A Handy-Dandy Guide to Istanbul, This Summer's Must-See City
An evening in Istanbul (Photo: Getty Images)
There is almost no other city in the world as romantic as Istanbul. It spans two continents, has inspired thousands of authors and artists and, as it’s been around since 660 B.C., has a conglomeration of architecture that rivals Rome.
I first went to Istanbul in 2011 after a trip to Iraq. While it’s in a Muslim country, Istanbul was so different from the tense, religious scene in Mesopotamia that I almost cried with relief. When I went out to explore the city, I almost cried for a different reason: because I felt like I was home. It wasn’t one thing that made me feel that way. It was a combination of the scenery, the people, the culture, and the history. Taken altogether, it was a transportive experience, one that everyone should have. So in the spirit of sharing, I’ve typed up a quick, handy-dandy guide to Istanbul.
WHERE TO STAY
My friend Tim Arango, the Baghdad bureau chief of the New York Times, suggested I stay at a small boutique hotel – the Ayasofya Konaklari — which was lovely and uniquely situated between the Hagia Sofia and the Topkapi Palace, two of Istanbul’s top attractions. The rooms were small and well kept and the staff was very accommodating. And, starting at $150 a night, the price was right.
For those with a larger budget, the Four Seasons Sultan Ahmet — built in an old Turkish neoclassical prison — is also in that same area and intensely awesome. Sadly, I did not stay there but went for a drink and pretended I did.
Four Seasons Sultan Ahmet (Photo: Courtesy of Four Seasons)
Nearby, just down from the Blue Mosque, is a chic and luxurious boutique hotel, the Eresin Crown, which has a roof bar overlooking the Bosphorus and really beautiful rooms. The hotel has a built-in historical element; during its construction, workers discovered dozens of artifacts dating back to the second and third centuries B.C. Those artifacts are on display in the hotel.
WHAT TO DO:
While in Istanbul, you must have a bath. No, I’m not saying you stink. It’s a cultural tradition and an experience like no other.
Turkish Bath at Cemberlitas Hamami (Photo: Courtesy of Cemberlitas Hamami)