Recently I ventured to Istanbul for the first time in my life. Turkey used to be one of the few destinations that I was a bit reluctant to go because it seems fairly exotic to the Western eye and the language is all different from what we would speak anywhere else in Europe.
Anyway, I somehow managed to talk myself into this adventure and all of a sudden I was there in the whirlwind taxi traffic from the airport to an outstanding oasis of classy style by the Bosphorus.
Check out how that feels Istanbul style…
The House Hotel Bosphorus
The House Hotel Bosphorus is a deluxe hotel in Istanbul’s lively Ortaköy district with breathtaking views of the Bosphorus. The classy building consists of the landmark Simon Kalfa building and the historical mansion next to it built in the 19th century.
What may look too ‘old fashioned classy’ to the untrained eye was internally renovated by the internationally acclaimed Istanbul design firm Autoban. They transformed the hotel into a luxury design boutique hotel of 26 rooms. With its restored original features The House Hotel Bosphorus nicely combines historical glamour with contemporary design. No wonder renowned Tatler Travel Guide named The House Bosphorus among their 101 Best Hotels in the World 2012.
Among the many amazing ‘special effects’ you will easily remark the wildly soft towels. What a start into a new day…
Another ‘special’ is served at breakfast. The buffet is varied and nicely inspired by oriental ingredients.
Instead of the usual omelette ask the waiter for a Menemen! Eggs and pepperonis will be mixed with the freshest tomatoes you have ever tasted. Unless you have access to your own Tuscan garden, of course. Very yummy!
The restaurant’s elegant French cutlery by Guy Degrenne will do the sleek finish to fine cuisine. The exceptional view of the Bosphorus also helps, doesn’t it?
Ortaköy District by the Bosphorus Bridge
Mind you, Ortaköy is a lively Istanbul area right on the Bosphorus with restaurants, cafes and a wide range of stores and clubs. At night it can be fairly noisy, hence bringing your earplugs is a good idea.
Across the square from The House Hotel Bosphorus are the landmarks Ortaköy Mosque and the Bosphorus Bridge. The suspension bridge is impressive already but at night it becomes the inevitable eye catcher.
And during the day the hotel offers one of the most iconic views of Istanbul.
As you can tell from the photograph the hotel is not situated in the city center. First I thought I would have an issue with that. But not at all! Taxis take you everywhere pretty quickly and at low cost. But I’ll come to that later…
I’m not sure whether as an accredited travel blogger I was enjoying a standard procedure or an especially pampering treat, but the bottle of Turkish wine The House offered at the hotel room was remarkable! The Anatolian “Ancyra” Merlot from 2011 tastes wonderful and compares nicely with more renowned wines from prominent wine regions.
What to do in Istanbul
Obviously The House’s concierges will be helpful in explaining Istanbul’s highlights based on your interest. And they will also hand you little notes with addresses on them to give to the taxi drivers, for their English is not too great. To put it mildly…
If you care for the ‘real’ thing and want to check out a hamam, check-in at Aya Sofya Hamami. As it’s name suggests it is located just opposite the Hagia Sophia and next to the Blue Mosque. You can’t miss it.
Contrary to European hamam interpretations – mostly dark and smallish – Aya Sofya Hamami is large and bright. And men and women enjoy separated stays. Book a personal therapist that will give you the cleaning treatment and rub off old skin. Afterwards he’ll also give you a massage right in the hamami.
It’s an awesome experience! But, as a word of caution, only go there if you can stand the heat… Their sauna doesn’t show any sign of steam, you just sit on bright white marble and look around. Until you realize that the marble is fairly hot and when the therapist – Omur in my case – returned after 10 minutes I felt I had just endured the longest ten minutes of my whole life!
And when he afterwards lulled me into warm foam I thought I would never want to see warm water again, ever! That made me feel pretty manly, of course, so I suffered through more of this danger-guy stuff…
Gorgeous! Must-do when in Istanbul ;-)
Go by Taksi
I took to several taxi rides. Yes, it’s a bit of an adventure, and an unforgettable one for that matter… absolutely commendable. Traffic conditions allowing they take you to anywhere in NO time. Guess how…
The streetcar panned out for me too, but the taxi rides were way more impressive… If you’re familiar with German you may want to read my other review that is dedicated to Istanbul’s taxis.
The Spice Market is very authentic in that I could hardly spot any tourists here. Mingle with the locals and admire the bustling streets in this vibrant district.
Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque
Shopping is best in the Galatasaray district. Where, by the way, The House has yet another renowned property called Galatasaray. I haven’t visited this one just yet but everyone I talked to was aware of and a vivid admirer of The House hotel group. Apparently they have a very good reputation and are about to open properties on Istanbul’s Asian shore, too.
A thousand thanks to Manuela Weber from Cinnamon Circle for making this stay possible! And another thousand thanks to elegant Frenchman Antony Doucet, The House Hotel’s director of sales, marketing and communication for showing me around and hinting me to Menemen and the hamam!
We posted some more impressions via our Flickr gallery: