Established in the late nineteenth century, the Mamilla area was for many years a mixed Jewish-Arab business district. Its recent urban-renewal has been a resounding success: the fashionable Mamilla pedestrian mall opened in 2007, and the Mamilla Hotel shortly thereafter.
Across the street from the Mamilla Hotel is a sumptuous new branch of the Waldorf Astoria Hotel recently opened, establishing the Mamilla area as the new where-to-stay destination for travelers with a taste for luxury. Adjacent to the two hotels, the stylish Alrov Mamilla Mall)—functions, perhaps somewhat incongruously, as a “bridge” between the Old City and new Jerusalem. The hotel, and this neighborhood in general, is obviously catapulting into the future at an almost dizzying pace.
For visitors interested in seeing a different, far more ascetic, side of Jerusalem, there is the Austrian Hospice, at the very heart of the Old City on the Via Dolorosa. Established in the mid-nineteenth century by the Austrian government as a lodging place for pilgrims to the Holy Land, the Hospice’s interior was designed in the elegant style of the buildings on Vienna’s Ringstrasse (although its street entrance is so nondescript that it might be missed in the throng of the packed Muslim Quarter). Within easy walking distance of three essential holy sites—the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the Dome of the Rock, and the Western Wall—the Hospice offers a charming, very Northern European contrast to its Middle Eastern setting. (Where else can you sit on a sunny rooftop overlooking the Temple Mount and the Church of the Redeemer, then head downstairs for a perfectly crisp and authentic Apfelstrudel?) The Hospice still provides lodgings to Christian pilgrims, but no religious affiliation is required to stay here. The guest rooms are pleasingly spartan (though not monkish), with gleaming tile floors, simple, immaculate linens, and comfortable beds. The vibe at the Austrian Hospice is welcoming yet otherworldly, and somehow this mood seems appropriate for the Old City of Jerusalem—a place thoroughly charged with spiritual fervor—no matter what your beliefs.