Few steps away from paradise – Shangri-La Bosphorus, Istanbul, Turkey

Stepped into the Shangri-La Bosphorus, Istanbul, it’s like entering a 21st century palace. The oversized chandelier, gold-gilded fixtures and porcelain vases filled the brightly lit lobby. It is a sharp contrast to the wet, cold and grey late November afternoon.

The brightly lit lobby of Shangri-La Istanbul

The Check-In

When my partner and I arrived at the hotel, we were quickly led to our room to process our check in. While the lobby is brightly lit, the corridor leading to the rooms has a more comfortable glow. The corridor is tastefully done in warm grey and beige, and with a few accent pieces in a bright turquoise blue.

The oversized chandelier

The elegantly decorate corridor leading to the guest rooms

The Deluxe Room

Although it was the Deluxe room, I was impressed with the elegantly decorated room. Furnished in a comfortable palette of smoothing warm colours, this place reminded me of home. I love the Nespresso coffee machine, the luxurious Bvlgari toiletries, and small Turkish design elements in the room. The designer is very smart to introduce little Turkish elements to tiny details such as the toilet taps and frames. The end result is a nice balance between Turkish culture and Shangri-La’s Asian brand identity.

The luxurious deluxe room in Shangri-La Istanbul

The luxurious bathroom in Shangri-La Istanbul

Within minutes of entering the room, the housekeeping staff served us with a pot of freshly brewed Chinese Tea while we were still having our check-in processed. It was simply such a lovely experience.

The welcome drink - a pot of freshly brewed Chinese Tea

Although my room doesn’t come with a view, it didn’t bother me much. I was just comfortable with the curtains drawn and relax in my little paradise.

Turkish design elements can be found in small details

The Health Club

I was looking forward to swim in the heated pool but only to discover on the day of arrival that the pool was closed for maintenance work. It was such a let down although it was part of the hotel’s efforts to upkeep its facilities.

The Gym Reception at the Shangri-La Istanbul

However, I must say that I was pretty overwhelmed by the size of its gymnasium. Most hotels, regardless whether it’s top of the line or mass market, the gym is often the facility that they don’t really invest in. The gym at the Shangri-La Istanbul is huge! Both the cardio machines and weights equipment are plentiful. Depending on the time, there are occasions when you can have the whole gym to yourself.

The large gymnasium located at B2 of the Shangri-La Istanbul

The CHI Spa

When you have the time, you must book yourself a spa experience at the CHI spa. Situated at basement 3 of the hotel and is only accessible through a private lift, this wellness sanctuary is beautiful and the hammam treatment is one of those that you must try when you are in Istanbul. My therapist, Cenk, is excellent. I had one of the most memorable and enjoyable hammam experiences here. My lavish spa treatment did not end with the hammam, it was followed with a relaxing hour of CHI Balance massage.

Basin inside the Men's Hammam In Chi Spa

Although I enjoyed my spa treatment every much, I was disappointed with Shangri-La for tweaking the traditional hammam ritual to allow female masseurs to provide hammam to male customers. Traditionally, only tellak or male masseur is allowed to provide this treatment to male clients and likewise for the females. With this tweak, the spa lacks the authentic communal feel that you find in most traditional hammams. And I was upset to see female masseurs walking in the men’s changing room so freely. If you feel uneasy of being touched by someone of the same gender, my recommendation is not to do the hammam. A diluted treatment is just not the same. For a detailed view on my experience at CHI Spa, click here.

The Hammam at the Shangri-La Istanbul

Breakfast at IST TOO

The breakfast spread at IST TOO is one of the best that I’ve ever seen. Besides the traditional international breakfast selection such as eggs and toast, they have an Asian corner serving dim sum and congee, a juice and fruits bar, a well-stocked pastry section, a cheese station, an extensive honey station and a corner dedicated to cured meats. It is easy to spend many hours enjoying the scrumptious spread of excellently prepared dishes.

IST TOO at the Shangri-La Istanbul

But I was rather annoyed and did voice out to the service crew that the restaurant should stop playing Mandarin pop songs in IST TOO. If I want to feel as if I’m in a Mandarin-speaking country, I would go to one and not head to Turkey. Even though the playlist alternates between English evergreen songs and Chinese pops, the Chinese pops dominate the playlist to almost two is to one. And I don’t recall hearing any Turkish songs. I understand that the hotel’s main clientele could be from a particular region but that doesn’t justify the move to play songs so foreign to Turkey. It’s an insult to the local culture and I thought the management should be more sensitive, and be more active in promoting local singers and songs.

IST TOO at the Shangri-La Istanbul

The consolation is that IST TOO is probably one of the common areas where you can get a decent view of the bustling ferry terminals along the Bosphorus River.

The Cheese and Nuts station

Shangri-La Istanbul has all the right elements to make the hotel a destination of true delight and peace. I did enjoy some aspects of the hotel but I feel that the management needs to be more sensitive to the Turkish culture. As a responsible corporate citizen, the hotel management needs to play an active role to educate its customers, regardless of nationalities, the essence and beauty of the local culture. Only then, the hotel will truly be shangri-la.

Shangri-La Bosphorus, Istanbul, Turkey
Sinanpasa Mah, Hayrettin Iskelesi Sok, No. 1, Besiktas,
Istanbul, 34353, Turkey
Tel: (90 212) 275 8888

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