Bordering the Bosphorus and its laurel-stitched banks, Six Senses Kocataş Mansions mingles Ottoman eminence with the trappings of a worldly bohème. Occupying two yalı (waterfront mansions) in well-heeled Sariyer, the hotel was once the home of Necmeddin Molla Kocataş, a minister of justice for the Ottoman Empire. The interiors play out Istanbul’s dance between continents, dressed in Belle Époque furnishings that borrow from Europe and Asia alike. Svelte armchairs and writing desks rub shoulders with trunks wrapped in studded leather, lending a hint of bohemia and golden-age travel. Each morning, go toe-to-toe with the river as you sip Turkish coffee on the terrace, then settle in the salon-esque café, sun yourself in the gardens or cruise down the Bosphorus on a private boat.
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Your choice of a 30-minute foot massage or body scrub (both for two)
Noon, but flexible, subject to availability. Earliest check-in, 3pm.
Double rooms from £219.83 (€247), including tax at 1 per cent.
Rates usually include Continental breakfast, a boat cruise on the Bosphorus, and a free shuttle-boat service from the hotel to Istanbul's Old Town. If you’re staying on the room-only rate, breakfast starts from €25 an adult and €15 a child.
As with all Six Senses hotels, you’ll have a Guest Experience Maker (GEM) to book activities and help you make the most of your stay.
At the hotel
Gardens, gym, library, boutique, free WiFi throughout, laundry. In rooms: flatscreen TV, iPad, Marshall Bluetooth speaker, minibar, Nespresso coffee machine, tea and a kettle, free bottled water, yoga mat.
Our favourite rooms
Decorated in egg-shell pastels, the rooms stay true to the mansions’ stately past with high-backed armchairs, writing desks, slender lamps and gilt-framed artwork. The chests of drawers that masquerade as leather trunks are particularly eye-catching, wrapped in leather, brass studs and bright fabrics, adding a burst of colour and a dressed-down bohemian flourish. For the full experience, go for the Bosphorus-facing rooms and suites, which have high ceilings (over four metres in some cases) and vast windows overlooking the river.
A heated indoor pool is currently in the works, and will open alongside the spa.
Set to open in spring 2020, the Six Senses Spa will overlook the Bosphorus and its tree-swathed banks – as authentic a place to enjoy a traditional hammam as you could ask for. The spa programme will unite the preventive philosophy of Eastern medicine and the results-focused approach of the West, creating an experience that perfectly suits continent-straddling Istanbul. There will be five treatment rooms, men’s and women’s saunas and hammams, a yoga and wellness studio, fully-equipped gym, relaxation area, juice bar and a holistic anti-ageing centre, where the therapists combine hi-tech nutrition, fitness and neuroscience with knowledge gleaned from some of the longest-living communities on earth. Couples in search of sanctuary can retreat to the spa suite, complete with a private sauna, hammam and lounge.
Even in the heat of midsummer, you’ll need to cover up when visiting mosques. Mrs Smith should pack a lightweight scarf to cover her hair and shoulders; Mr Smith will need trousers.
Stairs in the common areas mean this hotel is not fully accessible for wheelchairs.
All ages are welcome, but the hotel isn’t particularly geared towards children.
The hotel recycles and uses recycled products wherever possible, organics are composted, and the cleaning and bath products are eco-friendly. Six Senses Kocatas Mansions is also part of a carbon-offset scheme.
Request a table as close to the water as you can get.
Toro Gastro Bar, the hotel’s Bosphorus-facing restaurant, is helmed by Mexican-born chef and restaurateur Richard Sandoval. The menu borrows from Asia and South American, in particular, Nikkei cuisine, which combines the delicacy and precision of Japanese cooking with the spice and citrus flavours of the Peruvian Andes. All-day restaurant Defne is on the first floor of Sait Pasa Mansion and looks out over the Bosphorus; the creative menu offers Six Senses-inspired dishes that are almost too pretty to eat. Styled like a bohemian-tinged salon, the Kahve café is a more casual option serving pastries, Turkish cakes and light bites throughout the day.
The bar in Toro serves fiendishly good cocktails, Turkish and South American wines and fermented drinks like boza, Turkey's favourite winter warmer.
Breakfast is available from 7.30am to 10.30am, lunch from 12.30pm to 3pm, and dinner from 7pm to 10.30pm.
The hotel occupies two riverfront mansions in Sariyer, a stately suburb around an hour’s drive from the heart of Istanbul.
