I was careful to select a property in a central location for my first visit to Istanbul, and I was glad to be able to enjoy a high-end property bookable at a good rate.
I was happy with my choice, even though the hotel isn’t perfect. Read on for my nuanced take and see if the JW Marriott Istanbul Bosphorus is right for your trip.
In This Post
- Deluxe Guest Room with Atrium View
- Deluxe Guest Room with Partial Bosphorus View
- Dining & Bar
- Other Facilities
JW Marriott Istanbul Bosphorus – Booking
I originally booked five nights at the JW Marriott Istanbul Bosphorus using Bonvoy points, with the “Stay 5, Pay 4” benefit.
The hotel ranges from 30,000 to 40,000 points per night. I booked a block of five nights for a total of 147,000 Bonvoy points.
Partway through my stay, I added a sixth night, priced at 30,000 points, bringing my total outlay to 177,000 Bonvoy points for six nights.
With better advance planning, I could’ve optimized by using a Free Night Award worth 35,000 points (with a meagre points top-up) on my first night, and saving some points on a five-night block shifted one day later.
Because of the last-minute change of plans, though, I decided to use points to cover an “off-peak” night, and save my certificate for when I could use it for full value.
On various dates throughout the summer and shoulder seasons, the hotel retails for €300–600 per night (approximately $400–800 Canadian dollars), dipping lower only in the extreme offseason.
At any rate or time of year, it’s a great points redemption, with value well exceeding our target of 0.9 cents per Bonvoy point.
JW Marriott Istanbul Bosphorus – Location
The JW Marriott Istanbul Bosphorus is located in the Karaköy neighbourhood within the Beyoğlu district, across the street from shopping and eateries lining the seawall.
There are many Marriott Bonvoy properties in Istanbul, but I loved the location of the JW, about a 30–45-minute walk in any direction to the vast majority of tourist sights and worthwhile neighbourhoods for a first-time visitor to explore.
The hilly but highly walkable area around the hotel is teeming with life. There are restaurants, cafes, cocktail bars, art, and street food galore.
There are also a number of historical buildings nearby, including Galata Tower which is visible from many of the hotel’s guest rooms, and the Kilic Ali Pasa Hamam complex.
The hotel has two entrances: there’s a vehicle drop-off zone at the front, but the backside opens up onto a pedestrian street, the gateway to all of your Istanbul adventures near and far.
It’s about a 10-minute walk to many key connections. You can stroll across Galata Bridge to the historic Sultanahmet district, with tons of touristy restaurants and local fishermen on the deck of the bridge. Alternatively, you can hop on the streetcar and avoid the hot sun.
From the foot of the bridge, you can also catch a ferry from Karaköy to Kadiköy (I apologize on Istanbul’s behalf for the confusion) and spend an afternoon poking around Asia. The ride is a bit under half an hour.
Galata Tower is about the same distance up the hill. A bit beyond, you’ll link up with Istiklal Street, an expansive corridor lined with high-end retailers, leading to Taksim Square at the other end. You can also link up with the underground metro here.
Any of the above modes of public transit cost 15 lira ($1.50) per ride. Otherwise, I walked everywhere, only booking taxis (via Uber) to and from the airport.
JW Marriott Istanbul Bosphorus – Check-in
Arriving by taxi, I was dropped off at the vehicle entrance amidst tons of roadwork.
The hotel lobby is set in a long, skinny atrium. The bright space is covered by a very high skylight, connecting two renovated longstanding buildings to enclose the foyer.
Through the corridor, there’s a smattering of leather seating, plants, art, and a decorative cream-white piano.
At the centre of the atrium, to the right as you enter from the vehicle side, you’ll find the front desk. The black and white stained marble notes accented with bright LED lights represent the JW Marriott brand well, with the distinct aesthetic overlaid on the building’s brick heritage origins.
The hotel was overbooked when I arrived, so naturally there were no room upgrades available. The friendly front desk agent advised that there would be some suites opening up partway through my stay, and pre-emptively put in a request to move me if and when one became available.
Despite being immensely curious as to what the top-tier Royal Griffin Suite has in store, or at the very least a Galata Tower View room, I soon found it to be a hassle to inquire and potentially relocate several times, and decided to take what I could get and spend my time enjoying the city once I had settled into a satisfactory room.
