Quintessentially Eastern, with its glittering mosques, ruched velvet night-spots, smart hotels and beautiful vistas, Istanbul is ideal for a palas fashion bug romantic city break. The city's modern side is making itself heard as well, from glamorous bars and restaurants to the new Istanbul Modern Gallery.
Where to stay in Istanbul
AJHIA Ahmet Rasim Pasa Yalisi, Cubuklu Cad 27, Kanlica, Istanbul (00 90 216 413 9300; www.ajiahotel.com). This boutique hotel is on the Bosphorus's Asian shore in Kanlica, a 35-minute boat ride from the old town. It is a minimalist, white-wood-clad 19th-century yali (seaside mansion). There are 16 bedrooms, including three mezzanine suites with Philippe Starck baths next to the beds, and five with terraces and outdoor decking. Food includes Mediterranean/Italian fare, which can be eaten outside in summer on the decking that overlooks the sparkling Bosphorous. Be aware though: the location has its downside, Kanlica is halfway up the Bosphorus and a long drive from Sultanahmet, although the boat ride is pleasant. £££ AYASOFYA PANSIYONLARI Sogukçesme Sokak, Sultanahmet, Istanbul (00 90 212 513 3660; www.ayasofyapensions.com). This superior pension is comprised of a row of nine vine-clad wooden houses, all impeccable copies of Ottoman residences, and furnished in a 19th-century Turkish style. as well as Sarnic, a subterranean restaurant in a Roman cistern lit only by candles ££ BOSPHORUS PALACE Yaliboyu Cad 64, Beylerbeyi, Istanbul (00 90 216 422 00 03; www.bosphoruspalace.com). The Bosphorus Palace, on the Asian side of the city, is your chance to stay at a yali, or seafront house, albeit one that is heavily restored. From here, you can take a ferry into the old city or nip up the road to Bosporus Bridge. The interior could do with being a little bit less stuffy. £££ CIRAGAN PALACE KEMPINSKI Çiragan Caddesi 32, Besiktas, Istanbul (00 90 212 326 4646; www.kempinski-istanbul.com). At the Ciragan Palace Kempinski, a restored 19th-century waterfront palace, you can swim in a pool that seems to flow into the Bosporus. The charm of staying here is waking up in a spacious room with a view of one of the most exciting waterways in the world (avoid the cheaper 'park side' rooms which have no views to speak of). Most of the rooms are in the modern annexe: the palace itself is reserved for restaurants and public rooms, plus a few suites. The decor is a little tired, rooms are in need of a refurbishment to reflect the grand piblic areas. The restored stone façade is true to the original, the interiors of the palace none the worse for having a colour scheme that could be described as post-Orientalist psychotropic. Sunday brunch is the Ciragan's best meal; otherwise, the restaurants, which include Laledan Restaurant for International Cuisine and Tugra Restaurant for Classical Ottoman Cuisine, are more remarkable for their situation than their food, and are extremely pricey. Facilities include a sauna, jacuzzi, indoor and heated outdoor swimming pools and a Turkish Bath. £££ EMPRESS ZOE Adliye Sokak 10, Sultanahmet, Istanbul (00 90 212 518 2504; www.emzoe.com). One of the best of the many new B&Bs around the Sultanahmet area, the Empress Zoe provides a decent, moderately priced stay in the old city. It is built around the remains of a 15th-century bathhouse whose dome is right next to a small breakfast garden. The 25 rooms are small but stylish, and there are nice touches everywhere (although disabled travellers might find the spiral stairs a problem). ££ FOUR SEASONS AT SULTANAHMET Tevfikhane Sokak 1, Sultanahmet-Eminonu, Istanbul (00 90 212 402 3000; www.fourseasons.com/istanbul). The Four Seasons always was an elite establishment: some of Turkey's most famous literary dissidents stayed here when the building served as a prison. More curious is that the building suits its present purpose all too well, even without restoration - the high ceilings and arched portals are faithful to Ottoman revivalist style. Between Aghia Sophia and the Blue Mosque, the hotel is the perfect refuge for busy sightseers. The atmosphere is intimate (there are only 65 rooms), and the staff ferociously competent. There's no swimming pool: excavation would upset the remains of the Byzantine palace lurking beneath the foundations. Seasons restaurant has a glass-enclosed courtyard and a lovely outdoor terrace, ideal for warm evenings. The setting is fantastic; you can see the dome of Aghia Sophia rise up behind you. Service is quintessentially Four Seasons: warm, efficient and knowledgeable. ££££ FOUR SEASONS HOTEL ISTANBUL AT THE BOSPHORUS 22 Ciragan Caddesi, Besiktas, Istanbul (00 90 212 381 4000; www.fourseasons.com/bosphorus ). The Ciragan Palace Kempinski Istanbul, once the Sultan's summer retreat, has long been the most desirable place to stay on the Bosphorus. But when Four Seasons opened its second Istanbul outpost last summer, in a powder-pink palace up the road, they hoped to give the Ciragan some stiff competition. Aside from hand-painted ceilings and 18th-century