Hotel review: Four Seasons Bosphorus Istanbul (Turkey)

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Wednesday newsletters always feature a luxury hotel and/or flight review.

Today (October 29, 2014): Review of the Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul at the Bosphorus (Turkey).

Located along the Bosphorus, in one of Istanbul’s most naturally beautiful neighbourhoods, the Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul at the Bosphorus is a former 19th-century Ottoman palace transformed into a hotel sanctuary of luxury and comfort. It is currently one of the best luxury hotel in Istanbul, with legendary Four Seasons service to ensure you will enjoy every moment of your stay in one of the world’s most vibrant cities, Istanbul.

The Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul at the Bosphorus features in my top 10 lists of the world’s most luxurious large city hotels, the world’s best urban resorts, the best luxury hotels in Turkey, and the best luxury hotels in Istanbul.

In this review (more info and photos below my Youtube clip and the slideshow):

  • Pros & things I like
  • Cons & things to know
  • My verdict
  • Tips for future guests & save money
  • Best time to visit
  • How to get there
  • Photos

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PROS & THINGS I LIKE
  • The hotel enjoys an amazing waterfront location, with a spectacular and expansive white tile terrace overlooking the Bosphorus (the strait that forms part of the boundary between Europe and Asia, connecting the Black Sea and Sea of Marmara). Watching the sunset from the terrace with a glass of wine is unforgettable!
  • The hotel, opened in 2008, is housed in the elegant 19th-century Atık Paşa Palace. The picture-perfect tableau of exterior gardens set against the building’s molded ivory facade is simply stunning.
  • The 170 guest rooms, including 25 suites, feature an airy fusion of traditional Ottoman architecture (without the flourishes) and contemporary furnishings. All rooms are very spacious and nicely decorated, with sleek bathrooms and very comfortable beds.
  • The riverside terrace has a beautiful large swimming pool with plenty of sun loungers . It overlooks the Bospohurus and faces the south (ideal for those in need of some relaxion under the Turkish sun). The temperature of the water is perfect and if you find it too cold, you can always dip into the jacuzzi that is built into the pool.
  • Water babies can not only take full advantage of the outdoor pool, but there is also a splendid, naturally lit indoor pool, with underwater music. This pillared underground swimming hall is the jewel of the hotel spa, which also has sauna’s, steam rooms, Hammans and 10 treatment rooms.
  • The service is top-notch and extremely efficient, as you would expect from one of the world’s most exclusive hotel brands. As is the case in all Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts worldwide, everyone knows your name from day one and will go out of their way to please you.
  • The breakfast buffet (priced at 110 Turkish Lira per person) is truly sensational, filled with every imaginable fresh fruit, dozens of freshly baked breads and pastries, a large assortment of cold meats & cheeses, and many local specialties.
  • The property has a sister hotel in town, the Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul at Sultanahmet, a 15-minute cab ride away. Both hotels complement each other: the Four Seasons at Sultanahmet is characterized by compact elegance and a central location, while the Four Seasons at the Bosphorus compensates for its peripheral address with bags of breathing space and a killer view.


CONS & THINGS TO KNOW

This is hands down one of the best hotel in Istanbul and one of the best Four Seasons Hotels in the world. While almost perfect, there are some minor things you need to know:

  • The hotel has three wings, the original Palace wing (with the hotel’s most expensive rooms) and two auxiliary wings. The latter contain most of the hotel’s low- and mid-range rooms, and – IMHO – lack architectural harmony with the Palace wing (some would call them a ‘painful sight’).
  • Restaurant choice is a bit limited for a hotel of this size and standard. The flagship restaurant is Italian: while it enjoys a gorgeous setting (especially when you can dine al fresco next to the water), the food was good but not excellent. The more casual Turkish restaurant has great food but is located next to the lobby; seating is more lounge-like with small tables so it’s not ideal to have a decent meal (unless you can sit outside, weather permitting).
  • The hotel has some minor noise issues. Right behind the hotel is a major street, with the occasional speeding car at night that might wake you up. And in front is the Bosphorus with the occasional boat blasting disco music. Nothing major, but noticeable nonetheless. If you are a light sleeper: request a quiet room.
  • The hotel is not centrally located, and you will need a taxi to visit Istanbul’s major sites. This can be annoying, especially given the heavy traffic jams that seems to hit Istanbul all the time. Alternatively, you can avoid the traffic by opting to stay first a few days at the Four Seasons at Sultanahmet (to visit the mosques and palaces) before moving to the Four Seasons at the Bosphorus to relax and wind out.
  • The decor throughout is tasteful but humdrum, with muted tones of cream, beige, and brown and only a light sprinkling of Turkish motifs (a relief to some, a disappointment to others).

MY VERDICT
  • Location: 10/10
  • Design: 10/10
  • Rooms: 8/10
  • Food: 8/10
  • Service: 9/10
  • Overall experience: exceptional: 9/10

TIPS FOR FUTURE GUESTS & SAVE MONEY
  • Save money: read my tips for getting the cheapest rate for a room at a luxury hotel like the Four Seasons Istanbul at the Bosphorus (and/or receive many free perks).
  • Save money: enjoy complimentary VIP amenities at the Four Seasons Istanbul at the Bospohorus when booking via Virtuoso (upgrade, daily breakfast, $100 USD food & beverage credit, early check-in and late check-out).
  • The rooms in the original palace building have higher ceilings, better architectural details and more direct views of the Bosphorus (as compared to the rooms in the newer wings). I recommend staying in the palace building (if you’re ready to shell out a few hundred euros extra).
  • Read my tips for preparing your trip in time.

BEST TIME TO VISIT

The best time to visit Istanbul is September to November. That’s when the crowds diminish, the rates drop, and weather is spectacular. Peak season – summer – sees spikes in temperatures and room rates. To save money and sweat less, visit Istanbul in the spring or fall. Spring is still a little chilly, so bring a coat. The winter months tend to be rainy, snowy and cold with average highs in the 40s (around 5° C). The dip in temperatures (and thus tourism) means that you’ll find bargains on hotel rates; the budget conscious could brave the weather and visit in December or January.


HOW TO GET THERE

Istanbul is served by 2 airports and a taxi remains the best way to get from each airport to the city center.

  • Istanbul Atatürk Airport is the biggest airport in Turkey, located 25 km west of the city and it served by most major full-service airlines (click here for a direct link to their websites). Check the Wikipedia page of Istanbul Atatürk Airport for a list of airlines that offer direct flights to Istanbul.
  • Sabiha Gökçen International Airport  is located 35 km southeast of city center and is served by some full-service airlines (e.g.  Qatar Airways, Turkish Airlines) as well as European and Turkish low-cost carriers (click here for a direct link to their websites). Check the Wikipedia page of Sabiha Gökçen International Airport for a list of airlines that offer direct flights to Istanbul.

HOTEL ENTRANCE
HOTEL ENTRANCE
HOTEL ENTRANCE
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HOTEL ENTRANCE
HOTEL ENTRANCE
HOTEL ENTRANCE COURTYARD: NEW WING
HOTEL ENTRANCE COURTYARD: NEW WING
HOTEL ENTRANCE COURTYARD: PALACE WING
HOTEL ENTRANCE COURTYARD: PALACE WING
HOTEL ENTRANCE
HOTEL ENTRANCE
LOBBY
LOBBY
HOTEL BAR
HOTEL BAR
LOBBY
LOBBY
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LOBBY
LOBBY
LOBBY
TERRACE
TERRACE
TERRACE
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TERRACE
TERRACE
VIEW ON BOSPHORUS FROM HOTEL TERRACE
VIEW ON BOSPHORUS FROM HOTEL TERRACE
TERRACE
TERRACE
TERRACE
TERRACE
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
TERRACE
TERRACE
TERRACE
TERRACE: POOL WITH JACUZZI
TERRACE: POOL WITH JACUZZI
TERRACE: POOL
TERRACE: POOL
TERRACE: POOL
TERRACE: POOL
TERRACE: POOL
TERRACE: POOL
OUTDOOR JACUZZI & POOL
OUTDOOR JACUZZI & POOL
HOTEL CORRIDOR
HOTEL CORRIDOR
SPA ENTRANCE
SPA ENTRANCE
GYM
GYM
INDOOR POOL
INDOOR POOL
INDOOR JACUZZI
INDOOR JACUZZI
HOTEL CORRIDOR
HOTEL CORRIDOR
BEDROOM
BEDROOM
BEDROOM
BEDROOM
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BATHROOM
BATHROOM
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FRUIT BOWL IN ROOM
FRUIT BOWL IN ROOM
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AQUA RESTAURANT AT BREAKFAST
AQUA RESTAURANT AT BREAKFAST
BREAKFAST BUFFET
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