Boutique hotels in Israel are becoming more and more popular, and not only in the main cities of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. There are also several excellent ones in the rural areas of the Galilee.
As in most places in the world, boutique hotels are small, exclusive hotels where you can enjoy an intimate atmosphere and get personal service.
In the Galilee, they are not owned by any of the hotel chains and fill the gap between luxury zimmers and deluxe hotels. They quite often have a unique theme or concept, original decor in the rooms and public areas and a gourmet restaurant. Prices are generally on the high side, but in most cases it is well worth the additional expense.
When we went for a meal at the well-known Uri Buri restaurant at the beginning of year, we decided to check out Uri's latest project - an upmarket boutique hotel named the Efendi Palace. Uri explained that Efendi means ruler or lord and this ancient renovated building once served as a palace during the Ottoman era.
The hotel is situated about a 10-minute walk from the restaurant and not what you would expect to find tucked away down a narrow back street of the old city of Akko (Acre).
The building has been refurbished leaving as much of the original character as possible and the entrance hall has a high stone-arched ceiling.
In the wine cellar, there's a dining area where you can still see the original walls from Crusader and Ottoman times - this is Uri on the right with my husband, standing in front of a stack of wine
There are 12 rooms of varying sizes and prices, ranging between 1,400 and 3,000 shekels per night. The painted ceilings caught my attention and Uri told us that he had brought a craftsman from Italy to restore the decoration as closely to the original as possible.
There's also a nice terrace with a view of the old city and the coast where you can sit on cushions and chill out.
The Scots Hotel is an impressive, historic building, situated in the centre of Tiberias, not far from the Marina. It was originally built as a hospital in the early 19th century, by Dr David Watt Torrance, a physician from Scotland. He and his son ran the Scottish Hospital for the local residents until 1953. For the next six years, it was used as a maternity hospital and finally in 2004, The Church of Scotland turned it into a luxury boutique hotel.
The building has been tastefully refurbished and they have recently added another wing in one of the neighboring buildings which belonged to the hospital. The hotel has an outdoor swimming pool overlooking the Sea of Galilee (Lake
Kinneret), a spa offering a variety of massages and treatments and a gourmet restaurant. They also have music evenings and various cultural events throughout the year.
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