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Hotels in Istanbul and Cappadocia: Blending Europe with the East

© Dr. Elinor Garely, Editor in Chief, (a division of eTN Publishing)  Feb 04, 2016


Luxury and 4-star hotels in Istanbul had their beginning in the second half of the 19th century (1889) when the Orient Express extended its non-stop service from Paris to Istanbul. As a result, this city became an important tourism destination and, in 1892 local investors, in partnership with the Wagons-Lits company opened the Beyogul located Hotel Pera Palace (currently a Jumeriah) that was designed by Levantine architect Alexander Vallaury. Currently international brands are represented and additional properties are in the pipeline to meet new marketing initiatives aimed at increasing Istanbul’s reputation as a MICE destination.

Heads in Beds

Hotels in Istanbul and Cappadocia range from modest to fabulous; there are so many appealing properties that making a selection is a wonderful but daunting process.

Personal Favorites

• Ciragan Palace. Kempinski (2014 Awards: Best Hotels in Europe, Business Insider; World’s Best Hotels T+L 500, Travel and Leisure, US; Gold List Best Hotels in Europe and Best City Hotels and Business Hotels, Conde Nast Traveler, US)

Keeping with the Kempinski tradition, the Ciragan Palace is noted for glamour and sophistication combined with old-world charm. This property is more than a hotel – it is a palace! Strategically located on the shores of the Bosporus overlooking the ancient city of Istanbul it is a unique blend of an elegant resort placed in the midst of a bustling economically energized city. The property is where you want to see and be seen as guests create a very stylish and chic environment for work and play and wearing high-end designer brands is more the norm than the exception.

Rooms are spacious, suites are charming, dining options are in the multiples, and the cuisine with paired wines are targeted to the “royalty” in all of us. Well-designed public spaces are available for over-the-top weddings and private parties as well as c-suite-level corporate events. Noted for a professional staff and specialized services for its top top-tier clientele guests are comfortable with security that is strategically positioned throughout the property.

Vault Karakoy, The House Hotel (A Member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World)

Since 2014 this stylish adult gay-friendly hotel, located in the developing district of Karakoy on Bankalar Caddesi (The Avenue of Banks) has been the go-to hotel for fashionistas who feel as comfortable on Madison Avenue and Tribeca as they do on the Champs-Elysees. Turkish architect Han Tumertekin (Agha Khan Award recipient) designed this 63-room (5 suite) boutique property with photo-opt views of the Topkapi Palace and the Spice Market from suite balconies. It is the perfect locale for exploring Bohemian Beyoglu and historic Sultanahmet. It is also near the Neve Shalom congregation (Cemaathane), the Jewish Museum and the Ottoman – era Aza Kapi Mosque.

The modern interiors were designed by Sinan Kafadar of the Metex Group who was inspired by its imposing bank vaults. The hotel offers all-day dining with Turkish and international options and a grand piano for appealing contextual sound. The in-house curator, Zeynep Berik, an independent art writer and consultant and former chief editor of ICE Magazine, organizes events and exhibitions throughout the hotel. The lower levels of the property offer guests and visitors a wine cellar (perfect for wine tastings), four meeting rooms as well as a spa with a Turkish Hamam, gym, sauna, steam and treatment rooms.

Raffles at Zorlu Center (2015 Tatler Travel Guide award: One of the World’s Best Hotels)

Designed by Emre Arolat & Tabanlioglu Architecture, with a $175 million budget, the 180-room, 49-suite Raffles Istanbul opened in 2014 and extends the brand reach to this top tier business and leisure destination. Located in the Zorlu Center with 200 shops, cafes and a performance venue, a 15-minute walk brings visitors to a transfer point for public transit. Guests who prefer faster transportation options will appreciate the hotel’s heliport. Art historians and collectors will find the significant art works of local artists inspiring and the hotels’ art concierge assists guests to source the city’s art scene (including paintings, sculpture, photography and video). There is also a personal shopping and styling service for retailing excursions through the city.

Elegant dining rooms, bars, indoor and outdoor pools and a 32,000 sq. ft. spa makes this property a WOW in a city that presents a vast array of glamourous branded and boutique options to world weary travelers. The hotels 74-seat (44-seat alfresco terrace) signature restaurant, Arola, is directed by Michelin-starred chef Sergi Arola. There is a private dining area with a separate kitchen for corporate events and a chef table for 12 guests.

Ottoman Hotel Imperial (World Luxury Hotel and Spa Award; Best Historical Hotel)

A special experience in Istanbul, the charming 4-star 49-room hotel was built as an Ottoman school and hospital. The building served the teachers and pupils of the historical Medrese for 70+ years and was a hospital for Ottoman handicraft producers and masters. In 2005 the building was renovated and reconstructed as a historical hotel. Its restaurant, the Matbah (kitchen) is noted for its Ottoman Palace Cuisine with recipes that date back to the 13th – 19th centuries. Within walking distance of the Sogukcesme Kokagi and Hagia Sophia the hotel is also near the Basilica Cistern and Topkapi Palace. With a great staff eager to create happy guests, this unique property deserves a visit.


There is not likely to be any place on the planet that comes close to Cappadocia. While erosion has shaped the soft-rock landscape of the Goreme Valley, thousands of years of people traveling through and living in the area have created incredible underground chambers and tunnels.

The urbanized subterranean complex was started in the 4th century AD. Wind and water along with volcanic eruptions have left an environment that looks like a fairy tale or the end of a child’s day at the beach – with sand castles, complete with cones, pillars, pinnacles, mushrooms and chimneys. The underground network includes living and worship spaces, stables and storehouses with tunnels creating underground towns that have as many as eight different levels and are undetectable at ground level.

The region’s soft stone enabled people to seek shelter underground and gave them protection from enemy invasions. Throughout the countryside fascinating troglodyte-style architecture offers history-buffs awesome experiences in cave architecture and hikers and bikers get to experience sports in a lunar landscape complete with accordion-ridged valleys and a color palette of dusky orange and cream.


House Hotel, developed by Sekibe Aslan, is a distinctive upscale boutique property located in the town of Ortahisar (middle fortress). Incredibly idiosyncratic, the 29-room hotel is a mix of caves carved from several buildings that date from 5th, 19th and 20th century structures. Off the beaten path, the House Hotel can definitely be considered as a one and only.

From suites with hand painted religious motifs and antiques to outdoor space designed for a James Bond movie backdrop, sophisticated and stylish guests have the opportunity to enjoy a spa with Turkish Hamam, sauna and steam and, because it is a short walk or bike ride to the town, where guests can be part of the local community, enjoying a beer at a neighborhood bar and buying pottery as it is being handcrafted by young local artisans. The hotel staff quickly becomes your BFF and when it is time to leave, it is like saying goodbye to your favorite cousins.

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Hotels in Istanbul and Cappadocia: Blending Europe with the East

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