I have to admit that the thing I was looking forward to the most on this trip was a lounge … but not just any lounge, the Turkish Airlines CIP Lounge in Istanbul. The CIP stands for Commercially Important Person, the European equivalent to North America’s VIP and do they ever pull out all the stops to make their CIPs feel important.
First, the sheer size of the lounge is mind blowing. 60,000 square feet spread across 2 gorgeous levels of pure traveler heaven. The lounges that I have been to in the past can’t hold a candle to this place, in fact, this is the first lounge that has been a destination for me. We showed up an incredible 7 hours before our flight just to experience this lounge and I have to tell you, that time went by WAY too fast.
When you enter, you place your boarding pass on an automated reader which determines if you can enter or not. Once the gates open, I swear I heard angels sing.
The first sight you are greeted with is a library complete with a pool table. All rooms at the entrance are separated by circular arches giving each room a feeling of grandeur. The CIP lounge is not only beautiful but it is also very functional.
As you enter, on your right hand side, you see an area where you can store your luggage. Now I have been in lounges that have luggage storage but this is the first one that I have been to that have clear compartments that are secured by a lock code of your own choosing. There’s something freeing about not having to worry about your bags so you can enjoy SkyTrax’s Best Business Class Lounge in the world (2015).
Further on you will see the movie theatre complete with all you can eat popcorn. Granted, it’s not a full on movie theatre but how many lounges have anything close to this? The few times I poked my head in, they were playing concerts and most people used the room as a place to catch some z’s.
Further in, we start to see the thing that this lounge is known for, excellent food being prepared fresh 24 hours a day. The catering at the lounge, like on the flights, is undertaken by Do & Co, an Austrian catering company known for excellent food. While this lounge can service up to 2,000 people daily, it was very well run and I didn’t feel like it was crowded during my time there.
One of the best items up for grabs in terms of food was their freshly made pide (Turkish pizza). I’m not sure what I ate exactly but it was delicious and there was plenty of it. As soon as the pizza came out of the oven, it was cut up and placed on the tray you see below. They were snapped up quite quickly with many people taking 4-5 slices at a time but not to worry, this station was run like clockwork with new pides being baked and cut as quickly as they were being taken.
Towards the end of the hall, just before the beautiful stairwell, you will find the showering area for the upstairs. I desperately wanted to take a shower but was informed that there was a waiting list of a few people for the showers. The attendant suggested that I try the showers downstairs as there is another shower areas which boast more showers than the upstairs location.
Prior to going down to grab a shower, I went to look at the rest of the upstairs area. There are so many distinct areas of this lounge that it takes a while to get your bearings. From walls of TVs, to an unreal selection of both soft drinks and liquor, this lounge has it all … and this is just the upper level.
On the upper level, you will also find the Miles & Smiles Heroes Play Area for kids. Turkish Airlines does a good job of keeping the kids area clean by asking their patrons to slip on disposable slippers. There is also a room in the back where babies, infants and toddlers can catch a nap in a crib, a godsend for those late night flights.
As you can tell from the pictures, the architectural aesthetic of this lounge is nothing short of incredible. It is simply stunning.
If the hot food selections don’t strike your fancy, why not try the salad bar, complete with almost any dressing you can think of.
The staircase between the two floors is also something that should not be missed. Now stairs tend to be quite boring but Turkish Airlines took the opportunity to extend their design language from the top level to the bottom level using this beautiful staircase as the transition piece and it really works. Every turn I took in this lounge was a unique sense of discovery combined with wonder.
As soon as you get to the bottom level, you are greeted with a seating area that I liken to being in a park. It’s unlike anything I have ever seen and just gorgeous.
The bottom level also has its share of freshly made floor. In fact, that’s one of the things that I absolutely LOVE about this lounge. Every area has its own specialty. For example, on the bottom floor, you find Turkish Dumplings being served up fresh along with kabobs and roasted vegetables. We were there over the lunch and dinner hour so I can’t speak to breakfast but I’m sure it’s just as delicious as the food we experienced.
I don’t drink very much but from what I’ve seen in bars, I believe that this is a pretty diverse range of alcohol for those wishing to partake.
Next to the coffee station, where you can get any sort of fancy coffee drink (cappuccino, espresso, caffe latte, etc.) there is a dessert selection that is pretty impressive. You can also find Turkish Delights here as well. They were behind the coffee bar when we were there so they were a bit hidden away. A word to the wise, find them!
For those that want to catch up on email or simply surf the web, there are multiple computer stations around. I only saw Macs and a word of warning, the keyboards are set up for the Turkish language (as you would expect), so many of the keyboard shortcuts you are used to may take some hunting. I had a hell of a time finding the @ key.
Of course, the lounge has plenty of comfortable seating as demonstrated by my lovely daughter.
And of course, the lower level also needs a player grande piano.
The lower level had more entertainment on offer than the upper level in my opinion. Here you will find Playstation games, a remote control car racetrack as well as a golf simulator. Yes, a golf simulator. With everything that this lounge has, I was surprised not to find a bowling alley.
I neglected to take pictures of the shower area as my phone was about to die but the shower rooms are very clean and feature a rain shower and plenty of fluffy towels.
The lounge also features bedrooms for those connecting in Istanbul. The rules to get one of these rooms is strictly enforced to allow for those that need the rooms to have access to them. In order to get into the room, you must have a layover in IST between 4 and 7 hours. The longest you can stay in the room is 6 hours. Because we had a stopover in Istanbul, we did not qualify to reserve a bedroom. For those that fall outside the rules, you can always find a space to sleep in the theatre!
As I mentioned, we spent 7 hours in the lounge and it felt like 2. Honestly, if you find yourself in Istanbul on a layover, find your way to this lounge. We walked away feeling refreshed, rested and very full. Ready for our flight from Istanbul to Sao Paulo, Brazil.