There are many reasons to visit the largest city in Turkey… Istanbul is undoubtedly a city full of history and tradition. The majority of these traditions are still relevant today, and you can discover all of their subtleties when walking through Old Town. The cultural influences of the many empires that ruled Istanbul are still omnipresent throughout the historic part of the city. Visit one of the many Ottoman Empire relics of the pasts, such as the Toptaki Palace; and beautiful mosques like the iconic Hagia Sophia Mosque to find yourself transported back in time.
A trip on the Bosphorus, the mythic water stream that divides the city (the European portion and the Asian portion) is also a must-visit. Ferries and pleasure boats let you appreciate the majestic scenery on both sides of the shore, and do not forget to cross the bridge to visit Asia for a few minutes simply because you can. This is Istanbul, after all, a city of many contrasts.
Ciragan Palace Kempinski
You can find a number of luxury hotels that offer all the comforts and amenities you could ever need, but few have as much history and prestige as the Ciragan Palace Kempinski. This 17th century palace built on the shores of the mythic Bosphorus is the only imperial palace from the Ottoman Empire that was converted into a hotel. It was originally converted in 1991 by the Kempinski Group; and then the latest renovation includes the addition of an annex, which today serves as the hotel’s main building with 310 rooms and 20 suites. The Palace now houses the 11 presidential suites and the exquisite Tugra restaurant that serves upscale and gourmet Turkish cuisine.
Today, the Ciragan Palace has retained its splendor and welcomes a new outdoor bar, The Monkey Bar, to enjoy the spectacular view of the “Europe/Asia” bridge and the Bosphorus as well as a spa, an outdoor pool and a restaurant that overlooks the water. The rooms have retained the historical charm with subtle reminders of the Ottoman culture. Ciragan Palace is magical, and perfect for those wishing to experience an authentic and royal stay.
Raffles Istanbul is also a great option in Istanbul, but is also a more modern approach to luxury. The third European hotel of the prestigious Raffles hotel chain is absolutely spectacular. It was built in 2013 as part of the new Zorlu neighbourhood, which can be compared to Hudson Yards for New York. Raffles Istanbul reflects the neighborhood that houses it: luxurious, technological, gigantic, grandiose and completely modern. Unlike Old Town, you are catapulted into the future in this area where you enjoy modern skyscrapers, designer shops and trendy restaurants and bars. It is like being in another city, even more, in another country.
Raffles Istanbul was built to complement the mega-project and ultra-technologic Zorlu inaugurated in 2014 in the high hills overlooking the city. The building still feels brand new, and the rooms are ultra modern, up-to-date, and much larger than what you will find in the old city. On site, guests have direct access to the shopping center and the many attractions of the district. As an added bonus, guests can also enjoy Isokyo, which obtained 4 petals to the Turkish Guide (equivalent of the Guide Michelin), and is the highest distinction for an Asian restaurant. What else can you expect while at Raffles Istanbul? There is a spectacular spa with indoor and outdoor pool, steam room and high-end treatments; a lobby where you can enjoy tea (afternoon tea is served everyday); and hotel rooms that offer the latest technology, a large balcony and floor-to-ceiling windows.
Raffles Istanbul is an excellent choice if you are looking to discover a city in an entirely different way, while not being too far out of your comfort zone. Regardless of how you choose to discover Istanbul–modern or historical–you will be completely captivated, seduced, shocked and transported while experiencing the Istanbul effect.