Istanbul welcomes its newest luxury hotel this week with the opening of the Shangri-La Bosphorus, Istanbul on 11 May. The opulent 186-room hotel is the second in Europe for Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts, which hails from the other city where East famously meets West, Hong Kong. Shangri-La brought its inimitable Asian "hospitality from the heart" to Paris in 2010 to rave reviews and now adds Istanbul to its growing list of international gateway cities.
Set on the European side of the Bosphorus Strait between the Dolmabahce Palace and Naval Museum, Shangri-La Bosphorus, Istanbul overlooks the unfolding panorama of Istanbul's domes and minarets and the green hills of the city's Asian shores. It is located on the site of a former tobacco warehouse from the 1930s. The warehouse's restored, six-storey Neo-Classical façade and two carefully preserved 150- and 350-year-old Sycamore trees in the courtyard give testament to the past.
Inside, the Shangri-La is a modern oasis. The hotel takes design cues from the glamorous Dolmabahce Palace with swathes of marble, glittering chandeliers and a mix of European, Asian and Turkish design. A grand staircase wends down the hotel's three-storey atrium, transporting guests from the lobby to the elegant ballrooms and other venues below.
Dazzling to behold, the dome-shaped atrium is lit by a natural skylight and massive Bohemian chandelier that rains crystals nearly two storeys. Also decorating the atrium is The Garden of Peach Blossoms, a stunning 18-metres-tall silk painting, which was commissioned for the hotel. The hotel showcases more than 1,000 pieces of European and Asian art. One masterpiece, located behind the reception desk, is an exquisite southern China lacquer craft carving depicting a Bosphorus water scene.
The grand lobby flows into the Lobby Lounge, where classic European bespoke furniture and plush sofas are arranged to create intimate seating areas. Guests can relax to the sound of classical or jazz music and enjoy house-made pastries and more than 100 types of Chinese teas poured by the hotel's tea master. The adjacent Le Bar is a jewel box set off by a stone wall and serves traditional cocktails and spirits, plus tapas and mezzes.
The hotel plays with both subtle and overt luxury. In guestrooms, the rich teal, crème and caramel colour scheme is elegant and soothing. The hotel's guestrooms are the most spacious in Istanbul (ranging from 42 to 60 square metres), and the majority offer dazzling Bosphorus views. The 186 rooms are outfitted with every amenity expected of a five-star hotel and provide Shangri-La's free high-speed broadband Internet. Artists from the East and West were engaged to create unique pieces inspired by the Istanbul scenery for the guestrooms, and the bathrooms are decked in dramatic Turkish marble complete with heated floors and Bvlgari bath amenities.
Nearly all of the hotel's 17 suites have private terraces offering beautiful Bosphorus vistas. The ultimate indulgence is the Shangri-La Suite, which has three terraces overlooking the Old City, Asian shores and the Bosphorus Bridge.
On the same level as the lobby is the hotel's speciality restaurant, IST TOO. Set against the backdrop of a Bosphorus view, rose gold floor lamps and spherical ceiling pendants light the restaurant's wide expanse of Turkish marble and custom-made dark chocolate oak furnishings upholstered in hues of taupe, burnt orange and mineral blue. Semi-private dining enclaves are carved out by timber portals, while conker-coloured leather banquettes stretch along the wall seating those who prefer to be in the mix. Matching the vibrant design is an all-day dining menu of world cuisine, including Japanese, Southeast Asian, Mediterranean and Turkish. IST TOO is a feast for the eyes with a sushi bar; vast Wine Salon with full-height, glazed wine cabinets; a noodle station with a Chinese chef pulling noodles, and an open kitchen where chefs cook over the 12-metre grill.
One floor down from IST TOO is the hotel's signature Shang Palace restaurant, where chefs from China prepare delectable Chinese cuisine and carve Peking Duck tableside while the Kung Fu tea master pours tea. Inspired by the sculptural beauty of historical Chinese courtyard chambers, the restaurant unfolds into four contemporary dining chambers. Upon arrival, an inverted "pagoda" structure appears to float overhead. Facing the entrance, a series of curved walls composed of grey marble hand-crafted in shapes of traditional Chinese roof tiles provides drama and texture.
In the main Amber Chamber, curved banquettes and abundant bespoke glass wall lamps set off by full-height book timber shelves and antique gold metallic lattice screens create a sense of intimacy. On the other side of the reception, the Lacquer Chamber's architectural panels glow with a deep glossy aubergine Chinese Lacquer. The intimate setting is offset against a dramatic wall of angled blocks of solid Arabescato Orobico marble.
The hotel also features CHI, a spa with eight of the most indulgent private spa suites in Istanbul offering Asian and Turkish treatments. The hotel's hammam facilities are extensive, catering to both private groups and individuals. Both the spa and hammam feature Turkish tiles, water features and abundant marble. A health club with sauna, Jacuzzi and steam rooms, and a heated indoor pool are also available to hotel guests.
For more information on Shangri-La Bosphorus, Istanbul, please visit www.shangri-la.com.
Rates at the hotel start from €550 excluding breakfast and 18 percent VAT.
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