Photos and Review by Oyster.com Investigators
A super-trendy W hotel in a historic building
The W Istanbul has the glam decor we've come to expect from the W brand. Think: crystals embedded an the elevator wall, pink neon lighting accents, and retro-chic furniture. The dim lighting and plush decor give the entire hotel the feel of a nightclub.
Living up to the brand's standards means following a very familiar template, and at first glance, this W doesn't seem much different than any other W -- an upside for those craving reliability, a downside for those craving a more local experience. But closer inspection reveals a different story, and it becomes clear that this W is not just any W: The hotel has subtly blended modern style with Turkish design and history. For starters, the building housing the hotel dates to 1875 and was formerly one of the Akaretler Row Houses, where the staff at Dolmabahce Palace lived. Some of the decor elements have Ottoman inspiration, such as the counter decorations in Okka restaurant and the cool mirrors above the guestroom beds. And the tasty Turkish cuisine at Okka and Turkish-inspired international cuisine at Minyon are popular with locals as well as guests.
This entire neighborhood, in fact, is popular with locals, and as a result visitors will find excellent restaurants and shops nearby lining the area's charming cobblestone streets. The touristy sights of Sultanahmet are a bit far away -- but so are Sultanahmet's tourist trap restaurants and souvenir shops. This area of Istanbul might appeal to second-time visitors to the city, those doing business in the area, or young scenesters.
Those who do have partying in mind will find excellent nightlife right on the hotel premises. The W Lounge is a gorgeous nightclub that hosts popular DJs and packs in plenty of locals -- a definite highlight for guests looking to mix and mingle. Those looking for a good night's sleep, however, may appreciate it less, as it's possible to hear the thumping club beats from some rooms.
In Besiktas, near Dolmabahce Palace and the Bosphorus
In the immediate vicinity guests will find other historic Akaretler row houses cobblestone streets, boutiques, and restaurants.
Besiktas (pronounced Beshiktash) is a mostly local residential and business neighborhood northeast of Beyoglu. There are a few sights here, including Dolmabahce Palace, the Besiktas Market, and the Inonu football stadium, but reaching the more popular tourist sights in Sultanahmet will require a taxi drive, tram ride, or ferry ride. There are ferry stops departing for Uskudar on the Asian Side of Istanbul or for the Galata Bridge.
Istanbul is a city of contrasts. It's a city that's both modern and ancient, where great restaurants, hopping nightlife, and horrific traffic exist alongside some of the world's most impressive ancient wonders. It's both western and eastern, culturally as well as geographically: It's the only city in the world on two continents (Europe and Asia). A visitor can listen to the Muslim call to prayer while standing in the shadow of the Blue Mosque and feel transported to another time -- or go clubbing after nightfall with Istanbul's trendy urbanites. Though Istanbul is predominately Muslim, there's a clear divide between the secular, westernized population and the conservative Muslims: as a result, it's not unusual to see women in chic western dress alongside women in burqas. And a smattering of other faiths also call Istanbul home, including Greek Orthodox Christians and Jews (European Jews first sought refuge in Istanbul during the Inquisition).
The Turks are famous for their hospitality, and tourists, including Americans, should feel very welcome here. Though it's good to be cautious in any large city, Istanbul's crime rates are relatively low and most tourists won't have much to worry about aside from getting occasionally overcharged by taxi drivers.
Spacious rooms with open bathrooms and a nightclub vibe
The hotel's trendy decor and dim lighting make the entire property feel a little bit like a nightclub, and the rooms are no exception. Though there are four different lighting settings, the default setting is dim, with sexy pink neon lighting accents appearing from the headboard, the ceiling, and under the bed. When combined with the rich red fabrics and dark woods, the effect is decidedly swanky. The divine beds, featuring pillow-top mattresses, down comforters, and 350-thread-count linens, may just be the highlight; not many beds in the city can compare.
The bathrooms in the Wonderful and Spectacular Rooms have an open concept, meaning only the small room for the toilet is private. The sink is hidden behind folding wooden doors, and the vanity light turns off only when the doors are fully closed.
Several room categories have private terraces, patios, or cabanas.
Solid 24-hour fitness center
The W's Sweat Fitness Center is 700 square feet and has Technogym equipment as well as fresh fruit, towels, and water.
Small day spa with three treatment rooms
The W has a small Bliss Spa offering massages, wraps, facials, and nail services. Kiehl's and Ligne St. Barth products are used.
Two excellent restaurants and a lobby lounge
Okka restaurant serves a quality breakfast buffet every morning as well as tasty Turkish cuisine for dinner. It has an impressive local wine cellar as well as self-pour raki service. There's also a holographic belly dancer.
Minyon, operated by an outside company, offers renowned fine dining. The menu is international with Turkish twists.
Sip lobby lounge is open from morning 'til night and serves basic hotel fare, such as pizzas, burgers, and salads. The menu is also available for 24-hour room service.
A hopping, swanky nightclub
The W Lounge is posh and lively, with plush, colorful furniture and avant-garde touches such as chain metal curtains and strings of plastic discs hanging from the ceiling. It regularly hosts popular DJs and packs in crowds of locals as well as tourists.
A pet-friendly policy and a business center
The 134-room W Istanbul delivers on all the hallmarks of the W brand: Trendy decor, excellent dining, and happening nightlife. The standard Wonderful Rooms are large and hip, with an open bathroom concept, modern technology, excellent beds, and neon pink lighting accents. The only downsides? Some rooms get noise from the upstairs lounge on party nights, and the Besiktas location -- though charming and upscale -- is far from the tourist attractions in Sultanahmet.