When it comes to location, it’s hard to imagine a better situated hotel in Istanbul for luxury travelers than the Shangri-La Bosphorus. The sleek, five-star hotel is ideally positioned right on the shores of the European side of the Bosphorus Strait; it’s right by the main ferry terminal, which takes you to the Asian part of Istanbul in a mere 10 minutes. And yes, just in case you weren’t yet aware, Istanbul does, in fact, occupy two continents.
That duality is represented in the decor and ambiance at the Shangri-La; the design reflects Eastern and Western influences, with nods to lavish Ottoman glamour and subtle Asian details. From the moment you step into the marble-bedecked lobby, it’s evident you’ve arrived at a hotel that’s all about luxury. Sparkling chandeliers dangle from the ceiling, while plushly upholstered furnishings, opulent patterned carpets and gold accents add to the indulgent atmosphere. It’s a fittingly sumptuous start to a special stay, so on that note, here’s everything to know about the Shangri-La Bosphorus in Istanbul.
What’s the location like?
The dreamy water views are what really stand out at this hotel; you truly feel as though you’re getting the best of the East and West. The Shangri-La is just a few short minutes from the ferry that goes between the European and Asian sides of Istanbul, so it’s quite convenient for those who want to make the most of their time in the city, and see both areas. The hotel is about a 20-minute car ride to major attractions including the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia and Basilica Cistern, all of which are must-visit sites while in the city.
While the ferry is the most convenient way to go between the European and Asian parts of Istanbul, I also highly recommend booking a private boat tour. The hotel will plan the whole experience for you, and it’s so worth it, especially if you get to glide around the Bosphorus around sunset—the views are unbeatable, and it’s such a special and unique way to see the city.
How are the rooms?
The hotel is comprised of 186 rooms, all of which are adorned in a contemporary, fresh style, with soft, neutral tones, with luxe linens and marble bathrooms. While every one of the accommodations has some kind of a view (looking into either the inner atrium, cityscape or the water), you simply can’t do better than one of the rooms with a vista of the adjacent Bosphorus Strait, because what better way to wake up than by taking in the picturesque water scenery? All the rooms and suites are pretty spacious, but if you really want to upgrade, go for one of the larger terraced suites, with a water view, of course.
Let’s talk all things spa.
The Shangri-La Bosphorus’ Chi Spa is where you’ll find some of the largest and most lavish private spa suites in Istanbul, with both classic treatments as well as more unique experiences, including a marble-bedecked authentic Turkish hammam. While many luxury hotels nowadays boast of their on-site spa hammams, few actually offer the traditional Turkish bath experience.
That’s not the case at the Shangri-La’s Chi Spa, as the Turkish hammam ritual is the real deal; it’s a full-body treatment that starts out with a revitalizing body scrub and foam massage from the specially-trained therapists. You’ll leave feeling beyond refreshed in every way—seriously, not only was my skin ridiculously smooth, but my hair has never been in better shape than after leaving this hammam.
What about the dining situation?
There’s no shortage of drool-worthy local eateries, restaurants and coffee shops in Istanbul, but there are also impressive dining options within the Shangri-La, which is ideal for those on a brief trip to the Turkish city, and also for those who want to partake in the hotel group’s famously delicious food. First, there’s Ist Too, which serves breakfast (the buffet spread is more than worth the hype, and don’t forget to treat yourself to a few dates), lunch and dinner, and offers both Mediterranean cuisine as well as Asian dishes (there’s a full sushi bar). There’s also Shang Palace, the Shangri-La’s signature restaurant, where you’re treated to a delightful Cantonese feast. The attention to detail, impeccable service and focus on tradition is unparalleled; do yourself a favor and make sure you order the Peking duck, because it’s an experience in and of itself. Don’t forget to stop for a beverage at Le Bar; it’s an exceptional cocktail moment that won’t disappoint, as you can just tell the bartender your liquor of choice and general taste preferences, and he’ll craft a drink to perfection. The Shangri-La is also home to the world’s first Baklava Butler; guests get access to the exclusive presentation of the famous Turkish dish, which is made in a historic local bakeshop nearby.
A James Bond-worthy Grand Bazaar experience is an Istanbul highlight.
A trip to Istanbul isn’t complete without a stop at the Grand Bazaar, which is filled with over 4,000 shops that carry everything from spices and dates to ceramics and jewelry, not to mention all the carpets, decor and furnishings. While you could easily spend several hours perusing the various wares and exploring the maze of stores, there’s also an exclusive adventure atop the bazaar that’s only available to those in the know—and luckily, you’re about to be one of those people. While access to the roof of the bazaar, where the famous intro scene in the Skyfall installment of James Bond was filmed, is typically not allowed, certain tour companies, such as Tekser, are able to book the special experience, so you can go all the way atop the bazaar and get one of the most incredible—and rare—views of the city. It’s not for those with a fear of heights, but it’s truly one of the most memorable activities you’ll ever partake in.
And of course, here’s how to get there.
If you’re flying from the U.S. (I was traveling from New York), getting to Turkey is definitely a lengthy journey. Comfort and convenience is key here, which is why Turkish Airlines is undoubtedly the best way to reach Istanbul. Yes, it’s a nearly 10-hour flight from New York City to Istanbul, but traveling in the airline’s business class seats make the experience a total breeze, and not just because of the comfy seats. While airplane food is rarely noteworthy, the Turkish Airlines “Flying Chefs” program changes that—it’s all about giving passengers the feeling of a luxury restaurant experience in the sky, with specially selected, highly-trained chefs that prepare the seasonally-focused gourmet meals, all of which are made with fresh ingredients and produce. It’s a winning combination, and a delightful way to start and end your trip to Istanbul.
*This stay at the Shangri-La Bosphorus was courtesy of the hotel. The views and opinions expressed are the journalist’s own.*