I only have one word to describe my flight experience—opulent. When I took my business class seat on the Turkish Airlines plane headed to Tel Aviv, Israel—a quick pit stop on my way to Istanbul to pick up my expat sister, who would be joining me on my trip—the perks immediately began piling on. A Versace travel kit, fresh squeezed juices, slippers. As a lifelong coach traveler, who scours the Internet for the cheapest fare while keeping my fingers crossed that I won't get stuck in a middle seat, this experience was other-worldly. And that was all before the three-course dinner was served by the in-flight chefs wearing their Ratatouille best.
When Turkish Airlines invited me to come experience Istanbul, I didn't know what to expect. I imagined historic mosques, Turkish baths, and tons of baklava. Little did I know I'd get all of that, and more. Here's my guide for how to tour Turkey in style. From where to eat, sleep, and explore.
For your rest hours.
If you're looking for a modern hotel in the heart of the city, look no further than The House Hotel Bomonti. Part of a new chain of luxury, boutique hotels throughout the city, the Bomonti is conveniently located in the city’s rising arts and culture center. And for an average rate of $71 per evening, it's an unbeatable deal.
Another option is the Raffles Istanbul. While it's a bit more expensive (rates start at $306), the hospitality is incomparable. During my stay at Raffles, the staff was there for my every need—from a taxi snafu where my debit card wasn't working, to constantly refreshing my cup of Turkish tea. Another highlight? Their incredible on-site dining options.
For getting lost in the city.
For sightseeing, I called upon Istanbul Tour Studio to take me around. While I'd recommend their "I have one day in Istanbul" tour, you can definitely navigate the city on your own. I'd start out at the Grand Bazaar, which is one of the oldest and largest covered market sin the world with over 4,000 shops. After you check out all the lanterns, scarves, and homemade ceramics, it's time for the Spice Bazaar. Built in 1664, it's the perfect place to sample homemade Turkish delights, and feast on dried nuts.
And if you're more of the relaxing type, check out Kilic Ali Paşa Hamam. It's a recently restored historic Turkish Bath that will leave you feeling reborn. My sister and I were so obsessed we spent three extra hours there after our treatments, reading books and drinking pomegranate tea, while lounging on their day beds.
For eating... and drinking.
To dine while looking out at the Bosphorous, visit the Ciragan Palace Kempinski. Personally, I'd recommend their traditional kebabs and grilled meats. From your seat you can see the Asian side of the city, and the many boats that traverse the river all day long.
High tea is a long-time tradition in Istanbul. One of the best—and most authentic—places to experience the practice is the Kubbeli Saloon Tea Lounge. The whole lounge is decorated in a decadent magenta that truly brings the Orient Express feeling of the city to a head. Everything is velvet, or gold encrusted, and over-the-top ornate. Needless to say, I loved it.
Originally Appeared on Glamour