1920s charm meets influencer era: What it’s like staying at the Park Hyatt Istanbul
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Rather than focusing on the city’s rich history, my second visit to Istanbul was centered on exploring the more modern side of the metropolis. With a location in the upscale shopping district of Nisantasi, the Park Hyatt Istanbul-Maka Palas seemed ideal for my more contemporary ambitions.
The Park Hyatt opened in a celebrated Art Deco edifice in 2008, and though it’s one of the city’s more popular luxury hotels, I was able to stay there on a relative budget. I redeemed only 15,000 World of Hyatt points per night, which made my visit all the more rewarding.
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While Nisantasi might not be as historic as some of the city’s other quarters, like Fatih and Galata, the facade that houses the Park Hyatt actually boasts a rich past.
The eye-catching structure was originally built in 1922 and was designed by Italian architect Giulio Mongeri to pay homage to Milan’s famed palazzos. The hotel lobby and rooms are luxurious in a restrained, pragmatic way. However, the color scheme feels outdated and the finishes are beginning to show their age after over 13 years in a busy hotel.
The Park Hyatt Istanbul’s latest owner, Nusret Gökce, known to his fans simply as “Salt Bae,” has injected a dose of brashness and youth into the slightly staid design. The hotel now houses an outpost of his famed steakhouse, Nusret, on the second floor – and a large portrait of him in the lobby.
In this and other touches, the celebrity appeal of Nusret clashed with the more subdued sensibilities of the hotel and the building’s historical past.
Located on the European side of Istanbul, the Park Hyatt Istanbul-Maçka Palas is about 25 miles to the east of the recently built Istanbul International Airport (IST). Depending on Istanbul’s unpredictable traffic patterns, a taxi ride typically takes somewhere between 45 minutes and 90 minutes. Istanbul’s smaller Sabiha Gökcen Airport is about the same distance away in the opposite direction, on Turkey’s Asia side.
The historic Sultanahmet neighbourhood, where famed sites like the Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque are located, is about four miles away across the Golden Horn.
The Park Hyatt Istanbul-Maçka Palas has a relatively modest footprint, with only 90 rooms in total. Of those, 25 include authentic Turkish baths and 10 are full-fledged suites.
This Istanbul location is only one of a handful of Park Hyatts around the world that’s a Category 4 on Hyatt’s award chart. To book the Park Hyatt Istanbul-Maçka Palas for my mid-September stay, I redeemed 15,000 World of Hyatt points per night for a standard king room. A standard suite would have required 24,000 points.
With a cash rate hovering around £223 per night, I got slightly more than 2 cents per point in value and more than what TPG values Hyatt points to be worth.
Note that Hyatt recently launched peak and off-peak pricing for stays starting in March 2022, which means you’ll need between 12,000 and 18,000 points for this same room, depending on the date.
Things we loved
- My World of Hyatt Globalist status got me an upgrade to a King Premium room, which included spa-like amenities and a massive bathroom.
- The Art Deco decor and room design felt like a step back in time, in a (mostly) good way. That included warm wood tones, eye-catching geometric patterns and detailed finishes.
- Nusret, the flashy steakhouse restaurant from Turkish mogul Salt Bae, was impressive, yet an odd match for the hotel. It has ornate decor with a bold, aqua colour scheme and dazzling chandeliers. My buttery filet mignon was perfectly prepared.
- The service from the concierge and front desk was professional and prompt yet still retained a casualness that prevented the hotel from feeling stuffy.
- The flashy steakhouse Nusret isn’t integrated into the overall hotel experience very well and you could not charge any meals directly to your room.
- The quality of the dishes that I sampled in the main, ground-level lobby restaurant (simply called The Lounge at Park Hyatt) wasn’t up to par, especially a rack of lamb that was far too chewy to be enjoyed.
- With a location in the corner of the gym and an unstaffed front desk, the basement-level spa largely felt like an afterthought.
- While I initially wanted to use a Globalist Suite Night Upgrade certificate, I found out at check-in that the standard Park Suite is actually smaller in size than the lower-tier King Premium room.
While it’s been a Park Hyatt since 2008, the original Maçka Palas building is from 1922.
There is a varying blend of old and new. You’ll find painstakingly restored original architectural details like the detailed columns at the entryway complemented by contemporary finishes like a glass atrium above the lobby and modern-looking lighting. The second-floor Nusret restaurant feels like it could fit right in as a new nightclub in Mykonos.
The hotel felt more boutique-like, with its smaller-than-expected footprint, especially when it came to public spaces.
But with only 90 rooms, the staff will quickly recognize and greet you by name, especially since I stayed at a time when occupancy was less than half full. Fellow guests were mostly couples – and judging from how many shopping bags that I saw from the likes of Prada, Gucci and more, they were taking full advantage of Nisantasi’s high-end retail shops.
After taking a peek at the dimly-lit and somewhat cramped standard Park Suite, I decided to save my upgrade certificate for the more open layout of the King Premium room. At over 700 square feet, the Premium room was larger than the 550-square-foot standard suite and much more unique.
