Istanbul’s Indulgences


With a sizzling hotel scene, Istanbul tops the list of 2013’s hot destinations. Luxury travelers are spoiled for choice as all the major international hotel chains, not to mention boutique brands, have set their sights on the ancient city that famously straddles two continents. We’ve heard rumors that Morgans Hotel Group is scouting turf for a new Mondrian hotel. And insiders tell us that Mama Shelter—the cool brand launched by the Trigano family (the founders of Club Med), philosopher Cyril Aouizerate, and designer Philippe Starck—is also eyeing Istanbul for a future location. 


MARTI ISTANBUL'S Corner Suites are decked out with custom-designed furniture.

The wave of newcomers includes the world’s only Edition (a knockout hotel with a screening room, three-story spa by ESPA, and Cipriani restaurant), and the reincarnated Pera Palace, originally built in 1892 to host passengers of the Orient-Express and now managed by Jumeirah. (Guests can relive the glory days of luxury travel with the ghosts of former guests like Greta Garbo, Ernest Hemingway, and Agatha Christie, who wrote Murder on the Orient Express while bunking in Room 411.) 

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Bathrooms will sprawl average 108 square feet at the hotel.
Bathrooms will sprawl average 108 square feet at the hotel.

Another notable contender is the Marti Istanbul Hotel, which celebrated its grand opening in January 2013. What distinguishes this five-star hotel is its Turkish design, envisioned by Zeynep Fadillioglu (the first woman to design a mosque). The Quad Restaurant & Bar is decked out with an Ottoman tent; the spa and suites are equipped with authentic marble hammams; and the sumptuous public spaces are adorned with an impressive collection of Turkish art. Well-connected Concierge Mehmet Sahinoglu is known to pull strings for guests looking for unique insider experiences and access to the city’s hot spots—like Ulus 29. For VIP bookings, contact Reservations Manager Belma Kilic ([email protected]; 011-90-212-987-4000.



As a 30-year veteran in the travel industry and a top specialist for Turkey, Earl Starkey knows Istanbul’s hotel scene inside and out. Splitting his time between New York and Turkey, Earl founded Sophisticated-Travel in 2002 to provide tailored trips combined with concierge-type service. “It is a really exciting time to come to Istanbul. The city is just so happening, and besides the new hotels we are having a complete renaissance in art, food and wine. We still don’t have enough five-star hotels in Istanbul—they were full in December—so we are happy that so many new places are opening.” Chief among these is the Shangri-La, for which Starkey is on the advisory board. “The location is great, right on the Bosphorus at Besiktas. The rooms are going to be the largest in Istanbul; 14 suites will have their own terraces overlooking the Bosphorus and they will not be super-priced as a lot of Istanbul’s suites are. I know the Shangri-La staff and I’m convinced that guests are going to get service to rival any hotel in Istanbul.” Regarding other new hotels, Starkey continues to be impressed with the Pera Palace. “It is so beautiful and authentic. Because it’s a historic building, the Golden Horn View rooms are small, but the Pierre Loti Suite has Golden Horn and Sultanahmet views, and is reasonably priced.”

Insider Tips

“The Georges Hotel in trendy Galata is getting great reviews. The House Hotel Bosphorus is really popular with the hip, young crowd in a fabulous location in Ortakoy. It is next to a discotheque so it can be noisy but they have built some rooms across the street that are much quieter. The Edition is a good choice for business travelers because it’s in the business district of Levent—a little out of the way for tourists. It’s luxurious and has an unbelievable spa. Near Taksim, the new Marti has an excellent general manager in Sedat Nemli. The rooms are huge and beautiful, while the restaurant is getting great reviews. Also the Divan Istanbul has gone through a complete renovation that was very tastefully done.”

“At the moment I still think the Park Hyatt—in the upscale Nisantasi district—has the most beautiful rooms in Istanbul, even though it is not near the sea. Some of the suites have terraces with magnificent Bosphorus views.”

