Many years ago, as an Istanbul correspondent for Time Out magazine, I stepped into the Grand Hyatt Istanbul to interview its new manager Jiri Kobos. It intrigued me that the manager of one of city’s poshest hotels was also an accomplished painter with exhibitions around the world. But between you and me, I also wanted to get a peek of life on the fifth star—Turkish style.
Last week, I returned to Istanbul for the first time in four years and got to drink it in fully during a two-night stay at Grand Hyatt Istanbul. Jiri may have moved on, but the hotel’s five-star veneer still gleamed and promised the comfort, luxury, and style I saw before.
But I wouldn’t call it Turkish style exactly. As the outside of the building suggests, the Hyatt prefers light Ottoman touches in the roof, overhangs, and Seljuk stars. Inside the reception lobby, the effect is echoed in the marble floors and surrounding latticework. That’s about where Turkishness ends, however, and high class international business hotel begins.Suits are charcoal, well-tailored, and worn by about 50 percent of the guests and most of the staff, who is well-trained to respond to global needs.
My room, 746, was one of 22 Grand Suite Kings in the hotel (starting at $650). The grand is clearly in the space, a full 860 square feat—a remarkable feat in a city like Istanbul, where space is in short supply. Three people could stretch out on the living room’s L-shaped sofa alone and still not touch the office area. They’ll even have their own bathroom. The bedroom lies through another door and includes its own master bathroom with rain shower, bathtub, and June Jacobs products. There’s a one-window view of the Bosphorus, but I know the hotel has better, so ask when making reservations.
Lying back on the very comfortable bed, I couldn’t help noticing the beige-ness of everything—beige doors, beige walls, beige curtains, and beige floors. It’s a little surprising actually, considering the colorfulness of Turkish culture. Director of Sales and Marketing, Özlem Gökşin, explains the clientele prefers it that way. The color scheme gives a greater sense of cleanliness and acts as a quick antidote to the sensory overload of Istanbul.
Quick is the also the operative word regarding the Grand Hyatt’s location. Its close proximity to Taksim Square makes most major sights easily reachable on public transportation and the district’s fabled nightlife mere footsteps away. Families with kids shouldn’t worry though, as the sheer size of the Hyatt’s property keeps the party distant enough. Besides, they’ll have more fun in the 65-foot long pool in the back garden, yet another rarity in downtown Istanbul.
Being a Grand Club member, I had access to a private elevator, dedicated concierge, and business lounge serving breakfast in the morning, tea in the afternoon, and cocktails and canapés in the evening. But I was far more interested in taking meals at Restaurant 34 on the mezzanine. It wasn’t just the outside seating that won me, but the dynamic layout of food stations, each with its own culinary focus. For breakfast, one specialized in eggs, another meats, a third breads and pastries, and so on. However, much like the décor, it’s hard to call the food authentic Turkish. If you want that, ask specifically.
The extremities of five star hospitality, however, are not fully experienced until a treatment in the GAIA Spa. Remarkable for the sheer variety of treatments, the spa first tenderizes the muscles in dry and wet saunas (and a private, rentable hamam), then kneads them into blissful surrender. Ask for a 60-minute GAIA massage from Pinar. You’ll see what I mean.
The Grand Hyatt Istanbul is a fabulous hotel and gets my full recommendation. My only reservation is for people seeking an authentic Turkish experience. The most significant part of what makes a hotel shine is the staff, and at the Grand Hyatt Istanbul, they do just that. In fact, I owe them true gratitude for giving shelter to one of my friends (and many others), who were gassed in the recent riots. Those are the kind of people working at the Hyatt.
Mike Dunphy stayed as a guest of the Grand Hyatt Istanbul
All photos by Mike Dunphy