|The Pool at Four Seasons Istanbul at the Bosphorus overlooks its namesake.|
There’s never been a better time to travel to Istanbul, now prepping for its role as European Capital of Culture in 2010. A trip to the city is a sensual experience: inhaling the fragrances of the Spice Market, sipping tea while the call to prayer drifts from minarets, mingling with the jetset at the Bosphorus nightclubs, relaxing in the marble hammams. Did we mention the city’s hot luxury hotels?
From the terrace at Sumahan on the Water, we watched the boats glide by and, at night, ply the waters beneath the Bosphorus Bridge. The 20-room hotel is an architectural masterpiece on the Asian side of the city, perfect for clients looking for romance and a quiet oasis away from the hustle and bustle. Co-owner Mark Butler met his Turkish wife in graduate school in the U.S. and the two architects dreamed about resurrecting the derelict family property. They succeeded. The hotel is housed in an old alcohol distillery and takes its name from suma, an ingredient in Turkish raki.
The contemporary style emphasizes comfort and technology, showcasing steel, exposed brick and hardwood floors. Luxurious bathrooms are clad in exquisite marmara marble, historically used for the hammams in Ottoman palaces. Named after different neighborhoods in Istanbul, the rooms are filled with light and have high ceilings. We loved our duplex loft suite (Arnavutköy) boasting its own fireplace and hammam in the bathroom; from the upstairs bedroom you can spy the elegant Sumahan I bobbing at its mooring. Another perk of our loft suite: the Bosphorus-facing garden, accessed by large glass doors. The top room category is the Executive Suite; the Anadolu Kavai suite has a fireplace in the middle of the room.
|A Junior Suite at Sumahan on the Water comes with its own fireplace and garden views.|
Managed by Tuba Tekeli ([email protected]; 011-90-216-422-8000), the hotel opened in 2005. A lavish made-to-order breakfast is served in the Waterfront Terrace Restaurant, while The Kordon draws locals to feast on seasonal fish from the Bosphorus and Black Sea. There’s also a small fitness room and gorgeous hammam. Note: It’s possible to rent the entire property for events.
The place to book for your business clients is the new Park Hyatt Istanbul—Maçka Palas, a techie marvel in the high-fashion district of Nisantasi. Opened in November 2008 in a palazzo-inspired Art Deco building, the hotel has 90 rooms, tricked out with hi-tech gadgetry: JBL On Time iPod docking stations, DVD players, a Smartbox (hiding multiple adapters and the like) and black-out curtains controlled by a panel at the bed. Coolest of all: the water filtration system in the bathrooms, so guests can fill up a glass pitcher instead of generating waste with more plastic bottles. Fittingly, the famous Turkish DJ Mercan Dede made the soundtrack for the hotel, while Moving Design custom-created the eye-catching videos that play on the Philips flat-screen TVs.
We loved the Spa Rooms, an innovative room category. Spa-like bathrooms focus on five bathing experiences with a rain shower, steam room, hammam, soaking tub and colored light therapy. Amenities are by Blaise Mautin, the perfume-maker for Chanel. Five premium suites are located on the top (8th) floor and boast a private terrace and Dornbracht RainSky shower. Top Digs: The sprawling Presidential Suite, which occupies two floors and is accessed by its own private elevator. Contact Sales Manager Mina Ertem ([email protected]; 011-90-212-373-3713) for VIP bookings.
A homage to contemporary luxury, the hotel has an array of decadent offerings, including the Payot Spa, gym, pool terrace, and Prime Steakhouse, the best in town. Head Concierge Koray Tüfekçi ([email protected]; 011-90-212-315-1234) and Guest Service Manager Antony Doucet ([email protected]) can arrange just about anything for your clients—from tailored city tours to personal assistant service. Guests also have private cars at their disposal.
|Dining Patrons at Park Hyatt Istanbul can enjoy a meal from The Prime restaurant alfresco.|
Spa junkies will bliss out at the new Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul at the Bosphorus, a former Ottoman palace in a prime location not far from all the glam Golden Mile nightclubs. Spanning
22,605 square feet, the spa has nine treatment rooms, a VIP suite, and steam room and sauna.
Lit from above and flanked by columns, the indoor pool has underwater music. Your clients can get scrubbed down, Turk-style, in one of three luxurious hammams with a full body exfoliation followed by a massage and facial.
The Four Seasons is a gleaming vision in marble. Understandably, the hotel’s waterfront terrace is a favorite spot for weddings. The shimmering pool seems to float on the Bosphorus with the hills on the Asian shore as a backdrop. At night, the area is lit by flaming torches, a hedonistic playground at the water’s edge. It’s easy to see why celebs like Lenny Kravitz and Eva Mendes have chosen to stay there. Trendsetting locals adore the jetset scene; insiders tell us that the Sunday brunch and high tea are quite popular.