engravings, the decor is mainstream global: all pale marble and plush neutrals. What sets it apart (other than flawless service) is the 190-metre waterfront terrace, dotted with scarlet parasols and lit by flaming torches at night, and the vast basement spa. £££££ GALATA RESIDENCE Bankalar Cad, Haci Ali Sok, Istanbul (00 90 212 292 4841; www.galataresidence.com). For families, the Galata Residence, below the Galata Tower, is a good alternative in the other hotel area around Taksim Square. This, too, is a historic neighbourhood, with views of the skyline across the Golden Horn. ££ HOTEL EKLEKTIK Serdaki Ekrem Caddesi, Beyoglu, Istanbul (00 90 212 243 7446; www.eklektikgalata.com). Tucked away on a backstreet is the cosy and cool Hotel Eklektik, with skilfully designed rooms in styles from colonial to retro, a roof terrace and a glass-walled hammam in the making. £ HOTEL IBRAHIM PASHA Terzihane Sokak 5, Adliye Yani, Sultanahmet, Istanbul (00 90 212 518 0394; www.ibrahimpasha.com). An affordable option, Hotel Ibrahim Pasha is in Sultanahment, close to the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts and Blue Mosque. It is a refuge of simple, tasteful interiors in a smart, century-old house with helpful staff. There are 16 white bedrooms, with flat-screen TVs and complimentary fruit and wine. Bedrooms are small, although the deluxe are bigger, however at this price we can't really complain. ££ HOTEL LES OTTOMANS Muallim Naci Cad, 168, Muhsinzade Yalisi, 34345 Kurucesme, Istanbul (00 90 212 359 1500; www.lesottomans.com). Situated on the European shore of the Bosphorus, near to society nightclubs Reina and Black, this meticulously and extravagantly reconstructed 18th-century pasha's yali is full of Istanbul's social and business elite. There are 12 lavish and individually-designed suites, plus a pool, Caudalie Vinotherapy spa and personal shopper. A jazz bar hosts live music every evening. The hour long drive from the airport can seem too long, take the hotel's yacht instead. Hotel Les Ottomans was featured in The Hot List 2007. £££££ PARK HYATT ISTANBUL 4 Bronz Sokak, Tesvikiye (00 90 212 381 2121; www.starwoodhotels.com/whotels). Macka Palas was designed in 1922 as a residence for the neighbouring Italian embassy and is modelled on a Milan palazzo. The soaring, sky-lit lobby with its circular Wine lounge is dazzling. Deluxe rooms with padded-leather headboards, shimmering drapes and polished limestone and walnut bathrooms are generously proportioned - even the mini-bar measures are XL. Power lunches take place in the macho The Prime steakhouse or on the pool terrace wedged between the upmarket shopping malls of Nisantasi. £££ RITZ-CARLTON Suzer Plaza, Elmadag, Istanbul (00 90 212 334 44 44; www.ritzcarlton.com). The Ritz-Carlton Istanbul is located on the bank of the Bosphorus, a short distance form the old quarter and its bazaars, and 45 minutes from the airport. There are 244 glitzy rooms, with all mod cons, including high speed Internet Access, fax and ISDN lines. Services are excellent: 24 hour room service, valet parking, twice-daily housekeeping and multi-lingual staff are just of the few things on offer. Cintemani offers Mediterranean food, the Lobby Lounge afternoon tea and the alfresco Guney Park mixed grills and cocktails. There is also the Laveda spa, a shopping arcade, and baby-sitting services. £££ SOFA HOTEL Tesvikiye Caddesi 123, Istanbul (00 90 212 368 1818; www.thesofahotel.com). Located among the city's designer shops, including Armani, Gucci (and also Marks & Spencer) in the stylish Nisantasti area, this is a minimalist-chic boutique hotel. Rooms have multi-channel LCD panels, DVD players, complimentary ironing service and high-speed Internet access. Tuus restaurant offers Mediterranean food, and has a bar and outdoor terrace for dining. £££ SUMAHAN ON THE WATER Kuleli Caddesi 51, Cengelkoy, Istanbul (00 90 216 422 8000; www.sumahan.com). Built in a former distillery, Sumahan on the Water radiates contemporary class. The lobby overlooks domes and minarets, while split-level suites have garden access and Bosphorus views (and the hotel offers complimentary boat trips for guests). ££ TOMTOM SUITES 18 Tomtom Kaptan Sokak, Bogazkesen Caddesi, Beyoglu, Istanbul (00 90 212 292 4949; www.tomtomsuites.com). Tucked away in a warren of alleyways off Istiklal Avenue, Beyoglu's main pedestrian drag, this elegant newcomer is housed in a former convent. Although the 19th-century exterior has been respectably restored, the interiors are modern and the nuns have been replaced with savvy CEOs and European diplomats from the surrounding consulates. Guests are spoiled with fresh fruit and flowers daily, free WiFi and a cosy library stocked with guide books, CDs and films. £££ TURKOMAN Asmali Çesme Sok 2, Sultanahmet, Istanbul (00 90 212 516 2956; www.turkomanhotel.com). The Turkoman, across the square from the Blue Mosque, has 20 large, plainly furnished rooms and a terrace from which the mosque looms like King Kong. The only drawback in staying in the old city