Hilton Istanbul Bosphorus launched a major reconstruction and redesign project in January 2023. Its completion date is set for 2025 to coincide with the 70th anniversary of the star-studded hotel debut, which took place June 10, 1955, after only 21 months of construction. Happily, the hotel will retain its urban resort ambiance, complete with its lush sprawling gardens and iconic pool.
When I spent a couple of nights here in December 2022, I learned (and later read) about the storied history of Hilton Istanbul Bosphorus. It is inextricably linked to Conrad Hilton’s desire, in the 1950s, to expand his hotel empire beyond the United States’ borders. Zsa Zsa Gabor is said to have convinced her hotelier husband Istanbul — situated at the crossroads of Europe and Asia — was the perfect place to establish his mark. The glamorous Hungarian star had lived in Türkiye as a young woman before emigrating to the United States.
The Hilton hotel proposal won the support of the Turkish government because, although respected as the “cradle of civilization,” the city had too few luxury-level hotel accommodations to meet the post-WWII demand. In fact, PanAm Airlines required luxury lodgings for its international clientele and waited for the new hotel to open before agreeing to fly into Istanbul.
For the project, Hilton selected a 14-acre hilltop parcel overlooking the Bosphorus and chose the world-famous design team at Skidmore Owings and Merrill. The architects planned what was, at the time, the highest building in the city, with marble floors, hand-woven carpets and an indigenous art collection in public spaces and a private bathroom and an individual balcony — many with Bosphorus views — in each of the 500 rooms.
Autoban is charged with the current renovation project, being finalized in two phases, during which one wing at a time will be closed and the hotel will function at half-capacity. The modernized design is inspired by the splendor and artistic influence of the 1950s; the décor will incorporate a new lobby influenced by Sophia Loren’s sapphire necklace: local, handcrafted glass ascending and descending lines referencing the city’s seven hills and echoes of the city’s dome heritage. Among the 38 suites, the Royal Suite is designed to honor the hotel’s impressive existing dome. Among the six different suite categories, there are three-story Garden Chalet suites, each with a sitting area, two bedrooms and a private terrace amidst the greenery.
As for dining, Bosphorus Terrace Restaurant has an enchanting view of the waterway, Lalezar imbues the spirit of the old tavern culture and Veranda Terrace Restaurant has Bosphorus and garden views. Dragon Restaurant specializes in Chinese cuisine; Dubb Indian Bosphorus focuses on Indian food and Lobby Lounge & Bar serves 5 o’clock tea and a new jazz bar will be the epitome of elegance.
This, the first Hilton hotel in Istanbul, is still the longest-serving international Hilton hotel outside the United States and its promising future will be at once modern and classic.
Harbiye, Cumhuriyet Cd.
No: 50, 34367 Şişli/İstanbul, Türkiye
tel 90 212 315 60 00
After a stressful pre-holiday season and a busy work schedule, there was no better time for a relaxing spa experience than during my recent trip to Pasadena with the FXExpress Publications, Inc. team. We headed to The Langham Huntington, Pasadena for the 20th anniversary of the GT Tested Reader Survey awards, which meant a jam-packed trip, but I managed to carve a little time out of our busy schedule to visit Chuan Spa at the hotel.
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