Some hotels are so unique and interesting that they count as a destination for themselves. I personally love to stay in quirky hotels that are different from the norm and think that some hotels are definitely more than just a place to sleep for the night. Don’t you agree? Well, that is exactly what you will find at the Walled Off Hotel, otherwise known as the Banksy hotel.
A lot of Banksy’s artwork deals with controversial and political themes and the Walled Off Hotel is no different. Located just a few feet from the highly controversial (and illegal) separation wall between Israel and the West Bank, the hotel functions as an art installation, a political protest and a luxury hotel. This makes it one of the most unique places to stay in the world.
The Banksy Hotel offers more than just luxury accommodation – it also provides an experience that you won’t forget in a hurry!
If you enjoy this post, please subscribe to Travelacrosstheborderline by email, leave a comment below, and share on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. Thanks for visiting!
Israel, Palestine and the separation wall: A brief history of the conflict in the middle east
Before we get into this post it is important to give some background information on Israel, Palestine, the separation wall and the conflict in the Middle East.
There are many sources out there that can explain the nuances of the situation better than I can. So for an overview of the history, I urge you to read this article by the BBC. But do be aware that it doesn’t give a full account of all the human rights violations being committed.
If you want to learn about the key issues relating to Palestine then I recommend these fact sheets.
I also recommend learning about the UN’s relief work with Palestinian refugees.
And If you want to know what you can do to help the people of Palestine then check out the Palestine solidarity campaign.
Who is Banksy?
Banksy is a world-famous street artist whose political and controversial artwork has generated a lot of attention over the years.
His art often comments on social and political issues, making it highly relevant to the public. Banksy’s work is often displayed in the form of graffiti, and his unique style has made him one of the most well-known artists in the world.
Banksy is also the owner of the Banksy Hotel, also known as the Walled Off Hotel, so you can rest assured that your stay there will be filled with interesting and thought-provoking art.
Where is Banksy’s Hotel?
The Banksy Hotel is located in Bethlehem in the West Bank, Palestine.
The Palestinian territories are highly disputed territories located in the Middle East. The Palestinian territories include the West Bank, which is controlled by the Palestinian Authority, and Gaza Strip, which is controlled by Hamas.
Bethlehem is a city located in the West Bank, Palestine. It is best known as the birthplace of Jesus Christ.
The Banksy Hotel is situated just a few metres from the separation wall which divides Israel and Palestine. Banksy has used this location to make a powerful statement about the politics of the region.
What is the Walled Off Hotel?
The Walled Off hotel opened in March 2017 to mark 100 years since the British seized control of Palestine and ultimately kick-started the long and complicated conflict in the Middle East.
In a press statement at the time, Banksy explained: “It’s exactly 100 years since Britain took control of Palestine and started rearranging the furniture – with chaotic results” Adding, as a clear dig at Brexit: “I don’t know why, but it felt like a good time to reflect on what happens when the United Kingdom makes a huge political decision without fully comprehending the consequences.”
Since opening The Banksy hotel has become a popular destination for tourists, artists and activists alike.
What is the purpose of the Walled Off Hotel?
Banksy created the Walled Off hotel as an art installation and political protest against the controversial separation wall and the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land. It can be seen as a natural follow-on from his 2015 Dismaland installation.
Banksy’s Dismaland was an interactive art installation and theme park that Banksy created in the town of Weston-super-Mare in England.
The park was open for 5 weeks in the summer of 2015 and is estimated to have had over 1 million visitors.
The park was a commentary on the state of the world and featured artworks by Banksy and other artists.
The theme of many of the artworks was anti-capitalism and anti-fascism. These are themes that run through many of Banksy’s most famous artworks and themes that he continued to display when the Banksy hotel opened in 2017.
The Walled Off hotel is also Banksy’s response to the current political situation in Palestine and is designed as an art installation, a political protest and a luxury hotel.
