The first foreign trip that Mr B and I took when we started dating was to Istanbul. It was a fantastic week in a magical city and ever since has acquired mythical status. This week work took me back there which meant two things. It was Mr B’s turn to experience the highs and lows of trailing spouse life if only for a short time and secondly we got to see how the city has changed over the last decade. Our initial impression was that the driving is definitely Asia-style.
So here are a few of our combined thoughts for things to do in addition to the obligatory Blue Mosque, Aya Sophya, the Grand Bazaar and a Bosphorus Cruise:
1. Go for a hamam away from the crowds: Çinili Cammi in Üsküdar on the Asia side is a far cry from the ornate wonders found in Sultanahmet but the real deal (literally. The hamam plus scrub is TL 37). The hamams are simple (one central room plus a tiny sauna) but the scrub and massage are extremely thorough. You’ll also need some capacity for sign language given staff have only a few words of English. Women should wear knickers, men go au naturel. To get there take a cab from the ferry port. Take the opportunity to visit the mosque and see the beautiful tiles that give the mosque its name.
2. If you’re in the mood to eat like a Sultan, try Asitane after taking in the beautiful mosaics in the Kariye Museum. The stuffed vine leaves with sour cherries are divine. Ciya on the Asia side is another opportunity to feast. For those who like their Turkish food a bit more twenty-first century, we highly recommend Lokanta Maya down in the too-cool-for-school Karaköy docks area. Specialising in regional dishes from around Turkey, it is absolutely delicious.
3. For the best lokum in town head to Altan close to the Golden Horn on the Sultanahmet side – the store is a feast for the eyes.
4. Mr B highly recommends the ultimate foodie walking tours by Istanbul Eats, particularly the Two Continents one. Mr B’s advice is to skip breakfast and don’t plan on dinner, you’ll be eating around 12 delicious times over the course of the day!