A former 19th century Ottoman palace now luxurious hotel, the elegant Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul at the Bosphorus stands proudly on the European banks of the Strait of Istanbul. This waterway is significant as it forms part of the continental boundary between Europe and Asia - which connects the Black Sea to the Sea of Marmara.
Once known as Atik Pasha, the palace was originally built as a secondary residence near the Sultan’s summer palace and is suitably impressive, opening as a Four Seasons property in 2008 and offering 145 beautiful guest rooms and 25 suites arranged over four floors. There are six restaurants and bars offering everything from fish and seafood in the main restaurant to international favourites to teatime treats and Turkish specialities. To work off any pounds gained, there is a fully equipped fitness centre and two swimming pools, one heated and overlooking the Bosphorus and the other within the 2,100 square metre (22,605 square foot) spa, complete with ten treatment rooms, a sauna, traditional Hammams decorated with Marmara marble and a hair salon.
This is the sister – and complementary - hotel to the more intimate Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul at Sultanahmet - located in the very heart of the city, close to Topkapi Palace. Both are part of Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts.
Situated right at the edge of Europe looking out towards the hills of Asia, the Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul at Bosphorus combines both peaceful waterside tranquillity with downtown convenience in one of Istanbul’s fashionable neighbourhoods, steps from the shopping street of Nişantaşı and near to the Dolmabahçe Palace, home to the last six sultans of the Ottoman Empire.
Also nearby is the Naval Museum and National Palace and Painting Museum whilst the heart of the old city, once known as Constantinople, is just a short drive away across the Galata Bridge.
Must visits include the underground Basilica Cistern, the largest of the ancient underground water cisterns found across Istanbul, once playing a starring role in a James Bond escapade in “From Russia with Love”. There is also the Hagia Sophia, one of the most visited museums in the world for art and the history of architecture; The Blue Mosque, with its minarets and blue domed exterior; the relic heavy Topkapi Palace, the largest royal residence in Istanbul; The Grand Bazaar, the world’s oldest and biggest covered market with over 4,000 shops to discover and the Spice Market, around 20 minutes away.
The hotel is easily accessible from two airports and is up to an hour’s drive by car (about 46 kilometres) from Istanbul Airport and a little longer to Sabiha Gökcen Airport, 21 kilometres away.
Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul the Bosphorus features 170 rooms – 145 guest rooms and 25 suites, housed in the main Palace building or in the South or North wings. All enjoy an elegant simplicity with about a third of the rooms having Bosphorus views, recommended when booking. Traditionalists should head for the rooms in the impressive Palace building rich in Ottoman style with high ceilings, keyhole shaped windows and standalone marble bathtubs, while those seeking a more modern look choose the contemporary wing annexe rooms.
Every room enjoys the famous Four Seasons beds and luxury linens with hypoallergenic pillows available on request. Room features include large, flat-screen televisions with satellite channels, CD clock radios, DVD players and video game consoles on request.
There are five categories of guest room ranging from the quieter superior with garden views, the Palace Courtyard Room overlooking the entrance, right up to the Palace Bosphorus room with those splendid Strait of Bosphorus views which, when you stay in a hotel like this, is the one to aim for. This latter, spacious room enjoys a hardwood entry hall, high ceilings which makes it feel even bigger and is furnished in a combination of contemporary and Ottoman Turkish design, in hues of deep blue or terra cotta with copper and burgundy accents. It is furnished with mahogany furniture and rich, custom-designed textiles.
There are six types of suite from the Junior enjoying partial Bosphorus or garden views to the spacious Bosphorus Suite enjoying a range of views and French doors separating the bedroom with the living area. The one- and two-bedroom Bosphorus Palace Suites enjoy those waterfront views from the living room and feature Turkish and Ottoman lithographs and objets d’art whilst the Palace Roof Suite located on the top floor of the historic palace building enjoys a private rooftop terrace.
The star of the show however is the 257 square metre / 2,765 square foot presidential Atik Pasha Suite which can be configured as a one-, two- or three-bedroom suite – the last layout effectively taking over half of the entire second floor. The suite, which features bullet-proof windows and hand painted ceilings of nearly five metres in height, offers three en-suite bedrooms, a living room, a dining room seating up to ten guests, a separate powder room, a private study and a fully equipped kitchenette. Inspired by the rich history and culture of Istanbul and breathtaking Bosphorus views, this suite features a thoughtful blend of contemporary and Ottoman design motifs, rich in custom made detail, including Indian walnut flooring, Murano chandeliers, Vanelli curtains and handmade glassware especially produced for the suite. In the spa-like master bath, there is an egg-shaped freestanding whirlpool bath and steam room. Outstanding pieces selected from the hotel’s extensive art collection adorn the Atik Pasha Suite including paintings by renowned contemporary Turkish artists and astonishing historic engravings showing what life was like at the palace in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul at the Bosphorus’ philosophy is that luxury has always been about personalisation – anticipating individual needs and exceeding expectations. This translates into thoughtful details like family photos placed by the bedside, fresh flowers with breakfast, or an individualised surprise from the pastry team, making each hotel room feel like a home.
