There’s a lot of gray and black in Istanbul, both in the fashion and the buildings, but the W Hotel Istanbul isn’t having any of that. Their favorite color is clearly red and this is not a place aimed at the local dark suit crowd.
There’s a bit of natural light coming through the windows at breakfast time, where an especially inviting buffet is on display in front of backlit Ottoman arches. There are plenty of international nods, but it’s also very Turkish with lots of olives, local cheeses, yogurt, and cucumbers.
The area looks more natural at night, when it becomes a low-light lounge with lots of sitting nooks around a giant bar. As with most W hotels, this is the heart and center, the place that all hallways lead to. The crowd is usually a nice mix of hip Turks doing business or on a date, plus hotel guests unwinding after working out local deals in this key international city. This hotel is in the upscale Besiktas area on the European side, just a little uphill from the Bosphorus waterway. It’s walking distance from Dolmabahce Palace and the Nisantasi shopping area, with plenty of coffee shops and pubs nearby.
Hallways are dark and elevators even darker in this refurbished building in a historic area, but the hall leading in from the almost-hidden entrance is impressive, all mirrors and LED lights down a long corridor to the check-in area. English is good among the young and beautiful staffers. There’s a fitness center and small spa on site, but no space for a pool.
The main reason to book here is the quality of the rooms. Most of them are around 30 square meters (323 square feet), but they feel far bigger than that thanks to smart layouts. TVs are actually part of the glass and wood wall and rooms are long enough to accommodate an armchair in addition to the desk chair. My Fabulous Room–yes that’s really what it’s called–had enough floor space that I could have had a few couples over for dancing after cranking up the Bose music system. This top-floor room had a skylight plus a furnished deck area outside.
One special amenity here was a new one for all of us well-traveled attendees there for the tourism conference: an Android smart phone in the rooms that we could take out with us in the city. It came with free data and local calls, which was really handy for those who would have gotten stuck with local roaming charges otherwise. The phone is also loaded up with the usual apps you would need most and local information.
Baths at the W Istanbul are dramatic and pampering, with quality toiletries, thick Turkish towels, and robes. The toilet is in a separate room with a door and the hot rain shower (there’s also a handheld) has good pressure in the spacious marble enclosure. Closet space is ample and the electronic safe is big enough for a laptop.
The “Marvelous Room” includes an outdoor terrace with a cabana and the “Mega Room” has about a third more space. If you’re an SPG Rewards member, upgrading to either of those will get you extra points. Being an SPG member is also the only way to get your Wi-Fi charges waived and even then you have to call somebody and ask to have it credited back: there’s no way to get online without agreeing to charges on the screen.
If you’re a VP on an expense account, there are a couple suite categories that have twice the space without too much of a rate premium. If you’re a rock star though, there’s the “Wow Suite” listed for $3K per night or the “Extreme Wow Suite” where you have to call to ask about the price. As usual, you’re probably going to want to avoid the minibar and snack box unless you’re really loaded or the company is paying: most items are at a level of about five times local retail rates. It’s $6 for a bottle of water that is free in all rooms at The Vault Karikoy.
Room rates are a deal though. With the U.S. dollar being strong and Turkish tourism demand being down a bit, hotel prices in Istanbul are very attractive. As of when this review is posting, rates at the W Istanbul Hotel start at just $120 and top out at around $300 for the smaller suites. Book direct at the official website or check prices online at Expedia, Priceline, and Hotels.com.