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The Jaffa Hotel Review
Once you leave The Jaffa, a ‘hip-meets-history’ luxury hotel in Yafo Tel Aviv, it’s all downhill.
At least it was for me when I cycled down to the seafront promenade from the hotel’s perch above the Old Port of Jaffa.
The bike, being from The Jaffa, was no ordinary battered rental but a slick black beast brought to me along with a helmet, lock and patient directions from one of the in-house staff.
It was also free.
Where to Stay in Tel Aviv
All in all, my stay at The Jaffa was off to a rollicking start – even if I’d barely had time to see my junior suite in the historical section of the hotel before careening down to the beach, intent on getting a ride in before sunset.
That’s the thing about The Jaffa, a Marriott Luxury Collection hotel. To be ‘not in it’ is one of the main reasons for choosing it.
Jaffa Hotel Location
Its location, in a prime position in atmospheric Old Jaffa, one of the oldest artsiest neighborhoods of Tel Aviv, is a plum of a spot.
A short stroll will take you to the Shuk Hapishpeshim Flea Market, and it’s steps away from restaurants and cafes.
It’s a downhill walk to the revitalized port, and a bit farther on, to the beaches. While I wouldn’t classify it as a Tel Aviv beach hotel, it was near enough for me.
Tel Aviv Luxury Hotels
While there is an endless sweep of high rise hotels along Tel Aviv’s lengthy seaside curve, there are few luxury hotel options in Old Jaffa itself.
The Setai and perhaps the slightly-farther-away Drisco are the only close contenders when it comes to Tel Aviv Jaffa hotels.
If your Israel itinerary doesn’t give you much time in Tel Aviv, where you stay is important. And, as one frequent traveler to Israel, told me. “Jaffa is where you want to be.”
Why Stay in Old Jaffa When You Visit Tel Aviv
Jaffa, also known as Yafo, is an ancient city in the southern part of Tel Aviv. Its history dates back 4,000 years (give or take a thousand) and in Biblical times it was a thriving port.
It’s from here, it’s said, that Jonah sailed off for his momentous encounter with the Whale.
Old Jaffa’s Renewal
Today, the once-derelict port is a restaurant-filled hub, and the Old City of Jaffa, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a popular tourist destination.
Its cobbled lanes and weathered walls house a wealth of art galleries, cafes and boutiques – not to mention The Jaffa, its newest luxury hotel.
The Jaffa – A 5-Star Tel Aviv Hotel With a History
Like Old Jaffa itself, The Jaffa hotel has undergone a miraculous restoration.
Opened in 2018, the 120-room property might not have a Biblical story, but a piece of it dates back more than 700 years.
During the renovation project to transform The Jaffa Hotel Tel Aviv from its 19th century beginnings as a hostelry, nunnery and hospital, a 13th-century crusader wall was discovered.
So what’s an architect to do?
Embrace it, that’s what.
Acclaimed British designer, John Pawson, worked with Israeli conservationist and architect Ramy Gill to incorporate the curved bastion wall into the lobby design.
Rising out of the floor like the back of a rock-scaled sea serpent, the stone relic snakes through the glass wall and into the hotel courtyard – a tactile reminder of the Jaffa’s deep roots.
It reminded me of the ancient walls in Caesarea, and if you’re a history buff, it’s one of the most intriguing things you see when you enter the hotel.
A Fusion of Historic and Contemporary
If you’re more of a YBA sort (Young British Artists group that made it big in the 90s), look beyond it.
Competing with the crusader wall for attention is a Damien Hirst ‘Spin’ painting at the back of the lobby’s Shesh Besh Backgammon Lounge.
Making a Statement
Considering the astronomical prices a Damien Hirst artwork commands, the painting, a circular whirl of blue and gray, is a bull’s eye statement that says “this is a hotel that showcases the best.”
Of course, considering London-based Hirst was the artist who infamously exhibited a cow carcass in formaldehyde, it also says, “Just don’t call us boring.”
Minimalist Lines for Maximum Impact
Completing the lobby space is a minimalist furniture by Shiro Kuramata, irresistibly slouchy couches by Pierre Paulin and an off-to-the-side marble check-in desk.
Altogether it all adds up to a low-key high-style vibe that seamlessly suits Tel Aviv’s youthful personality.
And that’s only the lobby.
From Hospital to Hotel – The Jaffa’s Transformation
The real stunner in this former nun-run pilgrim hospital is the courtyard.
A quiet space of arches, birdsong and oak and umbrella trees, it’s the uniting link between old and new sections of this design-centric 5-star Tel Aviv hotel.
A Peaceful Spot to Lounge
Surrounded by a graceful colonnade and paint-faded stucco walls, it’s a soothing place for a bite, a fresh squeezed pomegranate juice, or a low-key business meeting.
When I cut across the courtyard, sweaty, ragged and exhilarated from my ride, I felt as if I’d stumbled upon a hidden haven – a fashionable one – and hustled to my room to dig out my Fendi mesh kitten heels.
Then I got into my room, looked around and thought, “What’s the hurry?“
A high ceiling curved over me, my ‘floating’ platform bed beckoned, and a luscious beige travertine shower was calling my name.
(I would have preferred a luscious bathtub calling my name, but modern Israel hotels tend towards showers only.)
The Historical Section
Also, since I’m a typical North American traveler who laps up all things ancient and aged, I was happy to be in the historical section for my hosted one-night stay.
If you want to sleep in the midst of Jaffa’s storied past, and are intrigued by a lingering monastery aesthetic with a luxury overlay, you might want to opt for the old section, too.
