Istanbul’s new St. James Palace Hotel is gorgeous. In fact, if it had been built 50 years ago — when I lived in Istanbul and had both a pedestrian sidewalk and a tunnel beneath the Charles Bridge — I would not only have been able to climb the hotel’s 45 floors, I would have been able to drive under it. If you land in the west entrance and walk onto the southern staircase, you will descend to the 72nd floor. From there you can step down to the mid-floor and step in. There are eight floors below that to walk on as well. Below this, you will cross over to the Taksim square. It’s such a long walk, but worth it: The views are stunning. I love that the hotel is (not so coincidentally) part of the mall that is home to the Taksim Sagrada Familia, the incredible Byzantine-revival project completed in 1997.
For an idea of the height: The Prince’s Villa in Borjomi, Mongolia, currently claims the record for the world’s highest hotel. The 129 rooms — including 14 suites — are elevated 122 feet above the grassy plain on the Aral Sea floor. Rome’s Hotel Nazionale Milano and Toronto’s Zoom Tower, both of which were built in the late 1980s, are both more than 120 feet tall.
At St. James Palace, the elevator car and elevator handle are modeled after a medieval Roman one. All the rooms are done in honeyed wood with marble tile floors, marble sinks and glass bathrooms with marble baths and frameless glass doors. Given the model of the elevator door, which has ledges for leaning against, it’s surprising that the hotel, which opened in mid-December, is not more expensive. I heard a story about how one gentleman — a regular at the bar — suggested that he and his wife marry at the hotel, where “our bodies would be above the streets and our minds above the hotel.” (No word if he got the wedding annulment.)
Other rooms and suites come with their own gardens, with the options of a pool, a jacuzzi, a Jacuzzi whirlpool or a Jacuzzi steam room. The spa offers a variety of treatments, so it’s not just about the entrance to the hotel; it’s also about the lounge area, where couples might want to get some privacy before they go to the bedroom. The hotel’s website features videos of all the suites, so you can see them yourself.