Istanbul Travel Guide

Enigma times ten


The Bosphorous Strait not only cleaves Istanbul in two, but divides Europe from Asia. The bulk of the historic sights are on the European side of the city, which is itself divided by the Golden Horn. The older parts of the city lie to the south of this narrow offshoot of the Bosphorous, the newer ones to the north. The center of the Old City, now known as Sultanahmet, after the mosque by the same name, is where the main sights are clustered: Haghia Sophia, the Sultanahmet Mosque (Blue Mosque), Topkapi Palace, and the Grand Bazaar. To the north of the Golden Horn are the slightly younger districts of Beyoglu and Galata, whose tower is a major landmark, and Çukurcuma, which has recently turned into a center of antiques shops. As you head farther north, the city becomes progressively more modern: The most interesting district here is Nisantasi (Ni-shan-ti-sheh) for its luxury shops, antiques stores, and art galleries.

When To Go
September and October are the best months. In summer the city is hot and crowded; in winter it's rainy and cold. The heaviest months for conventions are generally April and October. Before planning your trip check the dates of Ramadan, the ninth month of the Muhammadan year and the most important Islamic religious holiday. On each day during this sacred period strict fasting is practiced from dawn to sunset. The dates during which Ramadan is celebrated change from year to year. (In 1998 it began on December 18.) During this time sundown traffic is heavy, restaurants can be packed, and museums may be closed.

Getting There
The only nonstop flights from the United States to Istanbul are from New York on Delta and Turkish Airlines. European flag carriers offer connecting service to Istanbul through their respective countries.

U.S. visitors are required to obtain a visa. It is available at Turkish consulates in the United States or upon arrival. The cost is $20—payable in U.S. currency—and the visa desk is on your right as you come into the passport control area at the Istanbul airport. Don't make the mistake that many first-time visitors do and stand on the passport line, only to be sent over to the visa window. There are not separate passport lines for visitors and nationals, so once you have your visa, go for the shortest line.

Getting Around
It is highly advisable to hire a rental car with a driver. The traffic in Istanbul is very heavy, especially at rush hours; the street plan is byzantine to say the least, and street signs and numbers are frequently lacking. English is not as widely spoken as is sometimes asserted. And taxis, while plentiful, sometimes don't bother to use the meter, which means haggling over every ride or simply paying the piper. Moreover, there are countless little ways in which your driver will run interference for you during your stay. The major rental-car agencies are represented at the Istanbul airport and can supply a driver with the car. Rental rates often change, but Avis and Hertz generally charge $170-$200 per day, depending upon the size of the automobile.

Game Plan
Traffic in Istanbul makes driving from section to section time-consuming, thus careful planning of each day's itinerary is a necessity. As a rule of thumb, budget 25 to 45 minutes each time you travel between sections of the city. If you're heading out to a restaurant at rush hour, double that, and on Friday nights, which are especially bad, triple it if you're heading to a restaurant up the Bosphorous. (It took me two hours one Friday evening to make a trip that usually takes 45 minutes.)

The sights and shopping recommendations in this guide are grouped by geographic area so that you can minimize the number of trips between neighborhoods.

From the standpoint of proximity to the major sights, the best hotel in Istanbul is the Four Seasons, which is in the Old City and within walking distance of Haghia Sophia and the Blue Mosque. The other luxury hotels listed in this guide—the Çiragan Palace, Hyatt, Swissôtel, and Hilton—are in the Beyoglu-Galata area, not far from the Old City but still a 20- to 30-minute ride in average traffic. However, they are closer to the upscale shopping district of Nisantasi and more convenient for making excursions up the Bosphorous.

Local Time
Istanbul is seven hours ahead of EST.

The Turkish lira, abbreviated TL, is the unit of exchange. At presstime the exchange rate was TL212,000 to the U.S. dollar, which means you will almost always be dealing in units of hundreds of thousands or millions of lira. A good way to simplify calculations is to keep in mind that one million lira is worth roughly $5. Inflation is high, so the dollar may be worth even more by the time you visit.

Check the restaurant menu or the receipt for the words servis ve KDV dahildir, which means service and tax are included. You will find this to be the case mostly in hotel restaurants. If so, you should leave a 10 percent honorarium for the waiter. If not, a 15 percent tip is considered an appropriate gratuity. And be prepared to leave a cash tip when paying with a credit card, since credit-card slips in Turkey have no space to leave a tip. Short taxi rides do not require a gratuity. Otherwise, just round up the cabfare 100,000 lira or so.

