The opening scene of Skyfall, Daniel Craig's latest Bond film, was a riot of colour, noise and energy. Bond played his part in that, but so did Istanbul, where some of the action in Skyfall unfolded.Daniel Craig isn't the first 007 to be seduced by the delights of this Turkish haven: Sean Connery filmed From Russia With Love in the cavernous underground passages of the Basilica Cistern, and it was in Istanbul that Pierce Brosnan discovered The World Is Not Enough.CLICK ON PHOTOS FOR GALLERY
With 18 million inhabitants, a stake in both Asia and Europe, and a rich tradition that happily tolerates the tug of modernity and innovation, Istanbul is as alluring as the various Bonds who have strode through its streets. Action-packed doesn't even begin to describe the itinerary visitors can expect, but the first act should always be a respectful nod to the culture and history of Istanbul's main attractions.The Topkapi Palace was home to a line of Ottoman Sultans dating back to the 15th century, and although it's easy to get lost in its sprawling grounds, you should orient yourself long enough to visit the treasury section, where jewellery and art gifted to the Sultans remind of their glittering legacy.
Leave the palace walls to see the iconic sights of the Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque on your way to the Grand Bazaar, where the call to prayer competes with the noise of shoppers trying to haggle the best price.The most creative nook of the market belongs to calligrapher Nick Merdenyan, whose unique art hangs on the walls alongside images of famous clients like Hilary Clinton and Queen Sofia of Spain.Don't try and negotiate the price of his wares, though – hagglers are quickly shown the door.
Tracing Istanbul's culture all the way back to Byzantine times is hungry work but the city's thriving gastronomic scene means there is no shortage of places to refuel.Dai Pera brings hearty home cooking to the thousands of tourists looking for a taste of Istanbul and Chef Arzu complements her family's recipes with the perfect Antaolian wine for the occasion.Places like Matbah Ottoman Palace Cuisine are inspired by the rich dishes that were served to the Sultans of millenia gone by. Pull up a seat at their rooftop terrace and dine like royalty for a reasonable price.
Istanbul is the only major city in the world which straddles two continents, meaning you can wake up in Europe and watch the sun set in Asia. Leaving European shores for a stay on the other side of the Bosphorus River is a must for anyone who wants to experience Istanbul's dual cultural identity.When it comes to accommodation, few hotels have as much character as Hotel Sumahan, a waterfront property that affords guests sweeping views of the Bosphorus Strait and its shimmering sunsets.
Located in the Asian neighbourhood of Çengelköy, Hotel Sumahan exudes the kind of simple elegance that only comes with true luxury. The sun-warmed rooms light up from the reflection of the water, and twin level suites with built-in fireplace and garden access give the sensation of being in your own home.Weary travellers can enjoy a massage in the resident Hammam, dine in the hotel's Mediterranean fusion restaurant Tapasuma, or end the night with a private boat ride courtesy of the hotel's own vintage barge.The heady sights and sounds of Istanbul are perfect for thrill seekers who want a short but exciting break. The world wasn't enough for James Bond, but judging by the franchise's long-running love affair with Istanbul, this city certainly was.Report: Andrea Maltman