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The Banksy Hotel review: what it’s really like to stay at The Walled Off Hotel in Bethlehem, Palestine

• Rating: 10/10
Rooms at The Walled Off Hotel start from 
$235 (£198) a night. Bunk beds in the dormitory are $70 (£55) a night
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I first heard about The Walled Off Hotel, situated right next to the Israel-Palestine separation wall in the West Bank a good few years back and wanted to visit ever since. It’s like no other hotel I’ve ever visited and while many have opined that Banksy opening a hotel in the West Bank is profiteering from misery, the Palestinians I met couldn’t have disagreed more—everyone I spoke to during my trip was delighted that the elusive artist had shined a light on the country by bringing his art and hotel to the West Bank. 

The Banksy scenic suite at The Walled Off Hotel
My room, room one: The Banksy scenic suite at The Walled Off Hotel

As you’d expect from Banksy, the hotel is emotive and elaborately put together with clever art and messaging throughout. The 25ft high separation wall is just a couple of meters from the hotel’s front door and Banksy’s beautiful angels mural is a two-minute walk away. Checkpoint 300, the place to pass through if you’re heading back into Israel is a 10-minute walk uphill and is easy enough (for tourists at least) to pass through before taking the public bus back to Jerusalem. I travelled solo to the hotel during a four-week stint getting to know Israel and Palestine.

Angels by Banksy, a piece of art on the Palestine Israel separation wall in Bethlehem
Angels by Banksy, just a few minutes walk from the hotel

Much like The Lost Poet in London’s Notting Hill, Pest Buda hotel in Budapest and Mexico's impressive Casa Etérea, Banky’s hotel is an intimate affair with just six rooms, an army-barrack style dormitory with bunk beds and a presidential suite. Banksy owns the hotel in its entirety and it’s filled with his own original artwork. Staffed by Palestinians, any profits from the hotel go back into local projects.

What’s the vibe at The Walled Off Hotel?

If I had to sum up the hotel in three words, they would have to be; emotional, riveting and contemplative, but of course, because it’s Banksy, there’s also a cheeky and seriously clever edge. The hotel sits on a corner with its name lit up in aged fairground-style lightbulb letter lights. A monkey statue stands directly beside the front door decked out in a bellboy outfit holding suitcases and a small bell, while a gold sign reads ‘all welcome’ in Arabic, English and Hebrew. Once inside it’s hard to know where to look as there’s just so much to take in, I was overwhelmed, excited, impressed and moved, all at once. The reception area sits directly beyond the front doors where there's a hilarious sign that reads ‘rejection’ rather than ‘reception’. Tables and chairs are set up around a grand piano that plays by itself every evening and this is the space where breakfast is served each morning. 

The Piano bar at the walled off hotel surrounded by original Banksy artworks
The Piano bar surrounded by original Banksy artworks

There’s another dining area towards the back of the hotel, a really impressive art gallery upstairs showcasing art from Palestinian artists and a deeply moving museum that highlights the segregation in detail. I felt as though I’d stepped back in time as the hotel’s decor is based on a British colonial outpost complete with china teacups, dark wood antique furniture and lace tablecloths, all surrounded by incredible original Banksy art.

How are the rooms at The Walled Off Hotel?

I booked room one, the Banksy scenic suite which follows along with the theme of 1917’s Britain. When I entered the first thing I noticed were the two huge windows that look directly onto the separation wall and its new mural depicting the face of George Floyd as well as a slogan that reads, ‘make hummus not walls’. In Banksy’s trademark style, a telescope points towards the wall—of course, there’s no view but that’s precisely the point. 

view of the separation wall in Palestine from the walled off hotel with telescope
The view from my suite, complete with telescope

Much of the art and graffiti sprayed and drawn directly onto the separation wall is truly fascinating, creatives from across the globe have left their mark in the hope of shining more of a spotlight on the plight of the Palestinian people. In my room, I discovered five original Banksy works of art, including old-style oil paintings that had been reimagined with parts cut away or drawn onto. The room was filled with dark wooden furniture, old-style chairs and relics of the British royal family. A bust of Winston Churchill sat atop a stack of ancient, faded books on top of an old fireplace and fox hunting memorabilia is a constant theme throughout, with small dishes and pots dotted around in obvious mockery of the barbaric sport. It’s these small touches that make me admire Banksy so much, he’s thought about absolutely every tiny detail. 

details of room one at the walled off hotel in Palestine
The seating area of my room

My double bed was huge and comfy, covered over with a thick grey quilt and pastel-colored cushions, the feature wall behind it had been spray painted using stencils to create the look of elaborate wallpaper while an old-fashioned telephone sat on the wooden bedside table alongside more ancient books. There was also a fruit bowl in my room when I arrived and because I was so hungry I immediately started eating a red apple, but about halfway through I noticed it was rotten from the inside, I laughed to myself wondering if Banksy had also orchestrated this brilliant creation—I don’t think it’s part of the experience but I still hope it is. The bathroom contained a large shower and walls dotted with antique mirrors in gilt frames, more porcelain trinkets and an old chamber pot finished off the colonial theme. 

a wall of mirrors in the bathroom of room one at the Banksy hotels in Palestine
The bathroom

As well as the room I booked there are also rooms customized by the artists Sami Musa and Dominique Petrin both of which look beautiful, I’m hoping I can return soon.

What is there to eat and drink?

There is a restaurant at The Walled Off Hotel but I didn’t eat there during my stay as I wanted to head out and see a bit more of Bethlehem and the surrounding areas for myself. I did have breakfast in the Piano Bar and it was one of the most delicious breakfasts I had during my four weeks in Israel and Palestine. There were six breakfast options on the menu for my stay, all served with tea or coffee served in dainty china teacups. I opted for shakshuka which came with hummus, falafel and ‘flatbread from the local baker’ as well as halwa and a load of delicious spreads and jams. The tahini was some of the best I’ve ever tasted. Not too far away from the hotel in the older part of Bethlehem I also visited Al-Ajaweed restaurant (after going to see Banky's Flower Thrower) to try knafeh—a type of sweet cheese dessert. But they also serve an incredible array of sweets that I’d recommend going to try if you’re in Bethlehem.

Lydia Swinscoe admiring Banksy's Flower Thrower mural just outside of Bethlehem
Admiring Flower Thrower just outside of Bethlehem

Any highlights?

My entire stay was a highlight, but also incredibly moving too. I’d really encourage anyone staying at Banky’s hotel to sign up for the guided tours that explain in great detail the history of the wall and the politics associated with it. Marwan who guided my walk was so passionate and engaging, I really cherish my time with him. The museum, although incredibly sad, is also an unmissable part of the hotel experience and the upstairs gallery is beautiful. There are too many highlights to mention and I don’t want to give everything away in this review as you really do have to experience this incredible place for yourself.

Anything they could improve on?

Nothing—I can't wait to return one day.

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