I walked – nearly cycled right into, to be more precise – the Banker Han Hotel looking rather scruffy, dirty and disheveled (my usual self since converting to bicycle touring really!), half worried that I was going to get the “eye” for showing up all hobo-like in this very trendy new hotel in Istanbul. Instead of that, the staff came right outside to welcome me and it wasn’t ten seconds before I was handed a cup of tea and offered a seat at the reception with the staff who kindly asked about my travel. Some places are just so cool and hip and welcoming and perfect, and Banker Han by the Sofa is absolutely one of those gems.
The hotel recently opened its doors in May 2015 in the up-and-coming Karaköy neighborhood. It is the second born of the creative owners of The Sofa and is one of the most exciting mid-range boutique hotel options I have stayed at. The hotel offers a mix of urban cool, luxury and playfulness and caters to a crowd of trendy and young design aficionados, as well as couples, single and business travelers and families alike. The refurbished building is located on a peaceful side street not far from Galata Tower and was once abandoned and used as an underground graffiti and street art exhibition center. Much of this underground vibe remains today, albeit a much more polished and cozy version of it: the décor is tasteful with exposed brick walls, concrete columns, natural stones and wood floor and there is a resident local artist presenting his work in the Café and Lounge areas. The first glance into the hotel exudes hip coolness to no end and is right up my street.
My room at Banker Han is located on the top floor and is quirky, comfortable and offers the best view I have seen of Istanbul so far, looking over the Bosphorus and the Old Town. The sunset is simply breathtaking and there is a chair conveniently placed right by the window to linger and daydream over this wonderful cityscape.
My room is surprisingly large and has a super comfy bed with scrumptious white linens, fluffy pillows, modern furnishings and tasteful decoration – I love the photograph of the projected Iznik tile pattern on a naked body on the wall, it is gorgeous. All in all, it is a super sleek room with a lot of charm and warmth, wooden floors and modern furnishing. As you’d expect from a recently opened hotel, everything is new, crisp and clean. The quirky bathroom has only glass walls, but it is located behind the bed with a small separating wall, so none-exhibitionists fear not – and voyeurs rejoice! I kid. But peeping Tom jokes aside, the rain shower is absolutely heavenly. The room next to mine has a huge outdoor balcony and other rooms are a little smaller and more like little lofts, with Japanese style beds low on the floor. Some bathrooms are also fully closed if you’d rather that. There are a total of 36 rooms of all shapes and size at Banker Han for all budgets, all with the same sleek and hip elegance. Other amenities include electric blinds, USB ports by the light switch, big TV, room safe and fridge. I was welcomed with water, fruits and nuts on my desk, which was lovely.
The complimentary buffet breakfast is simple but varied, filling and most importantly vegan-friendly, with a great selection of bread, jam, fruits, nuts, vegetables and free-flowing tea and coffee. It is served in the lounge area which opens onto the street and is conducive to meeting the cool crowd that visits Banker Han while lingering a while over a few extra cups of tea, watching life slowly go past the window and admiring the graffiti across the street. I haven’t tasted the restaurant’s menu for other things than breakfast, but the lounge area was a lovely place for me to hang out and do a little bit of work and I was surprised with a complimentary cup of tea by the lovely staff on a few occasions.
Which leads me to my next point – the staff at Banker Han are literally the sweetest I have ever met. I was made to feel like home from the moment I stepped in and it felt more like staying at a friend’s gigantic home rather than another factory-made hotel. The manager Sandra is truly a gem and she gave me great recommendations on what to see and do around town – and, echoing with the hotel’s underground vibes, her recommendations were spot on and off the beaten path.
I didn’t want to leave! Istanbul is an exciting city to explore and Banker Han is such a wonderful mid-range option that you’d wonder why bother paying extra money for any other type of accommodation. The Wi-Fi was at time a little patchy in my room the sixth floor, but it worked at charm in the lounge, and that is where I did most of my work, so it wasn’t a problem for me. As an added bonus, pets are also allowed, but unfortunately there was no puppy in sight during my visit. There’s always next time!
Many thanks to Banker Han by The Sofa for their hospitality. As always, all opinions are my own regardless of who is footing the bill.