IN ISTANBUL, EMBARK ON A PATH THROUGH HISTORY WITH ÇIRAĞAN PALACE KEMPINSKI
“If the world was but a single country, Istanbul would be its capital.”
-Napoléon Bonaparte (1769-1821)
Lygos. Byzantium. Constantinople. Istanbul is the city of one hundred names. Such is a title befitting a place so layered and complex that it escapes just one definition. After all, it has existed in one form or another, by one name or another, for nearly two thousand years. It can be classified not as Eastern or Western, Asian or European, not even ancient or modern. Istanbul is none of these things. And yet, perhaps paradoxically, it is all of them.
From a distance, it looks to be a remnant of the past. Its towering church steeples and mosque minarets shape the skyline like that of a proud city from a long bygone century. History resides within these magnificent structures, in the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia, considered by many the eighth wonder of the world, in the ornate royal palaces like Çırağan and Topkapı, a member of UNESCO’s prestigious World Heritage List. The air is thick with it, a palpable sense that truly important things happened here in this cradle of civilization.
Strategically located on the Bosphorus peninsula between the Balkans and Anatolia, the Black Sea and the Mediterranean, Istanbul has served as capital for both the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires and has been associated with some of the greatest political, religious and artistic events in documented history. It is, in large part, because of this history that travelers come here. They wish to marvel firsthand at the beauty of Istanbul’s historic architecture, to walk the same streets as Constantine the Great and to explore the city’s ever-increasing number of centuries-old archaeological sites.
But Istanbul is an amalgam. While enjoying the city’s illustrious past, travelers often find themselves immersed in and enchanted by its equally fascinating present. While ancient monuments continue to stand, now so too do buildings like the Istanbul Modern Art Museum, the popular restaurant and nightclub Reina and the stylish fashion boutique Arzu Kaprol.
A morning of museum tours is easily followed by an afternoon of shopping at the Grand Bazaar and an evening out on the town in Istanbul’s Beyoğlu district. Here, antiquity coexists seamlessly with modernity.
Nowhere is this more evident than in Istanbul’s glamorous Çırağan Palace Kempinski, a former Ottoman palace transformed into a 5-star luxury hotel. Like the city itself, Çırağan is a relic of the past that fits effortlessly in the contemporary world. Constructed between 1863 and 1867 for Sultan Abdülâziz, it would go on to house four sultans and subsequently the Ottoman parliament.
Set in the heart of Istanbul, its ornate marble façade overlooks the Bosphorus like an Ottoman Venus rising from the sea. Guests here can experience Istanbul in absolute authenticity, albeit with a lavish royal flare. Upon arrival by limousine, yacht or helicopter, they are greeted by one of the property’s famous Ladies in Red, easily distinguished by their red couture Ottoman jackets. They are then taken to one of 313 rooms, perhaps even the Sultan Suite, where they can enjoy a 24-hour butler service, a panoramic view of the Bosphorous, two uniquely designed Ottoman-style bedrooms and a bathroom with their very own Turkish hammam.
For dinner, guests may opt to dine at the award-winning Tuğra Restaurant & Lounge, where they’ll be treated to authentic local fare set amidst a backdrop of live classical Turkish music and rich Ottoman décor. Then they can head over to the Gazebo Lounge for dessert and ultimately Le Fumoir, where they can relax with a cocktail in the palace’s lush gardens. Breakfast is available the following morning at Laledan, the hotel’s ground floor restaurant known for its rich varieties of international culinary offerings.
The day itself will likely be spent exploring the city followed by a much-needed late afternoon of relaxation. Sanitas Spa is the perfect place to do just that. Soak in an authentic Turkish bath and enjoy a rejuvenating massage. Guests can even take a swim in the property’s Infinity Pool, a heated swimming pool that, like Istanbul, literally straddles two continents. Guests drift leisurely along the length of it, from Europe to Asia and back again.
It is difficult to summon the will to leave Istanbul and the regal comforts of the Çırağan Palace Kempinski. And so, for those guests who can’t help but return, whether for business or pleasure, Çırağan has implemented a “Travel Light Program,” essentially allowing frequent guests to store their items at the hotel for safekeeping until they return. It is minute details such as this that distinguish Çırağan Palace Kempinski as one of the world’s leading hotels in one of the world’s leading cities.
Last year alone, more than 12.5 million people traveled to Istanbul. In so doing, they made the city the fifth most visited in the world. Their reasoning is obvious. Istanbul is a place unlike any other. It boasts a long and prosperous history and a truly unique geographic position. As a result, a culture entirely its own has developed here. Take advantage of it and hop on a yacht, limousine, or helicopter, book a stay at Çırağan Palace Kempinski and experience this paradoxical city of one hundred names for yourself.