An exceptional boutique hotel converted into high-ceilinged luxury suites from the old 1850s home of the Soeurs Gardes Malades. In a pretty, peaceful square between the Italian ambassador’s Palazzo Venezia and the Palais de France, in a quarter of Beyoğlu named after a captain in the Ottoman navy (Tomtom Kaptan). The rooftop restaurant bar has a historic harbour view.
A writer’s view, by Andrew Finkel
Light oak floorboards, high ceilings, living-room-sized bedrooms and lavish marble bathrooms lend the Tomtom Suites the feel of a really good country hotel. Which is odd, because it is tucked off a side street at the junction of some of Istanbul’s busiest neighbourhoods. A trot down the hill takes you to the Tophane Arsenal and the Istanbul Modern Museum, a puff upwards leads to the bright lights of Beyoğlu’s entertainment quarter, and straight ahead is the Çukurcuma antiques district.
The real pleasure of the hotel, however, is the fabulous views it affords of Istanbul’s historical peninsula. In some of the rooms, you can lie in bed looking at Aya Sofya on the other side of the Golden Horn. Bright, comfortable bedrooms are in mild contrast to the slightly institutional, pastel feel of the downstairs lobby and breakfast room. Here, there is an over-reliance on the vivid, naive canvases of the painter Memduh Kuzay to give the place some oomph. You can escape all this on the remarkable roof terrace, where the view is the best of all. This is home to La Mouette Restaurant, which serves new Turkish cuisine.
Whatever the quibbles, the spacious Tomtom Suites (there are only 20) are highly recommended; for once, the notion of an oasis in a crowded city is not hyperbole. Indeed, the 19th-century building was once a nunnery and preserves that sense of calm.
The hotel gets its name not from the modern GPS navigator, but Tomtom Kaptan Street, on which it stands, though this name has a confusing etymology. Captain Mehmet was the 17th-century admiral who endowed the small mosque at the street corner, and one of the early imams from whom the neighbourhood takes its name was the classical composer Tomtom Abdullah Efendi (d.1715), but why he had the nickname Tomtom is anybody’s guess.
In any case, the residence of the Italian ambassador and the Italian lycée across the way ensure that the cul-de-sac is normally closed to traffic. Taxis can get past the barriers, but the hotel better suits a guest who is happier to get out and walk, or one who likes to stay in bed looking out the window.