Merhaba! First of all, I must apologise for taking this long to write this quick travel review; well it’s here now, all for you!
Turkey has always been a part of our upbringing, family and traditions. It represents several elements of a culture that I can personally relate to despite my rebellious western habits: food, traditions, beliefs, art and people. This weekend, I share with you tips on how to enjoy modern Istanbul for your next visit. It has always been an exciting, popular and affordable travel destination for many, but recently, Turkey has taken on a new sophisticated front, powered by it’s millennial youth that are creating local, if not global change.
Many 30 year olds living in Istanbul have either moved back to their homeland as Germans, Americans or Brits… Their education, coupled with curiosity has fuelled their return, only to prosper. Not many Turks speak English, so if you do (while fluent in Turkish), you’ve definitely got an advantage that can help in the development and foreign relations of the economy. Many creative types have gone back to refurbish and update lifestyle in Istanbul; from chefs using local produce and adding a western twist to turkish cuisine, fashion designers reinventing the fashion scene and local small scale production to a booming design conscious boutique hotel start-up scene. Often called as the best of the East & the Mediterranean, this country offers it’s visitors it’s islamic inspired cultural charm while maintaining an open minded, European presence.
Turkish people are some of the friendliest you can meet, equally charming, hospitable and respectful. Rich in resources, the country has provided a strong economy for the people through different industries. My coffee, olives, honey, tea, baklava and pistachios, dried peaches and fig plus several clothing items all came from turkey throughout my 30 years. Oh and I won’t forget the yummy Pinar soft cheese…!
I was recently in Istanbul for business. A couple of friends (educated in the US) took me out to contemporary spots that claimed a subtle yet globally luxurious aesthetic in decor and appearance. A very up and coming scene: Quality and creativity is enjoyed through food/drinks, music and art installations in the city, all while maintaining it’s authentic edge. I’m going to list for you my top 21 trendy spots to hit, aside from the usual tourist spots that you would surely not miss:
- Top trendy spot to hit: Lucca a very trendy crowd goes to this spot, so expect people watching- fashion and trend
- Cafe: Bread & Butter, a hip cafe with deliciousness & design
- Cafe: Holy Coffee a cute little cafe in the Beyoglu district that serves excellent coffee and other morning drink items such as smoothies, etc.
- Breakfast: Namli in Karakoy for that Turkish breakfast experience
- Brunch: Mangerie I had a great brunch here at this cafe that not only serves fantastic food but if you’re lucky enough to find seats outdoors, you’ll experience exceptional views of the Bosphorous
- Bakery: Gram This little bakery is a girls (and maybe boys?) turkish dream serving all sorts of tasty, organic baked goods and general brunch items
- Lunch: Karabak a hip spot to cafe, lunch and light lunch in Karakoy
- Dinner: Lokanta Maya, up and coming chef Didem Senol offers a modern twist to traditional turkish cuisine leaving you wanting more. She’s one chef to note, as you get older!
- Dinner: Mikla, Chef Mehmet Gurs is a Finnish born Turk and his kitchen uses a mix of his Turkish and Scandinavian roots to come up with a contemporary menu that leaves you in a happy place
- Cosmopolitan night scene: Munferit & Cezayir where all the beautiful people go to party
- After dark: Salon IKSV, a foundation for Culture and Arts (IKSV), it is one of Istanbul’s most prominent cultural venues.
CULTURE & SHOP
- Museum: Istanbul Modern I love going to local contemporary museum because it shows you how the youth are thinkging- what colours, textures or mediums they use, what inspires their emotions and thoughts and what our future looks like. I recommend checking this museum out, right on the Bosphorus
- Galleries: SALT & Galata, both close to each other, they both offer installations that are both intelligent and aesthetically inspiring
- Local Shop: Luna Park, for locally made and sourced products both old and new in design
- Concept store: Atelier-55, a place where you can find everything cool and trendy from books to clothes and accessory. Great spot for presents
- Upscale Shops: Beymen, anywhere you go, you’ll find that boutique or department store selling globally renowned upscale brands. Check out this location to see what Turkish buyers are choosing for their locals
- General Shopping: Grand Bazaar, whatever you do, don’t miss this spot for great finds, the vibe, sights and sounds – more than 5,000 shops await your arrival… yes ma’am/sir!
- Kitchenware: Soy, This shop is in the Moda district that sells copper pots and pans made locally- Turkey is known for it’s kitchen ware, at least in the Middle East 😉
- Music, Vinyl: If you’re a musician, a DJ or an artist, this is a great place to score some vintage vinyl and general music.
- Hagia Sophia
- Blue Mosque
- Yesil Vadi Mosque
- Topakapi Palace
- Suleymaniye Mosque
- Four Floors – When Comme Des Garcons & Margiela came together and created a hotel
- Mama Shelter – Your typical boutique chain with great ‘in bed’ selfie options
- WITT Istanbul – fancy fancy!
- The House Hotel – Where the old and new meet to create a design-y beast of a house/hotel
- #bunk – a hostel for those who don’t like hostels..
DON’T LEAVE WITHOUT
- OYE Swimwear – trending now, if Jessica Alba can wear it for her GQ cover, so can we. Boom!
- Hammam Towels – the colours, the texture, the size and weight.. how can you not?
- An actual Hammam visit
- Turkish Coffee or Tea cups (and an ibrik… surprise yourself)
- Local Jewelry
- A turkish rug or cushion
- Baklava & turkish delight
- Turkish slippers 🙂 – a cozy, pleasant must 🙂
All photos courtesy of various web resources. Istanbul Travel Guide.