With the hotel at full capacity, breakfast was served in the larger restaurant; therefore, the lounge was closed. When the lounge is unavailable at a JW Marriott in Europe, Platinum Elite guests and above are entitled to a choice of daily breakfast in the restaurant, or 750 points per night.
I don’t actually recall if I was given my choice of welcome gift between 1,000 points per stay or US$10 dining credit per stay. I surely would’ve chosen the points, but somehow I got breakfast and 750 points per night for a total of 4,500 points, so I’m not complaining.
In any event, I arrived to my room to find a well-presented plate of delectable pistachio baklava. Without question, this was the most delicious welcome treat I’ve enjoyed at any Marriott hotel thus far in my modest luxury lodging lifestyle.
JW Marriott Istanbul Bosphorus – Deluxe Guest Room with Atrium View
I was first assigned to Room 203 for two nights. The hotel’s modern renovations are immediately noticeable, with an electronic panel indicating do not disturb, housekeeping, or room service requests.
The room is compact, with a closet on the left and bathroom on the right as you enter.
There’s a TV across from the bed, mounted to the mirrored wall above a desk surface with an ottoman stool in lieu of a chair.
The room is decorated with light fabrics, dark brown wood, and splashes of colour. Along with traditional lamps, there’s also an LED light under the bed, casting a glow at night.
The king bed fills up the vast majority of the room’s footprint.
Behind the chair in the corner, the room faces the atrium. There’s ample natural light, but not much to see. The windows do open, a function serving little purpose.
You have a clear view of your neighbours across the lobby (and vice versa), which is mitigated with privacy and blackout curtains.
The bathroom has similar LED lighting features as the main room, with all of the standard amenities and a rain shower.
The room also has a minibar for purchase, featuring water, hot drinks, wine, liquor, and snacks with an emphasis on nuts.
Although the design and comfort were fine, I can’t say I was a fan of the Atrium View Room.
A space this small, with a view this poor, would not have been a comfortable place to stay for six nights, especially not for the rates charged by the JW Marriott Istanbul Bosphorus. It would be an especially tight squeeze for a couple.
JW Marriott Istanbul Bosphorus – Deluxe Guest Room with Partial Bosphorus View
Partway through my stay, a much lager room became available, and I was able to relocate for my remaining four nights. I moved to Room 217, which shares an alcove for a pseudo-adjoining room in 216.
Upon entering, I breathed a sigh of relief at the increased square footage – it was more than enough to be comfortable.
Broadly speaking, the two rooms I stayed in are very similar both in terms of design and features, with size and view being the major differentiating factors. For what it’s worth, the king bed in the larger room did feel bigger than the other one.
The minibar was arranged differently, with the coffee machine in a cabinet rather than out in the open, and a slightly larger selection.
There are two armchairs, instead of one.
Across from the bed, there’s the familiar TV-above-desk setup.
During my time in Istanbul, I was busy launching the website for The Travel Summit. I found the ottoman seating at the desks in each room to be woefully insufficient for my needs.
I preferred to be productive from an ergonomic chair at a nearby co-working space, amidst the ambiance of any one of Karaköy’s many trendy cafes, or even curled up in bed.
Bathroom fixtures were similar to the Atrium View Room, but with room for two. I was a bit puzzled to see different brands of toiletries provided.
Finally, the Partial Bosphorus View Room wouldn’t be complete without the view. Let’s just say that the second floor really takes “partial” to heart.
Still, this was an enormous upgrade from my previous atrium view, and I was much happier here in a larger space.
JW Marriott Istanbul Bosphorus – Breakfast
The hotel’s Galata Lounge, which isn’t open throughout the day, is only used for elite breakfast, and only when the hotel is below 45% capacity.
During my stay, the Galata Lounge was closed for a private event. Instead, breakfast was served in the main restaurant, where I received a complimentary buffet daily thanks to my Titanium Elite status (although Platinum Elite would’ve been sufficient for this perk, as always).
The restaurant is on the 9th floor, at the top of the building, overlooking the sea. There are sweeping views of the mosques of Sultanahmet across the mouth of the Golden Horn, and Istanbul’s Asian side farther across the Bosphorus.
