A city known for its mix of cultures, rich history and exotic wares, Istanbul is fast becoming a magnet for travellers who crave both bustling ancient streets and a thriving urban scene. History beckons at every turn in Istanbul. Take a trip to the Topkapı Palace Museum for a glimpse of dusty relics from Turkey’s distant past or wander through various bazaars to find a plethora of tempting souvenirs. You might need more than 48 hours…
Stay In the up-and-coming neighbourhood of Karaköy, at Vault Karakoy, The House Hotel. A former bank, the grandeur of this hotel’s previous life shines through in its classical façade and intricate ceiling reliefs. Vault Karaköy evokes a mixture of ancient and modern Istanbul through its contemporary furnishings, luxurious fittings and dedication to the Turkish modern art scene. Organic colours and timbers accent the hotel’s rooms; the extravagant marble bathrooms come complete with generous rain showers. Enjoy access to the hotel’s modern spa and decadent white-marble Turkish hammam. The surrounding neighbourhood boasts art galleries, artisans and boutiques and plenty of sociable cafés for caffeine-fiends.
See The streets are a clash of consumerism, ancient buildings and intricate mosques that stand against the test of time. The most well-known is the Sultanahmet Mosque or Blue Mosque. Remove your shoes and ensure you sport skin-covering attire and you’ll be able to lay eyes on the exquisite blue tiles that give the mosque its nickname. Once the link between east and west, Istanbul is a city that has had centuries of experience when it comes to shopping. Haggle for silk scarves and intricately painted ceramic tiles at the Grand Bazaar or take a chance on one of the many carpet stores and bargain with a charismatic merchant. Located on the shores of the Bosphorus is the Istanbul Modern, the museum of modern art. Founded in 2004, its addition marked the beginning of a burgeoning modern art and design scene in the Karaköy district; it’s well worth a visit. A search for whirling dervishes will see you heading for the Hodjapasha Dance Theatre , where dancers will whirl so energetically, you’ll be glad you’re sitting down. For something a little more down to earth, venture to Meşale Cafe alongside the Arasta Bazaar to sample traditional hookah while watching a solo whirling dervish.
Eat Spice up your stay with a trip to the Egyptian Bazaar, a regular stop on many of Istanbul’s food tours. A staple for the past few centuries, this spice market is where the Orient’s exotic edible treasures can be found. Sample traditional Turkish delight or buy a bag of the freshest pistachios you’ll ever munch on. Follow the locals to find the best stalls and prices, and don’t forget to try before you buy. For one of the best panoramic views of the city, wind your way through all the hustle and bustle to Set Üstü Çay Bahçesi, a tea garden at the end of Gülhane Park. Here you’ll enjoy a samovar of tea while gazing at fellow travelers ferrying across the waters below. The city is dotted with marvelous rooftop restaurants that vary from fine-dining to chilled-out bars. Just a short stroll from Vault Karaköy is Unter, a modern gastro-pub that serves Turkish food (try the Kokoreç brioche with green peppers) and surveys of Istanbul’s rooftop architecture and the sea.
To book any of Mr & Mrs Smith’s stylish boutique hotels visit www.mrandmrssmith.com or call the expert Travel Team on 1300 896 627. Smith guests enjoy exclusive extras at all stays.