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Spend a Night in Prison But Without the Bars at This Former Ottoman Jailhouse in Tel Aviv

At the entrance to the ancient Mediterranean port city of Jaffa, Israel sits the beautiful Setai Tel Aviv hotel. With a rooftop infinity pool, restored Turkish Hammam, full-service spa, stunning lounge spaces, stylish rooms and suites with direct access to the beaches of Tel Aviv-Jaffa, this gem sits in the heart of a cultural and historical melting pot.

Originally built in the 12th century by the Crusaders, it would go on to become an Ottoman jailhouse before being converted into a luxury five-building hotel complex, becoming the first property in Israel to join the Leading Hotels of the World.

The Turkish Kishle, as it was known, fell into Israeli hands after they declared their independence in 1948, but the police moved out of the building only as recently as 2005 and were you to look at it now, you’d still catch glimpses of the foreboding structure it once was.

According to Bruno H. de Schuyter, general manager of the hotel, “The 13th-century structure that is the foundation of the new hotel is unlike any other, and we took meticulous care in preserving and infusing important historic elements into the transformation of the building.” Wooden doors and windows were recreated, the prison yard restored and repurposed and much of the original Kishle was preserved in order to maintain as much authenticity as possible. In fact, the building underwent a 20-year preservation process.

In a region of such historical significance, it’s not uncommon for the architecture to stay true in many respects to its past, for old meets new in Israel on almost every corner. In fact, before any construction anywhere in the country, the Antiquities Authority must first scour the area by law and they found some interesting things at the Setai Tel Aviv site, including the remains of Ottoman soldiers who died fighting Napoleon.

While historical references are always a nice touch, nobody actually wants to sleep in a Turkish prison. Luckily, beyond the aesthetics, there’s nothing too prison-like about the hotel and with two new floors and an additional wing added to the original structure, the traditional feel is maintained, but with modern comforts and a sense of luxury.

While the Setai Tel Aviv might be a beautiful hotel with halls that echo with history, one of the best things about it is the location.

Beyond its ancient alleyways, stone arches and giant clock tower, Jaffa has so much more to offer the modern traveler and you only have to step foot outside the door of the hotel before being immersed in a vibrant, trendy neighborhood. With dozens of top quality restaurants, cafes and bars to choose from, as well as delicious street food for when the mood strikes, you are spoiled for choice when it comes to eating.

The hotel is situated on the short promenade that runs directly to Tel Aviv along the coast, perfect for beautiful evening walks, and guests are only minutes from the beach. So, with food, cultural spots, scenery and history in abundance, the Setai Tel Aviv has it all.