Much has changed since my last vacation to Istanbul. Five years earlier, I journeyed to the crossroads of east and west for the first time with my younger brother. We had a great time, though our accommodation—a small hostel in the Sultanahmet district—left much to be desired. After flying through Istanbul several times on Turkish Airlines in the interim, this was my first time actually being stamped back into Turkey in several years. Going from “worst” to “first” I chose the Park Hyatt Maçka Palas for my three-night stay, where I had the chance to introduce a new person to Istanbul for the first time.
Attaturk Airport (IST) is not exactly in the heart of Istanbul and while public transportation is possible (and indeed perhaps quicker based on the afternoon traffic jam we soon found ourselves in), I opted for a taxi to the hotel because we each had bags and it was nice to step out of the airport and directly into a car. The hotel does offer car service, but it is pricey and cabs are very reasonable in Istanbul. (Just watch out for tricks)
The trip to the hotel took almost an hour (compared to under a half hour going against traffic on the way out three days later) and I was actually a bit surprised when we pulled up to the hotel and the taxi driver announced this was the property. For it didn’t look like much outside. There was no grand driveway, fountain, or large sign like the Grand Hyatt down the hill. No, this is a city hotel in the Nişantaşı quarter of the Sisli district and blends in quite well with the bustling cosmopolitan neighborhood.
But inside, a grand lobby awaits with a swanky wine bar on the left, restaurant on the right, and plenty of natural light. A bellman escorted me to the desk, where I was warmly welcomed by a young man who requested our passports and my credit card. Room rates run from about $300-450 per night for standard rooms depending on the season, with summer being more expensive. After taking care of all the formalities, he escorted us up to our third floor room, taking a moment to point out all the features of the room.
The room was really quite classical in appearance, which was at odds with the contemporary motifs I find at most Park Hyatt properties. I loved it, though. In fact, in terms of the room, I rank it toward the top of all my non-suite Park Hyatt stays. The crown molding, chandelier, and dark wood floor do make a difference, to me at least…
There were also some Hyatt Diamond goodies in the room that were appreciated—Turkish red wine, fruit, and even Turkish Delight (which I must confess I found revoltingly sweet).
Some hotel rooms at this property have saunas in the bathroom—ours did not, but the bathroom was laid out in a very effective way, with a separate room for the shower, toilet, and bathtub. The rain head shower even had a temperature control outside, where you could digitally set the temperature of the water.
The whole room was electronically savvy (like many Park Hyatt properties) with automatic curtains and dimmer switches on most of the lights. I suppose if I had one complaint it was figuring out how to use all the switches. The man who brought us up to our room did run through the switches, but a diagram in the hotel guide book would have been appreciated. Throughout the stay I would often hit numerous buttons and switches before I found the one I was looking for. Perhaps I am just a slow learner…
Even though I would act as a tourist guide of sorts for the next few days, this trip was about rest for both of us and we spent a great deal of time at the hotel. Much of that time was spent in two places—the outdoor pool and the fitness center.
First, the pool. Located on a second floor terrace next to The Terrace restaurant, you would never know there was a loud and bustling city surrounding you. Even the extremely annoying car horns I could not hear from the pool. It was so quiet, so tranquil, and so relaxing to spend each afternoon reading on the sun deck in between dips in the pool.
The fitness center was small—too small I must say. I would have liked much more resistance/strength-training equipment in it. But, it was clean and it provided more than enough equipment in the cardiovascular area. And I was on vacation after all—there was no need to spend hours in the gym each day.
I love Turkish food and I faced a tough choice when it came time to eat. Eat local each night, enjoying the Turkish food, or try out the hotel’s steakhouse, The Prime? Being that my friend is a vegetarian, we opted to eat local. There are a quite few restaurants in the neighborhood—we had a nice meal at Hünkar–but the hotel is actually in a very commercial area with more retail and chain stores than the type of hole-in-the-wall eateries I was seeking. We ate in the Sultanahmet area the next two days—I’ll have more on that in a future review.
The Park Hyatt has a morning breakfast buffet in the dining room on the lobby level (called “Lounge at the Park Hyatt”) and we opted for that each morning rather than room service. The selection of bakery goods, fruits, cheeses, meats, and cereals was more than sufficient and a menu of hot items to order was included with the breakfast, inclduding menemen, a Turkish dish of egg, onion, tomato, green peppers, and spices pictured below.
An extremely nice young hostess was present each of the three mornings to seat us—she did not remember our names or speak very good English (most of the staff do speak excellent English), but she had an incorrigible smile on her face as she escorted us to our table. That genuine friendliness meant more to me than be able to remember my name.
I go out of my way to choose Park Hyatt because the properties tend to be smaller, less crowded, the service tends to be more personal, and the rooms much plusher and with more character than a Grand Hyatt or Hyatt Regency (or most other hotels for that matter). This was the case here. Truthfully, the Grand Hyatt is in a better location (though close) in terms of getting to the popular tourist points in Istanbul, but I loved the Park Hyatt property.
As I checked out during the early afternoon lull and was escorted to the taxi, multiple members of the staff wished my friend and me a safe journey home and a hope that we would return. We will.