Conceived in 2008, Witt Istanbul Suites is a genuine design haven. Once the Turkish headquarters of Ogilvy and Mather, it’s been nipped, tucked and stylishly reshaped into one of the city’s most smart and spacious stays, thanks to Wallpaper*-endorsed designer darlings, Autoban. Huge rooms, marble kitchenettes, Ross Lovegrove bathrooms and sassy modern furniture all make for the perfect pied-à-terre.
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A welcome drink and basket of fresh fruit on arrival
Noon, but flexible subject to availability. Earliest check-in, 2pm.
Double rooms from £84.46 (€95), including tax at 8 per cent.
Rates include breakfast.
Open from 8am to 11pm, the rooftop permaculture garden is an urban haven with striking views over the Bosphorus, Topkapi Palace and Galata Tower. It’s the perfect spot for a sundowner – but you’re welcome to don some gardening gloves and get involved, too.
At the hotel
Roof garden, library, DVD/CD selection, free WiFi throughout. In rooms: flatscreen TV, DVD/CD player, kitchenette with microwave, kettle and Nespresso machine, air-conditioning and minibar.
Our favourite rooms
With sweeping views of Istanbul, the Bosphorus and the Black Sea, the Penthouse – which has a 20sq m terrace – is the pick of the bunch, looking out over the river and the Topkapi palace. All the hotel’s suites cultivate a luxury-apartment feel, thanks to superbly equipped kitchens, hi-tech Marmara marble bathrooms created by design wizard Ross Lovegrove, each boasting an indulgent five shower heads (but no bath), and oodles of space.
Thai massage and reflexology treatments are also available on request.
Bring your swimsuit – although the Witt Suites doesn’t have a pool, you can soak up the sun in secrecy on your balcony, if you have one.
The hotel's not ideal for children, although cots are available for babies and extra beds can be added to the King Panoramic, King Panoramic with Terrace and Penthouse rooms for €50 a night.
The nearest airport is Istanbul, 40km away. The journey should take roughly three quarters of an hour, but this can grow rapidly in rush hour.
The nearest metro stations, Tophane and Taksim Square, are both about five minutes’ walk from the hotel. It may only have two lines, but the metro covers many of the city’s major points.
Cars aren’t essential since so many of the city sights are accessible on foot (there's no parking on site or nearby, either).
Worth getting out of bed for
The Istanbul Modern is an old dockside warehouse turned art and design gallery, a short roll down the hill from the hotel. The bar-restaurant, which offers brilliant Bosphorus views, is a key lunch spot – but take a taxi back up the hill, it's a brutal slope. Opposite the Witt Suites, on the other side of the river, sits the Hagia Sophia, Istanbul's most magnificent Byzantine building, now a museum. For a proper Turkish bath, try Kilic Ali Pasa Hamami or Cukurcuma Hamami.
Situated in an elegant corner venue in one the cities oldest districts, the European-brasserie-feel Karaköy lokantası has striking blue-tiled walls and specialises in traditional Turkish mezes and finely-crafted seafood. In a lavish penthouse space and awning-flanked alfresco bar-and-dining deck, overlooking the Bosphorus, the ever-popularSunset Bar & Grill is an elegant water-side eatery, situated in Istanbul’s ancient port-neighbourhood. Sitting shoulder-to-shoulder with celebrity and high-society clientele, you can look out across the Bosphorus and sip a glass of Turkish sauvignon blanc while merchants haggle with a local fisherman over the day’s catch. This is traditional, simply-cooked seafood at its best. The restaurant is usually busy, so reservations are highly recommended.
Cuma is a superb pit-stop after an antique-hunting session in the Çukurcuma district. Home-baked breads, tender grilled meats and flavourful salads are chalked up on the menu board daily, but they make a mean cup of Turkish joe too.
No one told me there was a Grand Prix for taxi drivers, and that it was being held in Istanbul on the weekend Mr Smith and I arrive in the city. By the time we’re dropped off, dizzy and disorientated, at the cool stone steps of the Witt Istanbul Suites, I seriously wonder if I’ll ever regain my balance again. Ten wobbly paces later, though, we’re in the soothing sanctuary of a sombrely lit lobby and all traffic woes are forgotten. The welcome we receive as we check in is warm and genuine, which, considering it’s 1am, is no mean feat.
