Istanbul
Overview

Have you always dreamed of being the ultimate jetsetter? Say breakfast on one continent, dinner on another? Let Istanbul be the answer to your travel prayers. Straddling both Europe and Asia, with the sparkling aqua-blue Bosphorus running down the middle, a mere 20-minute uberBOAT ride (yep, that is now a thing) will escort you from one continent to another.

Another cool aspect of this city is its extraordinary immersion into both the ancient and modern worlds. A contrast between rich ancient history and luxury hotspots, the former exemplified by an iconic skyline, glittering with grand palaces and soaring minarets, and the latter boasting a nightlife scene which rivals that of London or New York. It’s the best of every world, and people are starting to notice - Charlize Theron, Madonna, and Michael Kors are just some of the most fashionable and famous who have been recently sighted in this majestic Turkish city.

Stuff your suitcase with vibrant colors and luscious fabrics, but be sure to leave ample room because the shopping is unreal (cc: where to shop).  Plan to err on the conservative side, particularly when visiting the exquisite Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque. Swimwear and a sarong is perfectly fine within your resort, though definitely keep a cover-up that actually covers up, handy for lunchtime. When out-and-about, an “of-the-moment” off-the-shoulder top paired with 70s-style flared pants totally works, and you can always add a layer with that “had-to-have-it” scarf you seemed to have already purchased during a buying binge at the Grand Bazaar.

When you’re ready to hit the high-end clubs later on, you can get away with your prized miniskirts, but keep your daytime and dinnertime looks stylishly sophisticated. Turkish women really dress up in the evenings, so let this be your chance to pack your silkiest, swankiest cocktail ensembles and not look an iota overdressed - Mary Katrantzou and Burberry Prorsum frocks with glitz galore come to mind. Toss in some transformative statement jewelry and voila! You’re all set for that five-star Turkish fine dining.

Be it for the fashion and food, the fascinating history, or the fabulous nightlife, Istanbul has entered the world’s super cool radar and it’s high time you pack your bags and make an unforgettable visit. The Turkish are extremely hospitable and just love to show you why their glamourous, double-continent city is just that amazing. So, call your boss and clear the week – it’s time to hit this Turkish runway.

Stay

Where to stay

Indulge

Indulge

DINING 

When you come to Istanbul, come hungry. In keeping with the whole East mingled with the West notion, you can find everything here from Asian fusion dishes to Italian classics, but you’d be remiss not to try some Turkish staples… think succulent kebabs, flavorful mezes, and freshly caught fish, all washed down with the national drink raki. Another thing is that Turks love brunch (you might not find your avocado toast here, but the deliciously #basic Turkish equivalent is menemen, which is basically eggs cooked with tomato sauce and it’s awesome). Also, eat the mussels. They’re often sold on the streets, cooked in the shell with rice and spices, and you don’t even have to feel guilty for downing a few cause they’re pretty healthy. And after a long day of shopping stop for a simit.

Dress up in a traditional Turkish silk cocktail dress before dining at the Istanbul rooftop location, which offers stunning views overlooking the Bosphorous in a modern yet intimate atmosphere decorated with fine art and photography.  If you are craving some Asian fusion, head to Fenix, home to delicious Asian classics with imaginative twists and an emphasis on seafood (not to mention a superb sushi bar). Come donned in a designer number to fit with the designer dining room in this upscale establishment.

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Still craving more Japanese? Zuma is another contemporary and elegant dining option for authentic Japanese cuisine, with panoramic views of the Bosphorus. The hallmark of luxury, Cipriani Istanbul (located in The Edition Hotel) is a classically glamorous spot. If you want an exotic experience as much as you crave exotic cuisine, 360 Istanbul gets you with their commitment to cuisine, design, entertainment, and atmosphere. Their name is no joke, set in a penthouse with 360 views of the Istanbul landscape from the steeple of St Antoine’s Church across the Bosphorus to the Hagia Sophia. Come for their exquisite cuisine and stay for the drinks, live dancers and performances.

For a delicious seafood lunch or early sunset dinner, head to Arsipel Balik, serving up sushi and other specialties with a shoreline view of (you guessed it) the Bosphorus. We’d all love to dine in luxury all the time, but on days when you’re just looking for a casual lunch spot to break up your shopping and sightseeing, Istanbul offers plenty of delicious, yet more laidback options. If the kids came along with you (alas, but props), Sunset Grill & Bar is a great family spot with seasonal Turkish cuisine and comfortable ambiance as well as classic décor and views from the Asian shoreline.  It’s also great for sunset, hence the name. Foodies will love Lokanta Maya, the casual bistro with rustic appeal serving up traditional Turkish dishes with unexpected ingredients. Park Samdan & Bar which our favorite ultra-fine dining right on the water that has equally amazing food, scene, and views. Ulus 29 Restaurant is another super chic restaurants that attracts the beautiful people with its views of the entire city and fun lively atmosphere that has people coming for the great food and cocktails after dinner. Brand new Alancha is the mastermind of an ex pro surfer turned beyond fab chef offering up an incredible culinary product while also being very theatrical with the presentations. If you find yourself in the Nistantasi area, take our advice and check out Kantin, a heavenly eatery with a casual ambiance and a farm-to-table menu that changes each season. But if you are longing to join the ladies who lunch definitely book a table at the brand new St. Regis Brasserie because it’s hot hot hot!

NIGHTLIFE

Before you even get to the clubs you have to try raki, the traditional Turkish liquor that you mix with pretty much just water (we accept no consequences of your actions after you toss back a couple). Anyway, Istanbul nightlife is amazing, with music suited for all tastes, especially in the Ortakoy area on the water. #1 is Anjelique. Basically Anjelique is to Istanbul and Pacha is to Ibiza: it lures the rich and famous and now you. It’s a design wonder located in a three-story mansion, with each floor playing a different music style. This is the elite hotspot for unmatched entertainment and exotic revelry, hosting some of the world’s hottest DJ’s. Hit the dancefloor post-Cipriani at Billionare Istanbul, the bling VIP nightclub inside The Edition Istanbul for a night of unparalleled luxury. This prestigious club is renowned by jetsetters for its glamour and uniqueness. The best part is if your strappy high-heels start to kill your toes, you can kick them off and kick back on the oversized white beds and just indulge in the great vibes. Warehouse dance and supper club, Sortie, is a bit more relaxed, though still brimming with energy (and open until 4am). It’s a combo of six restaurants and bars, perfect for a night of great food, booze, and Bosphorus views. For rooftop views minus a crazy club scene, slip into a cocktail dress for some raki at Mixo Terrace, a the rooftop taksim bar atop the Marti Istanbul Hotel, set in the heart of Istanbul where you can chill like a Turk amid high quality music and a chic ambiance. One of the chicest beach clubs despite that fact that there's actually no beach at all.

Known as Suada, it's a private island and all-white floating destination home to three restaurants, beach club and nightclub off the shores of the Bosphorus accessed by ferry service and private yacht. Reina has been one of Istanbul’s main hotspots for years and is located on the Bosphorus. They offer several bars, restaurants and dance floors that pack with people during the warmer months. Their restaurants offer something for everyone thanks to 5 different cuisines... we promise this is one stop not to be missed!

 

 

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Explore

Explore

This place is so rich with culture, shiny things, and pretty colors you could spend a month and still not catch it all. Pack cute comfy walking shoes ’cause you’ll be spending a whole lot of time on your feet... 

AYA SOFYA (HAGIA SOPHIA) 

The iconic basilica-turned-mosque-turned-museum is an architectural wonder with a plethora of exhibits today. Intricate mosaics cover every inch of the interior and is one of the finest examples of Byzantine architecture, and also served as inspiration for other nearby sites (cc: the Blue Mosque & Rüstem Pasha Mosque). 

BLUE MOSQUE (SULTAN AHMED MOSQUE)

Everyone who’s anyone visiting Istanbul will want to pay a visit to the Sultan Ahmed Mosque (including Madonna), better known as the Blue Mosque for its 20,000 blue-and-white Iznik tiles as well as 260 stained-glass-windows, each reflecting different shades of blue on the carpeted floor.  You’ll see this iconic structure with its six minarets and majestic domes stand out in the skyline…

DOLMABAHCE PALACE 

Another design inspo site rich in culture, the Dolmabahce Palace stands impressively on the Bosphorus shore. Feel free to imagine yourself as Turkish royalty as you explore this former centre of the Ottoman Empire.

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GRAND BAZAAR

Known for it’s shopping, the Grand Bazaar is an activity in itself. As one of the world’s largest covered markets, the Grand Bazaar is spread over 60 streets with more than 3000 shops of jewelry, pottery, bronzer, leather and carpets spread over 60 streets. Literally a shopper’s paradise. Charlize Theron was once spotted here buying a luxurious silk carpet.  

HIPPODROME 

The Hippodrome is an ancient open-air stadium where sporting activities, including Byzantine chariot races, once took place. 

ISTANBUL MODERN

Not to be missed is the Istanbul Modern museum, the city’s first private, non-profit museum, housed in a converted warehouse overlooking the Bosphorus.

SPICE MARKET

A 17th century covered bazaar, Istanbul's Spice Market is a colorful and sensual world of spices.  It also has too-tempting desserts, like the famed Turkish delight, saffron, henna, caviar and a variety of curious aphrodisiacs.

TOPKAPI PALACE 

A top-of-the-list must is the Topkapi Palace; generations of sultans used to live here, which is no wonder with its stunning overlook of the Sea of Marmara.  The Palace is filled with gorgeous gardens, courtyards, Turkish baths, and a secluded former harem. It also houses our personal favorite, 86-carat pear-shaped diamond, known as kaşıkçı elması (Spoonmaker’s Diamond) – now that’s royal! (INSIDER TIP: The Imperial Harem is a separate ticket and a possibly long, but well-worth wait)  

TURKISH BATHS

With all that the city offers, you MUST and we mean MUST experience a true Turkish hamam treat which can be done at most of the fabulous hotels but we like to go where the locals go and visit Hürrem Sultan Hamam (your skin will thank us)!

YEREBATAN SARNICI (BASILICA CISTERN)

The Yerebatan Sarnici, or Basilica Cistern, is a famous underground waterway used when the city needed a system to get fresh water. Today, it marks one of the most unexpectedly romantic sites in Istanbul, newly fitted with dim lights and classical soft music playing in the background.  



NEIGHBORHOODS TO VISIT

GALATA

Visit the Galata neighborhood, which has recently become one of Istanbul’s most fashion-forward, design-focused areas. It has always been a tourist spot as the famous Galata Tower is located here has offers some of the best views of the city (and the view is worth the masses). Recent openings of boutiques, design shops and a designer boutiques in addition to a number of cozy modern cafes. 

KARAKÖY

The Karaköy area is an up-and-coming neighborhood filled with cool cafes, shops, art galleries and a very hip crowd. Although there are no famous sights, it is well worth a visit to get a sense of contemporary Istanbul life. 

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SHOP

Where to Shop

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Brush up on your haggling skills ladies, cause you’re going to want to buy a LOT and #BargainLikeABoss

GRAND BAZAAR 

If not already obvious, this should be your No. 1 - and make note, you're going to want to clear a FULL day for this! At Abdulla Natural Products or Adnan & Hasan, find 100% natural, hand-woven home products (like towels and sheets), will surely make you envy of your friends back home. Add classic Istanbul flare to your outfits with vintage and antique jewelry, at Epoque.  This spot is also great for antique home décor. 

We’re firm believers that you can never own too many accessories, so be sure not to miss Kafkas, widely considered to be one of Istanbul’s best jewelers. Score a cuff studded with precious stones here, to truly make a statement. Koc who is a leather & fur master and works with some of the biggest names in fashion (shh…). Timuçin Mücevherat sells the remakes – with real stones – of all high end jewelry brands for one-fifth of the price.  *Top Flight Tip: Be sure to ask for the full jewelry collection, as it’s not always all on display  

It would practically take a novel to cover everything the Bazaar has to offer...so happy hunting!

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NİŞANTAŞI

The Soho of Istanbul is a shoppers dream come true, its also the "see and be seen" area for all the chicsters in town. For authentic couture clothing, pay visit to Arzu Kaprol, where the glamourous women of Istanbul find their high-end flowing couture created from Turkish silks, as well as gorgeous gowns and chic cocktail dresses. Hard to miss and a must-go: Armaggan, a six-story market filled with jewelry, hand-woven kaftans, and tabletop home-goods.. Bring even more of Istanbul into your home with authentic Turkish cushions from Yastik by Rifat Özbek, which carries more than 100 different limited-edition designs. 


GALATA

Doors by Ümit Ünal is the private atelier of a Turkish designer known for crafting sophisticated, slouchy clothing (all in natural fabrics).  His avant-garde women's designs combine casual comfort with impeccable style. 

Continue strolling the cobblestoned Galata streets until you reach Simay Bulbul, home to some of the most detailed, contemporary leatherwork with edgy collections of leather dresses, jackets, and accessories. Atelier 55 is another Galata hotspot stocked with chic clothing from young Turkish designers as well as accessories from iconic international labels like Linda Farrow. 


ORTAKÖY // KURUÇEŞME // BEBEK

Home to  some of Istanbuls hippest boutiques, one of the most notable being MidnightExpress, a high-end shop featuring the country’s hottest designs, with flirty dresses, silk pants, gold rings, and luscious leather bags. Atölye Mariposa is a heaven of vintage clothes & home accessories. NR.39 could possibly be the most kept shoe secret in Istanbul. The owner Ipek Yilmaz produces limited amounts of each style. If you're in the market for elegant handmade beachwear of the highest quality, look no further as  OYE Swimwear (short ‘Open Your Eyes') will have you covered. They make super sexy lines that is a #VacationStyle must! And of course we cannot forget Beymen which is Istanbul’s version of Barneys and sells local designers, as well as top international ones. 

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Shop the Destination

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