Sumahan on the Water

Cengelkoy, Istanbul, Turkey Book from Eur140

Converted Ottoman distillery on the Bosphorus with industrial-chic loft suites and a magical waterfront location
This was once an alcohol factory which, from the 1870s, had produced suma, the fig-syrup spirit used to make raki. When it was bequeathed, derelict, to Turkish-American architects Nedret and Mark Butler, they must have been tempted to pull the place down: waterfront plots are like hen’s teeth in Istanbul. Instead, they decided to restore their unusual legacy - and this faded relic of industrial heritage found a new lease of life as a sassy waterfront hotel. Part sympathetic modern extension, part salvaged original, its opening in 2005 pioneered new interest in the city’s then undiscovered Asian shore.

Exposed stonework, bare brick, steel joists and mezzanine floors celebrate the building’s past. The 24 rooms have warm wood / carpet floors and cool contemporary furniture; some have cosy fireplaces, all have views of the water. And what a view! Day and night, on the glittering Bosphorus, an endless procession of fishing boats, gin palaces, container ships and ferries drifts past. Watch from the terrace garden, from the restaurant, even from your bed.

Highs

  • The funky Duplex Loft Suites - right on the waterfront with French windows opening onto lawned gardens
  • The bustle of Cengelkoy: an authentic Bosphorus village, a short stroll away
  • A perfect view of the nightly rainbow illuminations on the Bosphorus Bridge
  • The hotel’s private boat, Sumahan I, operates a free shuttle at scheduled times between Cengelkoy and Kabatas / Kurucesme
  • Snuggling up to a real fire on a chilly night in winter

Lows

  • Some might consider the location a little off track; night-lifers, in particular, may find this just too far from the city’s club-land
  • The restaurants can be busy and boisterous in the evening (though only a problem if you want an open window or an early night)

Best time to go

Sizzling hot summers (June - September) and cold, often wet, winters, make spring and autumn the best times to visit Istanbul, though the hotel’s waterside location (and efficient air-con) make it a good high-season choice; and the rooms are warm and cozy in the winter (you can snuggle up by open fire in most of the rooms).

Great for...

Foodie
Wedding
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique Hotel
  • 24
  • Restaurant + bar
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • Pool
  • Spa
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Concierge Service
  • Boat transfers
Room:

Rooms

Designed by the owners’ daughter, Yasha, the style is Manhattan loft meets Ottoman Modern: functional, no-frills spaces which manage to mix business with pleasure. Furnished with polished wood or warm carpet floors, upholstered sofas, kilims, high ceilings and tall windows, expect lots of natural light and mesmerising views across the Bosphorus.

All of the hotel’s 24 rooms overlook the water, but our favourites are the Duplex Loft Suites - the only ones with direct access to the waterfront. In each, a staircase leads up to a bed-and-bathroom on an upper mezzanine level, with a studio-style living space below and a guest loo. The beds are angled to face the water, and you can enjoy the view from glazed showers in the bathrooms, some of which are furnished with a mini marble hammam.

The remaining rooms include Small Deluxe Rooms, Deluxe Rooms, Junior Suites, Executive Suites and Family Loft Suites. All rooms have air-conditioning, queen size or twin beds dressed with white linen, mini bar (with complimentary mineral water), satellite TV and CD player. Most of them have fireplaces, and a supply of fuel in the winter months. The suites have living room areas; in the executives, it’s part-separated from the bedroom by a fireplace wall.

Bathrooms are luxurious, with roomy walk-in showers (some have baths too), thick Turkish towels and natural soaps. All but the deluxe rooms have twin basins.

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Cd player
  • Central heating
  • Cots Available
  • Dvd player
  • Extra beds
  • Fireplace
  • Hairdryer
  • Internet access
  • Internet access
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Phone
  • Radio
  • Safe box
  • Toiletries
  • Tv

Eating

In 2012, the hotel launched their main restaurant Tapasuma, we haven't yet sampled to delights of this water-side eatery, but it promises a contemporary menu of Turkish and Mediterranean cuisines, with an emphasis on seafood and tapas-style dining. We can't wait to try it.

Sumahan also has a Waterfront Café which offers informal international cuisine - the menu includes salads, soups, pastas and grills as well as sandwiches and snacks.

In nearby Cengelkoy (a 5-minute stroll towards the Bosphorus Bridge) there is a row of waterside fish restaurants and a fish market; on the high street, alongside bog-standard Turkish diners, there is also a wonderful bakery where you can watch hot breads emerge from a big wood-fired oven more or less all day. Ask for a pide ('Turkish pizza'): meat or white cheese and tomato paste smeared onto a thin bread base, served with salad and a wedge of lemon.

Breakfast (traditional Turkish with bread, white cheese, olives, honey and eggs on request) is served on the Waterfront Terrace.

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Breakfast
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Restaurant
  • Restaurants nearby
  • Room service
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Explore the neighbourhood: Cengelkoy (5 minutes walk away) is a charming Bosphorus village with a high-street of local shops, a fish market, terraces of wooden Ottoman houses alongside waterside restaurants and a ferry terminal

  • Take the hotel’s motor-boat across the strait to Kabatas or Kurucesme on the European shore; from here you can take the Funikulur (underground tram) to Taksim Square in the city centre

  • From Cengelkoy, you can take a regular ferry to Eminonu for Sultanahmet and the treasures of Old Istanbul: The Blue Mosque, Aya Sofia, Topkapi Palace, the Cistern Basilica etc

  • There are things to see on the Asian side too: the Beylerbeyi Palace, the magnificent 19th century imperial residence of Sultan Abdulaziz, is close by (open every day except Monday); further northeast lies Yoros castle - climb it for views over the mouth of the Black Sea

  • Get steamed up in Sumahan’s own hammam: a marble lined Turkish bath, it’s available for 45-minute sessions with a private masseuse (extra cost: see Rates)

  • Burn off some calories in the gym - equipped with cross-trainer, recumbent bike, treadmill and weights

  • Go for a swim (but, please, not in the Bosphorus): the hotel has an arrangement with a nearby club with a pool

  • Sumahan prides itself on being able to organise pretty much anything you like, from tailor-made boat trips and personalised tours with specialist guides to car hire, massage and beauty treatments

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Historical sites
  • Museums / galleries
  • Shopping / markets

Kids

The waterside location is not ideal for toddlers, but the roomy family loft suites are perfect for parents sharing with older children, and there is a babysitting service available by arrangement.

Best for:

Babies (0-1 years), Teens (over 12)

Family friendly accommodation:

Cots Available, Extra Beds Available

Babysitting:

Babysitting available by arrangement

Baby equipment:

Baby cots available on request

Remember  baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking

Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

8/
Rooms
9/
Food
8/
Service
9/
Value
8/
Overall

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Rates for Sumahan on the Water