comes at first light when the myriad nearby minarets summon the faithful to prayer at full volume. ££ W ISTANBUL 22 Suleyman Seba Caddesi, Akaretler, Besiktas, Istanbul (00 90 212 381 2121; www.starwoodhotels.com/whotels). The decor is a mishmash of oriental opulence (shiny textiles and decorative carving) and Western gloss (hi-tech entertainment systems). Bathrooms, with copper basins and Bliss pampering kits, are screened behind wooden closets. Some rooms have tantalising views of the Marc Jacobs and Jimmy Choo shops across the street; others have pebble patios modelled after Topkapi Palace gardens. The sultry W Lounge buzzes with socialites. £££ WITT ISTANBUL SUITES Defterdar Yokusu No 26, Cihangir, Istanbul (00 90 212 393 7900; www.wittistanbul.com). From the laser-cut floral motif in the black-marble reception to the plywood Magnolia lights, Witt Istanbul has a modernist style imprinted on each of its 17 open-plan suites. Well-stocked kitchenettes, grey marble bathrooms designed by Ross Lovegrove, boxy leather sofas and Bose iPod docks create a luxury loft vibe. Fabulous beds cocooned by curved leather headboards are designed for lie-ins (you can order breakfast in bed at no charge). Thoughtful staff strike the right balance between familiarity and courtesy. A short walk from Istanbul Modern museum and the bars of Beyoglu, Witt Suites is a hit with designers, photographers, the fashion crowd and international artists showing nearby galleries. £££ YESIL EV Kabasakal Caddesi 5, Sutanahmet, Istanbul (00 90 212 517 6785; www.istanbulyesilev.com). Despite its position just a minute away from the Blue Mosque, the serene Yesil Ev (Green House) has a large shady garden and the comfortable air of a country house. It has won a loyal following by providing straightforward accommodation (one or two of the 19 rooms are tiny) in a restored historical building, and thus breaking the monopoly of the international hotel chains. For all that, the feel is more reproduction than genuine antique. £££
MIKLA Meşrutiyet Caddesi 15, Istanbul Province (00 90 212 293 5656; www.miklarestaurant.com). At the top of the 18-storey Marmara Pera Hotel at Meşrutiyet Caddesi 167/185, is arguably the most ambitious and revered restaurant in the city. (Others will tell you that accolade belongs to Murat Bozok's Mimolett.) Finnish-born chef Mehmet Gurs' menu fuses local and Scandinavian influences, so you'll find shoulder of lamb cooked for 24 hours with pomegranate molasses and pilav, rose-scented chicken and smoked lamb loin (even smoked potatoes) alongside gravlax and dried beef. 360 ISTANBUL Istiklal Caddesi Misir Apt K:8, Beyoglu, Istanbul (00 90 212 251 1042; www.360istanbul.com). This rooftop restaurant-bar in a glass-walled penthouse is one of the city's trendiest spots. Come to see the amazing 360-degree views of St Antoine's and the Bosphorus and the rooftops of Beyoglu. The fusion menu is made for sharing, with most things mezze-sized: duck dim sum; chicken satay; polenta-crusted calamari with almond aioli; grilled sardines in vine leaves. There's also pasta, and fun pizzas like the Bollywood, with tandoori chicken, or the Local, with sucuk, olives, and goat cheese. A good post-dinner drinks spot when DJs play. Try the Bomb Baby (vodka, fresh watermelon, mint and cardamom) or Porn Star (Bacardi, citrus, papaya). ABRACADABRA 50 Arnavutköy, Istanbul (00 90 212 358 6087; www.abracadabra-ist.com). Sup with the arty set in a converted waterside villa at Abracadabra, where seasonal local ingredients are conjured by flamboyant chef Dilara Erbay into experimental forms, such as raw 'meatballs' made with salmon. ASITANE Kariye Camii Sokak 18, Edirnekapi, Istanbul (00 90 212 534 8414; www.kariyeotel.com/asitane.htm). Asithane stands close by the church of St Saviour in Chora, in a restored wooden Ottoman house. The menu includes dishes originally prepared for the circumcision feast of the sons of Suleyman the Magnificent, and could include baked aubergine with grilled mince meat, tomatoes, and green peppers, wrapped in a sheet of pasta and served with peppermint sauce, and spring chicken stewed with almonds, dried apricots and red grapes, seasoned with honey, cinnamon and lemon juice. Open daily from noon to 2pm and 7pm to 11pm. BAMBI Siraselviler Caddesi 20, Taksim, Istanbul (00 90 212 252 8713). In Turkey, döner kebab is always freshly sliced, crisp on the outside and tender inside. Placed in bread or Turkish pide, it provides all the satisfaction (and no doubt the health-giving properties) of a bacon sarnie. Good anywhere, but eat one standing up at a 'buffet', a humble establishment that serves toasted sandwiches and freshly squeezed orange juice. Bambi, at the Taksim Square end of Siraselviler Caddesi, is a cheap 24-hour stand up stall where locals go for the best doner kebab. BEBEK HOUSE CAFE 4 Kücük, Istanbul (00 90 212 287 10 30; www.thehousecafe.com.tr). House Café is a small chain with locations on Istiklal Caddesi, on the shores of the Bosphorus at Ortaköy and near Tünel, whose beautifully