Jerusalem, Israel

Photo: Navot Miller (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Photo: Navot Miller (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
Some cities have been on your wish list forever. You keep overlooking Madrid in favor of all of Spain’s coastal cities. You only use Dubai and Johannesburg as layovers for other destinations. You haven’t even been to Philadelphia, since Washington, D.C., New York City, and even Boston are all so close. It’s time to finally take one of those I’ll-get-there-eventually places off your list.

You’ve been meaning to go to Jerusalem for years. You fell in love with Tel Aviv years ago, but you didn’t feel safe traveling toward the West Bank at the time. You also aren’t very devout—to any religion—so you always wondered if you’d feel uncomfortable at the pilgrimage site. But much has changed in the holy city. Tensions haven’t abated, though they’ve certainly eased. While new hotels, restaurants, and shops are luring people who have little interest in the historic sites.

As you plan your trip, you quickly start focusing on Mamilla. The neighborhood was once the site of a water reservoir, as it lies outside of the Old City’s walls. A commercial district was eventually established. It thrived until the Six-Day War, when many buildings were damaged or destroyed. Redevelopment finally began in the mid-1990s. In the last few years, Mamilla has become one of Jerusalem’s hippest neighborhoods.

Photo: Mamilla Hotel
Photo: Mamilla Hotel

You’ve picked the Mamilla Hotel as your home base. The new hotel, designed by an Italian architect, seamlessly blends the neighborhood’s heritage and modern luxury. Cream-colored Jerusalem stone walls give the lobby a cool, cave-like vibe. The downstairs Akasha Spa has an indoor pool, a health bar, and tempting treatments like almond reshaping body wraps. Individually decorated rooms look sleek with black metal headboards, sheer white curtains, and glass-walled bathrooms.

There are plenty of spots to satisfy your cravings at the hotel as well. If you need coffee—really good coffee—first thing in the morning, go to the Espresso Bar for freshly ground beans and still-warm pastries. The breakfast spread, in the Dining Room, is full of eggs, cheese, and creative salads. Homemade mezes and fish from the Mediterranean Sea are served at Happy Fish, where tables spill outside. Interesting cocktails and house music flow through the Mirror Bar. Israeli wines, including some varietals you’ve probably never heard of before, line the walls at the Winery. Cigars are even offered at the attached Cigar Lounge.

But it’s the Rooftop to which you’ll return again and again. The lounge and restaurant have rattan couches and overstuffed pillows, green plants and wide umbrellas to protect you from the sun. You barely notice any of them at first, since it also has a panoramic view of the Old City. The Walls of Jerusalem, the Jaffa Gate, and the Tower of David are all in front of you. The view is jaw dropping.

After a long delay, you finally order a glass of dry Nahal Ha’Pirim wine and a few appetizers, like citrus sashimi salmon and grouper shawarma. You still can’t take your eyes off the Old City, though. It feels like proof that you finally made it to Jerusalem.

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