Here’s my insider guide to Istanbul following my recent visit:
Hotel 10 Karaköy
This Morgans Original Hotel is in a 150 year old period building in the über-stylish city neighbourhood of Karaköy. Recently opened, this 5 star luxury hotel is not short on style but there is plenty of substance too, with a superb restaurant by Rudolf van Nunen; a destination Sky Terrace bar for evening cocktails; and guest rooms that set the standard for luxury in this mega city. Expect flawlessly pressed luxe bedlinens, high-tech in-room entertainment, a tempting mini-bar, and sophisticated bathrooms.
Design details are everywhere, from the striking signature lighting installation that fills the multi-level interior open atrium, to the sublime, delicate porcelain flower espresso cups found at breakfast time.
10 Karaköy is in the city´s hottest neighbourhood, full of quirky and artsy independent cafés, bars and restaurants, as well as art galleries, studios and one of the best hamams in town.
Hotel Boutique St. Sophia
When it comes to enjoying the tourist sights of Sultanahmet, Istanbul’s historical peninsula, then this 26 room boutique property is one of the best placed. It’s very close to the main square just minutes from the monumental Hagia Sophia Museum; the not-to-be-missed ‘Blue Mosque’; the Basilica Cistern; and the Topkapi Palace. Enjoy super soft sheets, Bulgari toiletries, evening turn-down service and 24 room service. Some rooms have views of the square and the Hagia Sophia. Expect some noise from passing trams and also the regular call to prayer from the mosques, but it is worth it for such a convenient location to take in the sights.
SEE & DO
Kilic Ali Pasa Hamami
It’s a requisite to experience an authentic hamam when in Istanbul. The choice can be bewildering, but my recommendation is this stylish hamam dating back to 1580. The complex is truly beautiful with lots of Ottoman detailing, yet it has been painstakingly restored with luxurious materials. After the rejuvenating ritual you will no doubt be tempted by the boutique, full of exquisitely curated new and antique items for purchase.
Sakip Sabanci Museum
Housed in a beautiful 1930s mansion in the Emirgan neighbourhood, this small museum has an extraordinary and fascinating collection of Ottoman calligraphy. It also has temporary exhibitions of Turkish art.
It’s touristy and it is busy, but even so, if you go early, it can be a really fun experience. Enjoy getting lost – just see it as an opportunity to find even more interesting stores. To catch your breath, head to Fes Café and order a traditional Turkish coffee – it is beautifully presented on a silver tray with Turkish delight and almond liqueur.
Bosporus Ferry Ride
Although on a first visit to Istanbul it is important to take in the sights of Sultanahmet, a boat ride across the Bosphorus, to the Asian side is also something one just has to do. Staying in Karaköy means it is easy to walk down to the ferries and take a boat across to Kadikoy on the other side. If you are adventurous, simply take one of the regular commuter boats that shuttle back and forth, or ask your hotel concierge to help you choose a service, or organised tour.
Even if you’re not a caffeine addict, ordering a Turkish coffee is a must – I found this café that’s very popular with locals. It’s in the historic Beyoğlu district, just off the main Istiklal Avenue that starts near the iconic Galata Tower and leads up to the Taksim square. This tiny café has seating outside, and serves some of the best Turkish coffee in town – thick and velvety. No website, but your hotel will help you find the street, Olivia Geçidi 1/A.
Baklava is understandably very good in Istanbul. The Ottomans elevated this filo pastry creation to become an icon of their power and sophistication. The district of Karaköy has some of the finest baklava bakery cafés. The most renowned is Güllüoglu, but just the other side of the same building you’ll find Köşkeroğlu where the locals go.
Maria’s Garden Restaurant, with Maria Ekmekçioğlu in the kitchen, brings the flavours of Greece and the Aegean to Istanbul. Open from Breakfast to dinner, this delightful city oasis offers tasty, unpretentious food.
Istanbul has emerged as one of the world´s great airline hubs, mainly due to the expansive network of Turkish Airlines which now boasts more direct routes to more countries than another airline. I flew direct from Malaga, on a new aircraft with a friendly crew and great food. I´ve experienced economy and business and both are world-class.