Banksy’s political statement
Essentially the purpose of the Walled Off hotel is to make a political statement against the Israeli west bank separation wall. A quote from the hotel’s gift shop reads:
“Just in case you weren’t sure what Banksy thinks about the wall (not a fan) his latest range of ‘souvenir collectables’ anticipate the day the concrete menace has been defeated and feral youth scribble on its skeletal remains.”
Banksy in the west bank
The separation wall
The Israeli West Bank barrier, which includes the West Bank Wall and the West Bank fence, is a separation barrier built by Israel along the Green Line and illegally inside parts of the West Bank.
It is a contentious element of the Israeli–Palestinian conflict: Israel describes it as necessary for security against Palestinian terrorism while Palestinians have characterized it as representing apartheid.
The supposed security measure was put in place during a time of increased tensions, but it has since come to represent the future border between Israel and Palestine.
The construction of the wall has been widely criticized by Palestinians, human rights groups, and members of the international community for serving as evidence of Israel’s intent to annex Palestinian land. It is also alleged that the aim of building the wall is to undermine the Israeli–Palestinian peace process by establishing new borders without agreement from both sides.
The wall veers significantly off course from the Green Line into Palestinian land, which hinders many Palestinians from commuting to workplaces in both the West Bank and Israel.
The International Court of Justice found that the barrier violates international law. In 2003, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution that said Israel’s building of the barrier was a violation of international law and demanded its removal.
The walled sections of the barrier have become a place for graffiti art. On the Palestinian side, people have drawn pictures that show their opposition to the barrier, as well as their resistance and their right to return. The drawings also illustrate general human rights issues.
Banksy’s Murals on the Separation Barrier
Banksy’s politically charged murals on the separation wall have been drawing attention to the Israeli West Bank Separation Barrier for over a decade.
Banksy’s first mural on the separation barrier was sprayed in 2005 and depicted two young boys playing in front of a hole in the wall showing a tropical beach destination on the other side. The piece plays on the notion of the ‘grass is greener on the other side’.
Banksy has since continued to use his art as a platform for addressing issues of human rights, injustice, and oppression that Palestinians have been facing in the region for decades.
Banksy’s murals on the separation barrier include a series of works depicting a Banksy angel embracing an Israeli soldier, a mural of a girl clutching a group of balloons floating over the wall, Dorothy of Wizard of Oz being searched by an Israeli soldier, a peace dove wearing a bulletproof vest, two cherubs using crowbars to pry apart the wall and Banksy’s famous “Flower Thrower”.
When the Walled Off hotel opened in 2017 it was welcomed by Palestinians, who see Banksy as a hero for bringing international attention to the human rights violations that they are suffering.
Tourism in Palestine
Despite the political unrest and violence that has plagued the region for decades, people continue to visit the West Bank for its unique history, culture, and landscapes and to experience a truly unique travel destination.
There are many different ways to experience tourism in the West Bank. Visitors can explore ancient ruins and religious sites, go hiking and camping in the hills and mountains, or enjoy Palestinian hospitality in one of the local villages or towns.
Palestinians have long welcomed visitors to their homeland, and they are proud of their culture and traditions. Many Palestinians work in the tourism industry, providing services such as transportation, accommodation, food, and guided tours.
The Palestinian Authority is working hard to promote tourism in the West Bank by developing new tourist destinations and improving infrastructure.
There are now several luxury hotels in Palestine, including The Banksy Hotel. However, the Israeli authorities continue to make it difficult for travellers to reach Palestine by implementing restrictions on movement, visa requirements, and border control.
Many international governments also advise against travel to the Palestinian territories.
Despite these difficulties, Palestine is an incredibly rewarding place to visit for those who do make the effort.
The impact of the Walled Off hotel on Palestinians
By Opening the hotel and continuing to run it, Banksy seems to have been inspired by Palestinian “sumud”, which in Arabic means steadfastness. This is a term often used when describing the commitment of Palestinians to stay put despite Israeli pressure and aggression.
