I hadn’t been to Istanbul in 10 years and was pleasantly surprised at how much the city has progressed. The most striking difference can be seen along the shores of the Bosphorus – which separates Europe from Asia.
The Ortakoy district is delightful at night and full of pretty and prosperous people. This hopping waterfront district features a number of private clubs (which we our local representatives can get you into), sidewalk cafés and chic restaurants. The view of the mosque and colored bridge at night is great. I especially enjoyed Anjelique(photo on right)
which has nice terraces, a good bar and great waterfront views. It is owned by the Istanbul Doors group – who also own Vogue (nice roof-top restaurant with great 360* views), Zuma (good fusion food and waterfront location), Kitchenette (decent food and central Taksim Square location) and Ajia – a pretentious and rather shabby hotel and restaurant further down on the Asian side that has not weathered well, despite the AAA 5* signature plaque.
For European guests into nightlife, the stylish 4-star SAS-Radisson at Ortaköy, popular with Scandinavians, is a good option. However, it might be less suitable for Americans, as the rooms are a tad small.
Not far away from Ortaköy are two sublime waterfront hotels which we highly recommend – Hotel les Ottomans and Sumahan on the Water. I much preferred these to the Kempinski and new Four Seasons on the Bosphorus.
HOTEL LES OTTOMANS (5-star)
As the President of a niche-luxury travel company, I have visited and stayed at many hotels. This one bowled me over – really! I felt like I was staying in my own apartment. One does not feel smothered – but does feel at home.
Sheer elegance. As you enter, you know that this is a project of passion and love. There is nothing commercial about it. The staff is attentive, yet discreet. The décor is tasteful. The food is superb. The Feng Shui spa, which features Caudalie Vinotherapie, is redolent and relaxing. There are two pools – one indoor and the other outdoor – a private pier, boats, a Jazz bar (the suite adjoining it is lovely but could be noisy) and a lovely terrace restaurant.
The ten suites are gorgeous and each one is unique. Slate tiles, granite, silk curtains, hardwood floors, gorgeous linens and design furniture. You can have a room, a duplex or a two-bedroom apartment if that’s what you’re looking for.
Apparently, the owner (an elegant Turkish lady who lived most of her life in Europe) chooses who can stay and who cannot. You’d be surprised at some of the people turned away. It is truly extraordinary. This is where Kate Moss and Diana Ross stay.
Don’t even ask about prices unless you can afford it. Forget the hype of Dubai – if there is a 6/7/8-star hotel, this is it!
SUMAHAN ON THE WATER (5-star)
I just fell in love with this place the minute I stepped ashore. We took their private motorboat there – I almost felt like I was in Venice. The hotel is on the Asian side just across the river from Les Ottomans.
There are several nice waterfront restaurants and a spa (although no pool) on premises. One can travel to the old city and even the airport by motorboat, which – given Istanbul traffic – is a Godsend.
The hotel is fabulous and sports unparalleled views of the Bosphorus and Istanbul. There are duplex rooms, junior suites with high ceilings and nice double rooms – all with water views. Most rooms have a functioning fireplace for the cold season and all have A/C for the heat of summer. The spa, though small, is tasteful and redolent with essences from the orient. Their café on the Bosphorus is great. The lobby and library is amazing.
The clientele is mostly posh Europeans (especially Italian, British and French), but upscale Americans would approve. I could stay there for a month!