I was immediately wowed by the attention to detail, particularly the various curved surfaces including a semi-opaque, frosted wall at the entryway that housed the large wet room.
The Premium-level room is a step above the standard king and includes one of the most distinctive in-room features I’ve ever experienced: an authentic Turkish bath complete with a heated stone seat, a splash tub, a steam shower and a filtered water station. I loved being able to experience a traditional hammam without leaving my room.
There were no Le Labo amenities that you typically see at Park Hyatts but instead another premium brand called Aromatherapy.
Back in the joint living and sleeping space, I noticed a generous use of classic walnut wood from the floors and the closet to the curved centre table and even the wall behind the bed.
The two French balconies and neutral tones showcased a room that felt refined, like a proper residence for a diplomat. (In fact, this building’s initial concept was supposed to house diplomats before the capital moved to Ankara.)
However, some of the furnishings and finishes were seriously starting to show their age. For instance, the loveseat and recliner were threadbare and looked (and felt) like thousands of people had sat on them.
There was also a Nespresso machine, but I would be lying to say I wasn’t slightly disappointed the room didn’t feature any of Turkey’s famous coffee.
Food and drink
Gökce officially bought the Park Hyatt Istanbul in 2019. Of course, you’d expect him to open one of his flashy restaurants at the property he just purchased.
In fact, Nusret is the flagship eatery at the hotel and also the space where breakfast is served each morning.
At breakfast, go for the spectacular pancakes – along with the nuts and cheeses that Turkey is known for. As a Hyatt Globalist elite, my entire breakfast order, including anything I wanted from the a la carte menu, was comped.
At exactly 10 a.m., a new (non-hotel) staff for Nusret took over the restaurant’s operations for lunch and dinner.
The restaurant, at that point, transformed from a casual morning eatery into a more upscale, ornate venue with a menu that includes expensive, gold-encrusted steaks (yes, you read that right).
Overall, the decor was showy, bright – and if we’re being honest, a bit gaudy. That’s Nusret’s brand – but certainly not the Park Hyatt’s.
Even if you don’t love the idea of influencers, go to Nusret for the experience (and I was surprised at how much I liked my meal). The filet mignon that I ordered was wonderful, with a melt-in-your-mouth texture and my ideal medium-rare preparation.
My biggest sore point wasn’t about the food or service. It was that you couldn’t bill meals to your room from Nusret. I found it strange that this wasn’t possible even though the owner of the hotel and restaurant are the same.
The downstairs lounge and restaurant (simply called The Lounge at Park Hyatt) is the other primary food and drink venue. It’s a gorgeously appointed, understated space located in the lobby area – but it’s mostly a miss in terms of food.
My rack of lamb was not only slightly undercooked, but it was also rubbery. On the plus side, if you’re into wine, there was a wide selection of Italian vino and Turkish şarap at the adjacent wine bar.
Amenities and service
A rooftop pool, gym and spa are the primary amenities at the Park Hyatt Istanbul.
With fall-like temperatures hovering between 15 and 25 Celsius, I didn’t see anyone partake in the pool. However, even if it had been warm enough, due to its location right next to the restaurant, I can imagine it would be a bit awkward to go for a swim here.
The basement-level fitness centre was dimly lit but equipped with all the necessities to get in a quick workout, including a bike, treadmill and free weights.
As mentioned, the spa felt a bit like an afterthought with its tiny footprint next to the gym. There were no signature treatments. I got a fairly basic deep tissue massage that cost just £45 USD thanks to a discount for services before noon.
Overall, the service met my expectations. The hotel’s concierge was particularly impressive, helping arrange a COVID-19 test and accompanying me through the hassles of finding a taxi in rush-hour Istanbul traffic.
Out and about
Nisantasi is in the modern part of Istanbul, in an upscale residential area that’s popular for chic fashion, galleries and salons. Name any high-end brand – from Chanel to Prada – and you’ll find it in this neighbourhood.
Since shopping wasn’t on my agenda, I explored slightly further afield in the Sisli district. Within a 10 minute walk of the hotel are dozens – if not hundreds – of museums, churches, mosques and restaurants. For instance, if you’re into Turkish history, the Atatürk Museum is a quick stroll from the hotel and showcases the home of the first Turkish president.
So while this area might not be the place for the grand Ottoman history you’ve read about, modern Turkey is on full display.
The hotel only has one standard king room available that has all the necessary specifications to comfortably accommodate a physically challenged guest.
Access to all public areas and venues is available. However, the outdoor pool deck has multiple steps and would be a major challenge for some guests.
Overall, while I enjoyed my stay, I found the Park Hyatt to be a bit of a clash of two worlds. The blend of old and new felt a little jarring at times, especially when you consider Nusret’s influence on the hotel.
However, I think there is still a lot of value to be had from this Category 4 property and I’d stay here again at just 15,000 World of Hyatt points per night.
Featured photo by Chris Dong/The Points Guy.
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