Istanbul has been on my list of top places to visit for quite some time. Recently, its position on popular places to visit has only increased – clearly evident by the number of tourists and tour groups in and around the city. Its location on the water also makes it a great port of call for mediterranean cruises. Yet, there is something about the place that makes it feel untouched, and unspoiled – even around tourist attractions.
Its been a while since I have stayed at a W hotel – the last time being the W in Hong Kong in 2012. It should be no surprise that the design at all W properties is absolutely striking and in a quirky way, tasteful. From the images online, the W Istanbul was no different. And since most W hotels are newly built (at least the interior), the amenities in both the public areas and the rooms are very much functional – suited for the needs of today’s traveler. Unlike most W hotels however, this one was located in an existing, historic looking, building in the middle of a fork in the road (pretty cool as you hike up the street towards the hotel at night). Apologies in advance for the mix of day/night photos below.
Arriving at the property by foot, my cousin and I walked up a hill from the main road in the area by the Bosphorus. The hotel was located right in the middle of the fork in the road. The neighborhood itself was quite posh with evenly lined cobble stone streets and buildings that were in much better shape than in the older (more touristy) part of Istanbul. The only sign that a hotel existed there was a large, polished, W signed in front of the entry way and a flag with the brand logo on it. The entrance was by no means elaborate – at least on the outside. Walking through the front door, and through a metal detector, we made a right down a crazy looking corridor towards the lobby.
Reception was to our left, and the concierge counter (whatever/whenever) was to our right. The check in process was pretty quick, and we had the keys to our room on the top floor (supposedly) within 5 minutes. Of course there was a cool lobby lounge that you walk past on the way to the elevators.
The guest elevators were located down a set of steps by the hallway for the guest rooms on the first floor. In typical W style, the elevators were pitch black, with club-like lighting. It was a bit ridiculous however, since you can’t even see what the buttons say – there was no backlighting to make the numbers or descriptions of each floor visible. When I finally found the right button to level 3, I also found out that it was not the top floor of the hotel – we were misinformed by the agent…
Getting off on the third floor, we headed towards our room down a stylish hallway.
We walked. And walked. And kept walking. I soon realized that the hotel met my exact written request, “room far from elevator”. We were assigned the room farthest away from the elevator, the very last room at the end of the hallway. At least the request was satisfied.
The room layout was interesting to say the least. I have never stayed in a room like it, as you pretty much step into a foyer that is the bathroom. To the right, hidden behind a set of sliding doors is the sink and counter area. I was also surprised to see that this was a king room, rather than the room with two double beds that I had requested.
To the left is the shower and a water closet. Curtain of beads is the only thing that separates the living/bedroom area from what is effectively the bathroom. Given the room type, this layout made sense. With a king size bed, it is very likely that you are either staying alone, with a partner/spouse, or with someone you are comfortable with. While the bathroom/foyer was unique, the furnishing were definitely top notch.
Beyond the curtain is the living area, with a desk/counter area and wall-mounted TV to the right, a coffee table and sofa to the left, and the bed behind the sofa. The room itself was quite large, and the clear division of functional areas definitely made the room feel bigger.
While the room looked hip and modern, some of the furnishings were definitely showing age – the ipod dock was one that does not fit the lightning (iPhone 5 and beyond) cable devices, and the lack of power outlets bedside. The one furnishing that does not disappoint however, and perhaps the most important one, is the bed. It was exactly what you expect from W, plush pillows and covers, and a bed that you can sink into but also provides comfortable sleeping support.
The W minibar and snack basket is always interesting to have a look at. Surprisingly neither one had motion sensors installed to automatically process a charge if you remove an item – something that most upscale modern hotels have installed these days.
I was almost disgusted at the snack tray upon inspection. The items were poorly arranged, with some set upside-down, and there was even and old foil wrapper from a previous indulgence. You would expect at least a nice looking arrangement for the price that they charge per item.
That pretty much sums up the room. Touching upon the rest of the hotel, there is a nice courtyard/deck in the middle of the hotel. The building is more or less a V-shape, and on one side is the deck with cabanas, overpriced drinks, and overpriced shisha, and the other side are the outdoor cabanas for the very cool (very unique) cabana rooms. Although in a place like Istanbul, I can hardly see why anyone would find the need to book a room like that – there aren’t even views.
There is a well appointed fitness center on-site with your standard machines and free weights. There was no attendant there at the time, but towels and water bottles were available. Unfortunately I didn’t have any time to use it, but would have loved to with the abundance of natural light – a very welcome feature for the weary traveler. I was also surprised to see that there was no pool on property – indoor or outdoor. The weather was beautiful, and I would have definitely used it. I guess thats just one of the challenges of building a hotel in an old building.
Perhaps it was a slower season in Istanbul, but unlike most W properties I have been to, this one seemed way too quiet. Even at midnight, the lobby lounge was dead quiet. Overall, the property was nice and for the rate I paid, was a good value. But there definitely needs to be some brushing up on the details, and the big miss was right at the beginning – failing to inform the guest that the booked room-type was not available.