There are few places quite as beguiling as Istanbul, with its grand minareted mosques, spice-laden bazaars, and heaving streets where stalls alternate between selling fine carpets, baklava and hand-painted ceramics. This is the tableau that awaits when you check in to Raffles, Turkey’s first outpost from the boutique hotel brand and the country’s only lodgings with a Forbes Five-Star rating.
There’s certainly no forgetting where you are. The lobby’s gasp-inducing Byzantine-style columns are rich with gold mosaics, while geometric patterns above windows evoke the Selchuck era. Throughout, spaces are decorated with more than 224 commissioned paintings, sculptures and photographs, showcasing the country through the eyes of local creatives.
The 251 rooms and residences have the feel of a modern pasha’s digs, from the lashings of silks in jewel tones to the lanterns, traditional Turkish textiles and collection of handicrafts. Step onto your private balcony and you’ll enjoy uninterrupted vistas of the Bosphorus River, its bridges linking Asia with Europe.
The tower is part of the new Zorlu Center, a mammoth 21st-century bazaar lined with boldface-name retailers, galleries and some of the city’s most upmarket eateries. Among the collection are flagship outlets from Turkish artisan Sevan Bıçakçı, whose jewels are the envy of celebrities around the world, as well as local fashion label İpekyol, known for its use of bold colours and prints. Italian marketplace concept Eatlay also has an outpost here, with a Turkish twist. The hotel’s own patisserie spills into the centre as well, giving guests and passers-by access to rose- and tahini-scented macarons, and “ruby” chocolate made from a naturally pink powder extracted from cacao.
No Raffles experience is complete without a drink at the Long Bar, a tribute to the legendary bar of the first Raffles hotel in Singapore. The one in Istanbul plays with flavours of the country in it signature Bosphorus Sling. Like its wildly popular sister, the Singapore Sling, this fruity tall drink has a gin and cherry base, but mixologists give it Turkish flair by adding fresh pomegranate juice and house-made hibiscus grenadine.
If none of that pleases, the two pools, expansive spa with marble hammams, stellar Pan-Asian restaurant Isokyo and rooftop helipad surely will.
Rates start from €450 (about A$728) per room, per night.
Find out more: raffles.com/istanbul