The Brand New Turkish Airlines Business Class Lounge at Istanbul Airport
There are few things more enjoyable, at least to me, than spending a fair chunk of time in a quality airport lounge before takeoff (and especially not if I’m at the Turkish Airlines Business Class Lounge at the new Istanbul Airport).
It’s funny how unlimited access to fresh food, a variety of beverages, and decidedly plush seating can have that effect, right?
What I’ve learned over the years, though, is that when it comes to airport lounges, there’s a real variance in quality. Now, I want to be careful here not to sound completely pompous and self-inflated because, perhaps like you, my venture into travel started from humble beginnings. The first major trip that I took was right after the turn of this decade, and I was armed with nothing but cock-eyed optimism and an oversized grey travel backpack.
That being said, I have experienced a fair few airport lounges now, and while I’m grateful for all of those visits, let’s just say there are some that I’m even more grateful for than others. You can comfortably file my visit to the Turkish Airlines Business Class Lounge at Istanbul Airport into that category.
I can’t say for certain that it’s the best airport lounge in the world, but I can say for certain that anybody who knows anything about this sort of stuff would have to consider this one of the best airport lounges in the world.
The new Istanbul Airport is, last I checked, the world’s largest airport, and, at the very least, holds the distinction of the world’s largest airport terminal building. Naturally, the flagship airline’s business lounge of the world’s largest airport is going to have a few bells and whistles.
Today, I’m going to go over my experience at this now famous Istanbul airport lounge, so that if you get the chance to visit, you can take full advantage.
Quick Hitting Details on the New Turkish Airlines Business Lounge
For starters, when I first looked at the new Istanbul Airport map, I couldn’t quite figure out where was the best place to enter the lounge. I’ll solve that problem for you. Take the escalator opposite the E1 boarding gate on the International departures floor and you’re there. Easy.
Now, it’s not a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow, so just because you found it doesn’t mean it’s yours. Joking aside, to enter this lounge, you’ll need to be a Turkish Airlines Business Class passenger or a Star Alliance Business Class Passenger on an international flight.
You can get wifi when you enter by simply heading to one of the wifi kiosks (ask a staff member if you can’t locate one but there are a few throughout the lounge), and scanning your boarding pass. A code will print out for you to use.
In total, the Turkish Airlines Business Lounge is approximately 5,600 metres squared and it can seat some 750 people.
There’s even virtual driving range/golf set up so you can practice your golf swing!
What’s Makes This One of the Best Airport Lounges in the World?
Below, I’ll talk about what I feel makes this one of the best airport lounges in the world, and try to provide some insight into how you should best spend your time when visiting.
If you can, I would arrive an extra hour early for your flight just to spend it in the lounge. Once you arrive, you’ll likely kick yourself for not arriving earlier - it’s that nice. At the very least, make sure you’ll have a at least an hour to appreciate all that it entails.
And, without further adieu, let’s talk about some of the highlights, shall we?
The Food at this Turkish Airlines Lounge Will Blow You Away
While there may be debate over which airport lounge is the best in the world, I think it’s safe to place the crown for the best airport lounge cuisine firmly on the head of the Turkish Airlines Business Class Lounge at the new Istanbul Airport.
I spent a fair portion of my time at the lounge just wandering around and munching on things. Perhaps, in the interest of being open and honest, it’s more apt to say that I spent most of my time doing that. The best way I could describe it is like having access to a mind-blowing, never-ending Turkish buffet. Also keep in mind that I can speak with some authority on this considering I lived in Turkey for three years.
You’re best to start with the salad and meze bar which is towards the back of the airport lounge. If you walk past the structures that seem to be adorned with old stones (harkening back to rural, pastoral Turkey I might add), you can’t miss it.
They have a rotating list of items, but tend to have all the Turkish classics. You’ll want to make sure you try a number of cheeses, but to me the can’t miss cheese is beyaz peynir. It’s basically Turkey’s version of feta cheese, but I think it’s (dare I say) even better!
Of course, get yourself a healthy dose of olives as well, and some fresh bread. They’ll likely also be a red pepper and walnut dip there that’ll be worth diving into. There’s a fully stocked salad bar as well that’s more “western” if you’d prefer, but I’d say go full Turkey while you’re there. Eat all the cheeses, breads, dips, yogurts, and everything in between. You’re in Istanbul, after all.
