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Efendi Hotel: A Pair Of Palaces Are Reborn

This may be the last place you’d expect to find a five-star hotel

Talk about surprises. The Efendi Hotel is situated on an unmarked side street in the Old City of Akko—a 90-minute train ride from Tel Aviv—basically the last place you’d expect to stumble upon a five-star hotel and spa with more marble than most churches. And better wine, too. Noted chef Uri Jeremias is behind the renovation of two 19th-century brokedown palaces, reborn as a sleek Zen escape with a 400-year-old Turkish bath and a roof deck boasting views all the way to Lebanon. With 12 guest rooms (starting at $320 a night), the hotel offers personal, detail-oriented service and chic furnishings, from the Recor clawfoot soaking tubs to the 180-year-old tufted leather chairs Jeremias rescued from a library in Denmark. And then there are the deep-tissue massages (370 shekels—about $100—a session) and the 2,000-bottle wine cellar featuring tasty chenin blanc from Israeli winery Kerem Shvo. All this makes Akko, previously a day trip for Indiana Jones types interested in historic ruins, a worthy overnight destination. The Efendi’s cool marble and ornate, hand-painted ceilings prompt the question: What’s the cost of refurbishing an Ottoman-era stronghold? Jeremias remains mum, though he admits his planned five-year renovation stretched to more than eight years. “I told people I always knew exactly when we would open,” he says with a smile. “One day after we finish.”

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