Christine Cunanan heads to Turkey for a short but sweet stay at one of Istanbul’s most exclusive luxury hotels.
On a recent long weekend to Istanbul, flying halfway around the world for four nights of luxurious experiences and simple pleasures, I chose to stay at the Park Hyatt Istanbul in the fashionable district of Nisantasi, famous for its avenues lined with designer boutiques and – for literature fans – as the neighborhood of Turkish Nobel Prize winner Orhan Pamuk, who began his memoirs with vignettes from his childhood home here.
Turkey’s richness of art can be seen in almost every city corner
This was my nth trip to this beautiful city and sightseeing was not the main item on the agenda. Instead, I wanted to experience Istanbul at a leisurely pace – to revisit favorite neighborhoods, stroll along the Bosporus on a fine day, enjoy a few delicious kebab dinners, and buy some art for my eclectic home.
This disconnect lasts only for about three minutes, though; after that, one quickly appreciates the genius behind this fusion of old and new, which also embodies the spirit of Istanbul in 2017.
A sculpture of modern art that embodies Turkey’s creativity
The hotel is a wonderful oasis in a bustling and rather chaotic city, full of design and culture that make up a most invigorating feast for the senses. It was created from a melding of a heritage Art Deco palace that has housed presidents and princesses with a completely modern structure of glass, steel and bricks. The result is the initially disconcerting sight of the façade of an old building – windows, balconies and all – partially encased within an angular glass dome that also houses a minimalist lobby full of modern art.
The hotel is a treasure trove of modern art
It’s all in the details
If you are after solitude alongside culture and shopping – or even privacy, if you are someone constantly chased by cameras – look no further than this small five-star deluxe property. It’s so unobtrusive on the outside that I myself have missed the entrance several times, as it’s marked only by simple smoked glass doors and an equally modest sign along a small driveway.
But inside, the hotel is pure minimalist luxury with art that whispers rather than shouts. These works are everywhere and yet these are positioned so seamlessly that you are likely to miss these without an earnest search as they blend effortlessly with the background while providing necessary accents to it.
A room that blends old and new at the Park Hyatt Istanbul
There are none of the blasts of color and riots of design found everywhere else in the city. A contemporary lounge and a stylish bar flank each other and at the end is a corridor of white tiles and amazing light brought into an otherwise dark corner by this glass dome that melds old and new together.
On the other hand, for travelers with a taste for accommodations that feature a riot of colors and elaborate interiors that will all the senses, The Reverie Saigon is the place for you. See our experience at the hotel here.
A glimpse of the hotel’s contemporary lounge and a stylish bar
My favorite things
But the best part about the Park Hyatt Istanbul was my room, which was a deluxe spa king room with its own private spa facilities enclosed in heavy smoked glass; and this spa included a proper steam room, a mini Turkish hammam complete with a silver bowl for washing, and a color therapy bathtub.
Do not underestimate the effects of a private spa at your disposal 24 hours a day and just several steps away from the bedroom on the mind and body, and even on a high spirited one – especially if the hotel’s masseuse can also do house calls and set up a proper massage bed, bringing along some relaxing music for good measure as well.
A room at the Park Hyatt Hotel comes with its own private spa
Leaving everything behind
What a physical and psychological treat it was to be able to soothe one’s self in a private spa and metaphorically wash away any troubles at any time one wished. Because we were in an Istanbul frame of mind and it was so convenient, we used the spa at least twice a day and whenever else we felt like doing so.
And there is nothing truly as luxuriously comforting as the feeling of coming out of one’s private steam room to have a masseuse waiting patiently to iron out any remaining stress in your own room.
This was my eureka moment, when I was reminded of the authentic art of travel, which is really a matter of refreshing one’s self and senses in every possible way. This includes seeing the sights and experiencing new cultures, of course; but it ideally also enables one to recharge in a physical way. So now I plan to book a room with a private spa whenever I can manage this, although hotel rooms with private spa facilities are hard to find in other hotels unless you book the presidential suite.
The room’s muted décor of simple furniture, smoky mirrors, and sepia art photographs – broken only by a fancy gold chandelier – reminded me of old-fashioned post-war Istanbul rather than the flashy Istanbul of the Ottoman empire, which was most appropriate given its location in equally old-fashioned and muted but stylish Nisantasi. It was calming and relaxing, as the entire hotel is, and simply perfect for the kind of relaxing Istanbul weekend I had in mind.
The guest rooms’ muted décor of simple furniture allows the art to shine
A royal breakfast
I have ordered breakfast by room service from practically every luxury hotel in Istanbul over the years. However, the breakfast at the Park Hyatt Istanbul is certainly one of the best in the city. Once we had tasted it, we were content to order and enjoy this everyday in the privacy of our room. I resisted the idea of having anything else.
On our first morning in Istanbul, you see, I rang up room service and said: “We would like breakfast with everything, please.”
Indeed, this is exactly what we got. We never woke up before noon, and by the time we’d managed to organize our first meal of the day, it was practically lunch and we were famished.
Eggs to remember
Our version of breakfast at the Park Hyatt Istanbul consisted of the usual fruit plates and baskets of fresh bread, as well as heaping trays of cheeses and olives, and juices and pots of Turkish coffee and tea. The piece de resistance, however, was their version of Eggs Royale, which is really poached eggs with smoked salmon on two muffins, with hollandaise sauce poured over these.
As you can imagine, finishing this feast took hours, especially as we literally savored every bite. I am firmly of the opinion that a holiday is not meant to be rushed, especially when a lovely room in an old and beautiful city and a delicious breakfast are involved; and even if we were only in Istanbul for four days.
The Park Hyatt Istanbul’s version of Eggs Royale
By the time the meal was over, it was just a few more hours until dinner, so we upped the pace slightly either to take a walk or to visit a favorite museum for the rest of the afternoon before returning to the hotel.
In fact, this room set-up proved so serene that we could barely tear ourselves away from it, save for those few hours on short trips every day. For the remainder of our holiday, we basked quietly in the bright mornings and the dewy sunsets of Istanbul from our balcony, with strong Turkish coffee in the mornings and wine and a plate of cheese in the evenings, content to appreciate the sounds and sights of Istanbul from our oasis up high.
Park Hyatt Istanbul