The Bosphorus Strait – the silver band of water that links the Black Sea to the Marmara and separates Europe from Asia – is also a perfect starting point to discover the Turkish city's most exclusive venues. This stylish face of Istanbul leaves behind the city's traditional tourist attractions and is reflected in new emerging neighborhoods. From the vibrant bustle of Taksim Square, to the bohemian charm of Ortakoy, through the neighbourhoods of Nisantasi and Bebek Yenikoy overlooking the sea, the signs of up-to-the-minute Istanbul are all around.
On Ortakoy pier, under the Bosphorus Bridge and between multicoloured wooden houses and unique craft shops, are hidden some of the capital's best terraces. Don't miss The House Cafe, an ideal spot for relaxing over a drink, reading the newspaper or just to be seen among the beautiful people of the city. And if you want to rub shoulders with the aristocracy of Europe, drop by the legendary Reina, a restaurant lounge where the creme de la creme are often to be found at the weekend.
Situated in the lush gardens of the Sakip Sabanci Museum, the award-winning 'glass-box' building of Muzedechanga restaurant overlooks the Bosphorus. Another location offering a fine view over the strait is 360, an ultra-modern space with a stylish chill-out area looking out over the water.
Other unmissable terraces include the classy A'jia hotel , Anjelique, Vogue and Dilara Abracadabra, a perfect example of Istanbul's young, dynamic culture. This multi-space food-art project, where breakfast is to be enjoyed, lunch to be lingered over and dinner the tastiest pre-cursor to a night on the town not only caters for the comfort of your stomach, but offers culture and art for the mind and spirit. The three-storey mansion on the shores of the Bosphorus is a splendid setting to abandon any preconceptions you might have had about the city.
Where to stay
The Kempinsk Ciragan Palace, on the shore of the Bosphorus, was once a sultan's palace and today is a luxury hotel frequented by the world's rich and famous when they visit Istanbul. For lovers of design, W Istanbul blends luxury and modern style in a restored Ottoman mansion. Dating from the nineteenth century, when it was built to suit the sophisticated tastes of travellers on the Orient Express, the Pera Palace Hotel, has recently been completely renovated, and you can even stay in room 411 where Agatha Christie is said to have written her classic murder story. If money is no object, one of the ten suites of Les Ottomans, could be just what you're looking for; an overnight stay can cost a thousand euros, but the spa has more moderate prices and there's another splendid terrace, too, overlooking the Bosphorus. The tasteful restoration of the Lush Hotel makes this centennial building an interesting option, with its unbeatable central location, eclectic decor and personalised service.
Arm yourself with patience: the traffic can be trying and not all taxi drivers are honest, although taxis are still affordable.
Where to eat
Hande Bozdogan, chef at Enstitu studied cuisine in France and returned to Istanbul ready to present the best of both worlds; the results don't disappoint: in an elegant ambience the dishes are brimful of freshness with subtle and delicate flavours released with every bite. Konyali Lokantasi, a reinvented classic, offers high quality traditional Turkish cuisine in the Topkapi Palace; if possible, choose to eat out on the magnificent terrace.
The Sultanahmet district, full of architectural treasures such as the Hagia Sophia, and the Blue Mosque, the Basilica Cistern and Topkapi Palace. No trip to Istanbul would be complete without a foray into the labyrinthine Grand Bazaar, a real pleasure for those who enjoy haggling for bargains and the perfect setting to get an understanding of the commercial spirit of this crossroads between cultures and continents. Perhaps the best way to step back and appreciate Istanbul is by taking a cruise on the calm waters of the Bosphorus when the setting sun illuminates this city and its blend of exoticism and modernity.
Turkish Tourist Board