Hotel Intel: modern meets historic at Drisco Tel Aviv

The Drisco is the reincarnation of a hotel that dates back to the 1860s and has undergone an eight-year restoration of intricate tile, marble, wall detailing, and ironwork.

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The Drisco Hotel Tel Aviv is a transcendent example of what this exciting Mediterranean capital does best: marrying an ancient setting with modern craftsmanship, all wrapped in a unique heritage of many cultures.

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It is the reincarnation of a hotel opened in the 1860s by George and John Drisco, two devout New England Christians whose mission was to lure pilgrims to the Holy Land. Reflecting a diverse mosaic, this fine little gem is inspired by the ornate architecture of the Ottoman Empire and was built in a former German-American colony.

The Drisco is adjacent to Old Jaffa, a fascinating mix of centuries-old Islamic minarets, stone walls dating back to the Crusades, and a story cited in the Old and New Testaments.

The Mark Twain Lounge at the Drisco Hotel Tel Aviv.
The Mark Twain Lounge at the Drisco Hotel Tel Aviv. Photo by Assaf Pinchuk

Past preserved: The entire property is a work of art, the result of a demanding eight-year restoration of intricate tiles, marble, wall details, and ironwork.

The Mark Twain Salon is a treasure within the precious hotel. (The author wrote part of The Innocents Abroad here in the 1860s.) Dimly lit, faded over time, and covered in dark mahogany paneling, it’s a restful living room, with antique velvet sofas and doorways. waisted. A major talking point is a mural depicting quirky vintage scenes of Munich pub life – a throwback to German settlers.

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With a colorful past, the Drisco is an elegant boutique hotel named with the best of today. To keep its stories alive, the hotel organizes brief tours of the neighborhood.

“We have restored the glory of Drisco,” said general manager Hezi Talay, who is a heritage enthusiast. “And we introduced modern conveniences and luxurious amenities.”

Some of Drisco's suites showcase the building's spectacular architecture and multicultural history.
Some of Drisco’s suites showcase the building’s spectacular architecture and multicultural history. Photo by Assaf Pinchuk

Today: The Drisco earned a five-star rating from the Israeli Ministry of Tourism for its remarkable redesign, serious service and stellar cuisine.

Fun factors include loaner bikes, an evening wine reception, and a rooftop sun deck with an outdoor shower for cooling off.

The darling Daria Spa only has two treatment rooms, but it’s a refreshing and relaxing getaway. Massages include deep tissue, aromatherapy and Swedish.

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The Drisco’s 37 rooms and five suites are modern classics, with creamy walls, sand-colored parquet floors, and contrasting ebony furniture. Bronze teardrop ceiling lights add a subtle Turkish accent. Rooms feature custom-designed beds, Egyptian cotton linens, Italian marble bathrooms, and fine Israeli toiletries. Many have balconies with views of the Mediterranean in the distance.

Suites are stars. One has a vaulted ceiling, another has patio doors leading to a private terrace and another opens onto the hotel’s central plaza.

The six-bedroom Villa Drisco is a separate entity; up to 12 people can isolate themselves in a private rental and enjoy the hotel next door. The Villa is equally historic and loaded with Old World character.

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Even Noga, Drisco’s quaint, narrow-street neighborhood, has evolved. Many beautiful old houses have been preserved and remodeled, and condos, bistros, galleries and shops have been built. Yet religion and tradition survive. The Beit Knesset Zichron Baruch Synagogue and Immanuel Protestant Church continue to serve many nationalities.

The newly restored Drisco Hotel Tel Aviv overlooks the Jaffa section of the city.
The newly restored Drisco Hotel Tel Aviv overlooks the Jaffa section of the city. Photo by Assaf Pinchuk

George and John: Executive chef Tomer Tal creates artistic, seasonal cuisine, bursting with fresh Mediterranean and global flavors and vegetarian choices – one of Israel’s claims to culinary fame. The servers are exceptional and customers can choose the beautiful patio, the dining room or the bar. The white porcelain tableware is French, as are many of the wines.

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Among the specialties, octopus on a skewer, beef tartare with marrow bone and creamy pasta with crab and hazelnut butter. Tal incorporates the old and the new, with dishes like sashimi with avocado cream and jalapeño, lime and cilantro; shrimp stuffed okra; sweetbread; and short ribs of lamb.

Even breakfast is a tour de force, with barista coffee and Middle Eastern delicacies. Guests start with fruit, smoked salmon, halva, and pastries like apricot bread pudding. A la carte dishes include green shakshuka (poached eggs with spinach and chard), steak Benedict and my new best morning Israeli treat, masabach – eggs with eggplant, hummus, tahini and spicy sauce.

The George & John Restaurant serves contemporary Mediterranean cuisine.
The George & John Restaurant serves contemporary Mediterranean cuisine. Photo by Assaf Pinchuk

If you are going to

Drisco Hotel Tel Aviv: 972 (for Israel) 03-741-0000, thedrisco.com; 6 Auerbach St., Tel Aviv, Israel. Member of Leading Hotels of the World.

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Prices are approximate and fluctuating. Rooms start at $650, suites at $1,500, all including walking tour (Hebrew/English upon request), welcome drink, evening wine reception, bikes, computer, Nespresso in the room, bathrobes, cleaning twice a day, Bluetooth, a sunny terrace on the roof, Techno gym, bottled water, café lounge. In addition: private car, Daria Spa treatments, meals in the room, valet service. Prices are lower from January to April.

Packages with meals or spa available. A five-night special during Jewish holidays (September 25 to October 15) offers a 20% discount.

George and John: 972-03-726-9309, ganj.co.il. Breakfast and dinner daily. Breakfast is in the room. Private dining available.

Tourism in Tel Aviv: visit.tel-aviv.gov.il. Tourism in Israel: info.goisrael.com.

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