Istanbul's Hotel HHK is a heck of a deal - no matter how you get there!
Have you ever seen a series of funny TV ads that shows travelers coming to the end of an arduous journey, finally seeing their amazing resort and incredible hotel suite? The catch line is that they 'booking' got it right. Of course, "booking" is a sub in for another, less family friendly word (hint: it begins with "f") and the ads are promoting the hotel website... I bet you can guess which one.
They're cute ads and I can relate to that 'booking yeah' feeling. I had my own "booking" moment in Istanbul. Nope, it had nothing to do with Booking.com! (In fact, we actually booked through Expedia - here's a direct link to the hotel) but all the other components were in place, from the crazy journey to the gorgeous hotel.
HHK Hotel (aka Hayriye Hanim Konagi Hotel) in Istanbul is one property we absolutely got 'booking' right and, best of all, we got it for an absolute steal! Here's why we loved it, how we got such a sweet deal, and why we were so darn happy to finally arrive at their doorstep.
To fully appreciate our crazy journey, you need to know just how close HHK Hotel is to the Halic Metro station. It's a very short, easy, and fairly direct walk between the two, about 5-10 minutes in total. But all of this was lost on us because, on a map, the metro symbol indicating the location of Halic Station is easily overlooked. The station is on a bridge. So we naturally thought it the symbol was a mistake - there clearly couldn't be a metro in the middle of the water, could there? Yep, there is!
We were ignorant of all this when we set out on our walk from what turned out to be the SECOND closest metro station. Aksaray Station has the advantage of being in the center of the city and on a direct line from the airport - but it's about a 45 minute walk to HHK Hotel. No mind! We were on an adventure, weren't we?
We were well prepared with a map but soon realized that the directions we printed out were based on the shortest walking distance, not the most direct route. Talk about adding a new dimension to our mission. Essentially every 100 meters or so we were turning onto a new street!
While I definitely had moments of "what on earth am I doing", and it was a rather dusty and sweaty experience, it was a walk not without its compensations. Istanbul is a beautiful, colorful city and we got to see so many pockets of it.
During my first trip to Istanbul, a layover 18 months earlier, I felt like the city got the better of me. There was a lot that I enjoyed about that visit, but I was feeling a bit overwhelmed. It was just a lot to take in during a short period of time and I left without feeling like I had a grasp on things. I felt if I could just master this convoluted route across the city, Istanbul and I would be on good enough terms to start over again. So while our walk was tiring, it was also triumphant.
I don't think Ryan was QUITE as overwrought as I was about rectifying my relationship with the city but he still enjoyed the epic walk for its own sake. We really did get to see an entirely different side of the city, block by block, side street by side street.
Still, it was with no small measure of relief that we saw the first sign for the hotel and found the front door! Happily, we were about to have our "booking" yeah moment!
Just how gorgeous is this inner courtyard? THIS is what awaited us beyond the exterior doors - that and a bemused staff who couldn't figure out why we were so sweaty, out of breath, and exhausted from a simple walk from the metro. How could we possibly have taken an entire hour to walk from the metro? This is when we found out about the Halic Metro station! Just five minutes, you say? Reeeaaaalllly?
I'm not sure if all guests are offered a welcome drink or if the staff were just taking pity on us because we looked so pathetic, but nevertheless their tea and coffee were most welcome and, while we were anxious to see our room, we couldn't tear our eyes away from the absolutely incredible views of the city. Istanbul has never looked so good and HHK Hotel might just win the prize for having the best hotel view I've ever seen.
At this point, we were already THRILLED with what the hotel offered considering how much money we had spent. We stumbled upon HHK Hotel early in our online search. An initial glance told us it was "good enough" and we booked it through a third party site on a book now, pay later plan. We figured that if we didn't find anything better, we'd at least have something that was vaguely affordable and acceptable. Little did we realize how lucky we were.
After an extensive search, we couldn't find anything that could compete with the hotel's location, price, and overall rating, so we decided to stick with our original reservation. That was until Ryan noticed it was $10 cheaper on another third party site. SCORE!
We cancelled the first reservation on site #1 and rebooked at the cheaper price on site #2. Our total cost? $50 US. Yep, you read that right. It was worth it for the view alone. But what was the room like?
From the hotel website, we gleaned that they had three categories of rooms. They have suites, they have superior rooms (both of which look very nice indeed and boost spectacular views of the city), and they have standard rooms. And, unofficially, there's the fourth category of room, the leftovers.
As is usually the case with killer online bargains, the rooms available at our price point were "economy standards". These are the leftover rooms, the smallest and least desirable rooms reserved for those who book online, as the nicest regular standard rooms are assigned to guests who book directly with the hotel and pay a non-discounted price.
And there's nothing wrong with that. We knew exactly why our room was so cheap and had no illusions about what would be offered.
The staff very courteously gave us a choice between a small room with nice courtyard views, which was located next to the reception desk (a convenient location but potentially a loud one), and a more spacious room on the lower level. We chose the first room and were happy with our selection. As predicted, we heard every word spoken at reception, but it generally very quiet and we enjoyed being able to easily come and go from the courtyard.
The room was clean, comfortable, and elegantly decorated. It was a bit shabby around the edges and the clashing red carpet had seen better days but, overall, it was a superb value for $50. The bathroom was tiny but it included luxurious little touches, like a loofah mitt and a towel warmer.
We had one small problem during our visit. We ordered dinner from their limited room service menu and the food took a long time to arrive - nearly an hour. When it arrived it was cold. The meat was lukewarm, but the rice was very cold, as if it has just come out of the refrigerator. The staff were very apologetic but also a bit bemused, as if they couldn't possibly understand how it had happened. It took a while to convince them that things really were COLD.
So there was a bit of confusion and muddled communication for a moment but they did send us fresh meals, which were greatly improved and very tasty. And later, when we were sitting on the roof top patio, they brought us complimentary Turkish coffee and cookies by way of apology and we were very grateful for this kind gesture.
Relaxing on the rooftop patio was one of the highlights of my time in Istanbul. The view of the city was absolutely magnificent and the adjacent courtyard was charming. Listening to the call to prayer reverberate from all of the nearby mosques and seeing the twinkling lights of the city was such a peaceful way to end an epic day and mark the beginning of a wonderful trip.
I spent over an hour on the patio, catching up on work (note: the Wi-Fi was great!) and I had to keep pinching myself that I was so lucky to call this spot my office, if only for a night.
After a jet lag defying sleep, we woke to the sounds of other guests checking out, just steps from our bedroom door (the reception desk really was close by!) We had a beautiful breakfast on the courtyard balcony, with Ryan indulging in the traditional Turkish breakfast food of.... cocoa puffs!
In all seriousness, there was a huge selection of breakfast foods and I was a huge fan of the pan fried potatoes cooked in chili oil. We each had several plates of food before saying a sad farewell and heading on to our next destination - this time, via the very close Halic Metro!
Would I stay at HHK Hotel again? You 'booking' bet I would! In fact, I tried to do just that a week later, when I found myself with an unexpected extra night in the city. By that time, prices had increased to nearly $500! I sadly had to look elsewhere.
My advice for those looking to replicate our $50 steal is to search early, search often, and, if you're hoping for a last minute sell-off price, consider stealing our strategy of making a temporary reservation that can always be cancelled as a back up plan while you continue your search.
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