designed spaces amd alluring unpretentious menu make it a good bet at any time of day. Satsuma juice gives a sunny summer twist to the in-crowd's drinks list at Bebek House Café, the latest branch of the stylish Turkish chain. BEYTI Orman Caddesi 8, Florya, Istanbul (00 90 212 663 2992; www.beyti.com). Beyti Güler is the Horatio Alger of grilled meat, graduating from a modest eaterie to a grand establishment frequented by visiting statesman and starlets. Beyti is the only living Turk (and only one of two in history) to have had a type of kebab named after him: it's an eyelet of lamb. The meat at his restaurant is simply cooked in the Balkan style - which means mildly seasoned. BORSA Yalikosku Caddesi 60-62, Eminonu, Istanbul (00 90 212 232 42 01; www.borsarestaurant.com). This is the original in what is now a chain of restaurants. The food is fresh and seasonal with good grilled meats and rich milk puddings. Open from Monday to Saturday, from 7am to 9pm. CEZAYIR Hayriye Caddesi 46, Beyoglu, Istanbul (00 90 212 245 9980; www.cezayir-istanbul.com). This café-restaurant-bar, housed in a former school, attracts a lively crowd. It is composed of a number of rooms of varying levels of noise and energy, with sofas, a dancefloor and great mojitos. The back room, with original floor tiles, soaring ceilings and a long wooden bar, is a stylish place for sampling inventive meze and fabulous couscous. CHANGA Siraselviler Caddesi 47, Taksim, Istanbul (00 90 212 251 7064; www.changa-istanbul.com). One of the most glamourous restaurants in Istanbul, Changa (Swahili for 'mix') opened in 2001 with consulting chef Peter Gordon at the helm (of the Sugar Club and Providores restaurants in London). Though he is not resident in the kitchen here, his touch is obvious: Turkish ingredients are fused with his usual Pacific Rim offerings, so you may find colourful dishes like olive-oil-braised kenger (spanish oyster plant) with poppy seeds and shiso leaves; grilled lamb chops with firik (smoked bulgur) pilaf and harissa; and Turkish coffee ice cream with biscotti and bitter almond liqueur. Try the Pazzimoza cocktail: Champagne, passionfruit juice and orange juice. The restaurant, situated in one of the city's only Art Nouveau buildings, is just as glamorous as the food with its glass floor and chrome chairs. Open for dinner only; closed Sundays. DARUZZIYAFE Sifahane Sokak 6, Suleymaniye, Istanbul (00 90 212 511 8414; www.daruzziyafe.com). Food is prepared in the 500-year-old kitchens of the Suleymaniye Mosque and eaten in a courtyard. Lentil, spinach and meatball soup makes a filling lunch. Open daily from noon to 11pm. FERIYE Kabatas Kultur Merkezi, Ciragan Caddesi 124, Ortakoy (00 90 212 227 2216; www.feriye.com). Feriye stands in the grounds of a summer palace right on the shores on the Bosporus. Owner Vedat Basaran has studied ancient texts to recreate Ottoman court cooking traditional Turkish and Ottoman cuisine. In complete fidelity to traditional methods of preparation, time-honored recipes The fish is exemplary. Open daily from noon to 3pm and 7pm to 11pm. HACI SALIH Anadolu Pasaji, Istiklal Cad 210, Beyoglu, Istanbul (00 90 212 243 4528). Haci Salih is a temple to Turkish home-cooking. However, it's not a very colourful temple, as no alcohol is served and it shuts at around 6pm. It's also difficult to find, being off Beyoglu's main street in an arcade opposite the Inci pastry shop. On the other hand, the dishes simmering on view (lamb or vegetables and thick soups) are just that bit better than anywhere else, but still moderately priced. KIYI Kefeliköy Cad 126, Tarabya, Istanbul (00 90 212 262 0002; www.kiyi.com.tr). In the resort town of Tarabya, Kiyi, which opened in 1964, specialises in fresh fish and traditional dishes, plus a range of hot and cold mezes. In addition to the main restaurant, it offers private dining for up to 34 people. KORFEZ Körfez Cad 78, Kanlica, Istanbul (00 90 216 413 4314; www.korfez.com). Sea bass baked in a hard crust of salt is a speciality at Körfez, in Kanlica, a restaurant which has pushed the Bosporus meal as far up-market as it can go. A private boat picks up diners at Rumeli Hisari and offers pre-dinner drinks on the way over. LEB-I-DERYA Kumbaraci Yokusu 115/7, Beyoğlu, Istanbul (00 90 212 293 4989; www.lebiderya.com). A chic rooftop restaurant, with an outdoor terrace and bar lined with white wood chairs. The real draw is the setting rather than the food, which is international fare. In the starters, you will find potato skins, spiced fries, nachos and Cajun chicken, alongside traditional mezze. The dinner menu is dominated by steak of all kinds (in pieces, on kebabs; spiced and grilled; with eggplant and Tulum cheese) and pastas. Come for Sunday brunch to try simit (a kind of croissant with sesame), eggs, borek, kashar cheese and homemade bread, and see the lovely Bosphorus views. LOFT Lutfi Kirdar Convention & Exhibition Centre, Harbiye, Istanbul (00 90 212 219 6384; www.icec.org/en/rumelimed.htm). This gorgeous space, inspired by spacious