The hotel is managed by Marcos Bekhit, who opened the original Four Seasons in Istanbul in 1996, smack dab in the middle of Istanbul’s top historic marvels. The new Four Seasons opened in June 2008, after a nine-year restoration. Of all the elegant rooms, the Atik Pasha Suite is the crème de la crème. Palace rooms in the historic palace building are the most requested because of their high ceilings, while Palace Bosphorus rooms have full views of the domes and minarets of Old Town across the Strait of Bosphorus. For a spectacular rooftop terrace, book a Palace Roof Suite. Luxury travel advisors may contact Reservations Manager Nese Guner ([email protected]) or Sales Manager Kemal Bayik ([email protected]) for VIP bookings. To arrange an airport transfer in a luxury car, contact Concierge Halil Tinaztepe ([email protected]).
The banks of the Bosphorus are lined with yalis, or waterside mansions, once used as summer residences for the Ottoman elite. As the former mansion of an 18th-century Pasha, the 10-suite Hotel Les Ottomans ranks among these, and today is firmly planted in its Turkish setting with lavish furnishings and period décor. Owner Ahu Aysal-Kerimoglu enlisted famous art historians and Turkish designers in the renovation project. As befits a waterfront setting, the hotel has its own private boat.
Since the hotel opened three years ago, it’s seen a parade of celebrities pass through its doors, including Kevin Costner and Daniel Day-Lewis. Appropriately, each sumptuous suite is named after the mothers of different sultans. We checked out No. 108, where Paris Hilton once stayed, which is an enormous two-bedroom duplex with abundant sea views. The bathroom is just as indulgent as the furnishings, with 16 karat gold bath fixtures, a Jacuzzi overlooking the Bosphorus, and Hermès bath products. We loved the slippers decorated with feathers and an evil eye. Needless to say, butler service and free massages (for a 3-night stay) number among the pampering perks. Contact Müjgan Ünalan (muj[email protected]; 011-90-212-359-1500), rooms division manager, for bookings.
The Caudalíe Vinothérapie Spa is likewise fit for a sultan and boasts the Caudalíe line, which harnesses the antioxidant power of grapes. Signature treatments include the Sauvignon massage and Crushed Cabernet Scrub.
When creating itineraries for Istanbul, keep in mind that the busiest tourist seasons are April and May, and September and October.
Dining in Istanbul
Recommend a meal at Feriye for a glamorous evening on the Bosphorus. While your clients dive into a delicious array of hot and cold mezes, followed by glorious seafood, they can watch the passing yachts sail into the sunset. From its rooftop perch above the Richmond Hotel in the happening Beyoglu neighborhood, Leb-i Derya offers unbeatable views and a hip ambiance. An Ottoman feast at Asitane is not to be missed. Situated in an off-the-beaten-path neighborhood next to the Chora Church (famed for its Byzantine mosaics), Asitane serves up authentic Ottoman palace cuisine. As the empire once spanned three continents, stretching from southern Russia to the Maghreb, the palace kitchens were full of diverse ingredients. Rare recipes are revived in the kitchen at Asitane, like Mutanjene, a recipe dating from 1539 consisting of diced lamb with dried apricots, raisins, honey and almonds baked in a casserole. Clients with a sweet tooth will want to stop at Karaköy Güllüoglu for the best baklava in the city.
Karen Fedorko Sefer, president of Sea Song Tours, is a wealth of information about Turkey. Starting with VIP airport service, Sea Song’s itineraries are customized based on clients’ interests, whether that be archeology or cuisine. Sefer can arrange special openings of historic sites, even when closed, for private events or tours. “My favorite new restaurant is at the Four Seasons Hotel at the Bosphorus, right on the water—it’s equally good for breakfast, lunch or dinner,” she tells Luxury Travel Advisor. “The hotel is also quite nice. Mikla is another favorite; it’s an eclectic Turkish-Scandinavian mix, with the best views in all of Istanbul.” Location is key when choosing a hotel for clients who haven’t been to Istanbul before, so Sefer prefers spots on the European side of the city, close to all the major sights. “My favorite little hotel in Sultanahmet is the brand-new Ottoman Imperial right next to the Hagia Sophia; most rooms have beautiful views right on the Hagia Sophia. The service is excellent.”
|The Kosem Sultan Suite at Hotel Les Ottomans has a Bosphorus view.|