Concierge is 24/7 and is on hand to make reservations and organise itineraries including the Take a Taste of Istanbul Tour, recommended for foodies, where guests can enjoy a private, full-day tour with a knowledgeable guide, taking in the sights and sounds of the city like a true local. A Bosphorus cruise is a must, taking off from the hotel’s terrace with a private boat hire or perhaps, if interested in Ottoman history, enjoy a day exploring Turkey’s rich heritage through private tours of Ottoman mansions and palaces with celebrated author, Serdar Gülgün.
The spacious Spa is 2,100 square metres in size and has a subtle and understated ambiance, decorated in light marble with coloured mosaic tiles and paintings by contemporary Turkish artist Ergin Atlihan. The beautiful sapphire blue mosaiced indoor pool even has underwater music whilst the heated outdoor pool and terrace is equally mesmorising for its views over the Bosphorus.
The Spa’s three hammams (Turkish baths) are an experience not to be missed, made out of Marmara marble and local materials and appropriately decorated with an eight-edged star motif symbolising the eight gates to heaven in the Seljuk Empire. Rejuvenating and restorative treatments take place in ten treatment rooms with the two-hour private ‘Hammam Moments’ the signature treatment. The Spa’s partners are Sodashi, Biologique Recherche and Triple Detox Therapy.
The Fitness Centre features a range of cardio machines, each with an LCD touch screen television and headphones, and a variety of weight-training equipment with personal trainers on request. Muscles can be soothed in the sauna, or whirlpool, fruit and juice on hand. If preferred, the hotel offers several fitness classes and in clement weather, yoga on the terrace. For a glamorous entrance, head for the ministrations of the Mehmet Huseyin Salon.
Families are welcomed with children’s amenities available alongside babysitters, high-chairs, rollaway beds and cots.
A stay at the Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul at the Bosphorus can be likened to a summer visit which might have been made by any of the Ottoman sultans over the past three centuries seeking refreshing sea breezes against the day’s heat.
The hotel is housed within a former Ottoman Palace known as Atik Pasha, originally built as a secondary residence near the Sultan’s summer palace and it enjoys an elegant stately façade, with an impressive entrance flanked by rows of trees and enlivened by imposing fountains.
The interior colours - shades of aqua, silver and taupe – have been chosen as they reflect the varying hues of the Bosphorus with the beautiful, light interiors of marble and glass resplendent with decorative Turkish touches and traditional artwork.
Although replete with today’s technology and “must-have’s”, a stay here can be a very graceful and relaxing one, albeit one overlooking the city’s busiest waterway. It is a great complement to Four Seasons’ existing hotel in the heart of the city, ensuring that any hotel guest can enjoy the very best that Istanbul has to offer, whatever their location preference.
Under the watchful eye of Executive Chef Savaş Aydemir, the kitchen brigade at Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul at the Bosphorus, use local ingredients where possible in dishes served at the hotel’s restaurants including wild sea bass, organic honey, olive oil and olives, Trakya young lamb, Aegean herbs and Çanakkale tomatoes.
There are six restaurants and bars including Aqua, the hotel’s main restaurant, which specialises in fish and seafood, the signature dish being John Dory Pot (confit artichokes, champagne sauce, clam, confit lemon and basil). Aqua also hosts the highly popular Sunday Brunch accompanied by music from The Purple Hand Band and to keep the kiddies amused, the team organise cookie making classes as a fun activity alongside.
Yali & The Bar offer international all-day dining including casual plates like the house speciality of prawn tagliatelle (shrimps, light garlic cream sauce, shellfish and tomato reduction, lemon confit). YALI Terrace offers a relaxed and pleasant setting for families and friends to take in the picturesque scenery of the Bosphorus. The menu features Turkish and international favourites and in the evenings the cooling terrace is the place for refreshing drinks and cocktails.
Yasemin is the hotel’s pretty tea salon located in the lobby and serving small Turkish dishes including signatures like Alinazik (charred eggplant, yoghurt, charred tomato and pepper). At teatime, there’s Turkish tea and tiny, sweet pastries.
Anason 34 restaurant is the pick of dining venues for guests looking to enjoy Meyhane cuisine. Apart from the fabulous mezze display and warm pita baked in a brick oven, the prawn casserole is reason alone to book a table.
Ocakbaşı is a seasonal pop-up restaurant serving kebabs and mezes on the outdoor terrace, the “Urfa” kebab and Muhammara (Bread, Walnut, Cumin, Tomatoes and Pepper Paste) is recommended.
The Four Seasons Green Committee was founded to create environmentally responsible business practises, encouraging employees’ commitment to reducing the hotel’s ecological and carbon footprint.
Initiatives include reducing waste and energy use through educating employees to work more sustainably and responsibly; creative ways of conserving water with water reduction systems installed to reduce water flow up to 50 per cent. Food composters in kitchens, where water generated from composted food waste is treated and reused for watering plants.
Light sensors installed in all rooms to reduce energy usage. Plastic straws replaced with paper alternatives and plastic cups eradicated including in the spa.