Four Seasons Hotel, The Bosphorus, Istanbul
East meets west in dazzling splendour
Saturday 09 January 2010
It's perhaps surprising that this year's European Capital of Culture should sit astride two continents. But stand on the terrace of this 19th-century Ottoman palace, once known as Atik Pasha, and you can gaze from Istanbul's European heart across the Bosphorus strait to the city's Asian shores, barely a kilometre away.
Home to the Four Seasons since June 2008, the palace is one of a number of opulent waterside residences known as yalis that are sprinkled along both banks of the Bosphorus. Some are so close to the water, the waves lick up against their walls.
The dusky pink three-storey Atik Pasha is not quite as over-the-top as the neighbouring Dolmabahçe Palace (the largest palace in Turkey, built in 1856 as the main summer residence of the famously profligate Ottoman Sultan Abdulmedjid). But it still impresses with its scale and situation.
On arrival at the hotel, in spite of the opulent entrance hall's chandeliers and highly polished marble floors, your gaze is immediately drawn to the other side of the building, towards the shimmering Bosphorus strait. The hotel has 190m of private waterfront. Outside, a vast marble terrace – features a fountain and gardens, as well as a bar, the waterside Mediterranean Aqua restaurant and a swimming pool with umbrellas and sun-loungers.
At night, the terrace is dramatically lit with flaming torches, while the illuminated Bosphorus Bridge, linking east and west, twinkles in the background.
The hotel teeters on the edge of the Bosphorus in the district of Besiktas. There are plenty of sightseeing and dining opportunities close to the hotel along the water's edge and in the hills behind. The area is full of fine Ottoman relics and Byzantine churches, while Bebek, one of the city's wealthiest neighbourhoods, is a walk away along the waterside.
The Old City, where many of Istanbul's principle historic sites, including the Bazaar Quarter, Hagia Sofia, the Blue Mosque and the Topkapi Palace, are about a 20-minute drive away (although this depends on the traffic, which is frequently at a standstill).
A far better idea is to take to the water on either the private shuttle that links the Four Seasons with its sister property, the Four Seasons Istanbul at Sultanahmet, in a converted neo-classical prison in the heart of the Old City; or on one of the public ferries from the nearby Besiktas pier.
There are 141 guest rooms and 25 suites. The historic main building is flanked by two contemporary wings, which seem a little out of step with the surroundings. Rooms in the palace are the most sought-after, with head-on views of the water, where you can watch myriad boats and ships silently sliding past your windows at all times of the day and night.
Although hard to fault the luxury quotient – particularly the dreamy beds – décor-wise, don't expect an Iznik-tiled Turkish delight. Instead, it's all tastefully restrained with a contemporary twist. There are varying shades of coffee and aqua blue, billowing silk curtains, mahogany furniture and Turkish accents in the form of embroidered cushions, mirrors, subtle ceiling decorations and framed antique prints. Bathrooms, which all have a separate bath and shower, are wall-to-wall marble with kilim-scattered floors.
There is also an extensive spa replete with no fewer than three Turkish hammams that are a far more luxurious prospect than the usual paradigm you'll find elsewhere in the city.
Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul at the Bosphorus, Ciragan Caddesi 28, Besiktas, Istanbul, Turkey (00 90 212381 4000; fourseasons.com/bosphorus )
Doubles start at €324, room only.
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