My tour of one of the world's best hotels
With world-class amenities and breathtaking architecture, The Norman in Tel Aviv is a destination unto itself.
Just a few weeks ago, The Norman Hotel in Tel Aviv was named the No. 1 hotel in the area. Not an easy feat – Israel alone is home to more than 500 hotels, and many of them are five-star. Earlier this fall, Conde Nast Traveler put it on their list of the 50 best hotels in the world. Even more impressive, several years ago, Jetsetter named The Norman best boutique hotel in the world.
So how does a boutique hotel with only 30 rooms and 20 suites earn the No. 1 spot among hundreds of other competitors locally, and a dazzling array of thousands of modern luxury hotels worldwide?
First, a bit of history. Norman Lourie, the namesake of the hotel and the father of the current owner, was a South African-born filmmaker who opened one of the first resorts in Israel. Dolphin House was a five-star resort and the go-to destination in Israel for celebrities and dignitaries – including Cornelius Vanderbilt, comedian Danny Kaye and actor Kirk Douglas. Novelist Leon Uris stayed at Dolphin House while he wrote "Exodus," and the film’s cast – including Paul Newman and his wife Joanne Woodward – stayed there during filming of the subsequent movie.
“When I was invited on board the Norman ‘ship,' I was captivated by the vision and scope of what felt like a dream in the making,” says general manager Yaron Liberman. “At the core is our central belief that guests arrive as residents, leave as friends, and return as family,” he adds.
We toured a range of suites in the hotel – from the Corner Suite to the Penthouse Duplex, all flanked by eye-catching mid-century modern decor. But lest you think comfort takes a backseat to style, “We have sat and slept on every couch, pillow, and bed,” explains Liberman. “We would get up in the middle of the night to record our impressions of the cushions. We've sat dozens of times on each armchair.”
All of the suites and hotel spaces have high ceilings, lots of natural light from large windows, unique light fixtures, contemporary art by Israeli artists, and fresh flowers. We felt both the 1920s elegance and the Mediterranean feel that designer David d’Almada had in mind when he conceptualized the space.
The Library Bar is a popular meet-up spot, with the cozy feel of a well-appointed study, and a full bar serving a variety of drinks, snacks, or a light meal. Two dining options – Alena and Dinings, offer gourmet food, including vegetarian and gluten-free options. The private rooftop infinity pool and sundeck was renovated a few months ago, and is a popular spot and a rare amenity for a small boutique hotel.
The Norman has an in-house personal trainer, swim instructor, yoga classes, hairstylist and makeup artist, massage therapist, and of course – personalized concierge service for planning excursions to nearby hotspots, including the famous Tel Aviv beach 10 minutes away from the hotel. Thoughtful extras include an iPad in each room, a choice of fabrics for bed linens, and personal touches, such as a guest’s favorite bottle of wine with a warm welcome note.
Sommeliere Shira Tsiddon built the wine collection at The Norman, filling the racks with carefully selected wines. She chooses wines that pair well with Israel’s warm climate, including some of the best from Europe’s boutique wineries, sake to pair with their Japanese restaurant dishes, and of course, the best of Israel’s local wineries. Tsiddon is proud to share that The Norman has the largest champagne collection in Israel, and won Best Wine List in Israel for the last two years.
“I get reactions from guests traveling in the world that it’s the best hotel they have ever stayed in,” says Liberman. “People are in love with this hotel because of the combination of prestige and quality with its sense of familiarity.”
I can see that, and look forward to visiting the Norman again in the future to see what other concepts they’ve dreamed up for their guests.
Related Topics: Architecture