Istanbul

Vivid markets, hip bars, the beautiful Bosphorus – Fiona Dunlop visits Turkey's most vibrant city

WHY GO?

Uniquely positioned between Europe and Asia, Istanbul is an exotic city of chaotic bazaars, glistening palaces and waterfront action. Add in cool hotels, wish restaurants and a full-on nightlife and you can’t beat it for an instant change of scene.

STAY AT…

Sumahan on the Water (sumahan.com), a converted distillery bang on the Bosphorus. Its serene designer style and watery views make it a perfect place to chill out between ferry trips. Doubles cost from £140 with breakfast. In historic Sultanahmet, try the quaint Hotel Ibrahim Pasha (ibrahim pasha.com), close to the Blue Mosque. Doubles cost from £118 with breakfast, but be warned, some of the rooms are tiny.

LOUNGE AT…

The bars, restaurants and clubs of Beyoglu, aka ‘modern’ Istanbul. Start with the excellent meze at affordable, shabby-chic Cezayir (cezayir-istanbul.com), then move on to nearby 360 (360 istanbul.com), a rooftop restaurant where glamorous young Turks enjoy the panoramic view.

PARTY AT…

By midnight it’s time to hit the amazing Bosphorus clubs. Grab a taxi to bling Reina (reina.com.tr) in Ortakoy, a vast venue where Istanbul fashionistas enjoy Euro-rock and Latin lounge sounds. It’s £17 to get in with cocktails around £15 – but worth it.

SHOP AT…

The labyrinthine Grand Bazaar, with more than 4,000 shops. Snap up fake designer handbags and leather coats from £50, but hone those bargaining skills first. Find fabulous bathroom accessories, including fringed cotton towels (£12) and hammam slippers (£26), at fixed-price Dervis (dervis.com).

Around the corner, Murat Ozturk (Takkeciler Sok. 78-80) has lovely embroidered rugs from £90), then haggle for antique 18-carat gold earrings at Mavi Kose (Inciciler Sok. 10-12, from £100).

EXPLORE…

Sultanahmet – the place to see famous Istanbul sights like the Topkapi Palace, Blue Mosque and Haghia Sophia. Then get up to date at Istanbul Modern (istanbulmodern.org), the city’s new art powerhouse near Galata Bridge. Or retire to a steamy Turkish bath like the marble-filled Cemberlitas Hamami (Vezirhan Caddesi 8), near the Grand Bazaar. It costs around £15 including a scrub down and massage.

BOOK NOW…

Turkish Airlines (thy.com) flies direct from London, from £116 return including taxes. Istanbul (£12.99, Time Out) has all the low-down, or contact the Turkish Tourist Board (020-7839 7778; gototurkey.co.uk).

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