Beyond luxury, RAFFLES Istanbul, the experience of a lifetime

With an ideal location, on the top of a hill, on the European side, RAFFLES Istanbul offers stunning views of both halves of the vibrant city which connects Europe to Asia. The endless views of the Asian side, especially on late evenings and those of the Bosphorus at any given time of the day are truly magical.

I was fortunate to stay at the hotel for one night amidst a major snow storm just before New Year’s Eve, last December, shortly after the hotel opened, and then, again, earlier this summer. My experience on both occasions was truly mesmerizing! Having traveled to Istanbul many times before and having already toured all the major tourist sights, on this occasion, RAFFLES Istanbul subtly immersed me in its pampering ‘mode’, a state of mind when you don’t feel the need to immortalize in pictures neither the views nor the hotel.

Beyond its sleek contemporary interior design which subtly encompasses authentic Ottoman inspirations, beyond its impeccably appointed lavish accommodations and beyond its stunning Spa and flawless dining facilities, RAFFLES Istanbul is a home away from home which provides and equally genuine experience to all types of guests , from the first timers wishing to absorb as much of the city’s treasures, to those returning guests, like myself who long for a laid back experience, which I also call pampering ‘mode’.

Back in June, when I stepped out on the large terrace of my suite barefoot (most rooms and suites offer large outdoor terraces) for a few seconds I could feel the coldness of the snow, a flashback from my previous experience which made me feel at HOME. On both stays, I shamelessly admit I hardly ever left the hotel. Besides enjoying every encounter with the staff, whom I felt as friends (I even made a best friend…) I fully enjoyed the spectacular Spa of the hotel which features my favorite beauty brand, The Organic Pharmacy but also has a team of expertly trained therapists.

Other facilities which ”prevented” me from leaving the hotel included the heated indoor swimming pool, the roof top outdoor swimming pool, the Long Bar inspired by the original in Raffles Singapore, not to mention the Arola Restaurant by the Michelin-starred chef Sergi Arola and the Rocca Restaurant which serves contemporary Turkish Cuisine. Then, there is ZORLU, which is directly attached to the hotel – a state of the art shopping and entertainment experience, with a well balanced mixed of major international luxury fashion brands and local Turkish brands.

In case you may wonder what prompted this glowing review: GUEST EXPERIENCE – which highly experienced hotelier Tarek Mourad (General Manager) masters, together with his team. During my brief, yet most fortunate encounter with him, Tarek confirmed my thoughts: ”You see Oliver, when each guest arrives, he has his own needs, his own wants. The hotel industry is not science, at the end of the day. It is about people serving and creating an experience for others” he said.

I then learned more of his unique background. Tarek was born and raised in Egypt as a Muslim by a father of Ottoman descent, Tarek has Greek nationality through his mother. His innate cross cultural experience is perfectly expressed by his faith: ”I have been to more churches than many Christians. I have been to mosques and I have friends of different faiths. I grew up in a society where all was mixed and yet cohesive”.

Lastly, Tarek shared with me: ”You know, I started my career at 14 as a lift boy. And when you work with people from 40 different nationalities, you realize that each one comes with his own culture, education, experience. The  trick is how to relate to each one  as an individual and try to get the best out of him or her. It’s all about the people and putting them together in a family” And my reaction could only be Je lève mon chapeau!

A modest video preview of my suite at the RAFFLES Istanbul can be viewed here

Oliver Petcu in Istanbul