A rude awakening greets you as you make your ascent to WITT Istanbul. It's hilly AF ('as f*ck', for those who don't speak millennial). That's if you don't arrive by taxi, of course, instead opting to really go local by way of the tram or metro. As you're getting your ass to the luxury apartments, those glutes, thighs and hips will start to familiarise themselves with the highs and lows of Istanbul, quite literally — Turkey's capital is built seven hills.
This particular hill is home to the retro-modern respite that is Witt Istanbul, one of three DesignHotels in Turkey's capital. It's located in Cihangir, an area in Beyoğlu area that has drawing comparisons to Paris' Le Marais or New York City's Williamsburg. The district — named after Suleiman the Magnificent's son — is home to local artists, designers and creatives, whose studios, galleries and shops you'll come across as you walk down from Taksim Square.
While Balat seems to be the nondescript capital of cool for Istanbul's locals as of late, Cihangir's the place to be based out of for its easy access to other locations. From the hotel, you can walk (fortunately, downhill) towards the Tophane tram stop, where a short ride will take you to the heart of Istanbul's old town, with Hagia Sophia, the Topkapi Palace, the Süleymaniye and Sultanahmet Mosques and the Basilica Cistern within easy reach. Getting there by foot is also a good option (and the best way to see the sights) by walking down Kiliç Ali Pasa Cd., where lanes of cafes, restaurants and bars are strategically designed to distract. We recommend stopping by Coffee Sapiens, a tiny, indie coffee house that roasts its own beans. Walk further down to Karakoy and wind your way through the yuppie masses and retail offerings like vintage posters and handmade jewellery till you reach even more restaurants and finally, the mighty Bosphorus. Istanbul's main docks — Karaköy, Eminönü and Kabataş — for exploring life beyond the European side are located within walking distance from Witt Istanbul.
But not before getting your formalities out of the way in Witt Istanbul. The hotel's façade heavily draws on the characters in the neighbourhood, with an exterior inspired by the Tophane-i Amire Building at the end of the same street, as well as French balconies that reflect the architectural style of the Italian Hospital across the street. Once the Turkish headquarters of Ogilvy and Mather, the building's facelift into a hotel now includes artwork in the lift (which changes as your ascend) that even encourages you to take the stairs instead. We get it Istanbul, you're making us work for all those koftas and doners we'll be consuming.
Check into the king room that comes with a terrace attached, one with a view that's so impressive, you needn't search for alternative rooftop bars. Order your breakfast in-room, and you'll start the day with views of the Galata Tower, Golden Horn, Bosphorus, Topkapi Palace as well as the minarets of other mosques. Designed by Seyhan Özdemir and Sefer Çaglar of Autoban, each room features an open plan layout that merges the living, sleeping and kitchen areas together. It's a space designed for designers, with walls covered in mirror tiles and layers of wood and steel panels with laser-cut motifs. Hardwood floors, organic wood furnishing and marble characterise the space, while linen sheets from Denizli are smooth to the touch on the custom-designed bed, which was named 'Best Bed' at the 2012 Wallpaper Design Awards. Featuring a dramatic wrap-around timber headboard, it's the focal point of a room that you'll want to move into immediately.
Another furnishing highlight is the mid-century Modern-inspired sofa, also custom-made by Autoban. Meanwhile, Witt Istanbul's bathrooms were instructed by Ross Lovergrove, who employed gray Marmara marble to give each small space a hammam-like feel — complete with a shower that spouts water from not one, not three, but five showerheads. Molton Brown products ensure you're squeaky clean.
We'd return to Witt Istanbul in a heartbeat based on location and design alone. Sure, it doesn't have a spa, all-day dining restaurant, gym or pool, but when you have a hammam, world-class dining enclaves and a hilly climb just minutes away, these traditional hotel trappings are deemed uneccessary. And while it's pretty obvious that you can't buy out a room to live in (even if you're a crazy rich Asian), you'll do well with scoring some interior design tips along the way.