Istanbul hotels

Open ANY guidebook or ask ANYONE who’s ever been to Istanbul and you will hear about the wondrous Four Seasons, which was once a prison.  While I am as interested in former-prisons-turned-luxury-hotels as the next gal, every person who gives you this sage advice thinks they are the very first person to think of it, and that you will happily fork over the 400 euro a night to stay there.

Despite still holding a large cache of Marriott points, we didn’t use any lastyear, as the Marriott properties in Portugal and Istanbul weren’t well located for our purposes and rarely cost-effective, so we had to look elsewhere in the ‘Bul.  We shot nearly all of our Starwood points wad on 3 nights at the W Istanbul, which I was really excited about in the weeks leading up to our trip.  Perhaps because it was the holiday season (and even if Turks don’t celebrate Christmas, there are many Europeans who take holidays then), we didn’t find much in the way of great deals, and ended up booked our first 4 nights at the InterContinental at an advance purchase rate of a little under $100 USD per night, not including breakfast or Wifi.  Some notes on the hotels:

InterContinental

  • Awesome location near Taksim Square.  A lot of tourists want to stay in the Sultanahmet district in the Old City (including all those 4 Seasons peeps), since most of the major attractions are there, but I can’t understand why.  While it is convenient to the Blue Mosque and all, there are hardly any good restaurants, cafes, or bars there.  Istanbul is pretty easy to get around and the new district where we stayed is an easy walk or tram ride from the OC attractions, so best to stay in new district and travel to museums than vice versa.
  • Amenities that seem basic for 4-star hotel feel more valuable when you don’t have them.  As previously stated, our rate did not include breakfast (which was something crazy like 30 euro per person) or WiFi (ditto) but we had a bathtub and an electric kettle.  In late December when you come back from a day of sight seeing soaked and freezing to the bone, a (FREE!) hot bath and a cup of tea are worth their weight in gold, and not often experienced at other hotels.
  • Service was excellent and I rarely test the bounds of this.  Example: we continually got refills of bath gel and shampoo, but H likes his bar soap.  In fact, in the last 4 years, we’ve almost never bought soap or shampoo due to our many hotel stays (NOTE: at press time, we are dangerously low on soap and may have to stoop to purchasing some).  Anyway, needed bar soap.  I call the “service” button and state my request, they act confused and transfer me to Room Service (?!), and finally back to concierge.  Each call goes as follows:

(Sound of being transferred)

“Yes, hello, could you please send some soap up to room 512?”
“Soap?!”
“Yes, bathroom soap.”
“Soap?!”
“Yes, bar soap.”

Finally, a man knocks on my door.  I open it to find him holding a bevvy of soap: bath gel, shampoo, multiple types of soap.  I grab the soap and grin: “Yes, thank you, bar soap!”  Fifteen minutes later I get a call: “Hell…o!  This..is…concierge.  Did you get your…bathroom…bar soap?!”  This is service.  And this cracks me up:

The lovely room:

W Istanbul:

  • Location is also good, but only good for a second + visit to Istanbul or day 5 of a week-long trip.  The immediate area around the hotel is super, super luxe: Marc Jacobs, Chanel, etc.  At check in, you get a “discount” card to use at the “neighborhood” shops, which I struggled not to laugh at.  I guess some peeps staying there will be there for the shopping, but I was more into the multiple supermarkets nearby for cheap Turkish wine and chocolates, and easy access to the waterside and market.  The neighborhoods around the W are not for Istanbul beginners, they are complex and multi-layered, and not so close the the major attractions.  But you look out of the bar and see:


    And a few blocks away you explore:

  • Rooms are gorge.  Massively impractical, but gorge.  H and I started a list of grievances upon check-in, none major, but mostly to do with the fact that the W is not made for practicality.  Our issues included such problems as: no coffee maker, no couch, no bathtub, no ironing board, etc.  On the plus side, we were upgraded to a gorgeous room (as a lowly Gold member) with a skylight and balcony, here’s a peak:

*Le sigh.*  Loved that bathroom and really every minute of the W, even if I wouldn’t want to “live” there.  It was at the W where we finally had internet access in the (awesome and pricey) bar (where the pretty lit tree pic was taken), at that point, I was composing Facebook status updates in my head (“Meg is trying not to judge the tourists, but totally is” and “Meg will never be warm again”).  The bar is comfy and luscious and cool, all you want in a nice hotel bar.  In short, the W is lovely, but I cannot remotely fathom why anyone over 40 would stay there.
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