Travel to IstanbulIstanbul - Turkish Delight
As soon as you arrive at this “city of the world’s desire,” you’ll have the desire to take it all in – especially when you discover the dual nature of Istanbul’s personality. Muslim influences juxtapose with Christian culture; the fast sprint of a new world intermingles with the slow amble of old; and treasures on land vie with those at sea. Even the city itself straddles Europe and Asia. But though at first glance Istanbul may seem a city divided, this mélange is exactly what makes it so intoxicating. Istanbul’s history is formidable – you could spend your entire vacation exploring the city’s ancient monuments and cultural institutions. But it also pulses to the beat of the modern world, and is filled with renowned restaurants, sexy clubs and luxe hotels. Confinement is now cool at the environes of the Four Seasons at Sultanahmet. Settle into this former prison, where the rooms are far from cell size. The last thing you’ll be looking to do is escape; in fact, after checking in, you might just hope they turn the locks and throw away the key – that’s how pampered you’ll feel.
Consider the hotel your launch pad for a day of historical wandering. It’s just steps from Istanbul’s triumvirate of must-see sights: the impressive Blue Mosque, the Hagia Sophia cathedral-turned-mosque, and the renovated subterranean Basilica Cistern. Start your morning explorations at Topkapi Palace and make a beeline for the harem section before it’s overrun, and then head off to explore the “big three.” After you’ve had your cultural fill, break for lunch at Balikçi Sabahattin, a great spot for fresh fish in a neighborhood that often leaves something to be desired in the way of quality restaurants. The Art of Negotiation.
Once you’ve refueled, hit the Grand Bazaar and Spice Market. You might want to hone your negotiation skills prior to landing in Istanbul, but either way, the markets will give you a crash course in the art of negotiation, for which the Turkish are renowned. Make sure you dig up those negotiation course notes or your old copy of Getting to Yes. . Peruse the diamonds, antiques and most of all, the carpets. There’s nothing like scoring a gorgeous one-of-a-kind handmade rug at an unbeatable price. From the Grand Bazaar, let the potent scents of exotic spices lead you to your next stop. Wander the stalls of the Spice Market amid the constant stream of people, inhaling the pungent smells. Of course, the Spice Market is wont to induce hunger, and dinner tonight is at the stylish X Restaurant on the top floor of the cultural center IKSV, where you can feast on tempting Turkish and Mediterranean delicacies while taking in views of the Golden Horn and old city. The Bosphorus is calling on day two, and consider moving seaside to the Four Seasons at the Bosphorus. Just when you thought their Sultanahmet property couldn’t be topped, they went and outdid themselves with this restored palace on the water’s edge. You can also go boutique at Sumaham on the Water, which hugs the Asian shore. While somewhat remote, the views of the European side and suspension bridge connecting the two are worth the isolation. Whichever you choose, you’ll be riding the river today in more ways than one. A cruise on the famed strait is a must and the luxury Halas is our choice operator. During the hour-and-a-half tour, you’ll zigzag across the banks, crossing from one continent to another in a mere boat ride. Once back on terra firma, Bebek Balikçi’s proximity to the lapping waters of the Bosphorus will make you feel like you’re still cruising – and their fish is so fresh it’s practically flopping on your plate. The Cure for the Jeg Lag Blues.
In the afternoon, book yourself a luxurious hammam treatment – you can’t leave Turkey without the experience of being pampered from head to toe – at Ciragen Palace Kempinski. If you’re with your Amour, book the couples hammam, where on a slab of marble you will be covered by pillows of endless suds, an unforgettable experience. Afterwards, partake in the lavish Ciragen Palace tea, with tables of overflowing food reminiscent of the Sultan days. This is the perfect cure to the first day jetlag blues. Don’t relax too much though, as Istanbul nightlife is legendary. Enjoy an aperitif at Angelique, wherepre-dinner is the best time to stop by for an intimate cocktail, before the crowds descend on this outrageously popular spot, and then dine at the contemporary Japanese chain Zuma. Later party it up at Reina, the queen of clubs, where you can dance till dawn with champagne in hand among the city’s elite. Yet Another Day in Exotic Istanbul Revive yourself the next morning with brunch at Mangerie. Relish the views of the Bosphorus from this cozy terraced restaurant while feasting on eggs Benedict and bacon. If you have the shopping bug, the Nisantasi area will scratch that itch. Like a hybrid of New York’s SoHo and Fifth Avenue, this renowned shopping district features upscale stores lining the narrow streets. Come evening, reserve yourself a table at the decadent Ulus 29, an Istanbul classic. Floor-to-ceiling windows showcase the glistening Bosphorus, but on a warm night relax on the terrace for an even better vantage point. And if you’ve still got energy after your three jam-packed days, the quieter atmosphere of Asmalimescit will suit for an after-dinner drink. Here, you can relax and imbibe at local hangouts like Otto or Leblon. They’re the perfect counterpoint to the raucousness of the Bosphorus scene. After, all it’s the constant choice of either/or that’s really what Istanbul is all about.