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Known as an international city, straddling Asia and Europe, trying to figure out where to stay in Istanbul, Türkiye, isn’t an easy decision. All the major hotel brands have a strong presence here. Just looking at the Marriott Bonvoy portfolio, there are 31 properties in Istanbul!
Ultimately, I decided to book my stay at the elegant JW Marriott Istanbul Bosphorus. Not to be confused with the JW Marriott Istanbul Marmara Sea. Situated on the European side, you can find the JW Marriott Istanbul Bosphorus in the trendy neighbourhood of Karaköy.
This is the place to be if you want easy access to a large array of restaurants, cafés and cocktail bars while being close to the Bosphorus. It’s also within walking distance to art galleries, mosques, Galataport and the Galata Tower.
JW Marriott Istanbul Bosphorus – Booking
Dynamically priced, a night at the JW Marriott Istanbul Bosphorus ranged between 34,000 to 43,000 Bonvoy points per night for my stay. I booked a five night stay and redeemed my points to take advantage of the fifth night free for a total cost of 160,000 points. If you have a shorter stay, this is an excellent property to burn your 35K Free Night Award (FNA) certificate.
The cash rate for the dates of my stay were just over € 400/night for a standard room. Had I not redeemed my points, it would’ve cost just over € 2,000 for the five nights! My points booking was for standard guest room with an atrium view.
JW Marriott Istanbul Bosphorus – Farwell to SNAs
With the Suite Night Awards (SNAs) rejection at W Amman, I decided to try my luck at this property. I selected the One Bedroom Larger Suite with a Bosphorus view. Since this was a last-minute booking, I didn’t have to wait long for the decision. The next day I received an e-mail notification with the happy news that my SNA request was accepted.
Note that Marriott Bonvoy had recently announced upcoming changes to SNAs that become effective this year. They’re now replaced with Nightly Upgrade Awards, which can be used at additional brands under the Marriott Bonvoy umbrella. This includes the Edition, the Ritz-Carleton, Element, Aloft and Protea Hotels. The downside is that many suspect that there will be less and less suites available to upgrade to, especially now that Marriott has introduced an option to bid for cash upgrades.
JW Marriott Istanbul Bosphorus – Arrival and check-in
Our yellow cab pulled up in front of a historical building, which was the entrance of the JW Marriott. Entering the hotel, we noticed the long atrium. I learned that it is 35 meters in length and it was built around two centuries ago.
This atrium connects two streets, with the front entrance of the hotel being across the Galataport. This is where you’ll find a cruise terminal along with a shopping centre and restaurants, with views of the Bosphorus strait. The other street the atrium connects to is the back entrance of the hotel. This leads you to a charming pedestrian alleyway with more restaurants with outdoor patios, bars, food carts, bohemian cafés and boutiques.
The original structure of this building designed by Italian architects has been preserved. However, the inside has been updated with a creamy stone colour, marble floors and iron-clad chandeliers hanging in the centre of the atrium under the glass ceiling. In the centre were leather couches with a white grand piano at the end of the atrium. I can only describe this JW as modern and chic exuding quiet luxury.
We were directed to the small reception area, which was tucked to the side of the atrium. We were warmly greeted by the front desk staff member. He confirmed our suite upgrade, assigning us suite 517. He informed us about the breakfast as well as the facilities they have on-site.
With our keys in hand, we proceeded to the right of the reception, where there was a charming arched brick wall that led to the elevators.
JW Marriott Istanbul Bosphorus – Yildiz Palace Suite
Our suite was called the Yildiz Palace, named after an actual palace by the same name that was used as a residence by Sultan Abdülhamid II, during the Ottoman Empire.
Walking into the suite, to the right was a full guest bathroom. Facing the door was a spacious living area modernly furnished with a striking glass chandelier. They left us a welcome note on the coffee table along with chocolate covered strawberries, Turkish delights and nouga. A nice touch!
Across from the living area were sliding doors that led to the bedroom. A true suite that afforded privacy! The bedroom had a very comfortable bed with enough firmness to allow for a good night’s sleep. The bedroom décor continued with calm, neutral colour palette, which included a painting of the Galata Tower. This suite was functional with several electrical and USB outlets. There were also electronic switches to control the lights and blackout curtains.
Further into the bedroom was a large bathroom. It had a double sink, tub, rain shower and a toilet, which most importantly included a bidet. I was impressed with Aromatherapy Associates bath products included. The bathroom was fully stocked and included 2 bottles of mouthwash, tooth brushes, facial soap, cotton swabs, shower cap, and a nail filer.
Just outside the bathroom was a walk-in closet with a safe, robes, slippers, extra pillows and a laundry bag. We had checked in late evening, so the next morning I opened up the curtains to check out our view. While we had a view of the Bosphorus, it was partially obstructed by the building in front of us. At least it beats an atrium view!
JW Marriott Istanbul Bosphorus – Breakfast
We had our breakfast daily in the Galata Lounge, located on the top floor. It was a fantastic place to start our mornings, with the lounge affording us a wonderful view of colourful buildings, mosques, churches and the Galata Tower.
There was a large breakfast spread with bowls of fruits, raw and pickled veggies, along with an assortment of salamis, cheese and olives. There was another large section that had various pastries, cakes and delicious bread, including the Turkish sesame bread. In addition to this buffet, the server will take your order for eggs to be cooked as you pleased. I tried the omelette, sunny side and the menemen on different days.
There was plenty of choice when it came to breakfast beverages, including fresh juices. There was also a coffee bar, where you can order your cup of caffeine made to your preference. Finally, a Turkish breakfast wouldn’t be complete without a soothing cup of Turkish tea! To sum it up, the breakfast at this property was top notch and the servers were welcoming and professional.
JW Marriott Istanbul Bosphorus – Facilities
Besides the Galata Lounge, this property has a Michelin-recommended restaurant, Octo, that serves seafood on the 9th floor with views of the Bosphorus. We didn’t get the chance to try it, since there were so many great restaurants within the vicinity of the hotel.
Other facilities included a wine cellar, where you can make a reservation for a private dinner and a cocktail bar, Skull & Bones, near the reception area. Also on this level was a cozy Tea Lounge. We tried it once and found the service was almost non-existent. It took quite some time before we were served and it wasn’t even busy. The most notable dining facility was the Sky Karaköy. It has the best views, located on the hotel’s outdoor rooftop serving drinks and sometimes they had DJs spinning tracks.
If you’re looking to do a workout, there was a very compact gym on-site open 24/7. Sauna and steam rooms were also available next to the gym. The Spa at JW offered Turkish Hammam treatments, which is great if you’re looking for a private hammam experience. If you’re after a traditional Turkish hammam experience, I highly recommend the Kılıç Ali Paşa Hamamı. I loved my experience there and it was only a few minutes’ walk from the JW.
My assigned suite was spacious, comfy and had everything I could ask for. The JW was luxurious without trying too hard. I loved that they preserved some of its original architecture, while tastefully refreshing the interiors, seamlessly integrating new with the old.
The location was ideal for exploring many of the sites and landmarks, not to mention the convenience of so many options for eats and drinks nearby. It’s definitely a wonderful place to stay should you find yourself in Istanbul and a fantastic use of 35K Marriott Bonvoy certificate. Just make sure to avoid an atrium-view room!