The Walled Off Hotel has become one of the few success stories in the occupied territories.
Even though Israel has tried its hardest to reduce tourism coming into Bethlehem- including making it very time-consuming and difficult experience getting through checkpoints-The Walled Off Hotel continues to boost the struggling Palestinian economy and brings global awareness to their plight.
The hotel provides jobs and economic opportunities to local Palestinian people as well as giving them a platform to share their stories.
Is visiting Palestine ‘war tourism’ or is it ethical?
There is no easy answer to this question, as it depends on each person’s individual perspective.
Some people argue that it is unethical to visit Palestine because by doing so we are financially supporting the Israeli government and its policies of occupation and Apartheid.
Others say that tourism in the Palestinian territories helps to support the local economy and provides jobs for Palestinians, many of whom have been displaced or affected by the conflict.
Ultimately, it is up to each individual traveller to decide whether they feel comfortable visiting Palestine and what their motivation for doing so is.
It is important to remember that tourism in Palestine can be a very complex issue, and there are many different sides to the story.
Visitors should do their own research before making a decision about whether or not to travel there.
10 facts about the Banksy hotel in Palestine
- The Banksy hotel opened in 2017 and was announced on Instagram
- It is named the Walled Off hotel as a play on the words of the famous Waldorf luxury hotel chain and the Israeli West Bank Wall.
- The Banksy hotel is located just metres away from the Israeli West Bank separation Wall.
- The Banksy hotel has nine rooms. Ranging from a shared dormitory to a presidential suite
- The hotel features unique works of art created by Banksy himself, especially for the hotel as well as artwork by local Palestinian artists
- The Banksy hotel features a piano bar, a museum which contains Banksy’s own artwork and the world’s most politically charged view.
- The Banksy hotel is run as a not-for-profit business and all proceeds go to charity.
- The hotel provides much-needed job opportunities to local Palestinians and allows Palestinian artists to display their artwork to a global audience.
- At the Banksy hotel, you can take tours of Banksy’s murals in the West Bank.
- The Banksy hotel offers a unique experience of Palestine and its culture.
Staying at the Banksy hotel: a unique travel experience
What to expect during a stay at the Walled Off hotel
For the rest of this blog post, I would like to share with you my personal experience of visiting Bethlehem and staying at the Banksy hotel.
I share this so that you can better understand what it is really like to visit this often misunderstood destination and make up your own mind as to whether you should travel to Palestine and the West Bank.
My review of the Banksy Hotel
I decided to visit Palestine in 2019 as part of a larger trip around the Middle East, which also included Israel.
I arrived in the evening after a long journey from Palestine’s capital city Ramallah. The journey shouldn’t usually take that long. Unfortunately, my taxi driver had decided it would be a good idea to try offroading to avoid traffic. And ended up getting us stuck in a ditch. But that’s a story for another time!
I climbed out of the taxi feeling rather tired and irritable. However, my mood quickly changed as soon as I approached the door to Banksy’s famous Walled Off Hotel.
The hotel is located just a few feet from the imposing separation wall. I was keen to explore the area. But since the sun had already set I would have to wait for the morning.
Instead, I turned my attention to the ‘doorman’, a chimpanzee statue dressed in a bellhop uniform, perched atop a stack of luggage with clothes spilling out onto the pavement. The style was unmistakably Banksy.
I didn’t have long to admire the artwork before an actual bellhop appeared at the door and ushered me inside.
Once inside, I was offered a seat at the bar. And it wasn’t too long before I was sipping on a complimentary welcome cocktail.
As I sipped my drink, the frustration of the day instantly began to wear off and was soon replaced with excitement. I felt like a kid at Disneyland and I couldn’t wait to explore this amazing place.
The rooms at the Walled Off Hotel, Bethlehem
Once I had finished my drink the bellhop led me over to a bookcase in the corner of the piano bar and gave me an explanation of how guests can reach their rooms.
