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Turkish Delight!

Ottoman authenticity gets a luxe upgrade at Le Meridien Istanbul.

The coffee bar at Le Meridien turns into a cocktail bar in the evening.

Sweeping views at Le Meridien Istanbul

When I mentioned to a friend living in Istanbul that I’d be staying at the new, much-buzzed-about Le Meridien Istanbul on an upcoming trip, there was a long pause. Then he said, “That’s like staying uptown when you’re going to spend all your time downtown.” I panicked. I shouldn’t have.

Yes, the hotel is located in the extremely posh residential neighborhood of Etiler, with nary a tourist to be found, but that’s ultimately a very good thing. Proximity (everywhere worth being is no more than 15 to 20 minutes away, unless it’s rush hour) plus a favorable exchange rate (1.8 Turkish lira to the dollar) make catching cabs easy to justify—and, after a day or night of running around, it’s nice to return to a chic hotel with killer views of the Bosporus, 24-hour room service, and Boaz, the 34th-floor rooftop bar, should the party continue solo or with newfound friends. (Judging from my purely unscientific observations of the crowd at this property, said friends will undoubtedly be incredibly well-dressed and extremely good-looking.)

It’s no surprise. Etiler caters to what it calls the “creative class” of locals and visitors alike—those drawn in first and foremost by the 34-story building’s look-at-me design. Its stack of three glass blocks, as conceptualized by Turkish architect Emre Arolat, seem to float, one above the other. And, its strategic perch next to the Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge—one of only two bridges serving as a link to the Asian side of the city—is very useful for the increasing number of people doing business there. As the sun sets, the bridge’s towers are illuminated in changing colors, much like an art installation. It’s a coincidence, but one that works well with Le Meridien’s artsy hospitality concept.

Art is a major focus of the brand as a whole, and at Etiler especially—the hotel boasts a dedicated art program, helmed by Cultural Curator Jerome Sans. If the name sounds familiar, it might be because the dapper Frenchman co-founded the acclaimed contemporary art institution Palais de Tokyo, Paris, in 1999, and as director of the renowned Ullens Centre of Contemporary Art, Beijing (UCCA), was considered one of the leading champions of Chinese art. He also played a key role in establishing Le Meridien’s LM100 program—an effort to make brand properties more distinctive with input from a creative advisory board of artists and design types like Andrea Illy, of the Illy coffee company, which runs the lobby coffee bar. Sans tapped Istanbul artists Mentalklinik to design espresso cups for the bar, as well as room keycards, not only offering access to guest quarters, but also gratis entry to cultural centers in the city, including the Istanbul Modern museum.

Equally art-focused are the hotel’s 259 rooms and 18 residential, or extended-stay, suites. Modern, spare and comfortable, all are devoid of much decoration, which, with floor-to-ceiling windows and views of the water and Asian side beyond, one might not miss. Even from the bathrooms, separated from main areas by glass walls, guests can take in vistas of the Bosporus while soaking in generous tubs.

Responsible for the interiors, Sinan Kafadar of Metex saved the drama for the hotel’s public spaces, namely the sweeping lobby. Filled with modern furniture by local design stars Autoban, and featuring a floor subtly designed as a map of the city, the space is infused with a custom-created scent, courtesy of Sans’ collaboration with elite perfumer Le Labo. Joining the lobby as a popular hangout are other chic spots for lounging. Beyond rooftop bar Boaz, there’s the La Torre restaurant, Latitude bar, indoor and outdoor pools, and a spa, where you’ll find signature treatments plus a Turkish hamam, which allows guests to enjoy a quintessential Turkish experience in a comfortable environment.

Overall, this frequent traveler found Etiler a welcome alternative to the more touristy vicinities in Istanbul. There’s plenty on offer, both within its posh walls and in the neighborhood, to keep the curious satisfied. At the end of the trip even my aforementioned friend was impressed with the local experience I’d had, especially where restaurants and off-the-beaten-path sites were concerned. And ultimately, that’s what any good trip is all about.

Rooms from $322, Le Meridien Istanbul Etiler, Cengiz Topel Caddesi No. 39, Etiler, +90.212.384.0000,