In a city of sultans, the Kempinski Ciragan Palace has a huge advantage over its rivals — it’s the only Ottoman palace currently open for business as a hotel.
Add the superb location — right on the Bosphorous in strolling distance of the smart BoHo cafés, clubs and shops of Ortakoy, Istanbul’s Hampstead — and you can see why this hotel (its difficult name is pronounced Shir-arn) is so popular with well-heeled visitors.
Rooms, most of which are in a modern annexe, are trad rather than chic but beautifully equipped, especially the bathrooms, which have an art deco feel. The best are the corner rooms on the Bosphorous side, with wraparound balconies overlooking the Ortakoy mosque and bridge.
Lunch round the beautiful infinity swimming pool and tea on the terrace are special pleasures. But many survive a whole day on the magnificent breakfast buffet featuring 200 hot and cold items, including local specialities and a dozen fresh juices. Dinner is served in ornate splendour in the palace wing.
The pride of the Ciragan Palace is its 19th-century marble hammam; don’t leave without a tour. But sensibly, the hotel delivers its Turkish baths and massages in a purpose-built modern spa with private candle-lit marble wet rooms.
The only downside is the expense; best to book a package through an upmarket tour operator to save on the room rate.