Modern, elegant and refined, Raffles Istanbul presents a vision of the new modern, thriving city of Istanbul. It’s an imposing building which stands out on the skyline, towering above the Zorlu Center and has magnificent views of the European and Asian sides of the city. The vast reception and lounge areas of the hotel are impressive and bigger than some airports. The design touches reference old Istanbul and contrasts it with contemporary art works specially commissioned for the hotel opening. Fusing old and new the hotel retains the warmth and welcoming service renowned of the Raffles group.
Excellent restaurants and the famous long bar ensure you will never go hungry (or thirsty) and that’s without stepping outside for the taste sensations of the city. I highly recommend that you book a Bosphorus view room. The mesmerising views change throughout the day with the ebb and flow of a city constantly on the move from morning to night.
And the rooms – comfy big beds, huge bathrooms and the Horizon Suite has a bath with a view too. Ortigia room amenities and the Raffles signature bathrobes ensure you can create a spa-like feel in the comfort of your room. This is an impressive hotel where you instantly feel at ease and nothing is too much trouble for the staff. The in-room TV entertainment system had the Buddha bar series of music on tap. I was in heaven.
At 3000 sq metres, the new spa, heralded as the blueprint for future Raffles spa development, is something to behold. The reception and tea lounge area is spacious with high ceilings and floor to ceiling glass flooding the room with natural light. Throughout the spa soft earth tones dictate the design and colour palette. Golden toned wallpaper contrasts with distressed wood panelling. It’s elegant but not overtly opulent.
Separate male and female areas for changing, sauna, steam, relaxation and hydrotherapy. This is a bit of a negative for couples, but you can upgrade to the hammam suite, which boasts a private hammam, relax zone and couples treatment room. But it comes at a fairly steep price.
The fitness suite is well appointment and adjoined by a studio for Pilates, yoga and classes. The indoor pool area is a must-visit with hand blown glass pendants suspended from the ceiling above the pool. The heated floor is a nice touch. I did find the layout of the spa confusing, but after a few wrong turns, you do get the hang of where you are and the are staff are on hand to guide you the right way. And not forgetting the pool area – the hand-blown glass sculptures that are fixed above the indoor pool (featured in the lead picture above) capture and reflect the light – it’s a stunning piece of art and design.
Traditional Turkish hammam (Aegean Purity):
When in Turkey, it is a must to experience a traditional Turkish hammam. At Raffles Istanbul, you can experience this most traditional of treatments in a brand new, modern hammam suite.
Laying face down on a heated marble slab, covered with a cotton Turkish hammam towel, you are doused with warm water to cleanse and refresh. This is followed by a full body scrub with an exfoliating mitt which is firm but not rough. This is both awakening and stimulating and designed to remove dead skin. A quick wash with olive soap and then a foaming wash using soapy bubbles created using a billowing pillow. Central to the Turkish tradition, this adds a sensory dimension to the treatment and ensures you are totally clean from head to toe.
What surprised me was when my therapist began an ice massage. At first it’s a touch cold, but you don’t realise how quickly your body temperature has been raised. This helps to cool the body temperature, close the pores and ensure a rounded end to the treatment. It’s a great contrast of hot and cold too. More warm water to remove the suds and a shampoo to cleanse your hair, I felt like a new man at the end.
Raffles signature massage:
The signature massage ritual at Raffles is a total body experience. Combining deep tissue, firm massage strokes and a full body massage, front and back using the spas unique, bespoke body oils, this was heaven on a plate. Elevating this to a signature therapy, the hot herb compresses are used to contrast the sensory experience and provide added warm to soothe the muscles and open pores.
THE BEST BITS:
The indoor pool and sculptural lighting design
The welcoming and friendly spa attendants
Well stocked grooming products in the men’s changing room
The views of the Bosphorus from my suite
ROOM TO IMPROVE:
Add a little more signage in the spa
The hydrotherapy jacuzzi was out of service on my visit
Aegean Purity (Hammam treatment) – 269 TL.
Raffles Istanbul Signature Massage – 589 TL
Price for a room per night at Raffles Istanbul – from 600 Euro
Price for Horizon suite per night – from 3000 Euro