 This spring Shangri-La will become the first Asian hospitality brand to arrive in the buzzing metropolis, heralding a new generation of ultra-luxury hotels. (Our anticipation of the Shangri-La Istanbul can only be matched by excitement about its sister property in London, which will occupy floors 34 to 52 of the Shard, Europe’s tallest building.) The Shangri-La Bosphorus will command an enviable location between the famous Dolmabahce Palace and the Naval Museum in the Besiktas district on the city’s European shore. “It’s physically the closest hotel to the waterfront with more than 60 percent of its rooms having a panoramic view of the Bosphorus. The seven silhouettes of Istanbul are also visible from our 169 rooms and 17 suites,” explained General Manager Sinan Yilmaz ([email protected]). Shangri-La’s first hotel in Turkey is housed on the site of a historic tobacco warehouse; hence the construction has re-created the original façade, building six of the hotel’s 13 storeys underground.


SHANGRI-LA BOSPHORUS will boast splendid panoramic views of the Bosphorus.

The Shangri-La aims to raise the stakes with its superlative service standards, “combining Turkish hospitality with the gracious and enchanting Asian manner,” Yilmaz said. It’s the small pleasures that count: the Shangri-La welcome tea served in-room; fruit basket replenished daily; pillow menu; BVLGARI Green Tea bath amenities; complimentary Internet and Nespresso coffee machines—all garnishing the most spacious guest rooms in the city (453 square foot minimum). Other tempting distractions in-house will include CHI, The Spa at Shangri-La, and a health club with an indoor swimming pool. Connoisseurs of gourmet Cantonese cuisine will prize Shang Palace, the brand’s trademark restaurant drooled over by foodies around the world. 

Booking Tip: Besides the suites, the Grand Premier Bosphorus Rooms will be sought-after because of their private terraces accessed by floor-to-ceiling windows. Contact Director of Sales and Marketing Stanley Tan ([email protected]) for reservations for your VIPs.


THE QUAD RESTAURANT & BAR at Marti Istanbul has an impressive interior structure.

Hot on the heels of Shangri-La, Raffles will unveil a $175 million luxury hotel in the summer. Raffles Istanbul will be a cornerstone of the Zorlu Center, a mixed-use development that’s one of the biggest new urban projects in recent years, and a symbol of Turkey’s booming economy. Spread over almost 1.1 million square feet, the center has the lofty goal of combining five functions: a shopping mall, luxury hotel, offices, upscale residences, and—the star attraction—a $300 million performing arts center.

Back in 2011, The New York Times described Zorlu Property’s ambition in democratizing a private development for the public to enjoy. Zorlu aims to create a new urban center—like a lushly landscaped Taksim Square—in the Zincirlikuyu district on the European side of the city. The site itself was purchased in 2007 for $800 million.

With lofty views of the Bosphorus, Raffles Istanbul Zorlu Center will bring all the exceptional Raffles signatures to Turkey (like individual butler service, and the classic cocktail, the Singapore Sling, invented at the hotel’s flagship). Expect a first-rate kitchen, sparkling swimming pools, and high-profile events hosted in the 1,200-capacity ballroom. At more than 32,000 square feet, the Raffles Spa is expected to be one of the largest in Istanbul. Jet-setters can arrive in style at the hotel’s heliport. Another perk is direct access to the buzzed-about performing arts center. For VIP bookings, contact Lisa Pile ([email protected]; 011-65-6339-1713), executive director, sales and marketing, Raffles Hotels & Resorts. 


RAFFLES ISTANBUL will be a cornerstone of the Zorlu Center, a mixed-use development that’s a symbol of Turkey’s booming economy.

Looking ahead to 2014: Viceroy will continue its global expansion by planting its flag in Turkey. The brand is in the process of transforming an Ottoman-era monastery into a hilltop urban resort overlooking the Bosphorus. The Viceroy Istanbul will debut in the same breath as the Viceroy Bodrum, an 84-room resort complete with private beach club and spa on the Turkish Riviera.

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