Opened in 2017, Banksy’s Walled Off Hotel in Bethlehem has the truly unique selling point that it offers ‘The Worst View In The World’. Here are our 10 quick facts about the hotel:
The Walled Off Hotel lives up to its name – designed by anonymous street artist Banksy and now an independent business – it is a fully operating hotel, opened to guests on 20 March 2017. Never one to do things by halves, Banksy created Walled Off as a 10-room boutique hotel, a protest and an art gallery all at once. Banksy hoped the venture could provide a boost in tourism and job opportunities to Bethlehem, which had suffered increasing Israeli control over travel. All profits go back into local projects.
Opening in 2017 was a significant choice. “2017 marks a hundred years since the British took control of Palestine and helped kick start a century of confusion and conflict,” Banksy wrote on the hotel’s website. “We’re aiming to be here for the whole of the centenary year , maybe longer if people come.” After a brief pause in business due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Walled Off Hotel appears to be open again with their website active, and booking availabilities visible on Booking.com.
On 3 March 2017, Banksy’s Instagram fans were greeted with his first post since Dismaland in 2015. The cryptic image of falling white feathers on a teal background created a variety of excited responses, including:
‘What does it all mean???’
‘Where you been homeboy?’
‘OOOMMGGG HES BACKKKK’
‘WTF? Modern art shite!’
Banksy followed up with two more Instagram posts that day, revealing that the white feathers were a detail from a wall mural in his new hotel. The full work depicts an Israeli soldier and Palestinian youth engaged in a vicious pillow fight. “Probably another misguided venture into corporate hospitality – the Walled Off hotel” Banksy announced in the caption.
Banksy’s Walled Off Hotel is both a nod to the Waldorf luxury hotel chain and the Israeli West Bank Wall, located just metres away from the hotel. Each room in Banksy’s hotel looks out on to the illegal concrete barrier, which separates Israel from the Palestinian territories. Banksy boasts it is “the worst view of any hotel in the world”.
The exact street address of Banksy's Walled Off Hotel is 182 Caritas Street, Bethlehem, Palestine. For non-locals and prospective travellers, that's in the North of the city, adjacent to the illegal West Bank wall, so adjacent in fact that visitors have described the wall as being in 'touching distance' from the hotel's ironically named 'Scenic Wall Rooms'. In fact, so close is the wall, that the hotel rooms only get 25 minutes of direct sunlight a day, which serves as a poignant reminder of what it must be to live permenantly in the wall's shadow.
It is in a zone of the Palestinian city that is fully controlled under Israeli Security, and as a result is visitable for both local Palestinians and Israelis. The hotel's website states 'Our Palestinian management and staff offer an especially warm welcome to young Israelis who come with an open heart', and it is clear that the hotel is intended to provoke productive political conversation within a more local region as well as globally, among the crowds of Banksy followers who flocked to visit.
As Banksy says, “Walls are hot right now, but I was into them long before [Donald] Trump made it cool.” Banksy has created artworks around the Israeli West Bank wall for over a decade before Walled Off Hotel. He first stencilled the Love Is In The Air (Flower Thrower) graffiti piece there in 2003, it's debut, and also created a variation of Girl With Balloon on the barrier wall, featuring a girl floating away on helium balloons.
Commenting on Segregation Wall, another mural that Banksy created directly onto the West Bank Wall in 2005, a local Palestinian man is quoted as saying 'We don’t want [the wall] to be beautiful. We hate this wall. Go home.’ Evidently strongly compelled by the predicament of Palestinians, and motivated by an urge to beautify and to criticize the West Bank Wall, Banksy went home, but has not stopped returning since.
The Walled Off Hotel on Google Maps:
Prices range from a $60-a-night bed in a shared dormitory to the ‘presidential suite’, which includes a tiki bar, a home cinema and a plunge bath for four. The Walled Off Hotel’s nine rooms were fully booked for three months within weeks of its opening.
In addition to the ‘pillow fight’ mural, the hotel features Banksy’s wall art of cheetahs in the presidential suite, unique paintings and new sculpture, including a bust engulfed by a cloud of teargas and a monkey dressed as a porter. Many of these works play on Banksy’s favourite themes, such as anti-war messages, and big cats and chimpanzees as metaphors of oppression and confinement. One of Banksy’s original paintings at the Walled Off Hotel, Mediterranean Sea View 2017, was later sold at Sotheby’s for £2.23 million, with all the proceeds donated to the Bethlehem Arab Society for Rehabilitation.
The hotel also features guest rooms customised by Palestinian activist and artist Sami Musa, who participated in Banksy’s Dismaland, and Canadian visual artist Dominique Petrin.
The museum, art gallery and piano bar inside Walled Off are open to the public every day from 11am.
The ‘home-made’ museum tells the story of the West Bank Wall and has been curated with Dr Gavin Grindon from Essex University. Highlights, according to Banksy, include ‘an animated history of the region, military pornography and original beach sculpture from Gaza’. Banksy has been an outspoken critic of the military throughout his career, most clearly seen in artworks like CND Soldiers, Happy Choppers and Flying Copper.
Operating independently from the hotel, the gallery inside Walled Off is the “largest permanent platform for Palestinian artists to showcase their work in Palestine”. As well as the contribution of Sami Musa, a Palestinian activist, to the guest suite decor, regular exhibitions are organised by local curators, in order to platform local artists. By exploiting Banksy's own fame, the space hopes to bring established and emerging Palestinian artists to an international audience.
Banksy’s hotel has a perfect score from over 300 reviewers on Tripadvisor, as well as a 4.6/5 rating on Google Reviews and 9.5/10 on Booking.com. The Telegraph, however, was not so impressed, giving it a 6/10 ‘expert rating’ in their travel guide.
Established half a year after Walled Off opened, the hotel’s gift shop offered open-edition merchandise by Banksy. It was the first time in years that new Banksy works appeared on the primary market.
Pieces ranged from mugs and t-shirts to imitation hotel key fobs and West Bank Wall-inspired sculptures sprayed with Banksy’s iconic artworks. One of the most desirable Walled Off souvenirs is the Walled Off Hotel Box Set, which includes a stencilled artwork and a chiselled piece of the West Bank Wall. The most expensive Walled Off Hotel Box Set sold at auction for £6500, in March 2022.