A Love Nest in Istanbul

The secret history of a romantic little hotel

Words: Lee Tulloch, Photography: Tony Amos
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There we were,

strolling up one of those long, narrow streets in the bohemian part of Istanbul’s Beyoglu neighbourhood, admiring all the little shops full of interesting brocante, when we stopped on a corner to peer into a particularly handsome café with tiled floors and high walls of exposed brick. The waiter came out to tempt us inside for brunch and we discovered that behind it was a hotel so brand new you could still smell the fresh paint.

As we do when we stumble on something that looks great, we asked to see the manager, and he took us on a tour of the Corinne Hotel’s rooms, of which there are 39 in 7 categories, from a simple double to the 65 square metre Corinne Suite.

We fell in love with it instantly – pretty rooms painted fresh white with big swags of rose-print curtains and a conscious attention to detail, from the luxurious Denizli cottons robes (considered the finest cotton in the world) to the heated floors of the all-marble bathrooms. In Paris, you would be digging deep for a little gem like this; even in bargain-priced Istanbul some of the more fashionable small hotels can be a little pricey. But, here,  it’s very well-priced for such a fabulous location, a short walk to Istanbul’s main shopping thoroughfare, Istiklal Avenue, and other central attractions, including the great cafes and antique shops of Cihangir.

The building has a glamorous history. Designed in Neo-Classical Ottoman style by Mimar Kemaleddin, Istanbul’s most admired architect of the period, and the gentleman whose face graces the Turkish 20-lira note, it opened in 1911 as an apartment building. Soon after, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, who would become founder of the Republic of Turkey, installed his Italian-born mistress, Madame Corinne Lütfü in an apartment there. Later, the building would become a film studio and, more recently, the location for the filming of Turkish TV soap operas.

As befitting an homage to Madame Corinne, the hotel is chic and sexy, with much of the interior of the original building preserved. If you look closely at the exposed brickwork in the café, the workmen’s stamps are still visible in the brick. The floors are reclaimed timber, plasterwork, such as ceiling roses, have been restored carefully, and the old fittings have been cleaned and returned to their original places. But the hotel is also discretely high-tech, with an ultra-modern elevator coexisting with the beautiful central spiral staircase and a modern central vacuuming system that must make the housekeeping staff happy. Wifi is free throughout and rooms all have irons and ironing boards, desks, cable TV and Bulgari amenities. If it’s your thing, four rooms have Jacuzzis.

The Corinne has a sensational rooftop terrace with views to the BosphorusBlue Mosque, the Hagia Sophia, the Prince Islands in the Sea of Marmara and the Galata Tower. You can see the layers of the city, from Byzantine to 20th Century European, from this secret spot. When we visited in October, the terrace restaurant wasn’t open but, if it is, it’s probably worth a visit for a meal for the views alone.

We caution that we didn’t spend a night at the Corinne, so we couldn’t test the service, but we found management so welcoming and generous, we figure it must be good. In any case, next time we’re in Istanbul, this is where we want to stay, for its perfect location and lovely rooms.


The Corinne Hotel, Turnacibasi Caddesi Ayhan Isik Sokak No 41. 34433 Byoglu, Istanbul; tel + 90 (212) 2939494; www.corrinehotel.com


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