It is late when I arrive to Artplus Hotel in Tel Aviv, a collaboration between Atlas Hotels and Doron Sabag. What I really want to do after nearly 20 hours of traveling from Thailand is to crawl into bed and fall fast asleep. But, when my cab driver drops me off at the boutique 62-room hotel located on Ben Yehuda and a quick walk to the glistening Mediterranean, my senses are awakened.
Even before I step foot through the glass doors, I realize this hotel is different.
Hotel + Art
The covered entryway from the street houses Zadok Ben-David’s sculpture, “Evolution,” which overtakes most of the long wall leading to the hotel.
Upon check-in, the friendly woman at reception with perfect English explains to me the concept of Artplus Hotel — which isn’t just a hotel, but also serves as a rotating art exhibit of some of the country’s most talented artists. In fact, the entire property is dedicated to incorporating art into its spaces and giving visitors a taste of the art and culture in this vibrant city. Created with this in mind, the hotel itself is minimal. The concrete floors and white walls are offset by sculptures, paintings, mirrors, and LCD screens with art on display.
Five artists were commissioned for Artplus to add ambiance and their own style to the separate floors in the building — Maya Attoun, Tali Ben-Bassat, Ayelet Carmi, Olaf Kiihnemann and Doron Rabina. In addition, the foyer and lobby house work from Ben-David and Sigalit Landau, thanks to Sabag’s private collection.
I stand in the lobby taking in at creativity around me.
“Every night we have a happy hour from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. with free wine and snacks,” she says. “And tomorrow night is your lucky night. We are having an opening for the new artists’ work on display in the hotel.”
The new exhibition (there are three to four every year), entitled “Playground,” which involves original pieces from local artists is on display in the lobby, plus there is access to the five rooms with art from the hotel’s artists.
I head up to the fifth floor, where Rabina has painted a thick band of green with whimsical black down its walls, and enter my room. It isn’t big, but it doesn’t need to be. On the wall hang more! art. I fling my bag on the chair, change into comfortable clothing and do what I always do first — I check out the bed.
Covered with two fluffy duvets, it is soft and inviting.
Then, I do the second thing I always do — check the wifi connection. And, it is quick. Quicker than Thailand.
After a brief chat with my parents in America, I head out of my room to check the rooftop patio and take in my first real moments in Tel Aviv.
I can smell the saltiness of the sea from there, although in the darkness, I cannot see it. Around me, large buildings with illuminated signs in Hebrew nail it home for me — for the first time in nearly a year, I am out of Southeast Asia.
There are no sputtering tuk tuks to clog my hearing, no toilet paper to throw in trash cans.
I smile to myself as I stand on the terrace, then head back to my room and back to bed.
I wake up early my first day in Tel Aviv, but feel refreshed thanks to my first sleep in a comfortable bed since Koh Samui. Fortunately, breakfast starts early and features the best coffee I’ve had in ages, plus delicious Israeli food (hello, olives!) along with a variety of pastries, yogurt and fresh fruit juices.
After a day at the beach, which is about a 10-minute walk down the bustling Ben Yehuda, its time to get some culture.
In the evening, I return to Artplus for its happy hour and am treated to wine while I watch the events (or lack thereof, fortunately) unfold on television. Then, it is time for the opening.
I head back to the lobby where locals, guests and artists mingle together, sipping wine and snacking on pretzels while a local photographer snaps photos. With others, I wander through the floors, visiting the five rooms where local artists have taken over the decorum. My favorite room is done by Yochai Matos, which is two hearts made up of a string of warm white lightbulbs twinkling above a bed.
Artplus is a boutique hotel with fantastic basic amenities. It’s got complimentary breakfast, complimentary wifi — which is actually a huge bonus since most hotels in the area don’t offer the service for free (sigh), a hair dryer in the room, a nice flat screen with a hand-full of channels, and free parking (something not really heard of with boutique hotels in the city) — the things I’ve come to expect from a hotel. But, it is the atmosphere here that serves as the most valuable amenity. I love the little touches, too, like colored pencils and sketch paper instead of the tried-and-true notebook with hotel pen.
The staff go out of their way to be friendly, to tell you where to go, what to do. And then, there is the art, which stands on its own and treats guests to a small sampling of Israel’s art scene. There is no spa, there is no restaurant, but there doesn’t need to be. There is plenty of that out the door and in the city.
The bottom line
Three nights in a prime location were not enough for me. I could have stayed there the entire trip and simply gone off on adventures since the bus stop was just outside the door. The rooms are small, but comfortable. I love hotels that encourage guests to interact, and had it been a busy time at the property, I could see the happy hour being bustling and perfect to get to know others. That being said, I loved the happy hour. Tel Aviv is very expensive, especially coming from Thailand, so being treated to complimentary wine each evening is a nice “thank you” to the guests for staying there. But, the art is really what stole my heart. It isn’t often I find hotels without the standard paintings or photos you expect. Having unique works of art from locals helped me to feel like I was a part of something, that I was being treated to something other people visiting Tel Aviv don’t get to see. And, that is the most important part of traveling to me.
Editor’s Note: My time stay was courtesy of Artplus Hotel, however all opinions are my own. If you have questions regarding this, please read my disclosure policy.