There are, conservatively, a dozen reasons to choose The Setai when booking a hotel in Tel-Aviv: The dreamy, tree-lined courtyard, where you can dine on a top-notch breakfast spread; The grotto-like lounge bar; A spa that knows its way around both Turkish hammam rituals and Reiki. But after a day wandering through Carmel Market and before a night out at Kuli Alma or Sputnik, The Setai rooftop is the best-situated spot for watching one of the city’s epic sunsets.
The ancient legacy of the edifice certainly helps bolster the feeling that you’re part of something eternal as you watch the sun dip into the Mediterranean. Located in Jaffa, Tel-Aviv’s ancient port city, the hotel itself is housed in a grand building dating back to the Crusader period, when it was used as a fortress. During the Ottoman era, it was a prison (the heart of the building bears the original seal of Abdul Hamid II, 34th Sultan of the Ottoman Empire), and more recently it housed what must have been one of the world’s prettiest police stations.
In 2018, it reopened as a hotel after years of renovation, which involved archaeological digs on the property that uncovered artifacts from the 12th century. And the formidable history, centuries-old stone work and original walls are especially striking next to the picture-perfect and very modern rooftop infinity pool.
Designed in collaboration with Feigin Architects and Eyal Ziv, the building’s restoration architect, it’s the closest pool to the sea out of any hotel in Israel. As the moment approaches, you can order a custom cocktail to your lounge chair — comfy ones, with a design spare enough to not distract in your Instagram photo — or float on your back, watching the sky change color. In June or July, the sun sets directly in front of the hotel, with the edge of the infinity pool seeming to spill into the Mediterranean. The sun slips below the horizon just before 8 p.m., and the evening call to prayer rings out in Jaffa just as dusk settles. In that moment, you can feel Tel Aviv’s past and its future. And, a nice buzz from a glass of Golan Heights Syrah.