Words by Amira Arasteh
Do you prefer traditional, authentic style hotels or something super contemporary and modern in design? I love both but there is something about the history of the former that attracts me to this; it’s almost like a visit to a museum or historical house is included in your stay.
So I was absolutely thrilled to find out that the MGallery Galata Hotel in Istanbul is one of the four oldest Hans of Galata – known as “Baltazzi Han” between 1856-1890 – which was built by the “Baltazzi Family”, the famous bankers of the 19th century.
Significant because the building used to be a bank – this is evident from the safe boxes decorating the wall behind the reception desk in the lobby. They are dated back to the Deutsche Orient Bank time. Remnants of the ‘good old days’ do not stop there. During 1889, the the building was, in fact, used as La Turquie newspaper’s printing house – if you’re a cultural and history buff, this hotel is the place for you.
With 83 rooms (including a variety of suites), this hotel is the perfect place to stay with both your family or if you’re opting for an individual trip. I had chosen to extend my existing trip to Istanbul and it was the perfect location for a solo traveller.
Having the buzz of the city on your doorstep, as soon as you step outside the entrance, is a priority factor for me when it comes to choosing accommodation. Particularly for a city break, a central location is often a deciding factor – MGallery can check this one off, being situated in the most bustling area of Istanbul – Karaköy.
There’s an array of shops – both clothing stores and trinket-filled gems – on the doorstep and the hotel is a short distance from bars and restaurants. As I wandered about, I found myself shopping for interiors, mentally purchasing jewel-coloured lanterns and Persian-style rugs.
Istanbul is huge so you might find one day you want to take the ferry to the Asian side of the city – not to be mistaken with the area you’re staying in; a popular part to explore is Kadiköy. Excellent food – the best braised lamb on the bone and kibbeh – and after perusing some local shops, you can stroll down to the waterfront where you’ll score the best sunset views. Buy a bottle of wine or pick up some Turkish tea to enjoy – you’ll be there a while.
Breakfast, lunch and dinner are all served in the restaurant on the second floor and a beautiful sky bar, offering views of the Bosphorus is just upstairs. Perfect for cocktail hour, eh? Start the day with some baked eggs, Turkish sausage and spinach before you set out to explore the city.
My favourite places to eat were all within a short walking distance; Galata Kitchen is a particularly tasty spot. A casual eatery, with a canteen style of serving, the meatballs and the aubergine were particularly good and the salad bar is a strong favourite.
Struggling for restaurants? The concierge team are full of recommendations and I had one of my best meals – again, round the corner – at Rakofoli Ocak Başı, a rooftop restaurant with a view of the Bosphorus. Definitely order the hot hummus and pastrami to start and then a pistachio lamb kebab with a pomegranate salad.
There are more historical features within the hotel; it is also home to a 300-year-old hammam – the Cesme Hammam. It is so renowned that I was even recommended it (quite eagerly, too) when I was having lunch at another hotel. The commander of the Ottoman Navy, Kaymak Mustafa Pasa, built the hammam during the Tulip Era period of the Ottoman Empire and it has continued to be used for the traditional Turkish bath ritual from 1720 to this day.
After a thoroughly cleansing scrub (don’t think I’ve been this clean since the nurses sorted me out 26 years ago), I was more than happy to curl up in a sea of cushions, enjoying Turkish tea and baklava. Istanbul has a thriving nightlife, which I definitely encourage you to explore, but evenings like these are a worthy rival.
There’s no rush on leaving the spa but room service was calling my name like anything and all I could think about was sinking into my memory foam mattress and pillow. Who needs The Shard or Empire State Building when the Galata Tower is visible from your bedside window – the perfect view as I tuck into a mezze platter of goodies for my dinner this evening. Who said nights in were overrated?
Address: Azapkapı, Bankalar Cd. D:No 21, 34420 Beyoğlu/İstanbul, Turkey
Phone: +90 212 317 34 00