New York restaurants, is in Istanbul's main exhibition centre; chef Umit Ozkanca serves world cuisine, drawing influences from North Africa and China among other places. LOKANTA Mesrutiyet Caddesi 149/1, Tepebasi, Beyoglu, Istanbul (00 90 212 245 6070; www.lokantadaneve.com/lokanta.html). Its name translates as 'restaurant', but this place could have been called Popular. Here, post-industrial meets Notting Hill: brick walls, stripped floors, a big bar and an older crowd. The menu mixes fish and salads with more substantial dishes. PANDELI Misir Carsisi 1, Eminönü, Istanbul (00 90 212 527 3909). Since 1956, this Istanbul institution has occupied a wonderful set of domed, blue-and-white tiled rooms above the entrance to the Spice Bazaar. Every tourist knows about it, and the waiters have a friendly if aggressive way of forcing food on visitors to pad the bills. But Pandelli still clings to greatness. Sea bass en papillote is a classic Istanbul dish, and there are good grills and sweets. Reserve a table or eat late. Open for lunch only. REJANS Olivio Gecidi 15, Istiklal Caddesi, Galatasaray, Istanbul (00 90 212 244 1610; www.rejansrestaurant.com). Established by Russian immigrants fleeing the Bolshevik Revolution, Rejans still serves its piroshkis, stroganoffs and iced lemon-vodka with a real sense of drama. There's live music some evenings. Closed Sunday. RUMELI CAFE Divanyolu Cad. Ticarethane Sok 8, Sultanahmet, Istanbul (00 90 212 512 0008). Rumeli occupies an old printworks, and is owned by the hoteliers across the street: twin sisters Esra and Hamra of the Nomade Hotel. It serves good Turkish staples such as imam bayaldi (puréed aubergine with grilled lamb and tomato sauce) and borek, which is filled with spiced ground meat and pine nuts, or go for one of the many salads. Open daily from 10am to 2am. SARAY Istiklal Cad 102-104, Beyoglu, Istanbul (00 90 212 292 3434; www.saraymuhallebicisi.com). Although Turkey is famous for baklava and milky sweets, they are not typical desserts but rather something to be eaten on their own. The place to do so is in a muhallebici, a type of café selling exotically named sweets such as 'nightingale's nests' or 'ladies' thighs', as well as thickened and caramelised milky rice puddings. This is also a good place to try the tavukgögsü, a sweet gummy pudding made with chicken that would be less difficult to avoid in another less-tempting establishment. TOPAZ 50 Inönü Cd, Istanbul (00 90 212 249 1001; www.topazistanbul.com). At Topaz, breathtaking views over the treetops and the Dolmabahçe Palace compete with fabulous Ottoman-meets-Mediterranean fare such as grilled loin of lamb on aubergine purée.
MÜNFERIT 19 Yeni Çarşi caddesi (00 90 212 252 50 67; www.munferit.com.tr). At Munferit (the name is a play on words by owner 'Ferit' Sarper and means 'unique'), the traditional tavern is given a contemporary spin by Istanbul architects du jour Autoban. Worth a visit just for its excellent cocktails and retro European ambience.
KIVA HAN 4 Galata Kulesi meydanı (00 90 212 292 98 98; www.galatakivahan.com). Eating at colourful Kiva Han next to the Galata Tower is like taking a crash course in regional Turkish cuisine: authentic dishes from all over the country are prepared with a modern twist.
MOMO 43A Akarsu Yokuşu sokaği (00 90 212 245 44 74; www.istanbulmomo.com). Follow the locals to MoMo, an espresso bar with a bright yellow interior that serves cakes, muffins, pitza (its take on pitta-pizza combo) and great coffee, Turkish or otherwise.
The best nightlife in Istanbul
Misir Apartmani 32/309, Istiklal Cadessi, Beyoglu, Istanbul (00 90 212 251 1042; www.360istanbul.com). The 360-degree views, floor-to-ceiling windows and plenty of drama (including a temporary forced closure) have made this stylish bar/restaurant a focus of gossip. When the fuss has died down, the crowds will still come for the amazing views and for South African chef Mike Norman's superb cooking. Closed Monday.
Sehbender Sokak 3, Asmalimescit, Beyoglu, Istanbul (00 90 212 292 7368; www.babylon.com.tr). 'Babylon turns Istanbul on' is the slogan of the city's premier live music venue - and no one is going to disagree. It's a more-is-less sort of club where you listen to good music and sip beer from the bottle. It's fast track but not brainless; things get going at around 9pm with a programme that could feature everything from ageing but cool reggae stars to German electronic-music pioneers, local gypsies or Greek rembetika players. There's Turkish jazz and world music, too. Babylon finishes at around midnight, which gives you time for something to eat.
Siraselviler, Arslan Yatagi Sok 3, Taksim, Istanbul (00 90 212 245 6539; www.roxy.com.br). Roxy also has techno, but alternates it with theme nights: for example, Thursday is Seventies night.
Dilson Hotel, Siraselviler Cad 49, Taksim, Istanbul (00 90 212 249 9606; www.shaman.com.br). If you still crave more, head for Shaman, Istanbul's world-music venue, which goes on until dawn. There, you should find a place to sit down.