The room has a variety of comfortable seating suitable for groups of all sizes, including dining chairs and lounge chairs for your Mediterranean decadence.
The breakfast buffet featured all of the familiar Turkish fixings, plus the option for made-to-order eggs. The comprehensive selection hit all the same courses I had just tried at The Bodrum EDITION.
- 1 of 11
- 2 of 11
- 3 of 11
- 4 of 11
- 5 of 11
- 6 of 11
- 7 of 11
- 8 of 11
- 9 of 11
- 10 of 11
- 11 of 11
Everything was very tasty, but the quality felt a notch below in comparison, and the experience certainly wasn’t as special as what I had just left behind in Bodrum.
I found it easy to settle in with a few repetitive favourites, rather than relentlessly exploring the whole menu, as I was a bit burnt out on Turkish breakfast fare after 11 days straight.
A notable highlight was the pistachio cake – think banana bread, but pistachio. I could gorge on a dangerous portion of these.
And don’t forget your daily dose of Turkish coffee, served with a bite of Turkish delight.
JW Marriott Istanbul Bosphorus – Dining & Bar
There are quite a few miscellaneous dining and drinking options on the property.
After breakfast, the restaurant becomes Octo for lunch and dinner, featuring a Turkish and Portuguese fusion menu.
At the ground level, there’s a cafe called Istanbul Baking Company, accessible from the pedestrian street. It was nice to have nearby, but lacked the character that I found at other neighbourhood joints.
There’s also a street-level cocktail bar, Skull & Bones, where you can enjoy an evening beverage.
But for a drink at the hotel, you’ll more likely find yourself at Sky Karaköy, the rooftop bar. Accessible by a staircase adjacent to Octo, it’s open every evening.
The space is extremely popular for sunset – you’ll need to show up early to grab a table. I found the space to be less overbearingly nightclubby than I’d expected based on its description, although perhaps it literally changes its tune after nightfall.
Inside the lobby, there’s a Tea Lounge serving an interesting selection of artisanal regional blends. The space doubles as the lobby’s de facto main lounge seating area.
Finally, you can book a private dinner at Wine Cellar for up to eight guests, in a cozy space across from the Tea Lounge.
JW Marriott Istanbul Bosphorus – Other Facilities
The hotel has a full Turkish spa, with a range of treatments from different cultural traditions.
Unique to this part of the world, there’s a hammam room in the hotel’s spa. Despite this facility being highly recommended to me by several Prince of Travel members, I decided to try the traditional communal Turkish bath experience a short walk away at Kilic Ali Pasa.
The gym left a bit to be desired. The room was a bit small and thinly-outfitted for the size of the hotel.
Finally, apparently there is a rooftop pool, which must have been closed during my stay. Notes from other guests seem to corroborate that the pool is ornamental at best.
I enjoyed my stay at the JW Marriott Istanbul Bosphorus. The location was perfect for a first-time visitor to the metropolis, and the facilities were sufficiently well-appointed without any unforgivable flaws.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a better home base for your vacation, as you recharge from busy days absorbing the Turkish delights all around you. Plus, there’s something very Istanbul about the blend of old and new that the property exhibits.
However, the hotel isn’t without its faults. It’s a newer property, and it seems they are still ironing out a few kinks. I found service to be good overall, but a bit uneven.
As nice as the hotel is, it didn’t give me a lot of reasons to spend time on the property, which admittedly is a tall order in a city as compelling as Istanbul.
In particular, the poor seating in the guest rooms, the limited fitness centre, and the lack of a comfortable public workspace in the absence of a day-use club lounge might make it a tricky choice for a business traveller.
I would also caution that the square footage and vistas of the atrium-facing rooms, which seem to make up a large share of the hotel’s guest rooms, are substandard for a luxury brand. If you travel during high season and highly value the elite benefit of suite upgrades, this may impact your choice of where to stay in Istanbul.
All of that being said, I wouldn’t have done it any other way for my first trip to Istanbul, and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the JW Marriott Istanbul Bosphorus or stay there again, especially as a very strong points redemption.
For someone purely in tourist mode, its location and the strengths that it does offer are more than enough to happily mitigate any weaknesses.
For a return visit, though, I can definitely see the appeal of making a location-based choice to stay somewhere else and be immersed in a new part of the city.