No murder on this Orient Express
Orient Express Hotel (Istanbul, Turkey)
Member Name: catsholiday
Orient Express Hotel (Istanbul, Turkey)
Date: 29/05/09, updated on 16/08/11 (149 review reads)
Advantages: Convenient city hotel with pool and excellent customer service
Disadvantages: Rooms dark, tiny bathroom and you can't flush toilet paper in the toilet
This hotel is part of the Sirkeci group which is a group of hotels and restaurants in Istanbul. Sirkeci is also an area of the old part of Istanbul and The Sirkeci Railway Station was the terminus of the famous Orient Express train and was just round the corner from the hotel.
We arrived at the airport after a flight from Birmingham via Amsterdam and having read a number of reviews about the taxis from the airport and their enthusiasm for speed and reluctance to accept a fair fare or take four people in one taxi, we choose to book an airport transfer. We were met by a gentleman with our name on his notice and then escorted to a taxi outside. The journey was quite speedy but incident free, a couple of hairy moments, some very close shaves and interesting lane choices but we arrived in one piece.
Apart from the speed and the traffic the thing I noticed was the wonderful display of spring flowers along the roadside all the way from the Airport into the city. They were truly stunning, a variety of colours in blocks of reds, pinks, yellows and so on. There were mainly tulips and primroses and we must have been there just at the right time to catch them at their best. I wasn't expecting any flowers so too see this colourful show was an even greater surprise, I could have been in Holland it was so impressive.
The hotel is in the old part of Istanbul and right on the street with the tram line along the street. We were slightly worried as we were driven along the tramline then the taxi stopped outside the hotel door on the tramline. We discovered that the trams do stop in traffic bit we were decidedly panicky as we were dropped off on the tramline. We leapt out as quickly as we could and dived onto the pavement.
We entered the hotel and were greeted by the gentleman on reception with a smile and we were given our two room keys (we had taken our daughter and her husband with us). We were invited to sit on the sofas in the area to the left and then offered apple tea while the man on reception went through some useful information.
* Breakfast was downstairs in the Ottoman Restaurant and was served from about 7am till 10.30
* Swimming pool was also down stairs and if we called at Reception on the way we would be given a towel and locker key for the changing room.
* Tours and trips could be organised by the hotel at Reception.
* Happy Hour was from 4pm till 6pm in the Wagon Bar next to the Lobby and Reception; drinks were two for one and tea or apple tea free.
* There is a roof terrace restaurant, the Imbat which serves a la carte meals but should be booked to make certain of a table.
* Do NOT flush toilet paper down the toilet - put it in the bin beside the toilet- Yuk, I remember that from years ago when we had a family holiday near Bodrum ( thought they might have sorted that but it was the Old City plumbing I guess)
After this we went up to our rooms. There were two lifts, one was tiny and only held two people and the other was small and held four cosily. Our rooms were beside each other at the back of the hotel so the view was not great - the backs of other buildings and a brick wall. Had we been at the front we would have looked over the street. It wasn't really a hotel where you could hope for room views so we were not that bothered.
The rooms were quite small and the decor was quite dark but not unpleasantly so. There were two single beds in each of the rooms. The beds were nicely made up with fresh white sheets and a blanket for warmth. The small wardrobe had a safe with a code beside this there was a desk/table with a kettle and assorted tea (including sage tea) and coffee. The most exciting thing was a covered dish with Turkish delight on the bed as we arrived which we thought was a very nice touch.
The bathroom was tiny with a shower and a square base - sort of tiny square bath which I could sit in but it was VERY small. The shower was quite strong but it did change temperature at times which was a little disconcerting, especially when it got cold suddenly. The hair dryer was fixed in the bathroom and you had to hold the button down all the time you were using it which got a little finger aching after a while. The toiletries were - shampoo/bath/shower creamer in a dispenser on the wall in the shower and a soap dispenser by the basin. There was also a basket with lovely olive soap, cotton buds and shower cap. We were fascinated by the squirty thing at the back of the toilet bowl for cleaning bottoms! It squirted cold water when a tap was turned. I tested it with my bottom off the toilet, showed my husband who I heard testing it later. He said it was VERY cold and quite a shock! I think I'll stick with toilet paper. It gave us a giggle for a few minutes when I told our daughter what he'd done; it seems we haven't grown up after all.
