Ciler Ilhan – Cırağan Palace Kempinski Istanbul: the only Ottoman imperial palace and hotel on the Bosphorus



Ciler Ilhan

Mrs Ilhan, could you provide us with a brief overview of your personal background?

I studied political science and international relations in Turkey and followed my studies with a course in hotel management in Glion, Switzerland. My background is both in hotel management and journalism and I now worked at Cırağan Palace for six years. I decided to return to the hotel management industry after working as a journalist because I felt that my skills matched this industry better. The hotel management industry is very dynamic – you get to meet several people and is a life rewarding experience. As a result after seven years of journalism I decided to return to this industry and gave myself a one-year trial period. I am now enjoying it so much that I have no plans to stop for the foreseeable future.

We are in a beautiful nineteenth century Ottoman palace; what more can you tell us about these premises?

Cırağan Palace is the only Ottoman Imperial palace currently being used as a hotel in Turkey. All other palaces that were used as residences by the Sultans have in fact been transformed into museums and this should help explain the uniqueness of this property. In 1910 the parliament began using the property but shortly thereafter a fire destroyed the palace. In 1987 both a Turkish and a Japanese firm began restoration activities and in 1990 the palace was re-opened as a hotel. It is worth pointing out that as a historical property the palace still belongs to the government today.

Could you provide us with an overview of Cırağan ’s Palace facilities?

Cırağan Palace has 313 rooms of which 11 are suites located at the palace that has a separate private entrance – a separate public area and a lobby. It is like a private boutique hotel within the hotel and it is run by our butlers. Moving to the rooms in our modern property – most come with a Bosphorus view and have private balconies. We also have four restaurants, two bars and a Gazebo lounge that is definitely the place where to be seen in Istanbul – you can come across local and international celebrities and several government figures. Laledan restaurant – our main restaurant – instead serves the richest breakfast in town. There is then a grill restaurant right on the bosphorus and the acclaimed Tugra restaurant at the palace offering Ottoman cuisine and local wines. Cırağan Palace also has 20 function rooms and a big terrace – we like to think of ourselves as an urban resort catering both the business and leisure markets. Cırağan Palace is also a top wedding venue both for Turkish and international weddings. Our terrace can accommodate up to 2000 people and has been hosting top-notch jet sets wedding including royal weddings. At Cırağan Palace you can come across prime ministers meetings and royal families shopping in our shops.

Could you give us an overview of your Spa and wellness facilities?

Cırağan Palace Spa is managed by SANITAS and includes an authentic Turkish Bath, a gym, a whirlpool, an indoor pool, massage rooms and facial treatments. A favorite is the heated infinity outdoor swimming pool which is opened year round with spectacular views of the Bosphorus. The Turkish Hammam treatment & Ayurveda Massage are other highlights of the Spa. At Sanitas, the Turkish Bath session comforts and nourishes the body in the traditional oriental manner. Its soothing warmth and exotic aromas recreate the authentic, luxurious atmosphere of Turkish baths that were enjoyed by the Sultans themselves. Generally, the body is carefully rubbed with a textured mitt and covered with the fragrant froth of soap, which cleanses and revitalizes the skin, creating a feeling of relaxation and well-being. Our fitness center is opened 24 hours a day and features top of the line cardio and strength equipment to burn off your calories. The Ottoman era hammam is adjacent to Cırağan ballroom and is built of finely carved marble – it survived the great fire of 1910 – and was designed by Sultan Abdulaziz himself. It is the most authentic venue for intimate cocktails, events and parties and can host up to 50 guests.

The Sultan suite is listed at number 14 of the 15 most expensive suites worldwide. What makes this suite so special?

The palace’s Sultan suite has witnessed government negotiations during important historical events and hosted several celebrities from Madonna to Pavarotti. It is a 400 sq. m. facility with 5.6 m. separating the floors from the ceilings – a grand suite in itself with lovely views of the bosphorus in typical Ottoman style decorations and high-tech technology.

Is there a final message that you would like to leave with our international readership?

Some of Cırağan Palace unique selling points include the fact that the property is located on prime Istanbul real estate and is reachable both by helicopter (thanks to our own helipad) and boat to avoid Istanbul’s congested roads. However, the real strength of this gleaming property lies in its people and its service – plain and simple.

Leave a Reply