Opened in 2017, Banksy’s Walled Off Hotel in Bethlehem will celebrate its four-year anniversary in March 2021. Here are 10 quick facts about the hotel with the ‘worst view in the world’.
1. Banksy opened the Walled Off Hotel in 2017
The Walled Off Hotel – designed by anonymous street artist Banksy and now an independent business – 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.” As of 2021, Walled Off has been open for four years – although it is currently not taking guests due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
2. Banksy announced the hotel on Instagram
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.
3. The name ‘Walled Off’ is a reference to the Israeli West Bank Wall
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”.
4. Banksy worked in Bethlehem for many years
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 stencilled the first Love Is In The Air (Flower Thrower) graffiti piece there in 2003 and also created a variation of Girl With Balloon on the barrier wall, featuring a girl floating away on helium balloons.
5. The Walled Off Hotel has only 9 rooms and one suite
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.
6. The Walled Off Hotel includes art by Banksy, Sami Musa and Dominique Petrin
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, big cats and chimpanzees. 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.
7. Anyone can visit the Walled Off Hotel’s facilities
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.
8. The art gallery hosts works by Palestinian artists
Operating independently from the hotel, the gallery inside Walled Off is the “largest permanent platform for Palestinian artists to showcase their work in Palestine”. Regular exhibitions are organised by local curators and the space hopes to bring established and emerging Palestinian artists to an international audience.
9. The hotel enjoys a five-stars rating on Tripadvisor
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.
10. The Walled Off Hotel gift shop sells souvenirs by Banksy
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 535,900 JPY (with buyer’s premium), or roughly £3,751, in April 2019.