Ankara, Turkey doesn’t get a lot of travel media attention. Like Brasilia, Naypyidaw, or Canberra, it’s a purpose-built capital city that’s far overshadowed by a livelier sibling everyone knows and loves. With Turkey’s economy booming though and its star rising on the international diplomatic stage, Ankara is one of the world’s key power centers and it’s also a hub for international companies doing business in Turkey.
Ankara is dominated by business chain hotels, but the Swissotel stands above the rest in several respects. It’s smaller and more intimate than most, for a start, and it’s in the quiet, exclusive area of Cankaya near the Presidential Palace.
Once you get past the metal detector—a required feature in every Turkish city hotel it seems—the open and airy lobby is welcoming and the staffers are bilingual. Check-in is usually quick and efficient and a bellman whisks your bags up the fast elevators to your room.
The big highlight here is the restaurant, especially at breakfast or brunch when an incredible spread of food features the best Turkish ingredients as well as a good selection of international hot dishes and pastries. You can expect pistachios, olives, local cheeses, and the salty cheese layered pastry borek along with a wide selection of fresh juices, mountains of seasonal fruit, and local sweets. On the weekends the crowd is leisure travelers and families, during the week men in dark suits talking politics.
There’s also an in-house deli with more casual fare, plus there’s a wide array of local kebab houses and patisseries a few blocks away in walking distance. A high-end shopping mall with a movie theater is a short cab ride away.
The lounge here is a clubby space with good cocktails and Turkish wine by the glass. Many evenings there’s a talented live music combo alternating between mournful Turkish ballads and international standards.
An indoor pool big enough for laps is open all year, with plenty of lounge chairs around the perimeter. A well-equipped gym has a good range of aerobic equipment and weights. The Turkish bath here is beautiful and is part of a full spa offering treatments and massages.
Swissotel Ankara opened in 2006 and the 147 rooms are starting to look due for a revamp. Beds and baths are comfortable, but some of the furnishings date to opening day, the TVs are dated, and there’s no alarm clock with an MP3 player connection. Some of the charges seem equally lost in time, like a charge for the coffee used in the pod coffeemaker and a hefty $20 charge for not-so-fast Wi-Fi. So if newness is your top priority, the Ankara JW Marriott in the far-flung suburbs is a better bet, though be advised it doesn’t carry the same prestige with the locals.
The corner king rooms are more contemporary, however, and if you upgrade to one of these or the club floor rooms, you get lots of goodies thrown in like internet access and a lounge with complimentary drinks and snacks.
You can tell from the cars parked out front that this Swissotel is the spot for power brokers: two Bentleys, three Mercedes, and a Rolls Royce were lining the port couchere as I left for the airport. Rates are more democratic though, starting at around $150 per night on weekends and rising to $350 per night for club floor rooms mid-week.
Review by travel destinations expert Tim Leffel, who was hosted by the Swissotel while researching a magazine story on Ankara. All photos by Leffel except the hamam photo, courtesy of Swissotel Ankara.