Last updated September 23rd 2014

The rotunda with the signature Waldorf clock. Photo courtesy of the Waldorf Astoria JerusalemThe rotunda with the signature Waldorf clock. Photo courtesy of the Waldorf Astoria Jerusalem

Not so long ago, in the 700-square-meter grand ballroom of Jerusalem’s new Waldorf Astoria Hotel, we stood in line with elegantly dressed guests for delicacies being doled out of chafing dishes in honor of the hotel’s opening.

The Waldorf exterior. Photo courtesy of the Waldorf Astoria JerusalemThe Waldorf exterior. Photo courtesy of the Waldorf Astoria Jerusalem

Actors dressed in British colonial style, a live band playing covers of American soft-rock classics, dramatic floral arrangements, champagne and an abundance of fish and meat dishes marked the highbrow event in a style appropriate to the brand inspired by New York’s iconic hotel of the same name.

Though the Waldorf is in spitting distance of the upscale Mamilla, David Citadel and King David hotels, it is the only internationally branded luxury hotel in the city, points out John Vanderslice, global head of Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts, a subsidiary of Hilton Worldwide.

Waldorf staffers releasing balloons on July 6, 2014. Photo by Jeremy WimpfheimerWaldorf staffers releasing balloons on July 6, 2014. Photo by Jeremy Wimpfheimer

The Waldorf Astoria Jerusalem opened for business in April 2014 as Waldorf’s 26th hotel (the Waldorf Amsterdam followed soon after). The opening culminated a privately funded, six-year construction and restoration of the former Palace Hotel, which operated from 1929 to 1948.

The restored staircase. Photo courtesy of the Waldorf Astoria JerusalemThe restored staircase. Photo courtesy of the Waldorf Astoria Jerusalem

“The Palace opened two years before New York’s Waldorf Astoria, and the site offered us a great opportunity to create a luxury experience in one of the best locations in the world.We are really proud to bring the global notoriety of the Waldorf to Jerusalem,” Vanderslice tells ISRAEL21c, speaking on the balcony of the presidential suite surrounded by notable guests including Patriarch Theophilos III, Patriarch of the Orthodox Church of Jerusalem.

Palace Restaurant overlooking the atrium. Photo courtesy of the Waldorf Astoria JerusalemPalace Restaurant overlooking the atrium. Photo courtesy of the Waldorf Astoria Jerusalem

Israeli architect Yehuda Feigin and Turkish interior designer Sinan Kafadar worked together to preserve much of the existing design while adding contemporary touches. The outstanding lobby feature in every Waldorf is a replica of the Waldorf Astoria clock first introduced at the 1893 World Fair in Chicago. Avraham Aborgil designed the Jerusalem Waldorf clock with four faces adorned with Hebrew, Arabic, Roman and European numerals.

Though the ballroom chandeliers were imported from Czechoslovakia, most of the artworks installed in the hotel are Israeli. The glass fiber-reinforced concrete number plates, wall panels and door frames were commissioned by Kafadar from artisans at  Kibbutz Neot Semadar.

Vanderslice notes that the 226-room hotel has created more than 300 new jobs in Jerusalem. There is a high staff-to-guest ratio; every guest has the services of a personal concierge, and individual managers are assigned to each floor of the hotel.

A deluxe guestroom. Photo courtesy of the Waldorf Astoria JerusalemA deluxe guestroom. Photo courtesy of the Waldorf Astoria Jerusalem

For those of us who can’t afford a stay at the super-deluxe hotel, it’s well worth a walk-through and perhaps a sophisticated bite to eat in the glass-topped atrium with arches meant to evoke the classic Jerusalem look.