Breaking Travel News investigates: Raffles Istanbul

Breaking Travel News investigates: Raffles Istanbul

As signoffs go, the Zorlu Centre in Istanbul is mighty impressive.

The final project and namesake of Hacı Mehmet Zorlu, founder of conglomerate Zorlu Holding, the development towers above the Turkish commercial capital, commanding views over the Bosporus and sprawling city below.

Home to four high-rise towers, three of which are private residences, and a luxury shopping arcade, the centrepiece is Raffles Istanbul – a spectacular hotel which welcomes discerning travellers from across the globe.

Dropping in for a two day visit earlier this month I was wowed right away by the stunning lobby.

More art gallery than hotel check-in, the space is home to a magnificent commissioned work by internationally-recognised French hyper-photo realist Jean-Francois Rauzier.

Rauzier describes his work as a “long-forgotten dream come to life,” and here the image of Dolmabahce Palace, an iconic Istanbul landmark, takes Raffles’ guests on what he hopes will be a “fascinating journey”.

Another important piece is an eight-metre high abstract bronze sculpture by artist Martin Dawe.

Inspired by a Turkish poem and titled Lavinia, it is located beside the entrance to the dining venue of the same name.

Both works are drawn from the extensive collection housed at Raffles Istanbul, with the public spaces of the hotel packed with specially commissioned pieces.

Many of these are by Turkish artists, others by artists inspired by the city: tactile sculptures, objets trouvés and contemporary interpretations of classic patterns, pieces inspired by fabulous Byzantine jewels – all bringing the ancient and modern together.

Raffles is also famed for its butler service, available to guests in every room category, rather than just in the high-end suites.

As a result, arrival is a breeze, with our personal assistant taking charge of the process and showing us to our room in moments.

During our stay we were in a Bosporus Suite, with great views over the working river below as well as the Asian side of the city in the distance.

As a brand, Raffles tends to seek out older buildings to renovate, capturing the history of a location, and in that regard the Istanbul property is something of a rarity.

Newly built, opening only in late 2014, the hotel is thoroughly modern, and this really shows in the rooms.

The lighting, air conditioning, in-room dining and even curtains are all controlled by a panel on the wall, while the expected quick Wi-Fi, smart television and audio system are also present and correct.

This technology in the 136 rooms and 49 suites also works seamlessly, which is far from guaranteed with many hotels.

Floor-to-ceiling windows fill the room with natural light, while a large balcony outside is a great place to take in the skyline of the city.

A personal favourite in the room was the freestanding bathtub, which faces out over the city, granting its own unique perspective.

During our stay Raffles offered some nice touches too, be it the macaroons presented on a silver plate shaped like the Bosporus Bridge, the bookmarks thoughtfully placed in open volumes or the cleaning cloth left by my glasses.

These little flourishes let guests know they are being thought about and can really make a stay.

Newly launched, brunch at Raffles was also proving tremendously popular during my stay.

Largely offered to guests from outside the hotel, the menu contains a variety of thematic food and beverage stations including a wide seafood selection.

This means lobster, oysters and sushi, as well as everything in between.

Local and international cheese and cold cuts, carved meat served at live stations and a variety of breakfast items, as well as a live band and flowing champagne, make it a very special experience – perfect for Instagram.

Across the corridor, the first Raffles Patisserie is a modern-day jewellery box, filled with delicious treasures just waiting to be discovered: gem-like cakes, macaroons and pastries, beautiful ice creams and homemade breads, chocolates and local delicacies.

A highlight of any visit to Raffles Istanbul is a stop at the spa.

On arrival guests enter a huge open space, where a chandelier made from swirls of glass emulates the currents of the Bosporus, gentling chiming in the wind

Bubble lights hang from the ceiling like droplets of water, while a water sculpture featuring lotus plants, the Raffles Spa icon, is a symbol of calm in the serenity of the spa.

While some hotel spas can have a faux sanctimonious air about them, the facilities here are genuinely laid back, offering a range of treatments to guests and visitors from outside the hotel.

With nine treatment rooms and suites and a choice of pools, saunas, steam rooms and hammams, Raffles Spa is also one of the most comprehensive in Istanbul.

Completing the suite of amenities are a yoga and Pilates studio, personal training, Technogym equipment and two hair and nail salons.

Elsewhere, the conveniences run from a roof-top swimming pool to the Long Bar, inspired by the original in Raffles Singapore, though here with a very Turkish twist.

Close by, Raffles Club is a warm, cognac coloured space, steeped in wood and timber.

The library shelves are populated with ceramic books by Turkish artist Ismail Oklugil, while the bar’s back wall features a custom cast glass installation of fiery yellow and orange tiles that give the lounge its warm glow.

Raffles Istanbul also offers a choice of calm, contemporary spaces for private and business events - from the launch of a new car or a society wedding in the Ballroom, a birthday dinner in one of the seven private rooms, to a high-level meeting in the Boardroom.

The hotel has its foothold on the European side of Istanbul, with rapid transport connections to the centre of the city and is in easy range of the ferry and private boat docks on the Bosporus shore.

Or why not call ahead to book the Raffles helipad, for an easy arrival and a fast getaway?

For those stuck on the road, Istanbul Atatürk Airport is only half an hour away, though this is heavily dependent on the sometimes-awful traffic.

Raffles Istanbul is one of just a dozen or so properties under the brand.

Even following the acquisition of FRHI Hotels & Resorts in 2016 by AccorHotels, there is apparently no real pressure to expand the portfolio at breakneck pace, so Raffles Istanbul looks likely to remain a jewel in the French company’s collection for some time to come.

More Information

Raffles Istanbul offers a new level of luxury with amazing views above the Bosporus.

Guests can experience the unique energy of Istanbul along with the emotional luxury that Raffles offers.

Find out more on the official website.

Chris O’Toole