ACE Cultural Tours aims to provide experiences immersing travellers in history and culture, and wherever possible, this applies to our choice of accommodation too. In this blog join ACE in investigating two hotels our travellers will have the opportunity to stay at during two of our upcoming tours. During Music & Opera in Vienna our group will stay throughout at the five-star Hotel Bristol. On The Holy Land, we will stay at the Scots Hotel in Tiberias.
An original advertisement for the Hotel Bristol, 1906.
Hotel Bristol, Vienna, Austria
In November 2023 ACE will take a group to Vienna to experience two spectacular performances in the State Opera House, Mozart’s The Magic Flute and Puccini’s La bohème. This tour offers an opportunity to experience beautiful musical performances whilst exploring the culture of the Austrian capital, Vienna.
View of the Hotel Bristol exterior, 1913.
We are delighted that the group will stay throughout at the glorious five-star Hotel Bristol, Housed in a beautiful Art Nouveau building with a rich history of celebrity guests including Edward VIII, the Bristol is right on the doorstep of the State Opera House and a five minute walk from the Musikverein.
Established in 1892, the foundations of the current building were laid in 1898 on the site of an earlier hotel. Upon completion, the Hotel Bristol boasted 235 bedrooms, a large dining room and the first electrical lift of its kind in Vienna. Between 1913 and 1916 the hotel saw further development and reconstruction but was taken over by the Österreichische Bank (Austrian National Bank) during the Great Depression, in 1930.
View of the Art Deco interiors and staircase of the Hotel Bristol.
The old wing of the hotel, known as the Altes Bristol (or Old Bristol), was destroyed by bombing in 1945 when Allied troops occupied Vienna. For a short period of time following the Second World War the hotel served as a headquarters for Soviet and then American soldiers. On some of the brass railings of the hotel small irregular indentations can be seen which are thought to have been left by the soldiers occupying the hotel and were chosen to be ignored during later renovations as a memento of the hotel’s rich past.
The Prince of Wales suite of the Hotel Bristol.
The Hotel Bristol prides itself on a history of prestigious visitors and guests, including Rubinstein and Puccini. The hotel’s Presidential Suite, the Prince of Wales suite, is named after Edward VIII (1894-1972), who resided at the Hotel Bristol during his visits to Vienna, firstly when Prince of Wales.
“Legend has it that Edward VIlI had made his decision to abdicate as King and
marry Wallis Simpson during one of his stays at the Hotel Bristol.”
- Hotel Bristol Stories
A view of Hotel Bristol (right) with the State Opera House (left) in the foreground.
From their base at the Hotel Bristol, ACE travellers on Music & Opera in Vienna will experience wonderful operas at the State Opera House, splendid concerts at the Musikverein and some of the best cultural sites of Vienna.
For more information and to see the tour details click below:
Scots Hotel, Tiberias, Israel
In January 2024 ACE will travel to the Holy Land to explore the evolution of Jerusalem and the layers of history at Bethlehem, Caesarea and the fortress of Herodion. From the early Iron Age to the post-1948 history, this tour aims to dissect the rich heritage of the region.
A view of the entrance to the David Building, formally the original hospital turned reception.
On the fifth day of the tour, our group will transfer to Tiberias for three nights at the historic Scots Hotel. This hotel, operated by the Church of Scotland, began life as a hospital. The hospital was established by David Watt Torrance, a surgeon from Airdrie, Scotland, in 1885 as part of a Scottish mission to the Holy Land. Torrance, who had been on a delegation to the region a year earlier, realised that although Tiberias had four times the population of Jerusalem, it lacked a hospital.
Dr Torrance receiving his guests in Tiberias, 1946.
Torrance obtained the land on which the site was built for £60. In 1891, he quickly set to building two residences, one for the minister and one for himself. However to construct a hospital building a special deed (a firman) was required. This had to come from the Sultan in Constantinople and was seen as an impossible task. Torrance managed to get the deed in just two years through determination and the backing of local officials. The land had originally belonged to a Turkish official who had wanted to build a colonial style house.
“[The Turkish official] quickly concluded that Tiberias in the summer was too hot for him, so he
sold the land to Torrance… the land was common and could only be purchased by a
Turkish person, but once purchased it could be sold on without restriction.”
- Hotel History, Scots Hotel
Scots Mission Hospital compound from the sea of Galilee, between 1934 and 1939.
The hospital offered general care before later becoming a maternity hospital. Torrance ensured the hospital maintained a policy of welcoming everybody as he felt unconditional admittance of the sick was the real form of gospel. In 1959 the hospital was closed as it was succeeded by a newly built state-run hospital in Tiberias. The building reopened as a hospice for pilgrims and in 1999 was renovated to become the Scots Hotel.
Today the hotel prides itself on offering Christian hospitality to all. It has been run by the Church of Scotland since 1999 and enjoys a prime location due to its proximity to the Sea of Galilee and other significant sites. The hotel maintains its old church building, St Andrew’s Tiberias, which has operated since 1930.
“The Church is named after St Andrew, the patron saint of Scotland. The icon depicting
him reminds us that he was a Galilean, who never went to Scotland. It also serves as a reminder
that we have not brought Christianity here, we received it from Andrew and others like him.”
- Hotel History, Scots Hotel
View of The Doctor’s House, formerly Torrance’s house and then a women and children’s hospital from 1921. It now houses some of the hotel’s Antique Rooms.
Where once were the original wards, ACE travellers on The Holy Land may enjoy the Scots Hotel’s Ceilidh Bar with its whiskey and kilted staff. The hotel has served for many years as the perfect base for ACE visits in and around Tiberias and the Sea of Galilee.
"The Scots Hotel in Tiberias was outstanding in all respects"
- ACE customer on the 2023 Holy Land tour
Illustration of the Bristol | Gesellschaft für graphische industrie by CC0 via Wien Museum
Old Hotel Bristol Advert | Public domain via Wikimedia Commons
Hotel Bristol 1913 | Brüder Kohn KG by CC0 via Wien Museum
Art Deco Staircase | © Hotel Bristol
Prince of Wales Suite | © Hotel Bristol
Bristol and Opera House | © Hotel Bristol
David Building Entrance | Geagea by CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons
Dr Torrance Guests | Public domain via Library of Congress
Hospital from the sea | Public domain via Library of Congress
The Doctor House | Hanay by CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons