DNA as a boutique hotel, staff serves as collective concierge. They nabbed me a seat at Yudale last-minute, lucky me. (Read more about it on Fathom to see why I was so excited.) If you require a cool pool for scorching days, you'll have to get creative.
In a city that has pretty much seen it all over the course of centuries, the chic creativity in the adaptive reuse of the structure and site is a breath of fresh air. It's a stylistic approach that's very much needed given the diversity of travelers coming to Israel right now.
Jaffa Road nearby is full of cafes, and there's easy street car access — a nice perk. On my first morning in town, I fumbled with my minimal, rusty Hebrew skills before regrouping at the historic Cafe Kadosh.
What to Do Nearby
I overestimated distances a few times and wound up taking unnecessary cab rides. For instance, I got rides to the famed Machane Yehuda marketplace (called "The Shuk") and the Mamilla area, but easily walked back from both. It would be useless to try and succintly list what to do in the Old City and other nearby areas because there's. Just. So. Much.
Good to Know
If you typically prefer space to spread out during your hotel stays, make sure to think through the size of the room you book at Villa Brown. Some larger suites are indeed romantic and stunning.
PLAN YOUR TRIP
How to Get There
Ben Gurion International airport in Tel Aviv (TLV) is an hour drive away or a train ride.
Gett Taxi is Israel's Lyft/Uber equivalent, so be sure to download the app. Otherwise, walking and streetcars for longer distances work just fine.
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