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It’s not every day that I find someone else’s shirt in my hotel room — but that’s precisely what happened during my stay at Romance Istanbul Hotel in Turkey.
Rather than be put off by this unusual discovery, however, I was intrigued. The garment — displayed behind a glass barrier — hung directly opposite my bed and featured a symmetrical design of blue and gold geometric shapes blended intricately with a swirling script that covered almost every inch of the cotton textile.
I learned that this artwork is a replica of a 16th-century sultanic talismanic shirt on display at nearby Topkapi Palace. What’s more, my room wasn’t the only one that featured a talismanic shirt. In fact, each of the property’s 43 guestrooms is home to its own replica (and all pieces feature a unique backstory that is provided, in detail, to guests via a pamphlet at check-in).
My room’s own shirt, for example, mimicked one that once belonged to Bayezid II, a Turkish sultan who ruled the Ottoman Empire from 1481 to 1512. As the legend goes, it was gifted to the sultan by his lover, a chieftain’s daughter, in hopes that its infallible powers would bring an everlasting love and protection to their partnership.
Although this tale is certainly charming, clients should make no mistake: Romance Istanbul doesn’t position itself to appeal only to lovebirds, according to Mutlu Dural, who works in the hotel’s sales and marketing department. Rather, the history of the region — including the traditional lore of the talismanic shirts — was the true inspiration behind the property’s design.
The boutique hotel, which opened in 2010 and received a renovation in 2015, is located deep within the winding streets of Istanbul’s Old Town. The building is a short distance from some of the city’s most attractive historical spots, including the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia and, of course, Topkapi Palace, which served as the imperial residence of Ottoman sultans for some 400 years.
Guestrooms are available in a variety of categories, from the 150-square-foot City Room to the opulent 485-square-foot Royal Suite, and seemingly every configuration in between (including Deluxe Triple Rooms, which offer three twin-size beds). My City Room was the perfect size for one or two people and was outfitted with a Turkish carpet; a king-size bed with an arched, illuminated headboard; a rich color scheme of blues and reds; and a spacious marble bathroom.
Hotel corridors, meanwhile, are adorned with hand-crafted, ceramic miniatures of famous buildings of the city, and the ground-floor Romance Restaurant whips up authentic Turkish delicacies such as durum (Turkish-style pitas), along with specialty pastas and salads, providing guests with the perfect blend of Eastern and Western influences that the country is known for.
Guests visiting the on-site Allure Spa can also visit the property’s own hammam (Turkish bath), in addition to booking a variety of spa treatments.
In fact, Turkish authenticity permeated every part of the guest experience at Romance Istanbul. My favorite part was not the hammam, or even the squares of sweet-and-chewy Turkish delight left on my bed in the evening. Rather, it was my morning wake-up call, which was due to the hotel’s position in the city: I could hear the daily call to prayer echoing from the Blue Mosque.
And, as I imagine a true Turkish sultan would, I rose to greet the day.
The DetailsRomance Istanbul Hotelwww.romanceistanbulhotel.com