At once exotic and yet slightly familiar: it’s the diversity and immense energy that makes Istanbul a dream place to live, work and play.
Straddling the mighty Bosphorus Strait that separates Europe from Asia, Turkey’s second city offers travellers a heady mix of east and west. Get your bearings with a 15-minute open-top ferry across continents, from Karaköy terminal in Europe to the Kadikoy district in Asia. Crossing the Bosphorus, you’ll have sensational views of the minarets of Istanbul’s medieval Süleymaniye Mosque, the fairy-tale Galata Tower, the huge dome of the Hagia Sophia and the majestic walls of the Topkapi and Dolmabahce Palaces.
You don’t have to go that far, though, for a glimpse of the city’s latest incarnation. Back at Karaköy, a revamped waterside warehouse beside the passenger terminal houses Istanbul Modern (Meclis-i Mebusan Ave), the city’s gleaming contemporary art museum, which has become the showcase of a vibrant art scene.
If that whets your appetite for things artistic, take Karaköy’s tiny underground tram (one of the world’s oldest subways) to Istiklal Caddesi in Beyoglu, the artery of chic in 19th-century Istanbul and now fully revived after a period of decline. Two of the city’s best spaces – Platform Garanti Contemporary Art Center and Galerist, which shows many of Turkey’s leading artists – lie along this stately street.
Istiklal Caddesi and the upscale Nisantasi district, particularly Tesvikiye Avenue, are also where hip young locals go to shop. Istiklal has stores such as Mavi (at no. 117), Turkey’s sought after denim designer. International brands and labels crowd Nisantasi’s swish main drag, but don’t let that put you off – Beymen (23/1 Abdi pekçi Caddesi), Turkey’s version of Harrods, is worth a look. For a retail experience that’s quirkier and on a much smaller scale, seek out the local designer boutiques. Gönül Paksoy (Atiye Sokak 6) does gorgeous silk and cotton clothing, while a few doors along, Sema Paksoy (Atiye Sokak 9) makes intriguing, Ottoman-inspired jewellery.
All that shopping making you hungry? A gastro revival is happening alongside Istanbul’s art and style one: foodies flock to the Ortaköy Banyan (Salhane Sokak 3), a short drive along the Bosphorus to the suburb of Ortaköy in outer Istanbul. With spectacular views of the original Bosphorus bridge and a graceful waterside mosque, the restaurant’s terrace tables come into their own on summer nights. The cuisine here is fusion at its best, a melange of Asian influences, with Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese and Indian delicacies all beautifully presented and prepared.
In Beyoglu, the award-winning 360 Istanbul (Istiklal Caddesi, Misir Apt) is a glass-walled rooftop extravaganza with a super-chic bar and circular views of the city. Top dishes to try include delicious Lebanese kibbe meatballs stuffed with walnuts, or the lamb confit, poached for five hours in top-quality olive oil. Work off the feast at Wan-na (Mesrutiyet Caddesi 151), where foreign DJs keep Istanbul’s young professionals dancing alongside the aluminium bar until the wee hours. Yet for all its contemporary buzz and new attractions, a visit to Istanbul is unthinkable without seeing some of the old.
The 600-yearold Grand Bazaar (Yaglikcilar Caddesi, Beyazit) houses some 5,000 shops packed to the rafters with belly dancing outfits, backgammon boards, Evil Eye keyrings and enough nargile (hookah pipes) for a Cheech & Chong marathon. Give the touristy trinkets a wide berth and search out the true bargains – leather goods are great value, as are ceramics, silver and carpets. Jean-Paul Gaultier, Donna Karan and Sting are fans of Sivasli Yazmaci (Yaglikcilar Caddesi 57), which sells gorgeous textiles in silk, cotton and wool.
Then there’s Topkapi Palace, Turkey’s tiled-and marbled answer to Versailles, the daily harem tour unveils the sultans’ decadent world of multiple wives, eunuchs and dwarf entertainers. Walk through opulent vaulted chambers decorated in blue Iznik tiles and stained glass, then top it off with a look at the royal treasury, filled with bejeweled spoils from Ottoman conquests.
If your feet begin protesting that you’ve overdone the sightseeing, don’t despair. Rejuvenation awaits at the Cagaloglu Hamami (Kazim Ismail Gürkan Caddesi 34), a ravishing baroque bathhouse that looks like a film set – and has, in fact, appeared in an Indiana Jones movie. Under a vaulted dome, an attendant will position you on a heated marble slab, douse you in hot water, scrub your entire body with a loofah glove, lather you in foamy soap, massage your back, douse you again, towel you dry and then send you off into the beautiful old café for a glass of mint tea. Now that’s a Turkish delight indeed.
After a long day of exploring Turkey, what better place to rest and rejuvenate yourself than at Fraser Place Anthill Istanbul?
Housed on the upper floors of the prestigious Anthill Residence towers, Fraser Place Anthill Istanbul is raising the bar for modern living.
The luxurious property, which comprises 116 Gold-Standard airy apartments set on the 39 to 54 floors of both towers, come in one-, two- or three- bedroom apartments as well as four-bedroom penthouses with floor to ceiling windows that allow unobstructed panoramic views across the beautiful old city, Bosphorus and The Golden Horn.
Then there’s the building’s forward-thinking concept. An adjoining retail mall offers a multitude of conveniences – from the exclusive Carrefour gourmet store to restaurants, pharmacy, dry cleaning and hairdressing services – while other facilities include one of the city’s largest fitness centres, indoor ski slope, tennis and squash courts as well as indoor and outdoor pools to rejuvenate and energise, plus a host of wellness facilities including a spa with 12 treatment rooms that create a pampering escape route for frazzled bodies.
As the global in-crowd has discovered, modern living has come to Turkey – and Fraser Place Anthill Istanbul is the only place to stay.