Anyone who knows me or reads my blog knows I like quaint little B&Bs, historic (and haunted) castles and other not-run-of-the-mill places to stay. I only stay at big chain hotels when there's a conference going on – like that huge Hilton Bayfront in San Diego last October, where the location was prime and the view magnificent, but the prices were exorbitant and the whole feel was very impersonal.
However, last week I had a two-night first-time stay at Dan Panorama Jerusalem (DPJ), part of Dan Hotels Israel, and found it to be a great place to stay in the Holy City for various reasons. First, you know what they say – location, location, location – and it was perfect. Yes, there are many hotels in the area, in every price range, including the very prestigious King David Hotel, which is also part of the same chain and is just a stone's throw from DPJ… Well, if you're willing to pay through your nose and mingle with kings and heads of state, you can always do that, but if you are looking for something more affordable, without giving up on great and personal service at that same excellent location, there is always the DPJ (guess why they call it the Panorama!).
So, like I was saying, the location is first-rate: just a five minute stroll to the new Mamilla promenade and shopping center, with lots of boutiques, restaurants and coffee places, and another five minutes to the Jaffa Gate of the Old City. In the vicinity, you can also walk to Yemin Moshe, to see the Montefiore windmill and the many galleries in Mishkenot Sha’ananim. Due south is the German Colony and the trendy district of Emek Refa’im. Alternatively, you can walk north to the busy pedestrian mall on Ben Yehuda Street, and if you're not keen on walking, right outside the hotel there's a bus stop with loads of services that go every which way – including the vibrant Machne Yehuda Market, which is a must-see in and of itself.
Here are some more recommendations for must-see attractions:
* Any time you visit Jerusalem, do not miss the Israel Museum, with its Shrine of the Book, but if you're visiting till October 5th, be sure to go to Herod the Great: The King's Final Journey. Bus number 7 will take you right there from DPJ. If you're visiting the city in the winter, the DPJ is also just minutes away from Jerusalem On Ice, which will be open through Passover.
* Another great museum is the Bible Lands Museum, where you can also take a special tour for Christian or Jewish groups.
* Very close to Mamilla and Jaffa Street, there is also the Time Elevator, a journey through the rich 3,000-year history of Jerusalem.
Needless to say there is also a whole array of sights to be explored in the Old City, from the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and Via Dolorosa to Temple Mount and the Western Wall Tunnel… and don't forget to buy some souvenirs in the Middle-Eastern souk.
There is so much to say, and I haven't even gotten to the other main reason I so much enjoyed my stay at the DPJ, or what I call The Personal Touch. And they do excel at that – from the very comfortable and spacious rooms, with all the necessary amenities and more, to the famous Israeli breakfast, which includes an inexhaustible range of salads, cheeses, fish, cereals bread, as well as a hot buffet of scrambled eggs and fresh baked goods – it's all kosher so don't expect any bacon or sausage, but you won't go hungry, I promise. And let's not forget Vladimir! He can cook you an omelet with extras or make you a sunny-side-up, and he's charming to boot. After such a big breakfast, you can either rest and “recover” by stretching out on the rooftop pool (in the summer), or maybe you'd prefer to exercise in the hotel’s gym.
The Personal Touch, as I call it, is evident from the boutique-hotel style lobby to the wonderful and attentive service. If you're in Jerusalem on business, like me, it's worth paying a little extra for the executive rooms, which also give you access to the VIP lounge – with your own quiet place to have a business meeting, or just a drink and something to eat. The light buffet is great, and I couldn't get enough of those little red peppers with cream cheese – they were just to die for.
I cannot enumerate all the amenities of DPJ, there are just too many, but if you're still not convinced, go to TripAdvisor and you will see the hotel is the Travelers' Choice® 2013 Winner, and is ranked #7 in Jerusalem. Well, no wonder.