In Istanbul, everything has a story. I think part of the reason I loved this city so much was the fact that like my adopted country of Italy, Istanbul is brimming with a rich history. Instead of Renaissance families, the past is mingled with Ottoman princes.
Our week this past January was nothing short of a mystical ‘east meets west’ dream, we delved into centuries of history all while hungrily feasting on anything we came across, from Byzantine art to delicious Turkish ‘Menemen’ eggs. We discovered Istanbul by neighborhood, experienced a traditional hammam and naturally partied like it was 1999 on New Year’s Eve at awesome restaurant Asitane. This isn’t the kind of city that you can easily leave behind, it remains embedded in your soul like a simmering thought. And since being back in Florence, I have already started plotting our return.
We stayed in an apartment for most of the week, in the Cihangir district of the city and planned to stay at The Four Seasons Hotel along the Bosphorous (there are two fs locations in the city). Looking back, I am so very happy that we decided to leave this treat for the end because after conquering the cities steep hills, or rather having them counqer us. We needed a little pampering and this was the proverbial icing on the cake to a dream week walking steep hills and discovering little neighborhoods.
The Four Seasons Hotel on the Bosphorus was a former 19th century Ottoman palace and sits on the river’s bank on the European side. A compliment to Turkish design with a creative and modern interior featuring traditional artworks. Staying here is akin to feeling like royalty and many society weddings are held in this location, plus I was staying in the same place as Sarah Jessica Parker.
Actually entering almost made me nervous, it feels and looks very expensive, and stays true to the Four Season’s mantra of superb service, intuitive is the only way I can describe it. The beautiful 190-meter waterfront terrace is romantically lit-up at night and though it was pouring rain when we were there in early January, I could see just how nice it would be to sit out here and have a drink watching boats ferry from one continent to another.
Our room was outfitted in everything you would expert a luxury hotel to have, comfortable and very sophisticated, It was my idea of perfection. Beautiful slippers already placed beside the bed (which yes, I took back to Italy), a welcome note signed with our names with a bowl of shiny fresh fruit, a beautiful Turkish-designed robe for the spa, large marble bathroom with both tub and shower. Plus a view that would take a Sultan’s breath away.
Our room was fit for a kind, queen and anyone else who appreciates luxury digs
Since we planned on ‘staying in’ this last night, after a full week of sightseeing, I wanted to bask in the glory of this hotel. We headed down to the spa area for a swim in the mosaic indoor pool which besides glittering in beauty, also had a musical touch because underwater you can hear music. I don’t think I have ever seen (or probably a better word if heard) anything like it).
While we didn’t try their exclusive hammam (we went to Kılıç Ali Paşa Hamam in the center a few days before), I have been assured that it is one of the best in the city, I got a sneak peek at it and I could see how you could get lost in another century, plus you would have the experience all for yourself, no sharing!
That evening we dined in the in-house restaurant Aqua, serving up Italian and Mediterranean flavors and Turkish highlights. All sass and glass, the decor was consistent with the rest of the hotel, there was also an outdoor terrace where you can eat in the warmer months. The service at our dinner for two was remarkable, they were constantly present to advise us on wine, refill our water and offer to take our photo.
I appreciated the lavish attention also because the food was really quite good and in my opinion would fit a variety of different cultures. I needed a break from starchy carbs and cheese and instead opted for a beautiful seabass carpaccio with a flavorful tomato, orange and mint Salsa and a side salad while Nico opted for a risotto.
Before you think I am not the Georgette you know, I also ordered the grilled beef filet with a potato puree, spinach served with a red wine Sauce and my favorite béarnaise which was enough for two. We ordered a local Merlot which was the perfect ‘date’ for our last dinner in Istanbul, a dry yet interesting cherry flavor local to Turkey.
The next morning, we sampled the breakfast buffet which is located in the same area as dinner the night before. Even though it was before 7am and we had a flight to catch, I wanted to see what this buffet was all about. Though I ended up sticking mainly to fruit and my favorite clotted cream ‘kaymak’ served with local honey. Seriously I would go back to Istanbul just for that clotted cream and honey over a warm piece of toast, it is food nirvana.
Needless to say it was extremely hard to leave this hotel. In fact that would have needed to pry my cold, dead fingers off the door, I reluctantly hopped in a taxi (after given a few bottles of water by the doorman) to catch our flight back to Florence. Next up, I would love to visit the other Four Seasons Location in Sultanahmet, which is located in a former prison and also looks like a place you would go to jail over.
Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul At The Bosphorus
Address: Yıldız Mh., Çırağan Caddesi No:28, Beşiktaş / İstanbul, Turkey. Phone:+90 212 381 4000. Prices from €583 per night (high season)
What makes it stand out? Location! Being able to wake up and see across to Asia has some pretty awesome advantages, plus they also have a private dock to accommodate the ‘lifestyles of the rich and famous’ and can arrange (happily) for a private tour of the Bosphorus. The pool with underwater music is one of the prettiest indoor locations I have ever seen AND they also have an outdoor pool. For those who have more money than me ask to see the “Atik Pasha Suite” which includes its own private Turkish bath. This place is glitz, glam and everything nice.
Getting there: Take a taxi, it’s a heck of a lot cheaper and we never spent more than 15 euros a trip (unless going to the airport).
Disclaimer: Thank you to Four Seasons Bosphorus for hosting Nico and I for one night and offering dinner at the in-house Aqua restaurant. As you all know opinions are 100% my own.