Istanbul Guide

The 'East meets West' cliché rings true - Istanbul really does give you the best of both worlds...

MOST POPULAR

Where to Stay in Istanbul

Hotel Empress Zoe (Akbiyik Caddesi; 0212 518 2504) is in the heart of Istanbul’s historical Sultanahmet district, a skip and a jump from Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque. Its shabby ethnic chic interiors and gorgeous verdant garden are an oasis of calm in an otherwise bustling area. For an altogether more modern experience of the city, head to Levent for the Istanbul Edition. The seven-star hotel was designed in collaboration with Ian Schrager, and is pure Ottoman luxury, but with a stunning 21st-century twist.

ADVERTISEMENT - CONTINUE READING BELOW

Where to Eat in Istanbul

Karakoy Lokantasi (Kemankes Cad. 90; 0212 292 44 55) is a cool, blue-tiled restaurant a street away from the Galata Bridge. It serves a small but perfectly formed selection of fantastic meze – including tender grilled octopus and a to-die-for broad bean ‘hummus’ – and exceptionally fresh fish, simply grilled, to hip Istanbullus. There’s also a good selection of the better Turkish wines. Over on the Asian side, in the pretty market area of Moda (in Kadikoy), the owner of Ciya (Guneslibahce Sokak 43; 0216 3303190) has spent his life searching for the Turkey's best dishes. Try the sour cherry and meatball stew in Ciya Sofrasi, or something from the vast yet universally tasty selection of kebabs at the grill restaurant of the same name, directly opposite.

MOST POPULAR

Where to Go Out in Istanbul

Summer nightlife in Istanbul is all about terraces, and you’ll find the best open-air clubs and bars in Bebek and Ortakoy, on the banks of the Bosporus. With plenty of big-name international DJs now adding the city to their regular list of gigs, huge, sparklingly chic clubs like Reina (Muallim Naci Avenue 44; 0212 259 59 19) and Angelique (Salhane Sokak 5; 0212 327 2845) are adding to Istanbul’s deserved reputation as the new Ibiza. If you’re more of an indie kid, head for the winding backstreets of Beyoglu. As well as DJs playing rock, jazz and blues, clubs like Babylon (Asmal? Mescit Mh.; 0212 292 7368) and Dogzstar (Kartal Sokak 3; 0212 244 91 47) have plenty of live bands – Turkish and international – to keep you dancing till dawn.

Where to Shop in Istanbul

Vintage shopping hasn’t really taken off in Istanbul in the way it has in the UK. Which means there are bargains aplenty to be had in the secondhand shops that dot the Bohemian area of Cihangir. One of the best is My Pera 1960 (Altipatlar Soka 2A), which is packed with gems from the 1940s to the 1980s – all at prices that will have you heading for the fitting room in a flash. Designer chic, in the meantime, is to be found in Nisantasi. As well as branches of Cartier, Armani and Louis Vuitton, there are a handful of great Turkish design shops, including Hakaan, who had Kate Moss on the front row at his first show and has been worn by Emma Watson and Natalia Vodianova.

What to Wear in Istanbul

Despite Turkey being a fairly traditional Muslim country, Istanbul is a modern, cosmopolitan city. You’ll see Turkish women dressed in the usual range of styles – skinny jeans, wedges, vest tops and body-con mini dresses – although sometimes, rather bizarrely topped off with a Muslim headscarf. If you’re tramping around during the day, beware, roads and pavements are pretty rough going, so comfortable shoes are essential. For a night out on the town,  the more glam the better.

Don’t Leave Without…

…Turkish delight, of course. A box of fresh, soft, chewy ‘lokum’ (as it’s known in Turkish) tastes nothing like the stuff you get elsewhere. And the best place to buy it is Ali Muhiddin Haci Bekir (Hobyar Eminonu Mh.; 0212 522 0666), a 200-year-old shop that is named after the man who is reputed to have invented the delicacy.

Beauty SOS – where to go for pampering in Istanbul

You simply can’t visit to Istanbul without going to a hamam, or Turkish bath. Spend a couple of hours lying on a heated marble slab at Cemberlitas hamam (8 Vezirhan Caddesi; 0212 522 7974), alternately sweating out all those impurities, dousing yourself with water and getting pummelled to within an inch of your life by large, muscle-bound Turkish ladies. If your constitution is too delicate to withstand that, try the city’s best hotel spa at the Istanbul Edition . Its Espa spa is set over three incredibly luxurious floors and includes private treatment rooms, a swimming pool and a mini hamam, plus, of course, the usual range of blissful Espa facials and massages.

Read Next: