Istanbul is a wonderful but hectic city and offered me several amazing experiences.I arrived straight from Bangkok after a 40 hour commute, already frazzled by the pulse of the Big Mango. I was looking for a bit of a retreat on my first few days, a place where I could lay my head in peace while curing my jetlag. I found just that and much more at the beautiful Sumahan on the Water, a boutique hotel located on the greener, maybe less visited Anatolian side of the Bosphorus, the less harried and quieter Asian shore of Istanbul. It truly was the perfect introduction to this vibrant city.
Sumahan on the Water is an Ottoman-era alcohol distillery repurposed into a stylish, warm and intimate boutique hotel right on the waterfront – as you’d expect from the name! – in the Çengelköy neighborhood. It’s a great laid back part of the city that feels more like a small village with wooden houses, nice cafes and restaurants, organic fruit and vegetable kiosks at nearly every street corner and walkways along the water. Strolling around the village, I was handed small crunchy cucumbers to sample by vendors a few times; it is a charming area of Istanbul indeed. It may feel a little far from the old part of the city to some people, but it’s a great tradeoff for the level of quietness afforded by the neighborhood. A cute little mahogany boat on the hotel’s private launch whisks the guests across the river several times a day at a fixed schedule, so the distance is absolutely not a problem. The view from the hotel – and from all of the rooms – is simply breathtaking, affording incredible views over the Bosphorus bridge and across to the European side of Istanbul. It is especially stunning at night when the bridge lights up.
Sumahan’s industrial past is still very prominent with apparent girders throughout the hotel and a glass elevator in the lobby. My room is a great mix of the coolness of the original industrial architecture with the added romantic warmth of plush beddings and furniture, and a fireplace. It is modern and classy and I absolutely love the design. The ample windows bring lots of wonderful natural light into the room and the lounger is the perfect place to look out and daydream as you watch luxurious yachts, tourist boats and tankers glide past. The bed also faces the windows, so be sure to leave the curtains open at night to wake up to the most magical scenery. You’re even given a pair of binoculars if you feel extra nosy about what’s cracking on the water.
I stayed in the small deluxe room, but there are five other different types of accommodation to choose from, each with their own personality, most with fireplaces, but all with magnificent views. The ground floor features two-storey lofts opening onto a grassy courtyard next to the restaurant and some of them even have a bath with a Bosphorus view. Dreamy!
There are only 24 rooms at Sumahan on the Water so the service is intimate, fast and seamless, which feels great in such a large city that can sometimes feel a little impersonal. I am always a little worried about my bicycle being cumbersome when I visit smaller boutique hotels, but it was whisked away from me with a smile and safely put in storage before I could even start to express my worry. There always seems to be a member of staff at hand for any request.
The included breakfast buffet at Sumahan is served by the river (there is a lovely terrace for the warmer months) and is absolutely stunning – and conveniently vegan-friendly, giving me a first taste of one of the most food-centric countries I have been given to visit: a cornucopia of lush fresh and dried fruits, crispy and vibrant vegetables, delicious olives, nuts, simmit (a bagel-like bread) and a whole assortment of other breads with a great selection of jams. The award-winning and exciting Tapasuma restaurant is also part of the hotel.
And if this is not enough to transport you into an oasis of luxury, calm and serenity, Sumahan also has a wonderful wellness center with a Turkish Hamam and massage services. Is this Turkish delight or what?
Many thanks to Sumahan on the water for their hospitality. As always, all opinions are my own regardless of who is footing the bill.