“Simply hold your key fob close to the statue of Venus, wait for her nipples to light up red… then voila!” he beamed at me as the bookcase swung open to reveal a staircase. I couldn’t help but laugh out loud at this quirky feature!
Each room at the Walled Off Hotel has a different theme and contains original Banksy artwork.
The presidential suite features a hot tub and water tank riddled with bullet holes. Whilst another room showcases a mural, above the bed, of a Palestinian fighter and an Israeli soldier engaging in a pillow fight.
I chose to stay in the barracks. A budget dorm room decorated with items scavenged from an abandoned army barracks. Although this was the budget option there were still a ton of fun features in the room.
The attention to detail in the whole hotel is perfect. This is not your typical backpacker dorm.
All windows in the hotel face out onto the separation wall, for what Banksy has dubbed “The worst view in the world”.
The shadow of the wall means that each room only receives around 25 minutes of sunlight each day.
From the upstairs stairwell, you can also see an Israeli settlement on a hilltop in the distance. This settlement is illegal under international law.
The view serves as a stark reminder of the tense political situation taking place all around you.
The Walled Off Museum
After I had gotten settled in my room (and took a bunch of selfies of course!) I wanted to explore the rest of the hotel, as obviously, the Banksy hotel is a destination and experience itself and not just a place to stay.
First I headed to the museum. The small museum aims to bring awareness to the plight of the Palestinian people and the horrendous human rights violations being committed against them.
Banksy knew that people would come from all over the world to visit his hotel, so he created a space to educate the world about Palestine’s oppression.
I had already visited the Yassar Arafat museum in Ramallah the day before. And I had done a ton of reading before I came to visit Palestine. So I thought that I had a pretty good understanding of the conflict already.
But the museum at the Walled Off Hotel blew my mind. It showed me a whole new perspective and left me scratching my head as to how the international community is allowing this to happen. As a video playing in one of the rooms said “If you are not completely baffled, then you don’t understand”.
The museum was very interactive and extremely poignant. As I explored the various exhibits I was taken on an intense emotional rollercoaster.
I won’t give away too much as I don’t want to spoil it for anyone who wants to visit. But I will tell you that the museum gives a voice to the Palestinians and allows them a platform to tell the world what is happening to them in their own words.
One of my favourite exhibits was the homemade gas masks. Along with the story of how Palestinian people had sent video instructions on how to make them to the Hong Kong protestors and Black Lives Matter movement. I loved the idea of people coming together from across the world to fight oppression together.
I left the museum feeling a mixture of sadness, anger, bewilderment and intense admiration for the resilience of the Palestinian people.
The Walled Off Art Gallery
Next, I made my way to the art gallery and found myself to be the only person there.
The gallery features work by local Palestinian artists. As most Palestinians cannot travel due to the restrictions imposed upon them, this is the only way these artists can bring their work to an international audience.
I was glad to be alone in the gallery and was grateful for the quiet moment as I admired the art.
Many of the pieces are strongly political and very thought-provoking. Again, I was happy to see Banksy giving a platform for the Palestinians to tell their stories to the world.
The Banksy Hotel Piano Bar
Later, having had my fill of museums and art, I made my way to the piano bar.
The grand room had an upmarket but dystopian theme to it.
At first glance, it seemed like the usual posh piano bar you would find in any nice hotel. But as I took the time to look closer I gradually noticed a few unsettling details…
A plastic hand protruding from a plant pot waves a burned and torn union jack flag.
The paintings of seascapes above the fireplace actually show the lifejackets of refugees strewn across the beach.
Tear gas engulfs the statue of a bust and in the corner of the room, a cat is trying to eat a caged peace dove.
I ordered a beer from the local brewery in Taybeh, the first microbrewery to open in the Middle East, and a spread of hummus and falafels and took a seat at a table in front of the grand piano.