The pool was inside, heated and on the floor below the breakfast restaurant (two floors below street level). We collected our towels and locker key from Reception then walked downstairs to find the pool. The changing rooms were small and open plan. There were lockers and a changing area, a toilet and a shower. There were no individual cubicles for changing but as it was only my daughter and I in there we were not worried. The pool was not that warm so we had to keep swimming rather than lazing around. It was an odd shape a sort of capital L with an arch way at the L's foot. Beside the pool were a couple of tables and chairs but as it was an inside pool and not that warm we were not tempted to sit there. I suppose if you were watching children they would be useful.
Breakfast was in the Ottoman restaurant in the floor below reception. We enjoyed 4 breakfasts here and the quality and selection available was quite good. The fruit juice was not fresh so I was not keen but the others all enjoyed it. Coffee and tea was available including a wide variety of teas such as camomile, sage and apple which was a pleasant change. We noticed that fruit salad did not arrive until about 8am so after we discovered this we planned our breakfasts accordingly. Plain Yogurt as well as yogurt mixed with a variety of dried fruit, dried fruit and nuts and cereals were all on offer. There was also a variety of breads and pastries and one of those huge and useless toasters that slowly move the bread through and drop it out the other end slightly warmed. Cheeses, olives and cold meat as well as a cooked selection of foods finished off the choices.
HAPPY HOUR IN THE WAGON BAR:
We enjoyed a few Happy hours which meant half price drinks from the bar as well as free tea, either normal or apple tea and as many as you wanted. We also enjoyed the Turkish bread sandwiches of cream cheese and cheese and tomato or cucumber. We couldn't get over what a lovely idea this was and were most impressed with this service.
THE IMBAT TERRACE RESTAURANT:
On the first night we decided to try the hotel restaurant as we had travelled most of the day and then had a longish walk along the Bosporus and to the Galata Bridge and around the Park Gulhane. We booked a table as we checked in to the hotel as they advised this but I'm not sure it was necessary but by booking we had a lovely table with a view over towards the Bosporus. In the summer the restaurant is twice the size as the glass windows open up to the terrace but it was not really warm enough for Terrace seating in April.
We were warmly welcomed and shown to our able where we ordered drinks and were handed the menus. The service was very quick and our drinks arrived at the same time as the head waiter with a tray of The Day's Catch of fish. He told us which was which and explained how each was cooked and served so we could make our choice. There were other things on the menu beside fish but Istanbul is famous for its fresh fish so we thought we would try some.
We started with meze which came as a selection of dips with bread - not the full meze we had enjoyed in Bodrum or Cyprus but great as a starter. We all chose different fish and I admit having eaten fish most times we ate out in Istanbul I forget which I had - bream I think but whatever it was it was cooked so well that it was moist and tasty without being too fishy - I'm not fussed on very strong fish. We did also have desert but they were not very Turkish and although perfectly tasty they were not the best part of the meal and I didn't bother when we ate there on our last night. We had tried several other local restaurants and decided that this was as nice as any of the others and had a pleasant ambience and excellent service so we ate here again on our last night.
There was wifi in the reception area and the wagon bar and this was free which I thought was a bonus as in so many of the hotels we have stayed recently we have had to pay.
I would have no hesitation in recommending this hotel for anyone visiting Istanbul wanting to see the main sights. You couldn't ask for a nicer place to stay and it was incredibly convenient for most of the sights in the Old city. It was not that expensive I believe I paid £390 for 5 nights with breakfast and of course the afternoon tea too which I don't think is bad for the location and standard of hotel.
It may not be the greatest hotel for anyone with a disabilty as the lifts are tiny and the restaurants are either up at the top or down in the basement. The rooms were not that huge either.
Thank you for reading this and I hope it might be useful to someone planning a visit to Istanbul. We went in April 2009 and this is the experience I based my review on.
I have given it 4 stars because of the toilet paper thing and the dark room and very tiny bath/shower - everything else was great.
This may be published on other sites under my name - it is my own views and experiences not copied from anywhere.
Summary: Lovely hotel in the old city in Istanbul, reasonable prices and great service