A stay in the Walled Off Hotel, Bethlehem, is a Banksy fan’s ultimate dream come true. I have long been an admirer of his work, having seen many examples around the world and visited Amsterdam’s Moco Museum which features a fantastic permanent exhibition so it was only a matter of time before I planned a visit to his hotel. My stay surpassed my expectations!
To get to the hotel from Jerusalem, you can take Arab bus 234 to Checkpoint 300 which costs 5 NIS. From there it is a ten minute walk to the hotel. Guests are greeted at the door by a monkey bellboy and a doorman who ushers you in to the reception area/piano bar which is covered in wall-to-wall Banksy artwork. The hotel has 9 rooms, one of which is a dorm room that contains 3 bunk beds and is kitted out like an Israeli army barracks. I stayed in the dorm – it costs $60 per night. The room was great, the bed was comfy, and I was lucky to share the room with a lovely Irish guy. The fridge in the room has free bottles of Walled Off Hotel water for guests to help themselves to. You also get a souvenir Walled Off hotel bar of soap and a welcome letter from Banksy. Breakfast is included. A stay in one of the other rooms in the hotel costs over $200. Room 3, the Banksy Artist Room, which the reception staff kindly let me view, costs $265 per night. A deposit of $1000 is taken if you choose to stay in the private rooms; the deposit for the dorm room is usually $200 (but I didn’t have to pay this for some reason).
To access the rooms, you are given a chunky room key (supposed to look like a piece of wall) which you have to point towards a small Venus de Milo statue sitting on a shelf beside a large bookcase. The boobs of the statue light up and the secret entrance hidden behind the bookcase is revealed. Up the stairs, there is a small lounge area for hotel guests with trolleys of free refreshments (cookies, tea, coffee and water). You can buy food on site if you wish (I hear the Walled Off salad is a popular choice) and the bar serves drinks until 11pm.
The hotel also has a museum and a gallery which hotel guests can access for free. Non-hotel guests are required to pay 15 NIS for the museum. The museum provides an insightful explanation of the history behind the wall and what life is like for the Palestinians whose lives have been destroyed by it. A visit to the museum is an absolute must-do when in this area. The gallery showcases work by local artists and there was some interesting work on display.
The hotel can book a tour with local man Marwan who takes guests along the wall, explains some of the stories behind specific artworks, and into the Palestinian Aida Refugee Camp which was a moving eye-opener. I definitely recommend taking the time to do this tour with him as it really conveys what the reality of living with the wall is and illuminates the reason Banksy felt the need to open the Walled Off Hotel.
Overall, staying at the hotel was a dream come true for me and has given me much to think about. The staff were all brilliant: friendly, welcoming and keen to ensure guests enjoy their stay. A ten out of ten experience!
Selection of pictures from my stay: