Palacio Domain, Safed, Israel - Hotel Reviewby Sophie Gayot
Discovering Israel's Hidden Gem
One of the most historically resonant countries on the planet, Israel remains a mystery to many travelers. Few realize that beyond Jerusalem and Tel Aviv it is a Promised Land for those seeking unique, enriching encounters. Among its best-kept secrets is the 5,000-year-old city of Safed in Upper Galilee. A place that honors its past, it is a fitting home for the Palacio Domain.
An alternative to the abundance of guesthouses that populate the city, the Palacio blends the warm charms of a small inn with the comforts of a larger hotel. Its refined personality is shaped by its architecture — a fourteenth-century building from the Mameluke era. The historic structure was discovered by its present owner when he came to Safed on holiday in 1990. He fell in love with the area, purchased the building in the artists’ quarter of the Old City and spent fifteen years restoring it. The result: an intimate, seven-room boutique hotel.
As you explore the grandiose and elegant lobbies and suites, you'll discover high ceilings, graceful archways and an abundance of space. All reflect the building’s origins. The décor — with its notably majestic beds — is the product of the owner’s world travels, combining European antiques with modern accents. You'll find individually decorated, spacious bedroom suites, as well as luxurious rooms and elegantly furnished, large penthouse suites with extended breathtaking panoramic views of the Galilee Mountains and the Old City; from the spacious patios, you can gaze at the outlying mountains while savoring the fresh air that comes from a location 3,200 feet above sea level.
Further setting the hotel apart is Palacio Restaurant, whose focal point is an ancient well that was discovered during the restoration. It is one of the deepest and best-preserved wells in Israel, and according to local legend, if you drop a gold coin into it, you will attract the Angel of Good Wishes. If she accepts your offering, you will be blessed with happiness and wealth. And if that isn’t good fortune enough for you, simply sit by the well after you’ve tossed your coin and drink from its waters. The legend continues with the promise that you will feel ten years younger and come away with smoother, silkier skin. Guests can enjoy further pampering in the hotel's massage room.
While the restaurant’s California-style menu may seem strange to some, it makes perfect sense to the owner, who lived in California for many years. The light cuisine is in harmony with the fruits and vegetables grown in the Safed region. Along with local produce, the restaurant uses meat flown in from New Zealand. With its stone walls and vaulted stone ceilings, cozy bar and warren of private dining rooms, the restaurant is a local treasure.
Intimate in scale and international in creature comforts, the Palacio Domain provides a gracious introduction to one of Israel’s hidden — and most charming — corners.
(Updated: 10/09/12 SG)