Oasis of Calm: A Review of the Hilton Tel Aviv
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The Eurovision Song Contest, better known simply as "Eurovision," is an annual international song competition held in a different country each year. Israel was selected to host the 2019 competition, and Tel Aviv, the country's most cosmopolitan city, was the venue.
I deliberately planned my first-ever Israel trip to coincide with Eurovision, since I knew it would be a fun way to end a great trip. I also knew that hotel rates would be high and that I'd have to book early. Indeed, when I began my hotel search, rates were already quite high. I also had to contend with the fact that areas with popular hotels would be crowded and loud, thanks to the Eurovision Village pop-up, which was a beachside festival open until 2am each night during the week of Eurovision.
I initially considered a stay at the Jaffa, but after I realized I had friends staying at the Hilton Tel Aviv, I decided to test that property out.
This hotel is pricey, so booking requires a bit of strategy to get to the most out of your spend. During the time I was in Tel Aviv, regular rooms cost about $500 per night and suites $895. I stayed in a corner suite, and other TPG team members stayed in regular king rooms with sea views. Points rates for the lowest-category rooms started at 70,000 points per night. If you have a stay of five nights or more, booking using points is a good plan so you can get the fifth night free.
If you want to earn a lot of Hilton points, the best way to book is to do so directly on Hilton.com using your Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express so you can earn 14 points per dollar spent on Hilton purchases. The card also gives you automatic Hilton Diamond status, which scores you benefits like free breakfast. Diamond status also earns you a 100% points bonus (or 20 points per dollar at most Hilton properties), so you earn 34 points per dollar on most Hilton stays as a cardholder.
Another option if you plan to pay cash and are staying four nights is to use your Citi Prestige card, where you’ll get the fourth night free, though that benefit is going to be devalued greatly come September.
You can't beat the sea views from the rooms at the Hilton Tel Aviv. The hotel is actually split into two: The Vista at the Hilton Tel Aviv, which includes the rooms on the higher floors, and the regular Hilton.
The rooms at the Vista did have incredible views, but the regular Hilton rooms and suites did too, so I didn't find it necessary to spend more on the Vista rooms.
The hotel is on the beach and the main road in northern Tel Aviv. As it was a 15-to-20-minute drive to Jaffa and about a 40-minute drive to Ben Gurion Airport (TLV) depending on traffic, I felt like I was close enough to all the action while still being in a quiet and comfortable location. The area just behind the hotel had plenty of bars and restaurants, and it was an easy drive, walk or even electric scooter or bike ride along the beach promenade to other areas of the city.
I walked into a busy lobby with high ceilings that opened into a lounge and bar area with ocean views. The check-in desks were just to the right after entering, and the elevators beyond that. And at the end, there was an outdoor terrace off the lobby bar where you could have a sunset drink.
Noa, the check-in agent, was friendly and helpful, especially considering my large crew rolled in like a tornado with three room reservations, parking concerns and a bunch of questions. She kept her cool and got us settled in quickly and easily without breaking a sweat. I was assigned Suite 801/803.
I had external access to my suite (which seemed like two rooms later converted into a suite) from the bedroom, 801, or the living room, via the door marked "803," with the same key. This wasn't an issue, but I was never really sure what room number to say when asked, so I usually just said both.
Walking into the bedroom, I saw that light streamed in, and the sea views were fantastic. The room featured a desk, closet and king bed. All the extras were there, like plenty of hangers, an iron, a blow dryer, slippers, robes and a safe.
I got a comfortable rest in the bed, and there were outlets on each side of the bed. Blackout shades ensured that the room stayed nice and dark, too.
There was an armchair by the window, and the minibar was also in the bedroom. A welcome gift of fruit and wine was set out for me.
Having the balcony with chairs off the bedroom was a great addition -- I enjoyed the evening sunset views over a drink.
The bathroom also had fantastic ocean views -- even from the tub.
Ahava products were provided, and I even got a welcome amenity of a full-size Ahava mud mask, body lotion and bath salts in addition to the travel-size ones that were generously replaced each day.
