Art-filled, luxurious contemporary property overlooking the Bosphorus
Spacious rooms with fantastic urban and water vistas from balconies
Individual butler service and tablet controls in each room
Indoor pool with atrium; outdoor pool with panoramic views
24-hour wood-paneled fitness center with a variety of equipment
Eight bars and restaurants including a Michelin-starred dining room
Largest spa of any five-star property in Istanbul
Live music nightly in the bars
Ballroom for 1,200 and personalized service in seven meeting rooms
Babysitting and free children's club activities
Free Wi-Fi, parking, and coffee and tea in lobby
Top tourist sights are about 30 minutes away by car
Decor may lack subtlety for some
Raffles Istanbul is a five-pearl property with dramatic, art-filled interiors situated in an upscale mall and residential complex, about a 30-minute drive from the top tourist sights. Its 185 rooms and suites have floor-to-ceiling windows (many with sweeping city and water views), balconies, butler service, and tablet controls. The hotel has a serene indoor pool with an atrium and an outdoor pool with stunning views and a bar. Its eight restaurants and bars include a Michelin-starred dining room serving Catalan food, while the enormous spa offers an array of treatments. Design-centric interiors and ultra-attentive service draw well-heeled tourists and business travelers, but those seeking something closer to the top sights might want to consider the Sura Hagia Sophia Hotel -- though rooms aren't as spacious and don't come with as many amenities.
Opulent interiors, views, and service for the pampered crowd
Befitting the Raffles line of hotels, the Istanbul location invested heavily in providing a luxury environment, from its lavish, design-centric interiors to its attentive service and attention to detail. The hotel attracts a well-heeled crowd of international tourists and business travelers who don't mind being a bit far from the tourist areas. It's set inside Zorlu, a high-end mall with shops and residential units. Its lobby is triple height with black marble columns and lighting fixtures resembling gold fishing nets in dangling gilt frames. The sharply angled space is scented with flowers and dominated by Lavinia, a restaurant/bar with a mammoth sculpture. There's also a 14-panel photo installation that's a contemporary homage to Istanbul's architectural history.
The hotel has eight restaurants and bars, from Rocca serving nouveau Turkish cuisine to the Writer's Bar, a Raffles staple, with its book jackets wrapped in white paper and cocktails named after novels. There are bars with live music and lighting fixtures resembling jellyfish, as well as a bistro on a chic contemporary terrace. The outdoor pool has a stone terrace and panoramic view of the city, while the indoor pool, with its atrium-sited sculpture and moody lighting, conjures a grotto. With a ballroom that seats 1,200 and dramatic interiors around every marble and glass corner, Raffles Istanbul is meant to be a bold and expensive advertisement for modern Turkey.
On the western side of the Bosphorus Strait, a bit far from tourist sights
Raffles Istanbul is in Levent, a neighborhood of skyscrapers and high-end residential apartments that's on the western side of the Bosphorus Strait, north of the Golden Horn. Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge is a 10-minute drive, while Sirkeci railway station is about 20 minutes away by car. It's a 10- to 15-minute drive to the center of the Beyoglu neighborhood and its bohemian restaurants and shops. The Old City and its historic sights are about a 30- to 40-minute drive, including the Topkapi Palace, an opulent campus of Ottoman buildings, the intricately tiled Blue Mosque, the delicate minarets of the Hagia Sophia, and the Grand Bazaar. Ataturk International Airport is a 30- to 50-minute drive, depending on traffic.
Chic, spacious rooms with floor-to-ceiling windows and modern amenities
Guest rooms at Raffles Istanbul are spacious, with floor-to-ceiling windows letting in plenty of light and offering views of the ancient city and the waters around it. Resembling chic, urban apartments, the spaces are drenched in creamy shades accented with jewel tones, like a turquoise Oriental rug, abstract art on the walls, or vivid pink flowers. The look is contemporary and luxurious, with touches of exotic Eastern decor: a pierced silver lamp, a colored glass pendant light, or a Moorish coffered ceiling mixed with drum lanterns and sleek modern desks. Guests describe the rooms as pin-drop quiet and say the beds are "cloud-like." There is a personal butler assigned for each room, able to provide hypoallergenic bedding or delicacies from the on-site pastry shop. The in-room tablets operate as the control panel for everything from the temperature to the drapes, and they include various digital news periodicals. Each room has air-conditioning, minibars, espresso machines, black-out drapes, flat-screen TVs, and laptop safes. All rooms also have some outdoor space -- either small or large terraces -- often furnished with contemporary wicker pieces, while some of the upper-category rooms have larger balconies with views of the modern city in one direction and the Bosphorus in the other. The bathrooms also have views, albeit shadowed by sheers. Porcelain sinks are imbedded in marble counters. The floors are heated and the contemporary fixtures include deep soaking tubs (sometimes jetted), bidets, aromatherapy toiletries, and hairdryers. There are also cotton bathrobes and slippers on hand.
Five-pearl amenities include eight restaurants and bars, indoor and outdoor pools, and a spa
The hotel offers a full and luxurious array of five-pearl amenities, including eight bars and restaurants. Arola is its Michelin-starred, Catalan-focused dining room, while Lavinia Lounge serves light meals and drinks. Rocca, a nouveau Turkish restaurant, decorated in a sophisticated palette of pewter and cream, has all day dining. There are Raffles icons like the Writer's Bar, with a design-centric take on the traditional literary motif: colorful, contemporary leather armchairs and book jackets wrapped in white paper, as well as the Long Bar, with its jellyfish-like glass lights. The hotel serves food and drinks on several terraces, including the patio of the outdoor pool. On any given night, there will be live music in one of the bars. The lobby also has free tea, coffee, and newspapers throughout the day; the pretty Raffles Patisserie is nearby. Room service is available 24/7.
The spa is massive with nine treatment rooms offering everything from body wraps to Ayurvedic massages. It includes two Vichy showers, four saunas, four steam rooms, two whirlpools, and four hammams, plus there's a hair salon. The indoor pool feels like a hidden grotto and includes wide loungers draped in terry-cloth towels, while the outdoor pool is surrounded by loungers and stadium seating. High on a hill in Istanbul, the pool appears to float above the Bosphorus. The hotel also has a 24-hour fitness center with cardio machines, weight machines, and free weights, and for a fee, personal trainers.
Personal butlers are included in room rates, plus there's an extensive concierge service for restaurant and transportation reservations. The hotel offers free children's activities and babysitting, for a fee. Guests with children report that practical needs, like extra bibs or baby carriers, are available to borrow. There is a huge ballroom -- weddings are a Raffles specialty -- as well as a boardroom for 10 people. A business center has computers, fax, and copier machines, plus Wi-Fi is free throughout. The hotel provides luggage storage, a safety deposit box, and for a fee, laundry and dry cleaning.