What to see in Istanbul
AGHIA SOPHIA Ayasofya Meydani, Sultanahmet, Istanbul. If you only see one thing while you're here, make it Aghia Sophia, the Byzantine cathedral church built by the emperor Justinian in 537AD which dominates the Istanbul skyline as well as the city's architectural history. This is one of the world's great buildings, a Byzantine cathedral turned mosque, and now a museum. The building is impressive enough from the outside, but one is always unprepared for the scale and nobility of the interior. Beware of neck-ache: the imposing dome always directs your attention upwards. Open Tue-Sun, 9.30am-4.30pm (July/Aug until 7pm). ARCHAEOLOGY MUSEUM A tour through the history of the city, from ancient origins to the fall of Byzantium. DIVAN LITERATURE MUSEUM Galip Dede Cad 15, Tünel, Beyoglu, Istanbul (00 90 212 245 4141). The Divan Literature Museum, an old dervish lodge between Tünel and some discreet brothels, is used by descendants of the Mevlevi dervish order to whirl on the last Sunday of every month. It is a ceremony that combines music, spectacle and devotion. ISTANBUL MODERN Meclis-I Mebusan Caddesi, Antrepo no.4, Karaköy, Istanbul (00 90 212 334 7300; www.istanbulmodern.org). The city's latest architectural icon and one of the key icons of the new-mood city, this privately-funded gallery occupies a waterfront warehouse and stages revolving exhibitions of modern Turkish art. It's also a good place to eat as the minimalist café/restaurant is run by one of the city's best chefs. Closed Monday, open Tues-Sun 10am-6pm (Thurs, 8pm). Admission 14 Turkish lire (about £5) PERA MUSEUM Mesrutiyet Caddesi 141, Tepebasi, Beyoglu, Istanbul (00 90 212 334 9900; en.peramusezi.org.tr). The Pera opened last summer in an elegant Victorian building (formerly the Bristol Hotel) and stages a wide range of shows of modern art, including photography. Closed Monday, open Tues-Sat 10am-7pm, Sun noon-8pm; admission about £3.50. RUSTEM PASHA CAMII Hasircilar Cad 90, Tahtakale, Eminönü, Istanbul. If you think the Blue Mosque smells ever so slightly of tourists' unwashed feet, make your way along the shore of the Golden Horn, past the Spice Bazaar, to Rüstem Pasha Camii. Finding the entrance through the warren of busy alleys which keep the tour buses away is half the fun. You climb stairs to reach the portal because the mosque was constructed on top of the old hans (workshops) whose revenue once supported its upkeep. Inside is an explosion of subtle colour - virtually every inch of the walls is covered with tiles from the finest period (around 1560) of the Iznik ateliers. Contrast this with the Sokullu Mehmet Pasha Camii, Sinan's purer edifice near the Blue Mosque. SADBERK HANIM MUSEUM Piyasa Cad 27-29, Büyükdere, Istanbul (00 90 212 242 3813; www.sadberkhanimmuzesi.org.tr). Alternatively, the smallish Sadberk Hanim Museum is just up the Bosporus in Büyükdere. The museum houses the private collection of the Koç family and focuses on archaeology and ethnography. You can combine your visit with a fish meal in Tarabya, Sariyer or Kireçburnu. A cheap way of getting there is to take a dolmus - a shared minibus taxi - from Besiktas going up Barbaros Bulvari. Ones to Sariyer go right past the museum's door. Open Thurs-Tue, 10.30am-6pm. SS SERGIUS AND BACCHUS Küçük Ayasofya Caddesi in Sultanahmet, Istanbul. According to Prince Charles, the finest church in the city is SS Sergius and Bacchus, also known as Küçük Ayasofya Camii (Little St Sophia Mosque). It is best seen when you have already spent a day or two in the city, by which time you will have caught the wandering bug. The building is early, dating from 536AD, and rests on an octagonal rather than the conventional square base. It is hard to find, being just inside the Byzantine sea walls below the Blue Mosque - and then you have to find the caretaker of what now serves as a neighbourhood mosque to let you in. Sadly, the building was damaged in the August 1999 earthquake. SULEYMANIYE MOSQUE Sinan's 16th-century masterpiece, built for Süleyman the Magnificent (who is buried in the garden). TOPKAPI PALACE Sultanahmet, Istanbul (00 90 212 522 4422; www.topkapisarayi.gov.tr). The sultans' palace and treasure trove. The construction of this former Imperial Residence was ordered by Sultan Mehmet II to mark the defeat of the last of the Byzantine emperors in 1453. The current director of the Topkapi Palace has so enthused a new generation of curators that her museum has displaced the Archaeological Museum as Istanbul's best. The buildings are better kept, the gardens nicer, the signposts and visual aids more informative. What was always a remarkable complex - the Ottoman dynasty's Versailles - now provides a tour of Turkish history and culture. The Palace is stuffed with the eye-popping treasures of the empire. There are extraordinary jewels, delicate embroideries, fine porcelain, rare paintings and manuscripts, and prized objects from Mecca, among the bow of the Prophet Mohammed and some hairs from his beard. Highlights include kitchens containing the Sultans' tableware - a fabulous collection of Chinese porcelain. The famous jewelled dagger of the film Topkapi looks like a trinket out of a cereal box compared to some other items in the treasury. It is well worth taking the side tour of the Harem, the royal apartments. Keep an eye out for the new exhibition hall in what was once the guards' dormitory. You can also get a decent lunch at the Konyali restaurant - pay the extra to avoid the cafeteria - from where there is a splendid view of the Asian side of the city. Open Wed-Mon, 9am-5pm. TURKISH AND ISLAMIC ART MUSEUM Meydani 46, Sultanahmet, Istanbul (00 90 212 518 1805). Explore the Turkish and Islamic Art Museum, housed in the palace of Süleyman the Magnificent's grand vezir, Ibrahim Pasha, just across the square from the Blue Mosque. The museum is Istanbul's equivalent of the V&A and full of world-class objects. The special exhibition this autumn is of the Swiss architect Gaspare Fossati's plans for the 19th-century renovations of Haghia Sophia. Open Tue-Sun, 10am-5pm.