I’m tired and still feeling slightly irked by the fact that one of our bags has decided to go somewhere else for the weekend, but all negativity disappears when we’re shown into our fifth-floor corner suite. It’s beautiful and my eyes are immediately drawn to the huge bed in which I hope to be imminently snoozing. Then I see the windows. I can vaguely hear someone trying to explain to Mr Smith how to make the fancy flatscreen TV work, but all my senses are now fully engaged on the view. The Bosphorus spreads out beneath us like a velvet blanket and the mosques of the Golden Horn are lit up like jewels beside a flame. ‘It’s OK,’ I say to the hotel manager. ‘We won’t be watching the TV.’ He looks mystified, as though I’ve said we won’t be sleeping in the bed.
The next morning, we wake in a dark and silent room after the best night’s sleep in ages. We pull up the blinds with the excitement of children on Christmas morning – and we’re not disappointed. The French doors next to the bed yield a view down to the turquoise Bosphorus across the manicured courtyard of the old Italian Hospital, and across to the Topkapi Palace. Thousands of higgledy-piggledy roofs sit in between, adding to the sense of chaotic beauty. We make ourselves some espresso and take our Turkish breakfast back to bed.
Being in our suite feels as though we’ve been given the keys to our coolest friends’ tip-top apartment for the weekend. There’s a kitchen for starters – how often do you see that in a hotel room? – and a bathroom that’s an intriguing mix of traditional and modern. Built with grey-veined marble, as found in many of the city’s hammams, it also features bobbly Ross Lovegrove fittings and a glass-walled shower – oh, and large bottles of Molton Brown products. The living area, which has its own Bosphorus-view balcony, comes with a leather-and-wood sofa, a marble coffee table, and a flatscreen TV and DVD player. The whole tone of the place is cosy and modern, with a simple natural palette of black, taupe, grey and white. A quirky, feminine touch can be seen in the floral patterns on the wardrobes and the white panel above the bed. Designed by Wallpaper*-friendly local architects Autoban, the end result is domestic luxury rather than hotel swank. I’d happily move in tomorrow.
When we finally bring ourselves to leave the room, we head over to Ni?anta?i for a session of what Mr Smith calls ‘nuclear shopping’. He’s got business meetings in the city tomorrow and all of his work outfits are in that missing bag. It takes him just an hour to find himself outfits for both work and play – about the same time it takes me to try on a swimsuit and then have a cappuccino to get over it. We eat close to the hotel, at Meyra on Akarsu Caddesi, where we enjoy the best aglio et olio this side of Rome and get delightfully sozzled in the warm afternoon sun.
The area of Cihangir, in which the Witt Istanbul Suites sits, is the sort of bustling quarter that only insiders know about. Its streets are a jumble of trendy cafés and creative start-ups, mixed in with traditional kebabçi, barbershops, mosques, hammams and crumbling family apartments. Just uphill from the hotel, at the junction with Akarsu Caddesi, is a 24/7 hub of taxi drivers, all-night terraced cafés and little eateries, whilst around another corner Anatolian women in traditional dress sit crocheting in the street and children with limpid eyes watch you from dark doorways. Just downhill from the Witt, on the shores of the Bosphorus, is the stylish Museum of Modern Art. In a city that, for thousands of years, has been at the crossroads of two cultures, perhaps it is natural to find such differences within a few square metres.
On Sunday morning, while Mr Smith goes off to talk business in his new clothes. When he returns, we head downstairs to check out, only to decide that we’ll stay here for a couple more days. ‘Welcome back,’ says the manager, smiling. ‘And the other good news is that your missing bag has arrived.’
I know exactly where it’s going to go. And, now that we’ve discovered the Witt, so do we. We genuinely don’t want to go home – unless, of course, someone in London is willing to lend us their beautiful, design-conscious apartment for the weekend.