You can check out the different room types here.
While some of The Jaffa Hotel TripAdvisor reviews I’d read said rooms can be small, I’d lucked out with one of the largest.
This is no cookie cutter hotel, so you can expect a variety of rooms. Some guest rooms have balconies or terraces and some have a sea view.
Mine didn’t but if I leaned out my arched window I could see the pool.
One of the most novel things about my room was the washroom. Outside it was a dark mirrored box – a room within a room.
Inside, it was a cool fawn-coloured beauty with textured walls, and a treasure trove of toiletries.
Whatever room type you choose you’ll find custom-designed furnishings, automatic blinds, air con, flat screen TVs, capsule coffee machines, and a well-stocked honor bar.
Also of note are the photographs in the guest rooms by Israeli artist Tal Shochat.
Her images of solitary trees ground the hotel in the Israeli landscape and – if you’re in a thoughtful mood – evoke thoughts of aging, growth and change.
And, when you think about it, these could be symbols of The Jaffa Tel Aviv itself.
While you’re pondering these deep philosophical subjects of age and rebirth, you may want to eat.
Golda’s, just off the courtyard, is an upscale deli-style restaurant. Here you’ll find classic Israeli New York-ish fare like salmon bagels, chicken soup, shawarmas and Mediterranean salads.
While most dishes are made in house, the powers that be decided there was no beating what is arguably Tel Aviv’s best hummus (it’s a matter of great debate in the city), so that comes straight from Abu Hassan restaurant.
I’m no hummus connoisseur but my verdict is that yes, the hummus is excellent – tangy and creamy, with a perfect balance of lemon, tahini and garlic.
Paired with a fresh carrot juice … totally refreshing.
The Jaffa Tel Aviv Breakfast
Oh, what a spread.
I was hoping to eat breakfast in the courtyard, but Tel Aviv chose that moment to rain.
Instead, I contented myself by filling my table with so many dishes from the buffet it was dangerously close to overflowing.
Salads, fresh fruit and pastries were a mere backdrop, however, to my hearty order of Shakshuka, a local dish of gently poached eggs in a chunky tomato and red pepper sauce.
While hotel breakfasts at luxury Israel hotels are generally lavish affairs, the freshness and variety at The Jaffa were outstanding.
Facilities at The Jaffa, a Luxury Collection Hotel
Does The Jaffa Have an Outdoor Pool?
Yes. No Tel Aviv 5-star hotel worth its salt is going to skimp on a pool and The Jaffa is no exception. In season, the outdoor pool is an Instagram-worthy place to relax.
White loungers, white sun umbrellas and a shaded seating area wrap around a rectangular turquoise pool, while the Pool Bar offers light fare, cocktails and drinks.
(For something refreshing try a limonama, a popular local drink made with lemon and mint.)
L. RAPHAEL Spa
I only took a quick tour of the 4,500-square-foot spa but it looks like a hushed retreat with both a sauna and hammam.
If your Israel itinerary doesn’t include a trip to the Dead Sea, this is the place to get your Dead Sea Body Scrub and Massage. Or, if you’ve just flown in, maybe an Anti Jet Lag Oxy Booster.
Another perk of this Tel Aviv 5 star hotel is the state-of-the-art fitness room.
Open 24 hours a day, it will definitely keep your energy up with its black and white Keith Haring graffiti wall art.
(Although I personally prefer to keep my energy up with bike rides and baklava. To each his own).
The Chapel – The Jaffa’s Hidden Highlight
It was once a magnificent chapel. Today, the soaring vaulted ceiling and some of the glittering stain glass remains.
The plaster walls have been scraped down to their original patterns, the faint blues, ochres and pinks now just whisper of color.
After being deconsecrated, The Jaffa’s chapel had a quick life as a cocktail bar, but now seems to be an event and meeting space.
When I was there, either a very stylish contingent of beautiful people had stormed the chapel, or there was a fashion shoot going on.
What The Jaffa Does Best
My suggestion? Ask the hotel staff to let you take a peek at the chapel.
It’s worth seeing because it showcases what The Jaffa does best – bringing old and new together to create something singular and compelling.
The weighty stone columns co-existing with the gold Italian Cini Boeri chairs is – like the Damien Hirst Spin painting and the crusader wall – an exquisite clash of eras.
Is The Jaffa One of the Best Luxury Hotels in Tel Aviv?
The Jaffa may be the best Tel Aviv hotel. It’s certainly getting a lot of buzz.
Deservedly so. The Hotel Jaffa’s transformation into a luxury hotel was a restoration project that took more than 10 years.
The result? A sophisticated Tel Aviv hotel that remains sensitive to its past.
Jaffa Hotel Review Verdict
I’d say the Hotel Jaffa is an excellent choice if you’re looking for a romantic hotel in Tel Aviv, and a good place to stay for lovers of design.
It also felt comfortable and safe for my solo stay. Even at 120 rooms it feels like a boutique hotel where you won’t get lost in the crowd.
Luxury hotels in Yafo Tel Aviv don’t come cheap and The Jaffa is no exception.
However, If you have a soft spot for luxe places to stay in Israel that don’t sacrifice heritage for cutting-edge design, it’s worth a splurge.
(But actually, they had me at the free bikes.)
Where is The Jaffa Hotel?
The Jaffa is located at 2 Louis Pasteur Street, Tel Aviv-Jaffa, Israel, 6803602
Read more on the hotel website.