After publishing “Handy Guide for Singapore” two weeks ago, I have been asked by many followers to publish an article on my native land, Istanbul.
Thanks to my wife, Dilek Haskan, we managed to bring out our wealth of experience in Istanbul.
Historical peninsula: This neighbourhood should be your first stop in Istanbul. Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace, The Basilica Cistern and Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts are the must-see sites.
For shopping and the ultimate eye indulgence, sample various spices from around the world in Spice Market and visit Grand Bazaar for a shopping experience unique to Turkey.
- Grand Bazaar/Historical Peninsula Shopping:
Dhoku for great carpets – they even sell to my wife’s favourite stores Anthropologie and ABC Home in the US.
Taksim: Historical street with lots of cafes and restaurants. Visit Galata Tower here. You should also visit Serdar-i Ekrem Street for local designer stores.
Besiktas/Ortakoy/Bebek: You can take a boat from Besiktas and have a tour on Bosphorus, enjoy great views of both European and Anatolian side.
While you’re here, stock Turkish delights at Lokum Istanbul.
Nisantasi: Hip district for shopping, in-demand restaurants and cafes
- Mikla in Taksim district for modern Ottoman style cuisine
- Hamdi in historical peninsula for Turkish meat dishes; you should try pistachio kebab here
- Hunkar in Nisantasi
- Pandeli Restaurant in Spice Market is dated back to 1901 and visited by historical figures and American actors such as Audrey Hepburn and Robert De Niro
- Karakoy Lokantasi for traditional Ottoman cuisine; try Hunkar Begendi here
- Ciya Sofrasi if you visit Anatolian side
Turkey doesn’t have Michelin star restaurants yet but we definitely have some restaurants that deserves it such as Nicole and Alancha.
- Nicole in Taksim
- Alancha in Nisantasi
- Colonie and Gaspar in Karakoy with a bar and restaurant
- Munferit in Taksim (closed on Sundays)
- Changa in Taksim; this is a very well decorated restaurant (Wallpaper Design Award in 2007) with good food
- Sunset in Ulus; great food and an accompanying great view
- While you’re here, you can stop by Ulus 29 which is nearby to have drinks over views
You should try one of these while you are in Istanbul
- Rumelihisari Iskele Restaurant: This is my favourite fish restaurant..
- Kandilli Suna’nin Yeri: Humble fish restaurant in Uskudar on Anatolian side; you can take the boat from Besiktas and go to Uskudar in 5 mins
- Kiyi: in Tarabya
Night life (these bars/clubs have restaurants too)
- Reina on Bosphorus; one of the usual suspects. Not always the best crowd but spectacular view
- Anjelique on Bosphorus; I like this one better than Reina
- Nuteras in Taksim overseeing old town
- Su Ada: If you are in Istanbul in summer. It’s an artificial island in the middle of the sea with bars and restaurants and a pool.
- 360 Istanbul in Taksim; 360 degree views of the city
- Galata neighbourhood in Taksim is the area that has many Turkish designer shops on Serdar-I Ekrem Street
While you’re here, visit Dogan Apartmani – a spectacular building of Italian architecture built in 1800s and Georges Hotel (a design boutique hotel) for drinks over views
Visit Asli Tunca’s luxury interior boutique which is located in the residence that is decorated with a modernized Ottoman style
Beymen is a very popular high end department store
Haremlique for high quality bed and bath products
Yastik by Rifat Ozbek for hand woven pillows with Ikats and Suzani embroideries
Machka and Yargici are ladies’ favourite Turkish stores, you can find both in Nisantasi. You can have lunch in Delicatessen or Beymen Brasserie while you are here.
If you are into Turkish style decoration items, one store to visit is Pasabahce. There is another great store you should visit called Hiref. This store is not in Nisantasi but in a shopping mall called Istinye Park.
Midnight Express is another favourite boutique of my wife carrying a good selection of Turkish and foreign designers.
Fey: A vintage boutique highly coveted by my wife
Modern Museums: Both are on Bosphorus and have great exhibitions all year round.
- Istanbul Modern
- Sabanci Museum
WHERE TO STAY
If you want to be close to the old city and museums, you should stay at Sultanahmet and Hotel Amira is the best place to stay here.
They are currently number one on TripAdvisor and they treat their guests like family.
Alternatively, depending on your budget you may like to stay in Kempsinki Ciragan Palace. It used to be an Ottoman Palace and is situated on the Bosphorus.
All the best from Singapore,