There are some hotels that make an impression, and some that leave an impression so great – that you can’t help but continue to speak about your experience for years after you’ve left. The Efendi Boutique Hotel, located in the small coastal Northern Israeli town of Akko, is one of those places. A masterpiece in history, love, art and luxury – you cannot miss the opportunity to stay here and revel in every corner of its glory.
I heard about Akko from a colleague and decided to explore the city on my recent trip to Israel. The city, once ruled by the Ottomans, Crusaders and others who wanted it in their clutches for its important location on the trading route between Europe and Asia, is a must-see for anyone interested in Israel. It is, for now, a hidden gem – but is comparable to Jerusalem in historical importance, and is much more quiet and relaxing.
I was welcomed to the hotel after taking the train from Tel Aviv. A quick 90-minute jaunt up the coast, and I rolled into Akko at 10:30 pm. I was brought in a taxi to the hotel, located in a quiet alley in old-town. The doors flung open and the night manager brought me inside. I was offered a glass of mint tea and escorted right to my room. The Efendi was once a decrepit relic of an old mansion that sat in the town, neglected and in dire need of help. That was until local legend and character,Uri Jeremias, decided to purchase it and turn it into a hotel. He spent months and months restoring the rooms, uncovering murals, frescoes and even going as far as hiring a team of artists from Venice to come to the hotel and restore all the original art found embedded on the walls.
Walking from room to room, you can’t help but drop your jaw in amazement. Each ceiling, wall and corner is decorated or painted – in some fascinating way. In the morning you can make a Nespresso in your room and step toward your window with a view over the city and Mediterranean. I woke each morning to the call of prayer (Muslims, Jews, Christians and other religious groups exist here) – and watched the dogs hop from rooftop to rooftop. Since Akko is right at the Lebanese border, there are a mix of religions here, and they all seem to live relatively peacefully. I love it.
There are only 12 rooms at The Efendi, each one decorated differently. There are no bad rooms at all. In the morning, you can head downstairs to the long table where you’ll find fresh coffee, juice and a stunning breakfast prepared with local ingredients and traditional recipes. The proprietor, Uri Yarmias, has designed a menu that speaks to your heart and stomach – complementing his nearby famed seafood restaurant, Uri Buri.
Beds are cozy and the rooms are decorated individually with creamy linens, hand-picked antiques, frescoes and glass, modern bathrooms that are easy and wonderful to get ready for the day in.
Through every window, light stream in. The rooms are art, the public seating areas are art and, of course, the rooftop is a sight to see. At sunset every evening the hotel hosts its guests for a glass of Israeli wine on the rooftop so you can watch the colors change over the city as the sun dips on the horizon.
Staying at The Efendi is a quiet experience where you can integrate yourself into the local fabric, yet still be wrapped in luxury.
The staff here are friendly, attentive and warm. Most of the time, you feel like you have the entire place to yourself. Here, you can truly stay in a work of art, a piece of history and a vision of what hospitality should be.