Istanbul Airport is a 40-minute drive from the hotel. It’s one of the largest airports in the world, and can be reached directly from London Heathrow, London Gatwick, Manchester and most Continental hubs. The hotel can arrange round-trip transfers in a private car for €420.
It makes sense to hire a car if you want to be able to get in and out of the city centre without using taxis or riverboats. Most of the big-name rental firms have outlets at the airport. There’s valet parking at the hotel.
The most pleasant way to get into the city centre is to motor down the Bosphorus in a boat. The journey takes around an hour in each direction, and is an experience in itself.
Worth getting out of bed for
Like any self-respecting yalı owner, Six Senses has made the most of the waterfront location. Whether you’re sampling pastries beneath the chandelier in Kahve café, sunning yourself in the gardens or holed up in the spa (open from Spring 2020), you’ll be able to see right across the Bosphorus as it rounds the final bend on its journey to the Black Sea.
The hotel has its own boat that can be chartered for private river cruises. You’ll set sail right outside the mansions and cruise past some of Istanbul’s most important sights – on both the European and Asian sides of the city. The concierge can also arrange tours of Sariyer – which is full of whitewashed mansions – and Sultanahmet, Istabul’s historic (and hilly) heart. It’s here that you’ll find the city’s grand trinity: the Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque and Topkapı Palace. For a riot of scent and colour, ask your guide to take you to Eminönü to visit Mısır Çarşısı, Istanbul’s spice bazaar. It’s been a hive of commerce since 1664, and is still lined with stalls piled with powders in every colour of the rainbow – along with Turkish delight, dates, figs, coffee and baklava.
If you’ve skipped breakfast, try Misk in nearby Reşitpaşa, a flower-filled café bringing a taste of California to the suburbs of northern Istanbul. Expect smoothies, pastries, brunch classics and fruit-laden breakfast bowls that are as colourful as the bouquets on the tables. Markus, serving moresome mezze and barbecue dishes, is within a short cab ride of the hotel and is perfect for a laid-back lunch. If you’re struggling to make up your mind, go for the pulled-beef burger or the ribs – both are firm favourites. Stellar seafood can be found at family-run restaurant Kahraman, slightly north of the hotel in Rumeli Kavağı. The chefs make the most of Istanbul’s proximity to the Aegean and Black Sea; try the whole turbot, the speciality. In Beyoğlu (which is closer to the historic centre), have dinner at 1924, named for the year it was opened. Formerly known as Rejans, the restaurant was founded by Russian émigrés fleeing the Bolsheviks, who duly created a restaurant revolution of their own. Everyone from Mata Hari to Greta Garbo has passed through its doors, and Turkey’s first president, Mustafa Kamal Atatürk, ate there often enough to have his own table. Dine on Russian staples like borscht, beef stroganoff and piroshki, then cap the meal with a round of iced lemon vodkas. Stylish fine-dining can be found at Nicole, a Franco-Turkish restaurant with a wall of windows overlooking the historic peninsula and Prince Islands. There are two tasting menus, both with optional wine pairings that champion some of the best labels to come out of Thrace and Anatolia.
Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this Ottoman-era hotel in Sariyer and unpacked their fragrant purchases from the spice bazaar, a full account of their Bosphorus break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside Six Senses Kocatas Mansions in Istanbul…
If you were a statesman in the autumn years of the Ottoman Empire, you didn’t confine yourself to a stuffy apartment in the heart of Istanbul – oh no. Alongside a house in the countryside, those with the most clout also owned a riverside mansion, where they could be within striking distance of the city but enjoy the atmosphere of a Bosphorus-hugging village – albeit one where every mansion had its own private pier. Minister of Justice Necmettin Molla Kocatas was one of these lucky few, choosing to set down in Sariyer in 1929, a time when the riverside ‘village’ was also favoured by the founder of the Republic of Turkey, Mustafa Kamal Atatürk.
Ninety years later, the two Kocatas mansions have once again thrown open their doors, following a complete refurbishment that has restored their Belle Époque splendour. The entrance is fittingly grand, complete with a double staircase, crystal chandeliers and patterned marble floors. Plush ottomans, inlaid tables and Turkish artwork root the interiors in place, but it doesn't take long to feel the Six Senses touch. The rooms evoke the grandeur of the Ottoman Empire without feeling formal, helped by their pastel livery and colourful chests of drawers that masquerade as travellers’ trunks. Outside, the landscaped gardens and riverside terraces are a far cry from the crush of Istanbul’s bazaars, and the Six Senses Spa completes this pacifying trinity. And, when you do want to immerse yourself in the city’s sights and sounds, you need only step aboard the hotel’s private boat and cruise down the river.