on April 13, 2010
When trying to find a hotel to visit on vacation, one doesn't often go for the big name hotels (unless you've got a special deal, or don't care what price you're paying). But when you're away on business, you'll often be put up in larger chain hotels. That's what happened when I went to Istanbul on business and stayed at the Hilton there. Here's what I thought of that hotel. First of all, this is not a cheap hotel. Rates can start from around the £110 mark up to £200 or more – per person – depending on the season and type of room you choose. And while this may be a drawback for most of my readers, when it comes to doing business, the adage "you get what you pay for" is especially relevant. For instance, the rooms are all very spacious and comfortable. I was in one of the smallest rooms (being only support staff and not one of the bosses) and I have to say that while I had only one bed in my room, it was no single – it was easily a queen-sized one. Plus, it didn't overtake the room and there was plenty of space for the good sized desk, two bedside tables, luggage bench, dresser, 29" television, mini-bar, an occasional table and two comfy chairs. The room also had a lovely, spacious bathroom with a huge mirror and full-sized bath. All of this was very impressive, tastefully decorated and extremely clean. However, I would have liked to have had coffee and tea making facilities, but apparently the smaller rooms don't get these. Not all the rooms have a view of the Bosphorus – only about half of them do. The others have a view of the city and some nearby gardens, which I understand are the cheaper rooms, but which still have a nice view. I was able to visit some of the larger, fancier rooms and was similarly impressed. Unfortunately, for those people who have laptops with wireless connections, you'll need to use those in the public areas (like the lobby) since those are the only places where that will work. This was a bit of a problem because the laptop I had didn't have wireless, and I was unable to dial-up from my hotel room. This may have been just me, but this was the only problem I had with this hotel. Thankfully, when I needed it, my colleague let me into the Executive Lounge and I used the internet there. When you enter the hotel, you'll know this isn't an inexpensive B&B. You'll find the spacious lobby has marble floors, tinted glass and rich wood everywhere. The large reception desk was well manned and our group was processed quickly and efficiently. Since there were other members of the group arriving at different times, I needed to be in contact with the front desk on a constant basis – to find out what rooms people were in and to let them know if there were any problems. Over the six days we were there, there wasn't a time, day or night, when I didn't get prompt, efficient and friendly service from the front desk, and I must say I was there a whole lot, so if there were any weaknesses, I would have found them. Since this was a group, I also had dealings with their conference center. I don't want to go too much into the conference center since most of you aren't interested in this area of the hotel. I'll just note briefly that this is located a touch off the beaten track, down a hallway off the main corridor that leads to the dining room. Even so, it wasn't difficult to find and the rooms they have are very spacious and convenient. There are some that can be made into lecture rooms, and a couple which are specifically made for table seating, where they have a huge table that dominates the room. I believe they have six conference rooms, of varying sizes, with two sets of adjoining rooms which can each be opened up into bigger rooms to accommodate large groups. The conference center has a sort of lobby area as well for taking breaks in, as well as a front desk all its own where you can get fax, photocopying, internet and other services. This is also where you can make arrangements for changes in your group's needs – like not enough of those really amazing butter cookies filled with hazelnut cream (divine, I tell you)! The other facilities of this hotel include a fitness center, which includes a very large and spacious pool. Unfortunately, when I was there the weather wasn't conducive for a swim (and anyway, I had forgotten my swimming costume) and the pool is an outdoor one. They have a health club with all the workout equipment you could ever wish for, as well as a Jacuzzi, 2 whirlpool steam rooms and 2 Turkish saunas. They say you can also get a traditional body scrub or a relaxing Swedish or Shiatsu massage, if you're willing to pay for it (but I wasn't – anyway, I didn't really have time for that). Regarding the food, I have to say that the breakfasts here were wonderful. They had just about anything and everything you can think of. On the buffet were fruits and vegetables, all kinds of breakfast cereals, cheeses, juices, breads and even a variety of smoked fish. That was just the cold stuff. They also had a cook who was cooking fresh egg dishes or pancakes and they had what looked like sausages and bacon (what? In a Muslim country? Go figure!), hash-browned potatoes, roasted mushrooms and baked tomato halves with spices and cheese on top, to name just what I can recall. Of course, coffee and/or tea flowed endlessly as well. With all this fare, there is almost no need to have lunch. Still, a couple of days when we did have lunch in there, we found that the selection was no less extensive. (Even the people who kept Kosher or were vegetarians could find something to eat.) All of these meals were taken at the Bosphorus Terrace – which is their regular "dining room". This Hilton has three other restaurants as well, which I didn't get a chance to try – although they did look interesting (as well as expensive, except for the pool-side café) from the pictures. This only means that you'll have a good selection of what and where to eat even if you decided to not venture outside the hotel. Of course, how many of you wouldn't want to leave the hotel when you're in Istanbul? Not many, I'm sure. This hotel is very centrally located, and you can walk to the shopping center part of town easily. Any taxis we took, even during rush hours, seemed to take at the most 15-20 minutes (including when I had to get all the way back from the Grand Bizarre to catch my flight home). It is also only about 30 minutes by taxi from the airport (except if you get into a traffic jam, like we did on my way back, and then it takes about an hour). I can't think of anything more central than that, and I noticed busses also are convenient and only a few steps away on the main road. In conclusion, the Istanbul Hilton is a lovely hotel. The rooms are nicely sized, comfortable and clean, the service is top notch (even when they have to deal with nudges like us business customers), and there are facilities and restaurants for every taste and budget. The only drawback I can think of was the problem with the internet in the rooms. Still, that's not enough to drop this by a star so I'll give it a full five and certainly recommend it.
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