Remember those “stone houses” I mentioned before? Those are actually food stations which are making fresh Turkish cuisine, handmade for each and every passenger. I saw stations making gözleme (a Turkish pastry that often has cheese and spinach, or minced meat inside), köfte (Turkish meatballs), mantı (essentially Turkish ravioli), and more. And they’re all good, too. Trust me, I ate them all. If you know me personally, you’ll know I’m not lying about that.
Afterwards, go find the desert table, and get yourself some lokum (Turkish delight), and an absurd amount of baklava.
After all that eating, you may be a touch parched, and possibly even need a caffeine kick just to ensure you can waddle to your gate in time. Let’s talk about it.
They’ve Got Beverages Galore
Like all airport business lounges, they’ve got a healthy dose of soda, beer, wine, and alcohol, but once again I’m going to recommend that you stick with what’s Turkish, especially if you’re only on an extended layover and want to get more familiar with Turkish culture.
A Turkish beer like Efes or Bomonti will do the trick, but I’d go straight to the table with the Turkish coffee (kahve) and Turkish tea (çay). It’s hard to overstate how important these two drinks are to the nation at large.
When I lived in Turkey, I was likely drinking 8-10 cups of çay per day, but if I tried to do that with Turkish coffee, I would still be orbiting the earth as we speak. Even if you drink lots of coffee, be mindful of the fact that Turkish coffee packs a serious caffeinated punch. If you’ve got some work to do, have one çay and one kahve , and be prepared to have the most productive 52 minutes of your life.
I’d also make a point of going to one of the bars (there are self-service bars, but also full-service bars), and finding some rakı. It’s a famous Turkish alcohol that’s anise flavoured (and tastes a bit like black liquorice). Take a small glass, and pour the clear alcohol to fill about 15% of the cup. Then, pour water into it, and watch the clear liquid become milky white. There are staff literally everywhere to help if you can find rakı, need a glass, or are confused about the process in any way.
As with food, you could go Western, by why not embrace where you are and go Turkish? You won’t regret it, I promise.
There’s a Museum. Yes, a Museum.
Now, there may be other airport lounges that have museums, but I can’t say that I’ve been to any.
In partnership with the Istanbul Museum of Modern Art, they’ve got a 130 square metre museum which is located towards the back left from where you initially enter. Again, ask an attendant if you can’t find it, the lounge is very well-staffed.
When I was there, they had around 40 works on display, and all from Turkish artists, which was something I adored. You can see a pattern here, right? I’m a big fan of lounges and airlines that make attempts to reflect their home culture instead of just providing a generic smattering of food and beverage.
This lounge does a remarkable job of showing off “The Best of Turkey,” and you get the same experience flying business class on Turkish airlines as well.
Apparently, they change up the collection a few times a year, so go on and find your moment of zen amongst the art. Heck, I’m sure you can bring your glass of rakı with you, if you like.
The Kids Area is Unbelievable
If I was kid at the Turkish Airlines Business Lounge, you’d have to drag me kicking and screaming to the flight. The lounge is just that kid-friendly.
I loved the slide that looks like a jumbo jet, which is an area that’s nice and separated from everything else, so kids feel they have some autonomy, but aren’t too far away that you’d worry about safety as a parent.
The popcorn machines are also a nice touch for the kids, and when I saw the slot-car racetrack, I instantly wished that it was socially acceptable for me to start playing, and do some winning. On a serious note though, I thought that racetrack was unbelievable, and spent some time carefully looking at the track which was, of course, based on the city of Istanbul. Well done on that one, Turkish Airlines.
This New Istanbul Airport Lounge is Utterly Unique
With the food and beverages on offer, even if you don’t get to step out of the airport, you’ll still get a taste of Istanbul and Turkey. Furthermore, you’ll most definitely get a sense of Turkish hospitality.
What I do think is one of the defining features of this lounge, and why it has to be in conversation for the best lounge in the world is the sheer variety of experiences here. You can find a quiet reading nook if you so choose to get away from it all, or, conversely, sit in the area with 8 TVs sharing the world news live and be in the midst of it all. You can get a snack and a cup of tea, or absolutely pig out and have the Turkish feast of your dreams.
They’ve built the Turkish Airlines Business Class Lounge with everybody in mind, so rest assured when you arrive, you won’t just have just my experience in mind, you’ll get the chance to create your own.
I want to humbly thank Turkish Airlines and the Turkish Airlines Business Lounge at Istanbul Airport for hosting me as media. All opinions are completely my own. Below, I’d love to know in the comments if you’ve flown Turkish Airlines, have visited the lounge, or thought on airport lounges in general. I respond to each and every comment personally. Thanks!
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