BEST CITY HOTEL: The Peninsula Istanbul, Istanbul, Turkey
Serious marble alert. Ditto, mother of pearl. Confronted by the indoor pool and baths, not to mention the Marmara columns around the hammam, you wonder if you have been transported back to a particularly elaborate phase of the Byzantine era. Hercule Poirot would clap his hands at this glittering palace on the fabled shores of the Bosphorus. And oh, that sparkle! (Namely, the chandeliers or – come cocktail hour – the diamonds twinkling on the ladies in the lobby.) Opposite the Topkapı Palace and with the best vistas in all the city, the new Peninsula is the modern jewel of Galata, the historic foreigners’ quarter built around its landmark 14th-century tower. It’s a modern Xanadu that sprawls across four lavish buildings – one a former nautical terminal that’s now home to the most glamorous pool in Turkey, almost floating on the water – and gives amazing views across the Golden Horn. If you can tear yourself away, the city’s best galleries are close by. But the biggest deal by far is a visit to the spa and hammam for a superior scrub and black-soap extravaganza. And although the hotel’s brunch has quickly become a thing, so have the Peking duck, dumplings and elevated mezze at Gallada, the Asian-Turkish rooftop restaurant. So here’s to the new face of Istanbul. It’s where to be in a where-it’s-at city.