Istanbul, Turkey has become one of my (and many other travelers’) favorite destinations. The mix of history, culture, friendly people, amazing food and a good tourist infrastructure make it a great exotic, yet accessible place to visit. I love how you can find fine dining and shopping plus a hot nightlife, yet be awakened each morning by the Muslim call to prayer broadcast across the city via speakers atop every mosque. On my last trip to Istanbul, I had the pleasure of staying at the Shangri-La Bosphorus for a luxurious, but brief visit in this historic city.
The Shangri-La sits along the Bosphorus in the Besiktas neighborhood on what has become luxury hotel row, with the Kempinski and the Four Seasons as neighbors. There is certainly enough room in this popular city for all of them, and they are soon to be joined by the new Raffles, also coming to Besiktas, opening in the fall of 2014.
I had a Deluxe Bosphorus Terrace Room (watch my room tour here), which was not huge, but complimented by a large outdoor terrace, overlooking the Bosphorus and the city beyond. The terrace had a table and chairs and was perfect for drinks or a private meal. The view went from the bridge, to Asia, to the Princes Islands and to Sultanahmet, a real panorama of the city. The bathroom was great, all marble with a separate shower and large tub.
As a five-star luxury hotel, the Shangri-La comes complete with all the necessary amenities. The 186 rooms and suites all have marble bathrooms (with Bvlgari toiletries) with heated floors, free high-speed, in-room WiFi, huge flat screen TVs with multiple international channels and 24-hour room service. Outside the luxurious rooms, there’s the CHI Spa, the first in Europe. The healing is inspired by Asian traditions and there are private suites and a full hammam or Turkish bath. There’s a well-equipped health club and indoor heated pool.
The hotel features a Shang Palace, which every Shangri-La hotel has. This is a gastronomic Chinese restaurant serving classic, Imperial Chinese cuisine. The restaurant has become extremely popular with the Istanbul foodie scene, in addition to hotel guests. In addition to Shang Palace, guests can visit IST TOO, the hotel’s Asian / Mediterranean fusion spot or SUSHI TOO, their sushi bar.
I am a big fan of the Hong Kong-based Shangri-La Hotels brand and have the opportunity to visit their properties all over the world. Intentionally, each location shares a similarity and Asian theme, blended with the local culture. It provides a wonderful familiarity and comfort for returning guests like me, regardless of which city you are in. The local, Turkish influence can be felt as well, with the Ottoman palace overall design, many of the pieces of art in the public spaces and the guestrooms and other design elements. The hotel creates a beautiful environment for guests with over 1,000 individual pieces of European and Asian art, placed throughout the interior. A silk painting almost 60′ tall hangs in the atrium.
Istanbul is now served by many airlines, I prefer Turkish Airlines, which goes direct from several US cities. Their Business Class experience is exceptional, with amazing Turkish service and food, complete with flying chefs on every flight. The Shangri-La Bosphorus is a $40 taxi ride from the airport.