- Bosphorus Villages,
- Old City,
I had a wonderful to Istanbul with my husband Christmas 2009. We enjoyed the culture, the arts, and the food. This trip is for the girls. We're going to have some fun at Istanbul's famous attractions, shopping, and eating! I am delighted to return to this beautiful, exotic, and intriguing city.
Tel: 90 212 323 0901
It's a fair trek up to the Bosphorus village of Emirgan, but a worthwhile journey on many counts. A 30-minute (traffic-contingent) cab ride from the city center, Emirgan is a leafy whistle-stop set on the water, home to the debonair Sakıp Sabancı Museum, which itself is the namesake former residence of one of Istanbul's most affluent businessmen. The museum earned a name in the last couple of years with two moderately well-executed retrospectives (Picasso and Rodin), as well as the opening of Müzedechanga, a spin-off of the once-legendary Changa restaurant in Taksim that has recently swirled down the culinary plug hole. This is much more than a museum café: Winner of Wallpaper magazine's 2007 award for best-designed restaurant (in the world!), the glass-enshrouded venue, conceived by architect Ayşen Savaş and designed by the local Autoban group, serves up a concise but delicious menu of international dishes coordinated by Kiwi chef Peter Gordon, such as deep-fried zucchini flowers stuffed with the special Turkish lor cheese, and cinnamon-scented lamb with eggplant. Highly recommended for a sunny day out.
Tel: 90 212 512 4177
Despite being overrun with hotels and guesthouses to accommodate the majority of the city's visitors, Sultanahmet is relatively short on decent places to eat: The once-famed restaurant at the Four Seasons Hotel has become little more than a tepid dining room for holidaying retirees, and the insistent hawking of touts off the main stretch of the Divan Yolu is enough to make you lose your appetite. However, the Mozaik restaurant and its sister Rumeli next door are an exception to the rule, with a high culinary standard, excellent, friendly service, and a charming Ottoman theme that's very cozy in the winter, especially in the basement dining room. The menu is a patchwork of influences, including Western-style T-bone steak, Mediterranean and Aegean salads, and a host of creative Turkish and Anatolian dishes, including the spectacular Abant kebab, incorporating lamb cubes with sautéed eggplant, peppers, mushrooms, and onions in a creamy tomato sauce.
See + Do
The Bosphorus and Its Villages
The former fishing villages that line both sides of the Bosphorus are inherently different in their nature from the rest of the city that has now encompassed them: They are characterized by the profusion of yalıs, old multistory wooden houses built by the Ottomans to look out over the strait, and life in the villages moves at a slower pace, with the shores often lined by scores of fishermen, quaint little ferry docks, and, by contrast, rows of lavish motor yachts. On the European side, the easiest village to access—and perhaps one of the liveliest spots in town—is Ortaköy. Just next to the colossal Bosphorus suspension bridge, it has a bustling cobbled square by the water lined with fish restaurants and a striking neoclassical mosque (pictured) that's dramatically floodlit at night. Farther up are the villages of Kuruçeşme, Arnavutköy (renowned for its wealth of fish restaurants), Bebek, Rumeli Hisarı and its 15th-century fortress, and finally, Emirgan, site of the famed Sakıp Sabanci Museum and its restaurant.
You can reach all of these places by bus or taxi, and the two-and-a-half-mile waterside walk from Kuruçeşme to Rumeli Hisarı is highly recommended. Another option is to take the public ferry, which leaves twice a day from Eminönü and Beşiktaş (see www.ido.com.tr for timetables) and sails all the way up to the village of Anadolu Kavağı, one of the last stops before the Black Sea; a trip here makes for a great day out, with a fish lunch at one of the many restaurants facing the Bosphorus and a hike up to the ruined fortress on the hill above the village. Alternatively, surrender to your inner hedonist and hire your own private yacht for the day. Boats are moored side by side along the stretch of waterfront from Kuruçeşme to Arnavütköy, many of which bearing "Kıralık" ("for rent") signs. Ada Turizm is one higher-end company with a fleet of luxury boats that start at around $3,800 for a tour of the Bosphorus, food not included (90-216-575-4775; www.adaturizm.com). A little easier on the wallet is the old-school wooden sailboat captained by the gregarious Mehmet Kaptan. His 15-person boat is available for $1,320 per day or $300 per hour; he will arrange food at your request, and you are free to BYO (90-532-797-5710).
See + Do
Dolmabahçe Palace, Turkey
Tel: 90 212 236 9000
Often overlooked by visitors, this is one of Istanbul's most lavish and extravagant attractions, the last home of the late and declining Ottoman Sultanate, which required lodgings more suited to 19th-century developments in electricity, central heating, and other home comforts than its vintage residence at Topkapı Palace. It's almost ironic that Sultan Abdülmecid's opulent baroque opus looks for all the world like a splendid French château: Construction started 50 years after the fall of the French monarchy, and Abdülmecid pulled no punches in jazzing up his new abode. More than 14 tons of gold were employed to gild the ceilings of the palace, which also lays claim to the largest collection of Bohemian and Baccarat crystal in the world: Chandeliers drip down into almost every room, while even the main staircase is supported by crystal balustrades. There are three sections: the Selamlik (the "official" wing), the harem (where the sultan and his family lived), and the clock museum. A complicated pricing system offers tickets in segments or for the whole palace, with an extra charge for cameras and video equipment. Entry is only permitted in groups, which are guided by somewhat insipid attendants in what is more a whirlwind herding than an edifying tour. If you only have time for one section, head for the Selamlik, as its rooms and Ceremonial Hall are easily the most impressive.
Open Tues, Wed, and FriSun 9:304; closed Mondays and Thursdays.