The 134-room W Hotel Istanbul in the Akaretler district of Beşiktaş, Istanbul (map), offers not just modern design and gourmet cuisine but also a rare chance to sleep and eat inside a slice of late Ottoman history.
Externally, the W Hotel is classically elegant and restrained. Internally, however, it is anything but – thinkOttomania seasoned with a pinch of the Far East and stirred with the latest in hip hotel design, and you will be somewhere close.
The W Hotel Istanbul is housed inside a stunning set of ‘row houses designed by the Ottoman-Armenian architect Sarkis Balyan in the 1870s to accommodate the workers building the nearby Dolmabahçe Palace. The restoration of the houses has been carried out to high standards, making this a fine example of urban renewal.
Historic the building may be, but inside there’s nothing fusty or old-fashioned about it. All the bedrooms have been designed to maximize stylish comfort.
For the techno-savvy, there are iPod decks beside the beds, plasma TVs with DVD players and a choice of movies, and high-speed wireless Internet access.
Although the busy main road that runs along the Bosphorus is only minutes away, the rooms are double-glazed to eliminate street noise. Some of them have cumbas, traditional bay windows that have been converted into comfortable lounge areas.
The most inviting rooms are probably the Cabana Suites. These have little pebbled walkways leading out to curtained kiosks where you can recline on cushions with a good book. The vast Presidential Suite (1830 sq ft/170 sq m) once housed the workshop of artist Fausto Zonaro(1854-1929), an Italian who became court painter to the Ottoman sultans.
Breakfast is served on the roof terrace. Despite lacking a Bosphorus view, this is a pleasingly secluded place to dineal fresco on a wide choice of items both Western and Turkish.
Space constraints mean that the W Hotel Istanbul lacks a swimming pool. It does, however, have a small spawhich offers a variety of massages, facials and other treatments. There is also a fully-equipped, 24-hour gym – the Sweat Fitness Center.
The W Hotel Istanbul is just five minutes’ walk away from the Bosphorus in Beşiktaş, a busy residential suburb with a lively market and good ferry connections to other parts of the city. The Naval Museum is also nearby, and the exuberant Dolmabahçe Palace is within walking distance. Fashionable Nişantaşı, a popular venue for upscale shopping, is 10 minutes’ walk uphill, or a short taxi ride away.
In a historical footnote, one of the Residences that form part of the W Hotel Istanbul complex was once home to Kemal Atatürk’s mother. It is possible that Turkey’s first president passed the night there in 1919 immediately before setting off for Samsun to launch the War of Independence.
It's easy to reserve a value-priced private airport transfer to the hotel in a comfortable vehicle that costs only slightly more than a taxi, and significantly less than two taxis (which you'll need if you have 3+ people and/or lots of luggage), and far more pleasant, comfortable and trustworthy. More...