The piano is self-playing and plays live performances at 8pm every night.
Many famous musicians, such as Jarvis Cocker, have composed music pieces for the piano to play. However, on this night an actual local pianist was playing.
I enjoyed a few more drinks whilst letting the wonderful piano concert wash over me. It was an extremely pleasant evening and for a moment I forgot that I was sitting only feet away from the separation wall. Arguably the worst human rights violation in the world.
The tours available at the Banksy hotel
The separation wall and the Aida refugee camp
The next morning, after a fantastic night’s sleep and even more hummus for breakfast, I was ready to explore.
With the help of the hotel staff, I arranged a private tour with a local guide to learn more about the life of the local people.
I met my guide Marwan outside the hotel and we began to wander along the length of the separation wall.
As we walked Marwan explained to me that he was born in the nearby refugee camp. His family was placed there by the UN after their homes and land were seized by Israeli forces.
The UN promised them they would be able to go home within two weeks… But over 70 years later they are still there.
Marwan pointed to a key that he wore around his neck. “This is the key to my grandfather’s house. He kept it with him ready for when he could go home, but that never happened so he passed it to my father and now I keep it safe” he explained. “I don’t even know if the house is still there but I pray that one day I can go home.”
I spent three hours with Marwan. We walked along the wall and viewed some of the most famous artworks that cover it. Then we headed to the Aida refugee camp, the most tear-gassed place in the world, where Marwan and over 5000 other Palestinian refugees live.
The tour was intense and at some points both Marwan and I cried together. But I am so glad that I got to see first-hand what life in the West Bank is really like.
Marwan introduced me to several of his friends and I sat and listened intently to their stories, most of which were utterly harrowing.
After the tour, Marwan and I headed to a coffee shop within the camp. As we sat and drank I asked him “what can I do to help?”
He thought for a moment before responding “tell our stories to all your friends back home, the world needs to know what they are doing to us.”
I hope that by writing about my experiences in Palestine I can grant Marwan’s wish.
How to Visit Palestine
I encourage everyone to visit Palestine with an open mind.
I travelled here as a solo female traveller and had no problems. Despite what you may have been told by the media, Palestine is not an active war zone.
I found the Palestinian people to be incredibly welcoming and friendly. Leave your expectations and stereotypes at home and you will have a wonderful time.
There are no airports within the Palestinian territories so you will have to enter through the checkpoints in Israel. The checkpoints can feel a little intimidating but you should be let through fairly easily.
Although I had no issues, I can understand that some people may feel uncomfortable solo travelling in this part of the world. Therefore I would highly recommend one of the organised group tours below.
How to visit the Banksy hotel
If you’re looking for an interesting and unique travel experience, consider visiting the Banksy hotel in Palestine. The Walled Off hotel offers tourists a one-of-a-kind opportunity to learn about Palestinian culture and history.
In order to visit the Banksy hotel, you first have to fly into Tel Aviv airport. Then, you can take a taxi or bus to Jerusalem.
Next, you will need to cross over the border into Bethlehem. However, keep in mind that because Bethlehem is part of the Palestinian Territories and Israelis are not allowed there, you won’t be able to get a taxi or bus that goes directly there.
Instead, you’ll need an Israeli taxi only until you reach the checkpoint. Once crossing it on foot from Israel to Palestine, then you’re able to get a Palestinian taxi which will finally bring you straight to the hotel.
FAQs about the Banksy Hotel
What kind of artist is Banksy, and what is unique about his work?
Banksy is a British street artist and political activist. He is famous for using dark humour in his work to showcase political and controversial themes.
Does Banksy own a hotel?
Yes. The Walled Off Hotel opened to guests in 2017 to mark 100 years of conflict in the area and as a way to bring awareness to the separation wall which is illegal under international law. The hotel showcases original artwork by Banksy as well as local Palestinian artists.
Where is the Banksy hotel?
The Walled Off Hotel, Bethlehem is located at 182 Caritas street, Bethlehem in the West Bank, Palestine. The Banksy hotel directly faces the separation wall and is 500 metres from the Jerusalem checkpoint.
Can you stay at the Banksy hotel?
Can Israelis stay at the Banksy hotel?
The answer to this is not so simple. Banksy himself has stated that Israelis are not only welcome but encouraged to come to visit the walled-off hotel. However, travel between Israel and Palestine is strictly controlled and although the Banksy hotel location was chosen to be in a site officially under Israeli military control – meaning it is legal for Israelis to stay there – all the roads to reach it involves an illegal journey through Palestinian-controlled territory.
How much does it cost to stay at the Banksy hotel?
The price varies depending on the room you choose. There are 9 different rooms to choose from. They range from a presidential suite to a budget backpacker dormitory. I stayed in the budget dorms and found the price to be similar to other budget hostels in the Middle East.
Is it ethical to stay at the Banksy hotel?
Yes. The hotel provides jobs for local people and gives its profits to local projects. The in-house museum and art gallery gives a voice to the local community and allows them to tell their stories to an international audience. However, do please be respectful during your stay and practice responsible tourism.
Can you visit the Walled Off hotel without staying there?
Yes. The hotel is open to non-guests from 11am daily. If you aren’t lucky enough to get a room at the Banksy hotel there are a lot of other hotels in Bethlehem, Palestine to choose from.
Is there a gift shop at the Banksy hotel?
Yes, there is a gift shop at the Walled Off hotel! The gift shop sells souvenir mugs and t-shirts as well as numerous books all about the middle east conflict and the barrier wall. You even buy spray paint and stencils if you want to add your own artwork to the separation wall.
Is there a Banksy Hotel in the Gaza Strip?
No, there is no Banksy Hotel Gaza Strip. The Banksy Hotel is located in Bethlehem which is in The West Bank, Palestinian territories.
Summary of The Banksy Hotel, Palestine
The Banksy hotel provides a unique travel experience, is great value for money and offers a different experience that is not available anywhere else.
If you are looking for an off-the-beaten-path adventure, or want to learn more about the Middle East conflict, then the Banksy hotel is perfect for you!
The Banksy hotel is an unforgettable experience and perfect for anyone looking for a unique travel adventure.
By visiting the Banksy hotel, you can help support local Palestinian projects, learn more about the Middle East conflict and its politics, and explore Bethlehem’s cultural heritage.
All of the profits from the Banksy hotel go to local Palestinian projects, so you can feel good about your money supporting a good cause.
So what are you waiting for? Why not book your stay today?
My Favourite Travel Resources
Travel Itineraries: I offer a range of pre-planned travel itineraries for many popular destinations. Use them to make planning your next trip a breeze!
Ferries: For cheap ferry tickets I use Ferry Scanner
Cashback: With the WayAway Plus membership plan, users get access to premium travel support, travel content prepared by locals, and cashback on flights, hotels, car rentals and other travel services. I love using Wayaway to get cashback on my travel expenses. In fact, it is one of my fave budget travel hacks 😉 Click here to get 10% off of a WayAway Plus membership
Foreign Currency: I highly recommend getting an international card to save you loads of money in expensive bank fees. The Wise Card allows you to spend in 150+ currencies and withdraw cash from ATMs anywhere in the world without paying any bank fees!
Travel Insurance: Never travel without proper travel insurance! I always use EKTA
Luggage Storage: Radical Storage is a Luggage storage network that operates in over 70 countries and 350 cities with more than 3500 storage points. I love using Radical storage to store my bags before or after checking in/out of my hotel as it gives me an extra day to explore without having to worry about dragging my luggage around with me.
Travel Planning services: Did you know that I offer travel planning services and custom itineraries? Let me plan your next trip for you!
Psssst… Need inspiration for your next adventure? Check out my travel store!