Istanbul is the ‘it’ city destination, Europes Capital of Culture 2010. Margaret Kemp presents her guide to what’s chic in the age-old capital of empires.
Istanbul is the ‘it’ city destination, Europe’s Capital of Culture 2010. Margaret Kemp presents her guide to what’s chic in the age-old capital of empires.
With fabulous weather, a skyline studded with domes and minarets, there are top hotels, eclectic cuisine, museums, bazaars, serious retail therapy and Roman, Byzantine, Ottoman and contemporary architecture for romantic backdrop. What are you waiting for?
WHERE TO STAY
Hotel Les Ottomans
Take the hotel yacht from Ataturk International Airport (the flight takes three and a half hours from Heathrow) to the former seaside mansion of Pasha Muhinzade. This recently rebuilt marvel is the only Turkish hotel fully designed in Fung Shui style.
There’s a Caudalie Vinotherapy Spa, the most incredible Turkish bath, personal butlers and 12 superb suites. Two restaurants overlook the Bosphorus. Night owls should head for Q Jazz by Les Ottomans, where the world’s leading jazz, soul R&B and blues stars perform regularly. Suites from 800€
+90 212 359 15 40
The Sofa Boutique Hotel
The Sofa is located near Istanbul’s Convention and Exhibition Centre, in the heart of the chic Nisantasi neighbourhood where there’s great shopping, restaurants, galleries, bars and cafes. 82 rooms with all the high-tech gizmos you need. Cafe Sofa for cocktails, Restaurant Tuus for Mediterranean Cuisine and Taylife Spa (L’Occitane products) for beautiful bodies. Don’t miss the hip penthouse-level Art8 gallery. Rooms from 250€-800€
+90 212 233 3540
W Istanbul is the centrepiece of the redevelopment of the Besiktas district, the collaboration between a wealthy Turkish businessman and Starwood Hotels. There are 134 rooms, some with terraces, outsize flat screen TV’s, iPod docks and Wi-Fi are standard. Enjoy a drink in SIP the lobby lounge, or in The Living Room main bar. Jean-Georges Vongerichten, the French, New York based, chef has launched his exotic Spice Market restaurant here. Prepare to be amazed. From 400€ per night
Four Seasons Bosphorus
+90 (212) 381 40 00
The Grand Bazaar
Of course there’s all the designer boutiques but you need to get totally lost in the Grand Bazaar (Yaglikeilar Caddesi, Beyazit).
Egyptian Spice Market
And enjoy the fragrance of The Egyptian Spice Market for spices, sweets, nuts, Turkish delight (which they will vacuum pack) etc. Located at Eminonu, next to the New Mosque and the Flower Bazaar. Eat lunch on the upper level at Pandeli Lokantasi, like taking a step back in time.
+90 (212) 527 3909
The twenty-first century climate-controlled outdoor version of The Grand Bazaar, in the Levent district. A four-story swooping “canyon” designed by LA based Jerde Partnership, opened in 2006. The snaking walkways, with vertical gardens, mean that Istanbul locals stroll round and round enjoying the sliding open door windows. 180 boutiques include Harvey Nichols, Chanel and Tiffany but also an Apple tech store, Haagen-Daz and local designers and cafes on the lower floors.
Located in Tesuikiye district, talented stylist’s eponymous boutique, top-to-toe designs for him and her
+90 (212) 261 9081
Located in a chic residential building, Topaz is open daily for lunch, tapas and dinner. World food presented by Selahattin Mercan, and visiting celebrity chefs. Superb wine list by French sommelier Alain Wursching, wonderful views of the Bosphorous, book a window table.
+90 212 249 1001
An exciting glass-walled bar/restaurant with stunning views of the city in the round. Showcasing Turkish and International cuisine, dishes include Lebanese kibbe meatballs stuffed with walnuts, veal and prawn surf and turf, lamb, slow raosted in olive oil. Variations on sushi, modern mezze, Check out the theme parties.
+90 212 251 10 42
Take a boat (from Yenikoy) up the Bosphorus to Ortakoy, one of Istanbul’s quaint villages and a hot nightspot. Sit on the terrace beside tiny banyan trees and feast on Asian fusion/Thai and vegetarian dishes, or try the signature Banyan Plate, for 2, with a taste of everything.
+90 212 259 9060
Ciya Sofrasy & Ciya Kebap
Modern ethnic dishes created by Musa Dagdeviren, located in Kadikov, the fish-market district. Ezo Gelin soup (red lentils, mint, garlic, onion, spices) followed with kebabs, rice and vegetarian dishes. A fantastic journey from Mesopotamia to the Ottomans and further.
+90 216 330 31 90
Ciragan Palace Hotel
At Ciragan Palace Hotel Kempinski Spa. Steam and scrub in style, outdoor decks, shiatsu room.
Cagaloglu Hamami is a traditional Turkish bath, in magnificent 18th century building. Florence Nightingale and Kaiser Wilhelm II once steamed here (not together!). Self service bath cost about $12: massage $12. Open daily.
+90 212 522-24 24
Motus is a boutique spa, with a chic crowd having bikini waxes, eye-lash-tints, Pilates, massages, and yoga.
MUST SEE AND DO
The Blue Mosque
Istanbul is a city of 3,000 mosques. Begin with The Blue Mosque and its six minarets.
+90 212 518 13 19
Built in 1459, set in the gardens of Gulhane Park. The palace is a network of perfectly preserved tiled and marbled buildings that once hosted official events and was the private residence of the Sultanate in the days of the Ottoman Empire. The harem closes at lunchtime!
+90 212 512 04 80
The Istanbul Modern
Recently opened, showcasing a vibrant art scene, located in a former shipping warehouse by the docks at Karakoy the main maritime terminal, the Istanbul Modern has a permanent collection of 20th century Turkish Art, regular exhibitions and sculpture and art from private collections, Check out the excellent cafe/restaurant featuring old Ottoman cuisine.
+90 212 334 7300
Don’t leave Istanbul without tasting Turkish desserts from Saray, in the Nisantas district.
+90 212 236 1617
Navigate the Turkish Coastline
Take a private cruise with Blue Point Yachting, choose the boat, from mega-yacht to luxurious lazy gullet. On board chefs, massage, fishing. They’ll take care of you for half-a-day, week, forever!
BARS AND CLUBS
Leader of the pack for clubbing and eating
If you can only do one hot-spot, do Reina: it’s all night partying
Celeb spotting at this terrific monochrome nightclub.