It was booked out for a solid three months before its opening date. It puts you up close and personal with $10,000 pieces of art. Its owner and main artist, Banksy, is famous around the world, yet remains anonymous. And it is probably the most controversial art hotel you could ever stay in: Bethlehem’s The Walled Off Hotel.
Located in West Bank’s Israeli-controlled area C about 1 mile from the center of Bethlehem, the hotel boasts what they call “the worst view in the world.” This view, which can be seen from the windows of all ten hotel rooms, is that of the bleak, concrete wall separating the West Bank from the rest of Israel. The hotel opened its doors in March of this year.
From the outside, the hotel appears as a fairly unassuming residential-like building. What gives it away is the glowing “The Walled Off Hotel” sign and the unexpected plastic monkey bellhop flanking the entrance.
Step into the lobby and you’ll be greeted with a disconcerting take on a traditional British gentleman’s club—complete with plush leather sofas and an eerie soundtrack courtesy of a self-playing piano. Both this dystopian colonial depiction and the hotel’s timing are deliberate; as CBS News reports, “the opening of [t]his hotel comes 100 years after the Balfour Declaration, the British document that led to the establishment of the Jewish state.” In other words, this hotel was created (in part) as a reflection on Britain’s involvement in the area.
Everything from the hotel’s name (a tongue-in-cheek play on the Waldorf Astoria and a reminder of the hotel’s location alongside the wall) to the provocative and politically-charged artwork inside are meant to foster intrigue, yet also discomfort.
As The New York Times describes, the hotel “is part whimsy and spectacle (note the plastic greeter chimp), part serious (note the very real Israeli security cameras).”
However, we can’t talk about the Walled Off Hotel without talking about the mysterious, elusive artist and owner behind-the-scenes: Banksy.
Operating in complete anonymity, Banksy is famous for bizarre satirical projects like Dismaland and his street artwork that pops up around the world, unannounced, from New York to London to Amsterdam.
Condé Nast Traveler perhaps described the mystique of Banksy best:
“It seems like an oxymoron—a famous anonymous graffiti artist whose works sell for upwards of £1 million—but none other than Banksy can claim this kind of worldwide notoriety.”
Spending the night in a room at the Walled Off Hotel gives you a private, intimate look at some of the most exclusive art pieces from Banksy and other artists. This is something the hotel takes very seriously, as they explain on their website:
“The hotel contains valuable works of art, some of which you are permitted to lock yourself alone with overnight. As a consequence, a $1000 deposit will be taken on a credit/debit card at check in.”
Both the art gallery upstairs, as well as the hotel’s guest rooms, feature provocative creations from prominent Palestinian artists (with some paintings tallying up values of $10,000 or more). Palestinian artist Sami Musa, French-Canadian artist Dominique Petrin, and of course Banksy himself have customized the hotel rooms with their art.
The Presidential Suite
The hotel has ten rooms in total, with the lowest price starting off at $60/night (for a military-barrack style shared dorm room) and with most rooms averaging about $240/night. The Walled Off Hotel’s most luxurious room, the presidential suite, comes in at $965/night and has a description that identifies it as one of the most unique presidential suites in the world:
“This palatial suite is equipped with everything a corrupt head of state would need – a plunge bath able to accommodate up to four revellers, original artwork, library, home cinema, roof garden, tiki bar and a water feature made from a bullet riddled water tank. Comes with a complete set of Dead Sea bath minerals and an in-room dining service available upon request. Sleeps up to four adults.”
You can make a booking and learn more about The Walled Off Hotel on their website.