Istanbul is quickly reclaiming its ‘City of Cities’ moniker bestowed upon the luxurious land years before.
Roman, Byzantine, Latin and Ottoman empires (over the last 28 centuries) have all drawn upon Istanbul’s shores, eager to capture that crucial East meets West accessibility. And now travellers are returning too – in droves, so it seems – heady with the hip happening buzz that’s re-evolving today.
Istanbul travel has been pushed right to the top of the list for 2012.
A new generation of young, wealthy Istanbullus have created demand for contemporary outlets. Which, when set amid such rich cultural offerings (diverse though they are), creates a wonderful juxtaposition. With the ancient architectural backdrop of minarets and domes has come a plush sheen of forward thinking design, presented with the same, now-famed Ottoman craftsmanship and rich Middle Eastern textures and colours.
Exemplary of this bountiful blend is EDITION Istanbul – the first European offering of world-renowned Marriott and Schrager properties (the partnership itself an amalgamation of classic meets contemporary). Ian Schrager is the veritable daddy of boutique hotels and, well, Marriott – need we say more.
Designed first and foremost (by hot New York firm Gabellini Sheppard, no less) as the antithesis to the dreaded hotel chain, EDITION’s Istanbul site presents tailor-made accommodation that’s representative of the city’s rich cultural diversity.
Oversized guestrooms come laden with rosewood, silk and marble; gold and silver leaf adorns the lobby, there’s a three-story ESPA spa, a Cipriani restaurant and much more. But the true purpose of this majestic destination is to make you feel sumptuous (Istanbul-style), rather than just be surrounded by it.
Enter manager, Marcus Loevenforst. He moved from InterContinental Hotels and Resorts (after serving in Stuttgart, Germany, San Francisco, Miami and Toronto) across to The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company (five years in Bahrain, Moscow and Berlin) before moving ‘with the family’ as he says, to head up EDITION Istanbul.
As one of the best hotels in Istanbul you must be able to tell us the Turkish fashion must-haves too….
Technology and Social Media are big in Istanbul. Even in our office people communicate more over that than anything else. There’s a two-month wait on the latest iPhone. The iPad is big. And the new Blackberry. Any of the Androids – they go crazy for it here. Whenever I go abroad people are like ‘bring me back one of those white iPads’.
Ladies over here are extremely chic with the Louis Vuitton handbag like a classic tradition – the younger generations like all those funky coloured ones too. It’s a must have for every lady here. For guys the designer grunge look is big – a Cavalli jacket and a ripped True Religion or D&G jeans, unshaven with long hair.
EDITION’s integrated three-story ESPA spa looks truly sumptuous and rightly so – Turkish baths are legendary. After enjoying your own contemporary surroundings, where would you suggest guests go for more a traditional Istanbul hammam?
We send our guests to the Sultan Ahmet Camii (Blue Mosque) That’s a very old and traditional, thick marble Turkish bath, where you can have the full hammam cleaning treatment.
EDITION provides its own restaurants and nightclub but what other Istanbul restaurants and nightlife destinations live up to your standard?
That’s easy. There’s a place called Sunset, which is built into the mountain. Anyone around the World has heard of Sunset, Istanbul. It has the most stunning view over the Bosphorus and is jam-packed summer and winter. Anyone you bring here just goes ‘wow’.
On the bottom of that hill, right by the water, is Reina, which serves international cuisine with traditional Turkish food. It’s a restaurant that turns into a club.
Then for some down time – what would be on top of your list of things to do in Istanbul?
Take a ferry from the EU to Asian side (and the other way around, of course), through the Black Sea and Bosphorus channel etc. There’s a classic little fishing restaurant there, which is very small but just by the shoreline.
Then there’s Belgrade Forest North West of the city – you need to give it 30 minutes to get there. All the green gives you a very calming, relaxing feeling. It’s not far from the city but this huge forest with its fantastic trees smells completely different from the city – everything’s fresh and earthy.
EDITION is based in Levent, near all those key designer stores – where do you recommend for shopping Istanbul style?
Kanyon Shopping Mall is like your Harvey Nichols of Istanbul. It’s an open concept too – like an atrium style, which is handy in the summer.
Vakko is like the Turkish Prada – it’s a high quality, really elegant label – so it’s best to go here for something unique.
Istinya Park is the biggest mall and has all the designer labels.
And for chic Ottoman craftsmanship and furnishings – as showcased at the EDITION – what shops do you suggest?
For architecture go to Topkapi Palace where Muslim culture is combined with Christianity under one roof – very unusual.