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Romance Istanbul has been transformed from a run of the mill establishment to one of the most luxurious hotels in bustling Sirkeci, right in the heart of the old city. This hotel does not pander to the hip and ephemeral but trades instead on good, old-fashioned comfort and top-quality service.
Location 9 / 10
The hotel is located on a steep-ish hill which links the heart of the old city with the Golden Horn waterfront area in Eminönü and is ideally placed for walking to many of the city’s most impressive sights – the Haghia Sophia, Archaeology Museum, Basilica Cistern and Topkapı Palace are all under a 10-minute walk.
For those further afield sights, the Gülhane tram stop on the T1 line is virtually right outside the hotel, the ferry quays for Bosphorus tours, Princes’ Islands and the Asian Shore are just a couple of stops away on the tram, or a 10-minute walk. The immediate environs of the hotel are largely given over to other hotels, restaurants and souvenir shops – though pockets of workaday Istanbul life survive on some of the side-streets.
Style & character 8 / 10
Romance Istanbul does not pander to the hip and ephemeral but trades instead on good, old-fashioned comfort and top-quality service. Harking back to Istanbul’s imperial Ottoman past, each room has its own talisman shirt on display, of the kind specially made for each sultan to bring good luck and protection (Room 105 has a replica of the talisman shirt worn by Süleyman the Magnificent).
All the fittings and fixtures of the hotel have been custom-made to give a definite sense of traditional style, with an emphasis on ornate, period gilded-wood furniture, heavy drapes, floral wallpaper and velvet or satin upholstery, chandeliers and glass pendant lighting fittings and wrought-iron work. With its Neo-Classical façade and ornate French balconies, from the outside the hotel has the look of a traditional Parisian apartment block.
Service & facilities 8 / 10
The guest relations staff here are top-notch: well-trained, personable and knowledgeable. From how to get an Istanbulkart (Istanbul’s version of an Oyster Card) to negotiating the back streets around the Spice Bazaar, they really help guests get the most of their stay in the city. Reception staff are equally charming, and the housekeeping service is excellent.
The relaxing Allure Spa offers a number of different massage treatments and other therapies (with a substantial discount for treatments taken between 3pm and 5pm), the hammam is a delight, and the large pool (with wave machine) is a good way to unwind after a day’s sightseeing. Don’t miss the complimentary coffee and cakes in the Romance restaurant between 3pm and 5pm every afternoon.
Fitness centre Laundry Pool Restaurant Room service Spa Steam room/hammam Wi-Fi
Rooms 9 / 10
Although there are only 40 rooms there’s a surprising range of choice, from compact City rooms to the supersize Romance Suite. Whatever the price, the same attention to detail has been paid. King-sized beds with plump pillows are draped with silky damask spreads and topped with a complimentary bowl of Turkish delight on arrival. All have natural-wood flooring and Turkish rugs, veneered wood furniture and good lighting. Most rooms have a French balcony, though open windows will mean some street and tram noise.
There are complimentary tea- and coffee-making facilities and an espresso machine, a USB port, minibar and LCD television. Stylish bathrooms come with brass fittings, marble floors, Iznik-tiled walls and rainfall showers with excellent water pressure.
Food & drink 8 / 10
Breakfast is a an excellent Turkish and continental buffet, with all manner of goodies from cold meats and cheeses to savoury pastries and cereals, with honey, yoghurt, dried fruit and nuts and egg dishes on offer – all taken in the elegant lobby Romance restaurant.
There are snacks such as wraps, sandwiches and pastas available throughout the day and into the evening – but for a relaxed evening meal head to the Olive Restaurant in the sister Yasmak Sultan Hotel just a couple of minutes’ walk away, which offers traditonal Turkish dishes (such as lamb kebabs and homemade Anatolian pasta), a prime Haghia Sophia view and a 10 per cent discount for Romance guests.
Value for money 9 / 10
Doubles from £79, year-round. Breakfast included. Free Wi-Fi.
Access for guests with disabilities?
There is level access to the roomy lifts and one fully adapted room.
Friendly staff, a decent pool with waves, some three-bedded rooms and camp bed/cot availability (for no extra charge) make this place a good choice for families, especially as children can run-off steam in the nearby Gülhane Park.
Hüdavendigar Cad. No: 5 Sirkeci, Istanbul, 34110, Turkey.
Although there are only 40 rooms there's a surprising range of choice, from compact City rooms to the supersize Romance Suite. Whatever the price, the same attention to detail has been paid. King-sized beds with plump pillows are draped with silky damask spreads and topped with a complimentary bowl of Turkish delight on arrival. All have natural-wood flooring and Turkish rugs, veneered wood furniture and good lighting. Most rooms have a French balcony, though open windows will mean some street and tram noise.