The shower had steaming hot water and passed the TPG shower test with flying colors.
The living room had a desk, sofa and windows with views, as well as a small powder room. A second fruit plate and wine was also set out there.
Both the living room and the bedroom had TVs, coffeemakers (sadly, neither was a Nespresso machine) and a desk. Two glass bottles of water were replaced daily.
While I wouldn't say it was trendy or chic, the room was quiet and comfortable, and I slept great there.
TPG Senior Writer Lori Zaino stayed in a king room with sea view, 933. The room had all the regular amenities you'd expect, like a large bed, desk and workspace, minibar, coffeemaker and closet.
The sea view was beautiful, and the room was spacious. The Ahava amenities in the bathroom were smaller than the ones in the suite but also replenished daily.
Food and Beverage
The property has five restaurants, but I only really sampled the breakfast buffet at the Cafe Med. It was normally $39, but my Hilton Diamond status awarded me free breakfast.
The buffet was large and included an omelet station, plenty of salads and cold items, pastries, fresh juices and tasty coffee.
There was even a gluten-free section.
Like many hotels in Israel, the buffet was limited to cold items and instant coffee on Saturday morning for Shabbat, so I ate outside of the hotel that day.
Room service was available via a menu on the television. Since the hotel is religiously observant, there was a separate meat menu and a dairy menu that came from different restaurants. One evening, I ordered chicken schnitzel, a salad and some sorbet. The salad was a little soggy, but the chicken was crispy and good, and the sorbet was refreshing. It arrived quickly, and when I called for the table to be removed, someone came almost immediately.
All other meals, though, I ate outside of the hotel. Israel has some of the best cuisine, and I enjoyed sampling it at different spots around the city.
The Hilton also has a large saltwater pool. While it's a little dated and the chairs were packed in pretty tightly, it was a nice place to relax in the sun, and the service was attentive.
I ordered a passionfruit slushie at the pool one day and was pleased to see it wasn't served with a plastic straw, but instead with a paper one.
The fitness center was large with several machines, a weights section and other workout equipment. The locker rooms also had a steam room and sauna inside.
The beach has two sides: One was the gay beach and the other the Hilton beach. The hotel gave you towels to take to the beach across the street, but it was not a private beach for the Hilton.
The Sheva Spa was Thai-inspired -- I got an excellent Thai massage there one day. After, I was led to a quiet relaxation room with ocean views where I was able to peacefully sip ginger tea.
I don't recommend doing laundry at the hotel. Prices were outrageous -- $22 for a dress and $15 for a shirt. Instead, I sent an entire bag of laundry off site. Pickup and delivery were both included, and it was about $40 total for almost 25 items.
Having executive lounge access is always a plus, though this particular lounge felt small and cramped. The views from the 12th-floor lounge, though, were particularly stunning.
The breakfast spread was small but did include eggs and hot food. There were snacks and refreshments throughout the day and a dairy menu in the evening.
But for such a large hotel with many elite guests, it should really have a bigger executive lounge.
A highlight of the hotel was the staff. Every single time I called, the phone was answered immediately and my concern was handled right away. After a recent stay at the Waldorf Astoria Jerusalem, where no one ever answered the phone, I was thrilled to finally have truly excellent and helpful service at the Hilton Tel Aviv.
I wish this excellent service translated to the excellent elevators, but it didn't. The elevators were operated by touchscreen and would occasionally error out. Four elevators for this huge high-rise hotel just wasn't enough -- and especially on Shabbat, when one or two of the elevators stopped on every single floor. I even waited up to 12 minutes one afternoon for an elevator.
I was impressed with the Hilton Tel Aviv. Although there are trendier and newer hotels in this city, I was very satisfied with the level of service at the Hilton and the peace and quiet this beachfront location gave me. I wanted to end my 10-day trip to Israel at the beach, and I was able to do so thanks to the Hilton. But having a few more elevators definitely wouldn't hurt.
All photos by Nicky Kelvin.