Monday, March 9, 2015

WARSAW, POLAND: H15 Boutique Hotel

I checked in to the H15 Boutique Hotel in central Warsaw less than 12 hours ago, and I’m already in love. I’m not sure they’re going to be able to get me to leave!

Chairs in common area
In fact, it is odd that I say that. The H15 Boutique Hotel  – at the time I booked it, the Number 1 hotel in Warsaw on TripAdvisor – is certainly upmarket but is considerably more contemporary than the surroundings I prefer. The indoor common area on the ground floor (the “0” floor in Poland) is equipped with chairs that evoke the feel of eggshells surrounding the embryos inside, giving it a very futuristic feel.

My guest room, a one-bedroom suite, has light hardwood floors with throw rugs, white surfaces, low-profile Italian designer furniture and walls decorated with only a few large graphics; “minimalist” would be a kind way to describe it. Obviously, it was designed to appeal more to Millennials than Boomers like myself.

Kitchen area of living room
Nonetheless, it is very well done and thoughtfully designed. Although I hate and generally eschew the overused and abused adjectives “intentionally” or “thoughtfully,” they absolutely apply to the H15.

The room has a kitchen area with a mini-fridge, toaster, Nespresso coffee maker (a delightful touch that I don’t see often enough when traveling), a hot pot, and dishes, though there is no microwave or other way to actually cook. The living area has a workspace, a small dining table, and flat-screen TVs in both the living and the bedroom areas. Both the main space and the sleeping area have sliding glass doors that open to the outside, providing fresh air as well as a view to the space below.

Small-ish bath
The bathroom is on the smaller side with a shower but no tub, and a small vanity barely adequate for my hairbrush, toothbrush and other essentials with which I travel. However, it is equipped with one of my favorite features: a heated towel rack. This is the fourth hotel I visited during my trip to Poland but the first with such a feature. The bathroom is also equipped with a hair dryer, a heated mirror so the steam from a hot shower will not collect, a heated floor and high-end amenities by L’Occitane en Provence. Finally, awaiting guests are the softest hotel bathrobes I’ve encountered in quite a while, along with accompanying slippers.

Wireless Internet access is among the better that I’ve experienced elsewhere and is available free throughout the property. As measured by SpeakEast.net/SpeedTest, the download speed (the speed at which we receive data) was almost 4 Mbps, while most hotels at which I’ve stayed have been in the 1 Mbps range. However, upload speeds were a blazing 40.25 Mbps, which is great if you’re on business and/or sending large files or presentations around.

High-end amenities
Overall, the building makes excellent use of space with four, four-story towers around a central courtyard. Each floor of each tower houses only two apartments, so there is ample privacy.

Located a block off the main thoroughfare of Marszałkowska and the tram lines that ply it, the two-year-old hotel is close to the city’s main train station Warsaw Centralna, the trendy Nowy Swiat (New World) area, the Stare Miasto (Old Town), the Palace of Culture, and other prominent attractions. But its location, in what might be described as an actual neighborhood, gives it the feel of what it might be like to actually live in, as opposed to visit, Warsaw. Provided, of course, that you’re well heeled.

That feel of being in an actual neighborhood is a big part of what appeals to me.

In the single block between the hotel and the Marszałkowska are several delikatesy (convenience stores), which are convenient places to get snacks, the makings for a sandwich, beverages including 1.5 liter bottles of mineral water for about 2 zł, and the all-important adult beverages. Shops that specialize in alcoholic libations are also nearby; look for the word Alkohole, though I’m betting you’d have figured that one out on your own.

TV and workspace
Heading north on Poznańsfa in the direction of Warsaw Centralna or west on Hoźa, there are several restaurants that represent a number of ethnicities. And if you’re really dying for a taste of home, the Warsaw branch of the Hard Rock Café is next to the train station, about a 10 minute walk away.

Honestly, Westerners don’t have to be that well off to enjoy the good life in Warsaw. My suite rate is 275 złoty (the Polish unit of currency, pronounced “ZWOH-tay”) per night, or about US$80, give or take a few dollars depending on the prevailing exchange rate. Both smaller and larger rooms are available.

As nice as the physical property is, however, service can make or break a guest’s experience. In the case of H15, the service was generally excellent.

Sleeping area
Heading down from my room, my elevator stopped at a floor where two hotel employees were waiting. Even though there was ample space and I invited them to join me, they put their guest’s (perceived) comfort first and insisted on waiting for the next car. Then, when I had an issue with the in-room safe, a front desk employee was there within minutes to help out.

There are a couple modest downsides. The property has neither workout facility nor swimming pool at present, but if you’re intent on getting some exercise, bicycles are available to lend, though guests should be aware that Poland’s laws regarding drinking and driving apply to bicycling, too. In Poland, there is almost zero tolerance for such activities, and the legal blood alcohol level is 0.02 percent, about one fourth of the 0.08 percent in much of North America. And this, in a country where you can buy alcohol 24/7/365…

Hotel exterior
Finally, a bit of additional training of front desk staff would benefit H15. At one point, I asked if there was a launderette nearby. The clerk did not know. Upon leaving, I asked about the options for getting to the airport and was told “By taxi, or by taking the No. 145 bus.” However, the option I chose was a train from nearby Warsaw Centralna. Trains leave for Warsaw Chopin Airport (WAW) approximately every 30 minutes at a cost of 6,10 zł, or about US$2 for the 20-minute ride.

Regardless of those minor shortcomings, I highly recommend the H15 Boutique Hotel as a delightful place to stay while in Warsaw.

Visit my main page at TheTravelPro.us for more news, reviews, and personal observations on the world of upmarket travel.



Photos by Carl Dombek
Click on photos to view larger sized images 

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