Beautifully positioned in front of the Bosphorus, this 19th century palace hotel is among the most striking and historic in the city. It is magical from the moment you enter the gated driveway surrounded by gardens and fountains to when you peer over the waterfront.
Turkey’s largest city has no shortage of beautiful hotels, but this Four Seasons is truly something special. There is a second Four Seasons near the Hagia Sophia, Four Seasons Istanbul at Sultanahmet, which is currently closed for a thorough renovation. While both are elegant, here are five top reasons to stay at the larger Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul at the Bosphorus.
You can’t imagine a more beautiful view than this one. With the Bosphorus Bridge to the left and all of Istanbul’s shoreline and numerous minarets to the right, the view from this palatial hotel is exceptional. Passing ships and tourist boats create plenty of entertaining activity as they go from the Mediterranean to the Black Sea. The hotel also has its own boat dock where guests can arrive or take sunset cruises.
Within walking distance are the shops and cafes of Ortakoy, the Naval Museum and Dolmabahçe Palace, where the last Ottoman sultans lived. Still, it’s a cheap, 15-minute taxi drive to most of Istanbul’s other major sights including the Hagia Sofia, Grand Bazaar, Taksim Square and the Grand Bazaar’s colorful shopping pursuits.
There are three separate wings here with the 18th century Ottoman palace wing being the glamorous centerpiece, and this is where all of the hotel’s suites are located. The two side wings are beautiful, too, with views of the interior gardens and also side views of the sea. A third of the rooms here eye the Bosphorus so choose carefully if that is important. Window seating nooks in all rooms though have lovely views no matter what.
Modern to the core, the rooms feature everything you can imagine from flat-screen TVs larger than a cinema to minibars and speedy wireless internet. Windows open to beautiful views, and some of the most prized accommodations have small balconies.
Spacious work desks come with plentiful extras like Post-it notes, highlighters, a stapler and fresh flowers. Guests receive a welcome plate of fresh fruit, which gets replenished daily. Bedside power and USB ports are a sign of the times, and housekeeping does an exquisite job. They pay attention to the smallest details leaving behind fabric cloths to clean eyeglasses and folding clothes left out. Bottled water is available in the room each day. Evening turndown service refreshes the towels, toiletries and water.
Marble bathrooms give the option between bespoke Italian toiletries from Florence or the option to request Turkish-made goodies to the vanity. Large glass shower stalls have excellent rainfall shower pressure, and a separate soaking tub comes with bath salts and a pillow. In addition to enormous terrycloth towels and robes, Turkish towels provide another choice.
Numerous restaurants are available and revolve around the marble patio at the center of the resort. These include the main bar and lounge where live entertainment often swoons. An all-day dining menu is available in the lobby lounge as well as outside on the terrace.
The seafood restaurant Aqua serves fresh fish for dinner, both indoors and on the terrace. It is also the sight for a beautiful breakfast buffet that serves from numerous stations including an entire section dedicated to nearly a dozen types of olives. The fresh bakery selection is expansive, and there is even a Turkish honey and pastry area. Eggs can be cooked to order, but the hot buffet has numerous Turkish specialties worth sampling. The fresh fruit, regional cheeses and savory Turkish dips and appetizers are quite appealing.
Most special is the Turkish restaurant Ocakbaşı serving traditional kebabs, salads and mezze plates. It offers a mesmerizing window into regional cuisine, and guests can dine outdoors around fire pits or in one of the new heated waterfront igloos facing the Bosphorus.
The waterfront swimming pool is one of the most spectacular in town, which means you won’t find a better view while doing laps than here. During the warmer months, guests can relax under the shade of umbrellas. While the pool is closed in winter months, the views never change. A whirlpool adds to the fun.
This is a resort through and through, and even when Istanbul is cold, there is plenty to do. The outdoor ice skating rink is the first of a hotel in town (since copied by other hotels). An indoor pool and whirlpool are a lovely way to relax year-round. If jet lag has your back, there are plenty of complimentary spa facilities at your disposal here. The muscly among us can work out in the fitness center any hour of day with the services of a personal trainer during daylight hours.
In the spa, a range of massage and beauty services await, but so do the spa relaxation areas. All guests are able to use the Turkish bath areas and changing rooms without charge. These include saunas, steam rooms and experience showers. During Covid-19, guests should make a reservation to assure space is available, but normally, there is no requirement to do that.
The social scene
This is a social hub for the city with numerous events taking place here from fashion shows and weddings to conferences and diplomatic missions. With so many meeting areas, that is not a surprise. But, it is the outdoor reception areas that draw the attraction of social events. There is nothing like a fashion show with the Bosphorus as a backdrop. Regular entertainers and special events often take place at the hotel.
In the marble lobby, elegant flower arrangements are a favorite for photos. Throughout the hotel, modern art from local artists changes on a regular basis, and the work on display is truly museum-quality.
Service here is like other Four Seasons properties around the world: perfected to a tee. This is the perfect address to explore Istanbul as well as watch its pulsing action from its waterfront terrace.
Ramsey Qubein is a freelance travel journalist covering hotels, cruises, airlines, and loyalty programs from around the globe.