Tried & Tested

Hotel review: Raffles Istanbul

30 Oct 2014 by Tom Otley
Raffles Istanbul swimming pool
BACKGROUND This five-star luxury hotel on the Bosphorus is the latest addition to the 11-strong Raffles brand, which, although still best known for its Singapore property, now has resorts and city hotels in Cambodia, China, France, the Philippines, Saudi Arabia, the Seychelles and the UAE. Jakarta follows in 2015. WHAT’S IT LIKE? Immensely impressive, from the crystal chandeliers, swathes of marble and large pool in the lobby, to the views of the Bosphorus from some of the guestrooms. Predominantly designed by Hirsch Bedner Associates, it seems to transform itself while you’re out for the day working or sightseeing, or sometimes even while you’re getting changed for dinner – a feat it achieves through a combination of clever creative touches and changing lighting. Although a modern new-build property, it isn’t anonymous, with Turkish and Ottoman elements woven throughout the fabric of the hotel and reflected in various works by local and international artists. The lobby has an abstract bronze by US sculptor Martin Dawe called Lavinia, inspired by a Turkish poem of the same name, and a collation of photos of the Topkapi Palace by France’s Jean-François Rauzier. WHERE IS IT? In Besiktas, on the European side of Istanbul, a five-minute drive to the Bosphorus and about 40 minutes (30km) to Ataturk International airport, traffic permitting. The hotel occupies the first 21 storeys of the 27-floor property (the top six are planned as Raffles Residences but are not yet open). It is attached to the new Zorlu Centre, a high-end shopping mall, and the Performing Arts Centre, where visiting productions such as Phantom of the Opera are staged. ROOM FACILITIES There are 181 rooms (including 49 suites), all of which are huge, ranging from the entry-level 63 sqm Deluxe rooms to the 416 sqm Raffles suite. They have free wifi, 24-hour butler service and views either out over the city or towards the Bosphorus. Ceilings feature geometric patterns and there is modern art on the walls, but the interiors are easy on the eye – pale wood flooring, good workdesks, comfortable chairs and high-quality bathrooms. Ortigia toiletries are provided in the suites and Aromatherapy Associates in lower categories. Smoking is allowed on the eighth and ninth floors, although all rooms have terraces or balconies. I found the electronic lighting controls difficult to use, and accidentally pressed the “do not disturb” sign – which might explain why no one other than myself entered the room for the two days I was there – but the service throughout was attentive, personalised and intuitive. RESTAURANTS AND BARS The two restaurants are very different in atmosphere and cuisine. The most notable is two-Michelin starred chef Sergi Arola’s eponymous Arola restaurant, although the all-day dining venue, Rocca, has a huge choice of food in the evening The bars range from Raffles’ signature Long Bar, made famous in Singapore (although, in fact, in this incarnation it isn’t long at all, but rather cosy), which contains a Champagne room, and the Writer’s Bar, the sort of place it would be good to try a Cognac or whisky and while away the evening in the autumn or winter while the Bosphorus gets choppy outside. BUSINESS AND MEETING FACILITIES There is a ballroom (seating 600 guests for a banquet) and several meeting rooms on the lower lobby level. LEISURE FACILITIES The 3,000 sqm Raffles Spa is located on the second floor and has three Turkish Hammams, two Couples suites, seven treatment rooms, steam rooms, saunas, vitality pools and a 17-metre lap pool. There is also an outdoor pool on the sixth floor. VERDICT A spectacular hotel that, once you’ve escaped Istanbul’s crawling, noisy traffic, proves difficult to leave, especially with such high-end shopping and dining available through a covered walkway. FACT FILE
  • HOW MANY ROOMS? 181 – 60 Deluxe, 50 Premier and 22 Signature rooms, and 15 Silhouette, ten Urban, 21 Horizon, two Continents and one Raffles suite.
  • HIGHLIGHTS The size of the rooms, the free and fast wifi, superb spa facilities, and the combination of modern art and intelligent lighting that creates a sense of occasion.
  • PRICE Internet rates for a midweek stay in December started from E355 for a Premier room.
  • CONTACT Raffles Istanbul, Zorlu Centre; tel +90 212 924 0200;
Tom Otley
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