Lonely Planet Writer

Stay in a former Ottoman prison from the 12th century in Tel Aviv

A stunning new hotel has opened in Tel Aviv, that sees guests spending the night in a fully restored building that was once an Ottoman prison and dates back to the 12th century.

The historic building dates back to the 12th Century.
The historic building dates back to the 12th century. Image by Assaf Pinchuk

With locations in Miami and the Galilee region, Setai hotels opened the new property at the start of February. Located on the Mediterranean Sea at the entrance to Jaffa, the luxury hotel has 120 guest rooms inside the historic five-building complex. Initially constructed as a fortress during the 12th century, the property is referred to locally as the “Kishle” or “Jailhouse” in Turkish, and is noted as one of the most important buildings in the region from a historical, cultural and architectural perspective.

The Setai has a rooftop infinity pool looking over the Mediterranean Sea.
The Setai has a rooftop infinity pool looking over the Mediterranean Sea. Image by Assaf Pinchuk

Having undergone major restorations and redevelopments, the hotel now includes a rooftop infinity pool where guests can take a dip, a spa with Turkish baths and a gym, a restaurant and bar, and a 24-hour concierge service, as well as a jewellery store in the lobby. Guest rooms offer stunning views of the sea, as well as the historic Jaffa Clock Tower and Square and the inner courtyards of the property that contain olive and citrus trees.

Artefacts that were unearthed during renovations at the property are on display for guests at the hotel.
Artefacts that were unearthed during renovations at the property are on display for guests at the hotel. Image by Assaf Pinchuk

While the hotel offers a range of modern amenities and comforts, it may also prove to be a popular choice for travellers interested in experiencing a slice of history. The building that houses the hotel was part of a complex that has been conquered and inhabited by some of the most dominant empires throughout history, beginning with the Crusader period through to the Roman, Byzantine, Napoleonic, Turkish-Ottoman, as well as the British rule over Jaffa. The original buildings and stone corridors that wrap around the inner courtyard have been restored over the span of a 25-year preservation process, and as part of the renovation effort, architects demolished several buildings, restored the original structure, added three floors and dug out a basement level. These works spurred a series of extensive archaeological digs throughout the property, unearthing artefacts that date back as far as the 12th century, all of which will be on display in the hotel.

The hotel has stunning views of the surrounding area, including the Jaffa Clock Tower and Square.
The hotel has stunning views of the surrounding area, including the Jaffa Clock Tower and Square. Image by Assaf Pinchuk

Rates at the Setai Tel Aviv start at US$500 (£358) per night. More information is available on the official website.