Turkey’s tourism is bouncing back after political conflicts saw its visitor numbers drop 33 percent from 2014 to 2016. The nation straddling Eastern Europe and Western Asia witnessed a rebound of 40 percent year-on-year in the third quarter of 2017, and expects some 32 million tourists in 2018.
A good chunk of visitors will be from the GCC, as the UAE’s Emirates airline resumes its flights between Dubai and Istanbul in June this year due to rising demand.
As we land in Turkey’s bustling city Istanbul, the quick recovery makes sense. It is hard to stay away from a city that housed some of the world’s most notable empires, bearing countless cultural and historical sites including the Hagia Sophia museum, the 17th century Blue Mosque, and the imperial Topkapi Palace.
We chose to stay at the strategically located Fairmont Quasar Istanbul Bosphorus, situated in the city’s business district Mecidiyeköy. It is a 10 minute walk away from the Sisly Metro Station, which has direct access to Taksim Square, and a 15-20 minute car ride from major touristic attractions, including the Grand Bazaar, as well as Ataturk Airport.
We found that the hotel, which opened in December 2016, caters particularly to corporate guests. Rooms are spacious, soundproofed and equipped with comfortable working areas. We stayed at the Grand One Bedroom Suite, which overlooked the city skyline and the Bosphorus, a view we very much enjoyed.
But it was the details that reeled us in. High-tech features in the rooms included one touch button motorised curtains and heated floors - it was a chilling 9 degrees Celsius when we visited in January. We were told some rooms even have a heated Turkish bath.
Moreover, the hotel’s interiors were remarkably designed, with cosy wooden floors, modernist chandeliers and brown leather and pastel velour furniture. Friendly staff gestures made our stay feel homey, as they strike conversations and recommend attractions in the city.
Restaurant reservations and taxi bookings were made on our behalf. Erhan, the doorman, was particularly helpful in planning our activities. It is worth noting famous Turkish restaurant Nusr-Et is 15 minutes away by car.
We enjoyed the hotel’s dining options, too. A simple yet memorable meal was the beef burger ordered via room service. A halal breakfast is offered at Stations restaurant with live cooking stations, while the nearby Demlique café is dedicated to Turkish afternoon tea and local pastries. Do not leave without trying the Turkish coffee.
A floor down is Turkish restaurant Aila, serving traditional dishes including Vegan mezzes. Interestingly, most cost no more than $5, a fairly low-price at a 5-star hotel.
We grazed on favourites such as muhammara with roasted red pepper and walnut paste, as well as hunter’s-style Borek pastry with minced lamb, walnuts and chili tomato sauce. The restaurant has a spice ‘library,’ and makes its own combinations, so it excels in its mezzes.
While the Fairmont is indeed built with a business visitor in mind (it has 2,000 square meters of meeting and event space), it could pass for a romantic destination thanks to its views, cosy interiors, privacy aspects and ample outdoor terraces spread across the grounds; not to mention its seasonal rooftop infinity pool.
We didn’t get to try it due to cold weather, but the hotel does have a designated helipad and helicopter transfer upon request. We might just take a ride back to sample the Fairmont – and the charming city of Istanbul - all over again.
Price: Around AED600 a night
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