Once housing the Esther Cinema in Dizengoff Circle, the boutique hotel has retained much of the old-world charm and cinematic accoutrements that typified the movie-going experience.
Originally built in the 1930s rounded Bauhaus-style, the building was completely overhauled following the cinema’s closure in 1998. Opening as the Hotel Cinema three years later, it retained many of its classic features.
A quaint popcorn machine emitting the aroma of a double feature greets guests upon entering the inviting lobby. Most available space on the walls and tables is taken up with vintage movie equipment: projectors, cameras, lights, film canisters and lots of movie posters and photos.
Spiral staircases and chandeliers give the impression that Omar Sharif is about to walk through the front door. Plan on budgeting some extra time between leaving your room and getting to the elevators, because the black and white photos of Tel Aviv and the cinema in the 1950s and 1960s are so enticing. Indeed mesmerizing.
The staff is friendly and helpful to a fault, as guests of the Atlas chain are accustomed.
The rooms are perfectly functional, although on the small side. Some of them boast equally compact balconies that overlook the finally refurbished Dizengoff Circle, perfect for people-watching. Since the days of corona, the location has blossomed into a meeting spot for dog walkers, young parents, hipsters, and any resident looking for a little patch of grass and relaxation.
As bustling as the outside is, once you close the window and balcony door to your room, there’s barely any noise that enters – so close to the eye of the storm, yet far away.
The convenient location has a setback, however: parking. The hotel offers four spots reserved for those with disabilities. If any of them remain open, they’re available for guests by calling the front desk on a first-served basis. Otherwise, there are a number of lots nearby, including Dizengoff Center, which will set you back NIS 60-80 for 24 hours. But the proximity to practically every place you’d want to go in Tel Aviv makes it well worth it.
Between 5 and 7 p.m. every day, the hotel offers a happy-hour featuring wine, dips and salads on its rooftop terrace, with an expansive view of Tel Aviv. Occasionally, live music is also featured, or vintage films screened if you’re lucky enough to land on the right evening.
Breakfast is modest by Israeli standards, but very tasty. Salads, lox plates, fruits, fresh pastries, and great café hafuch, but no eggs on order, and calorie-heavy French toast and burekas. That works out well if you plan to head to the beach a close 12-minute walk away and compete with the hard bodies there.
Perhaps the marquee billing of the hotel is the price. A stay for a couple including breakfast runs in the vicinity of NIS 500-600, and is slightly higher on the weekends. At those rates, you can afford to go out to the movies. Or better yet, join the locals at Dizengoff Circle and be part of your own movie.
The writer was a guest of the hotel.