TOM TOM SOKAK PROJECT Tom Tom Sokak, at the junction of Akarsu, Acara and Tosbağa (www.tomtomsokak.com). For the new Tom Tom Sokak Project, a whole street has been renovated to house several venues. Among them are live music joints 2/1a and Alt, the traditional restaurant Şahika Meyhane and We, a trendy spot for a quick meal. SAKIP SABANCI MUSEUM Sakip Sabanci Caddesi, Emirgan (00 90 212 277 2200; muze.sabanciuniv.edu). Open Tues-Sun, 10am-6pm (Wed, 8pm). Admission about £3.50 SANTRALISTANBUL Kazim Karabekir Caddesi, Eyüp (00 90 212 311 7878; www.santralistanbul.org). Open Tues-Fri, 10am-6pm; Sat/Sun, 10am-8pm. Admission about £3.50 ARTER İstiklal Cad. No:211 Beyoğlu İstanbul (00 90 212 243 3767; www.arter.org.tr) ARTE Istiklal Caddesi, Beyog˘lu
(00 90 212 251 1214; www.casadellartegallery.com). Open Tues-Fri, 11am-7.30pm; Sat, noon-7pm. GALERIST Istiklal Caddesi, Beyog˘lu (00 90 212 244 8230; www.galerist.com.tr). Open Mon-Sat, 9am-10pm. PG Bogazkesen Caddesi, Tophane (00 90 212 252 8080; pgartgallery.com). Open Tues-Sun, 11am-7pm. PIARTWORKS Bogazkesen Caddesi, Tophane (00 90 212 245 4087; www.piartworks.com). Open Mon-Sat, 10.30am-7.30pm
Things to do in Istanbul
BATHTIME Cagaloglu Hammam, azim Ismail Gurkan Caddesi 34, Cagaloglu, Istanbul (00 90 212 522 2424; www.cagalogluhamami.com.tr). Open daily for men from 8am to 10pm and for women from 8am to 8.30pm. BEYLERBEYI PALACE Beylerbeyi, Istanbul (00 90 216 321 9320). Visit the garden of the 19th-century Beylerbeyi Palace on the Asian side and take the guided tour, the wedding-cake interior is a good deal more digestible than those of the Dolmabahçe Palace across the water. Open Wed-Sun, 9am-5pm. FERRY RIDES The Istanbul equivalent of the Staten Island Ferry is the commuter ferry service that goes from Karaköy across the neck of the Bosporus to Haydarpasa Station. The ride affords a view of the historic peninsula from the Sea of Marmara side and the realisation that Haghia Sophia and the Blue Mosque were probably designed to be seen from this angle, particularly at sunset. (The ferry from Eminönü to Kadiköy provides the same view.) Haydarpasa is the terminus of what was once the Baghdad railway, and is worth a visit in its own right; its restaurant is no gourmet thrill but has a certain post-war charm. NAVAL MUSEUM Cezayir Cad, Besiktas, Istanbul (00 90 212 261 0040). This is the place to go if you are travelling with children. It's not interactive but it's full of replicas of boats; the real ones - including the splendid royal caïques in which the Sultan was rowed in splendour - are in the annexe round the corner. Open Wed-Sun, 9am-5pm. PERA PALAS Mesrutiyet Cad 98-100, Tepebasi, Istanbul (00 90 212 251 4560; www.perapalas.com). You might not want to stay in the Pera Palas, the terminus hotel of the Orient Express, but its public rooms, lined with rich porphyry and marble, are worth a visit for tea. PRIMPING AND PREENING Eski Dolkap Sokak no 18b, Istanbul (00 90 212 263 7978; www.ruj.com.tr). Be primed and preened by film make-up artist Seher Sander and her team at the Stüdio Ruj boudoir. SWIM AT SUADA Istanbul (00 90 212 236 7300; www.suadaclub.com.tr). Float between Europe and Asia at Suada, a swimming pool surrounded by bars and restaurants carved into a little island in the middle of the Bosphorus. The boat leaves from Kuruçesme Park. YEREBATAN SARAYI Yerebatan Cad, Sultanahmet, Istanbul (00 90 212 522 1259). Yerebatan Sarayi, the Byzantine underground cistern across the street from Haghia Sophia, is also good fun: it's the place where James Bond roamed in From Russia with Love, and has now been turned into a sort of light show. Make sure you find the head of Medusa that forms the base of one of the columns. Open daily, 9am-5.30pm.
SANATORIUM 18 Postacilar cikmazi, Asmalumescit (00 90 212 292 91 60; www.sanatorium.com.tr). Ponder contemporary art at Sanatorium, where a group of young artists have formed an initiative for showing independent Turkish works that challenge social taboos.
