The countless mosques might still glisten in the Mediterranean moonlight, however Istanbul is no longer just about the Haghia Sophia and Grand Bazaar. Thanks to a cool young population and an overflowing food, fashion and hotel scene, it’s no coincidence that Kate Moss holidayed here in the summer of 2008.
With its labyrinthine network of historic and graffiti clad streets and the never-ending flow of its 16 million-strong population, it’s hard to sate your appetite for this throbbing metropolis.
Split by two rivers; the Golden Horn, which divides the European districts of Sultanahmet and Beyoğlu, and the Bosphorus, dividing Europe and Asia.
Hotfooting it around the European side of the city, where lies a beauty and depth rarely found in one place, Running In Heels fuses historical with the contemporary in this breathtaking urban jungle.
Traditional Costumes meets Couture
From customary belly dancing outfits to vintage treasure troves, prepare to be overwhelmed by Istanbul’s shopping experience. The Grand Bazaar near Sultanahmet is the largest indoor market in the world. Dating back to the 15th Century, the Grand Bazaar has over 4,000 stalls selling gold and silver, jewellery, trinkets, lamps, carpets, leather and antiques. Don’t forget to barter your way to do a good deal!
For high street brands and Turkish trinkets, weave in and out of the streets from Taksim Square following the tramline downhill towards the Mevlevi Museum. For vintage, antiques and secondhand wares weave uphill towards Taksim Square from Galata Tower.
From Chloe to Salvatore Ferragamo, the leafy upper-class streets of Beşiktaş is home to national and international designers. Rest your feet and stop for an Espresso while sampling a shish pipe or a glass of chilled Turkish wine in one of the many street cafés the city has to offer.
There might be a new generation in town giving more meaning to the term, ‘east meets west,’ than ever before, but that’s not to say the history of this city can be ignored.
The Haghia Sophia is a colossal fixture on the city’s skyline. One of the seven wonders of the world, if you only see one thing while you’re in Istanbul, make it the Haghia Sophia. Nothing quite prepares you for the interior, revealing preserved artwork dating back 15 centuries. There are few spaces which have the ability to leave you breathless like the Haghia Sophia can.
The Blue Mosque sits next to the Haghia Sophia, and although it might not be quite as impressive inside, it does make as much of a statement from the outside.
Topkapi Palace is also conveniently located within the Sultanahmet district. The sultan’ sprawling palace dates back to the 15th Century when it was home to the Ottoman sultans. Today, the palace houses exhibits from the sultans’ collection, including rare Chinese porcelain, robes, weapons and the second largest treasury in the world.
Amrita Spa & Wellness is Istanbul’s largest and best equipped spa in the heart of the city. The spa is a tranquil escape from the city’s buzz, offering a steam bath, solarium, Jacuzzi, Turkish Hamam, private Hamam, ice grotto, watsu pool, bio sauna, and for the exercise conscious guests, tennis courts, indoor and outdoor swimming pool and private fitness centre.Amrita Spa & Wellness at Swissôtel The Bosphorus, Istanbul Bayıldım Cad. No: 2 Maçka, Beşiktaş 34357
For something a little more traditional, head to the traditional Turkish hammas. At nearly 270 years old, they don’t come more traditional than Cagaloglu Hamam, where previous patrons include Florence Nightingale, Tony Curtis and Harrison Ford. Enjoy a sensuous Turkish massage or steam bath followed by Turkish tea.
A Thoroughly Modern Menu
From velvety underground nightspots to rooftop bars, Istanbul has plentiful venues to indulge in cocktails, food and music.
Mikla is one of the finest restaurants in Istanbul, serving the city’s most delicious dishes by restaurateur and chef, Mehmet Gürs. Somewhat of a celebrity these days, Gürs Offers an explosion of Nordic and Turkish flavours, coupled with commanding 360 degree views of Istanbul, this is the hippest place in the city; great for cocktails at sunset. Mikla is on the expensive side but it’s worth it.Mikla, The Marmara Pera, Meşrutiyet Cad. No:15, 34430 Beyoğlu, Istanbul
A gorgeous, quaint Thai restaurant, Çok Çok Thai is another must in Istanbul. Designed by the award-winning architect Kay Ngee Tan, who most recently won the Singapore President’s Design Award in 2007, Çok Çok Thai offers a casual chic style, fusing European and Thai dishes. Try the mouthwatering Jumbo Shrimp Soup; Tom-Yam-Kung with a Pam-Dor cocktail!Çok Çok Tepebaşı, 51 Meşrutiyet Caddesi, Tepebaşı/Beyoğlu
All of the big brand and luxury names have a presence in Istanbul these days; Park Hyatt, Ritz-Carlton, Hilton, Intercontinental and Swissotel to name just a few.
Our choice, a 19th Century Ottoman palace on the European banks of the Bosphorus is the Four Seasons Bosphorus. Offering an escape from the hustle of the city in the Beşiktaş district, the Four Season Bosphorus has a tranquil and relaxing ambiance thanks to its waterside location and internal opulence.
The hotel offers an outdoor swimming for the summer months, spa and Aqua, a gourmet delight serving Mediterranean-Turkish cuisine.Four Seasons at the Bosphorus, Çiragan Cad. No. 28, Besiktas, Istanbul
Turkish Airlines, www.thy.com, fly from all major European airports to Istanbul’s main airport, Ataturk International. For flight information, visit www.ataturkairport.com.