Motti Verses

Tel Aviv’s first hotel revitalizes an iconic street

Stretching over 14 kilometers along the Mediterranean, Tel Aviv’s sparkling coastline is today world-famous. Often called the city that never stops, Tel Aviv presents beaches that no other big cities in Europe offer to travelers looking for a short break. 

Tel Aviv draws attention with many more attractions and nicknames. A party city, a startup city, a gay-friendly city and a place with intriguing eclectic buildings and architecture.

Neve Tzedek, the first Jewish neighborhood built outside Jaffa (photo by Motti Verses)

Many tend to forget it is a very young metropolitan. It began in 1887 when Neve Tzedek, the first Jewish neighborhood, was built outside the old city of the ancient port of Jaffa. Only in 1909, 60 jewish families established the Ahuzat Bayit neighborhood – the foundation of Tel Aviv. Over the years Neve Tzedek rundown properties have been restored and it is now a fashionable quarter of Tel Aviv.

Lilienblum was one of the first streets of Ahuzat Bayit. It begins at the border of Neve Tzedek, but it features a totally different architecture and vibe. Nowadays it reflects the city’s exciting history. It became one of the most attractive real estate ventures as well. Exploring it with a guide is highly recommended.

No tickets for sale in Eden cinema – currently just a neglected monument of the past (photo by Motti Verses)

The 100 years old restored Kiosk carries a heartwarming story of preservation that offers a special angle on Tel Aviv history. Its blessing restoration infused new life and usefulness. One of the first steps the city is doing to preserve the history of the street. Imagining the inhabitants enjoying a drink or a snack, before entering the Eden cinema to see a movie across the street, is needed. The “Kolnoa Eden ” in Hebrew was founded before world war one, but was closed temporarily. Some say Ottoman rulers feared that its generator would be used to send messages to enemy submarines off shore. During the British Mandate it was opened again and became a hub of cultural and social activity. It contained an outdoor theater and at a later stage an indoor one. Each hall could host 800 seats. Even opera and theater shows were shown here. Its golden era was during the 1950s and 1960s. In the 1970s, when new modern cinemas were opened all over the city, the owners closed it down. Today it looks like an ancient ugly ruin, but plans to restore and lead it to an even greater era are in place – a hotel combined with a posh cinema hall is one of the options.

Tachkemoni – the first religious school of Tel Aviv, built in 1925
(photo by Motti Verses)
An architecture memory lane to the foundation of Tel Aviv – Lilienblum street (photo by Motti Verses)

Preservations of the old, asides the new is the new fashion here, in this magnificent historical street with impressive architecture. Numerous important buildings are marked by the city with enchanting descriptions. An open air museum for generations. Tachkemoni was the first religious school of Tel Aviv, built in 1925 in this famous street. Even the British High Commissioner at the time, Herbert Samuel insisted on participating in the school’s cornerstone ceremony. It was shut down in the 1970s and today serves again as a different religious school for girls.

Lilienblum street presents a collection of beautiful amazingly restored buildings that impress the visitors of Tel Aviv. A joy to architecture lovers. But the most impressive eclectic architecture-style building on the street is the Elkonin, the first-ever hotel in Tel Aviv. Its story is no less historical and exciting. The Elkonin was restored and reopened a few months ago. Asking outgoing General Manager Morgan Mondoloni, who initiated a hotel before the first world war in almost nowhere, he reveals the fascinating story.

Menachem Elkonin with his first hotel of Tel Aviv a 100 years ago (photos courtesy Elkonin Tel Aviv)
Almost check-in time at Elkonin Tel Aviv – MGallery (photo by Motti Verses)

“Everything started in 1912 when Malka and Menachem Elkonin arrived in Eretz Israel with their 6 children and wanted to build a warm house for the family”, he says. “This is what they did in only one year. They built this beautiful hotel, the first hotel of Tel Aviv. Some famous guests such as Albert Einstein, David Ben Gurion and King Abdulla the 1st were guests of the Elkonin.”

Over the years Tel Aviv developed rapidly to the north. Similar to all the institutions of the city in the first years on Lilienblum street, the hotel also closed down. Until in 2004 a dreamer saw the enormous potential, both of the street and the structure. Zionist Franco-Israeli entrepreneur, Dominique Romano acquired it with the intention of saving and bringing back to life the vanished hotel. Ever since it was meticulously restored by talented architects and interior designers into a 44-room-and-suite retreat.

“We want to offer one of the very best hospitality experiences in the city”, says General Manager Mondoloni. With the Mgallery stylish Accor brand, the prominent Robuchon group maintaining the reputation of Jöel Robuchon – the late French chef reputed with 32 Michelin stars and Clarins cosmetics, it looks like the Elkonin Boss is on the right track.

With Morgan Mondoloni, General Manager Elkonin Tel Aviv – MGallery on Lilienblum street (photo by Motti Verses)
A room with a Lilienblum view – a street of architectural treasures (photo by Motti Verses)

Our room on the second floor with a balcony, facing Lilienblum street, reminded us of a typical Paris traditional hospitality. The totally new room is not big, but well equipped with a small minibar and a safe and a standing shower. The advanced illumination system was challenging, but Millennials will probably control it better than us. Sleeping quality was the best and no noise was heard from the street.

The Spa contains 5 treatment rooms. It is based underground with quiet relaxation rooms, a Hamam and a small gym. We experienced classic treatments that were amazing. The Clarins cosmetics are apparently divine. Certainly one of the major assets is the Elkonin. On the roof a cozy pool with a breathtaking view of Jaffa and the Mediterranean are offered. The adjacent bar will certainly be a classical meeting point within no time.

The roof cozy pool with a breathtaking view of Jaffa and the Mediterranean (photo by Motti Verses)
A stylish boutique hotel design by Iconique Studio (photo by Motti Verses)
The stylish design of the ground floor and the L’Époque restaurant of the Elkonin (photo by Motti Verses)

The ground floor of the Elkonin is presenting for my money the best stylish boutique hotel design in the city. The interiors were designed by Iconique Studio, the Paris-based studio founded by the talented Adriana Schor. The timeless and sophisticated European-style ambiance with custom-designed furnishings and lighting by is a masterpiece. She drew inspiration from the first years of Tel Aviv reflected in Lilienblum street and the spirit of France. This floor hosts the crown jewel – the impressive dining room. The state of the art French served breakfast is a jump to Paris. This is the property’s flagship restaurant L’Époque by Jöel Robuchon. Dinner here presents exceptional gastronomy by reputed chef Eugène Koval. Obviously the restaurant is not Kosher. The food creations are poetry in motion. The menu also contains some of Robuchon’s reputed unforgettable signature dishes. The La Côte de Bœuf – the rib steak with the bone attached for two dinners is a classic not to be missed, unless you are a vegan.

A state of the art French served breakfast – a jump to Paris
(photo by Motti Verses)
The La Côte de Bœuf by chef Eugène Koval at L’Époque restaurant, Robuchon group (photo by Motti Verses)

The MGallery Hotel Collection by Accor features boutique hotels with original design and unique stories to tell. It guarantees living a memorable experience. The Elkonin fits this concept perfectly and this joint venture guarantees both quality and the history of Lilienblum street.

One does not  have to be a hotel guest to enjoy this treasure. You can just have breakfast or celebrate something special over dinner, or just enjoy a treatment in the spa. Do combine it with an hour walk to discover the street treasures. The feeling of Paris in the city that never stops was never closer.

About the Author
The author is a hotel expert, traveler, writer, videographer and the former Head of Public Relations of Hilton Hotels and Resorts in Israel
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