Few cities anywhere are as rich in history, so it should come as no surprise that Jerusalem’s hotels have scintillating stories attached to them. The American Colony was originally constructed for a Turkish pasha and his harem of four wives and later became a commune or “colony” for a cult of messianic American and Swedish Christians (hence the name). It was transformed into a hotel in 1902 by Plato von Ustanov, grandfather of British film star Peter Ustinov. In 1917, when British troops arrived at the city during World War I, a white bed sheet from the hotel was used to signal Jerusalem’s surrender. Famous past guests include Lawrence of Arabia, Bob Dylan, John Le Carre (who wrote a novel while staying here), and Winston Churchill, among others. But even if you didn’t know the history, you could tell this was a storied place by gazing at the exquisite painted wooden ceilings, tracing the patterns on the colorful Armenian tile that coat the public areas, or walking through the walled courtyards. Those lucky enough to stay in one of the pasha rooms or suites in the original 19th-century building are surrounded by fine antiques. More affordable but still spacious (deluxe) rooms and smaller economy rooms are available in the newer, less-exotic wings. Within each room category there’s variation, so try to see different rooms, if possible, before settling. If you decide not to stay here, consider coming by for the Saturday luncheon buffet in the Arabesque Room (food is not kosher), a Jerusalem tradition. A state-of-the-art swimming pool was added to the hotel’s famous gardens in 2013.
- Frommer's Staff