Where to shop in Istanbul
Sophisticated, contemporary boutiques are springing up among the traditional bazaars and back streets of Istanbul. We asked local resident Ilgīn Yorulmaz to select her favourites:
Kanyon AVM B1, 185 Büyüdere caddesi, Levent, Istanbul (00 90 212 2459000; www.bilstore.com). Istanbul's first 'lifestyle store' has a nice selection of clothes, accessories, books and music, and it rocks. The must-have collection is Bil's, super-crispy white shirts by talented young local designers; the ready-to-wear range would give some Savile Row tailors a run for their money.
CASHMERE IN LOVE
Küçük Bebek Caddesi, Çınaraltı Building 2-A, Bebek, Istanbul (00 90 212 287 1606; www.cashmereinlove.com). Esra Bezek's super-light and sexy creations - exquisite vests, sweaters, dresses, gloves and twin sets - are all in pure or silk-blend cashmere, in subtle shades such as aubergine and coral, and are extremely good value for money. There's menswear available, too.
7a Küçük Bebek caddesi, Bebek, Istanbul (00 90 212 265 4547; www.midnightexpress.com.tr). Named after the most notorious film ever made in Turkey, this shop is run by an architect-and-designer husband-and-wife team. It sells a well-edited selection of clothing and jewellery by established names such as Bora Aksu, alongside up-and-coming ones.
4b Camekan sokak, Galata, Istanbul (00 90 212 252 4990). Sertaç Haznedaroğlu, the fashion-forward owner, stocks quirky Japanese labels and rare collections created for an Eastern market by designers such as Marc Jacobs, Vivienne Westwood and Chloé. Also check out custom-made leather bags by Turkish designer Ahmet Baytar.
55 Seraskerci çikinazi (00 90 212 245 32 55). An exciting addition to the historical area around the Galata tower this new shop stocks clothes by young Turkish designers and iconic accessories from international labels such as Linda Farrow.
44a Serdar-ı Ekrem caddesi, Galata, Istanbul (00 90 212 243 1211; www.aidapekin.com). Designer Pekin creates Alice in Wonderland-inspired necklaces and jungle-themed animal brooches using silver, copper and wire. Check out her Istanbul collection, which features icons and architectural highlights from around the city, including the Galata Tower.
14/5 Atiye sokak, Teşvikiye, Istanbul (00 90 212 219 6292; www.elacindoruknazanpak.com). Two good friends, Ela and Nazan, are behind this jewellery label, renowned for its unusual statement pieces made from a variety of stones and metals, felt and paper.
General Yazgan sokak, 10c Tünel Geçidi, Blok 1b (00 90 212 292 17 92; www.takilpera.com). Veteran jeweller Saadet Keskin runs Takil Pera, which sells beautiful handmade Anatolian artefacts.
39 Süleyman Nazif sokak, Nişantaşı, Istanbul (00 90 212 241 4059; www.nr39.com). Contemporary cobbler Ipek Yılmaz crafts each distinctive pair of shoes by hand, using soft leather and natural materials. Make an appointment to have something custom-made, or choose from her one-off range available at the shop. Exclusivity is guaranteed either way.
CALIFORNIA NAIL BAR
99d Valikonaşı caddesi, Nişantaşi, Istanbul (00 90 212 240 6245). An oasis in the hustle and bustle of the chi-chi Nişantaşi neighbourhood, run by California-born Joanne Yıldırı, this is more than just a nail salon; waxing, massage and skin-care treatments are all available, too.
VIE EN ROSE
50a Yeni Yuva sokak, Cihangir, Istanbul (00 90 212 252 0907; www.vieenrose.com). British-born Jayda Uras is an aromatherapist, and her natural remedies are very popular. Great for real herbal teas, essential oils, soaps and scented candles; her bestseller is a rescue-remedy cream made with the finest Turkish roses.
INTERIORS & HOMEWARE
58 Takkeciler sokak, Istanbul (00 90 212 527 6841; www.dhoku.com). In the heart of the Grand Bazaar's carpet-seller's zone, interiors specialist Dhoku (and its sister shop across the road, EthniCon) has a light, minimalist touch, and counts Conran Shop among its customers. Don't even think of bargaining here.
11 Şair Nedim Bey caddesi, Akaretler, Beşiktaş, Istanbul (00 90 212 236 3843; www.haremlique.com). Set in a row of recently renovated, beautiful 18th-century houses, Haremlique sells some lovely Ottoman-inspired homeware: Turkish bath accessories, Ottoman toile-de-jouy linens and marvellously packaged coffee.
ÖZLEM TUNA DESIGN ZONE
21/4 Alibaba Türbe sokak, Nuruosmaniye, Istanbul (00 90 212 527 9285; www.ozlemtuna.com). This is a little-known gem frequented by locals looking for original gifts. Silverware, tea glasses and other authentic Turkish items are given a cool, contemporary twist.
Taken from Ilgīn Yorulmaz's guide to shopping in Istanbul, published in Turkish by Bilsar.
The best way to get around Istanbul
Istanbul's yellow cabs are a great bargain - which is just as well in a city where the bus system is a bit of a puzzle. Most cab drivers are honest, but it's not a bad idea to familiarise yourself with the currency in case you attract one of the bad apples. Remember you have to pay the Bosporus Bridge toll even if you cross from the Asian side of the city where there are no toll booths. Tipping isn't expected but it would be natural to let the driver keep the change if the difference is minimal.
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