In Jerusalem, where the best hotels are mostly new ones, it’s great to find a perch which is part of the city’s history and whose looks reflect its more exotic times. The Mount Zion served Moslems, Christians and Jews from all the Middle East when it first opened in 1882, and now offers its hospitality to guests of every faith from all over the world.
The difference is that today’s Mount Zion is a charming hotel in an excellent but uncrowded location, rather than the eye hospital which was its first incarnation. Members of the Order of St. John, a charity dating back to the Crusades, built on land just outside the Old City on a hill which affords heart-stopping views better than most of the more expensive hotels in Jerusalem can offer.
Over a century ago the Turks took over the building, converted it into an arms warehouse and blew up bits of the old hospital, with further damage caused by an earthquake a few years later demanding a rebuild. It’s this new incarnation which yielded the exquisite arched windows which are the greatest distinguishing feature of today’s charming four-star hotel with an old-world feel.
While all rooms are comfortable and well-equipped, it’s worth asking for one in the more atmospheric older wing, many commanding a panoramic valley view, though you can enjoy the same vista from the lobby bar and the terrace where breakfast can be taken on sunny mornings. Israeli breakfasts are always an event, but the Mount Zion’s are out of this world. There’s a fresh omelette station and another just for superb cakes, all surrounding the main, dizzying display of more salads, cheeses, olives and smoked fish offerings than you could possibly manage to fit on one plate. At this hotel, you tend to go back twice or even three times to see what you might have been missing out on.
Below the rooms sits a swimming pool and delightful gardens, and there’s also a Jacuzzi and an authentic hammam recalling the glory days of the Ottoman Empire. The Brits saw off the Turks and would be seen off themselves 30 years later. Guests can no longer visit the tunnel which once ran under the road, or the secret cable car running into the building at night which played their part in helping win Israel’s war of independence against the British, but a small museum on the site tells the building’s historic secrets.
The Old City is a 15-minute stroll via the ancient citadel walls, and the city’s Cinematheque is just down the road. Given its proximity to cultural venues, you’re quite likely to bump into visiting movie directors or stars playing the city’s jazz or culture festivals, drawn by discreet service and magnificently theatrical suites as well as those heart-stopping views.
Tell me more about Mount Zion Hotel in Jerusalem
Rooms from £104
Mount Zion Hotel
17 Hebron Road
Tel: +972 2 5689552