Manners And Mores

• A weak handshake conveys a lack of enthusiasm and is considered impolite, especially upon first meeting.
• In a shop you'll be offered tea (ask for apple tea if you want less caffeine) and conversation. While you needn't converse for hours, a certain amount of small talk is considered polite.
• Take directions with a grain of salt. Pride makes Stamboulis answer with confidence, even if they don't know the way. Best strategy: Follow the directions, but ask again as soon as you're out of eyeshot and compare the two answers. It may be necessary to repeat the process, by degrees getting yourself pointed in the right direction.
• Turks often ask foreigners surprisingly personal questions. For instance, I've been asked why I don't have more children (I have two), and how much I paid for my house and my car. Be prepared, and don't take offense.
• Don't take photographs of military personnel or property.
• Two gestures that you may encounter. A scooping motion toward you with the hand held downward (something like our sign for "get lost") actually means "come here." And a hand on the heart, accompanied by a slight nod of the head, means "no thank you (but I appreciate it)."
• If a mosque is on your itinerary, be sure to dress appropriately: for women, no bare arms or head; for both sexes, no bare legs. In fact, dressing modestly is a good idea in general, especially for women. Save your sexy clothes for Istanbul's night spots.
• Don't enter a mosque during prayer, and inside don't walk in front of those worshipping.

The Ultimate Bagel

Food writer Corby Kummer, a regular contributor to Departures, once described the simit, a freshly baked sesame bread ring, as "everything a New York bagel ever dreamed it could be." They're sold in carts on Istanbul's street corners, or by roving bakery workers from tripod-shaped trays. Average cost: less than 25 cents.

The Evil Eye

You'll see glass charms decorated with concentric blue orbs sold everywhere, from five-and-dime stalls to expensive jewelry stores (source of the one shown). In Turkish they're called nazar bonçuk, or bead of the evil gaze, and they're frequently worn as jewelry to ward off just that.

Turkish Bath

Steam your stress away at Cagaloglu Hamami in 400-year-old marble chambers while rays of light pour in through nearly 120 tiny windows above. Men: 7 a.m.-10 p.m.; women 8 a.m.-8 p.m. Cash only. Prof. Kazim Gürkan Caddesi 34, Cagaloglu; 212-522-2424. For an even more colorful version, try Çemberlitas. Open 6 a.m.-midnight. Cash only. Vezirhan Caddesi 8, Çemberlitas; 212-522-7974; 511-2535. For a more Western and luxurious alternative, visit the hamami in the Çiragan Palace Hotel Kempinski Istanbul.

Song And Dance

The Pera-Galata area of Beyoglu is known for its traditional wine bars, or meyhanes, favored by locals for romantic folk music (top three topics: love, melancholy, and regret) and sometimes excellent menu (heavy on appetizers and spirits). Have your hotel concierge handle reservations, but book 10 days in advance for high-season weekend nights. Arrive no earlier than 9 p.m.; the music heats up only after 10. The food is delicious, from tasty stuffed peppers to spicy bulgur pilav (akin to tabouleh salad); in fact, you can make a meal out of starters.

Best Venues

Galata Meyhane Cash only. Istiklal Caddesi Orhan Apaydin Sokak 11, Beyoglu. Yakup 2 Asmalimescit Sokak 35-37, Tünel. Refik Cash only. Sofyali Sokak 10-12, Tünel. Imroz Cash only. Nevizade Sokak 24, Beyoglu. Aynali Meyhane Tramvay Caddesi 104, Kuruçesme. Kallavi Cash only. Istiklal Caddesi, Kallavi Sokak 24, Beyoglu.

Trendy Restaurants

Not necessarily Turkish, but certainly in:
Yaliboyu Caddesi 64, Beylerbey; 216-422-0003.
Abdi Ipekci Caddesi 7/2, Nisantasi; 212-224-3915.
Le Cigar:
Cash only. Meseli Sokak, Fourth Levent; 212-279-2120.
Liman Lokantasi:
Cash only. Liman Caddesi (above marine passengers' arrival building), Karaköy; 212-292-3992.
Paper Moon:
At Akmerkez Mall, Etiler; 212-282-1616.
Ulus 29 Adnan Saygun Caddesi (in Ulus Park), Ulus; 212-265-6181.
Osmanzade Sokak, 13, Ortaköy; 212-227-6598.
Cash only. Muallim Naci Caddesi 109/1, Ortaköy; 212-261-6005.
Carpet Ride

Buying a carpet is the second most difficult thing to do in Istanbul. The first is giving advice on buying a carpet. The subject is so complex and the exceptions so numerous, that they take a lifetime to master. Nonetheless, we rush in where angels fear to tread with this primer.

Carpet vs. Kilim: Most Turkish carpets are knotted, have a pile, and feature floral or geometric designs in vivid colors. Kilims are woven flat and tend toward geometric patterns.
Knotty Subject: Knot count only becomes a major consideration when purchasing silk rugs—a rather small portion of the Turkish rug market—or collectors' items, such as Koum Kapu carpets, where the number of knots per square centimeter or inch is an indication of quality. Turkish rugs are generally not valued according to knot count but for purely aesthetic elements, such as balance, design, and color. In fact, these rugs are generally coarsely knotted. In the words of Rosalind Canlin Benedict, former contributing editor of Art and Auction magazine, "it is unwise to be a knot snob." To see the knots, turn back a corner and eyeball the warp and weft in an area roughly half the length of your index finger (roughly one square centimeter). In new carpets, the denser the weave and the higher the knot count usually mean better quality. If you don't see any knots, the carpet is probably machine-made.
Material Concerns: The most expensive carpets are usually made of silk and have the highest knot count and a shiny finish. These are the "work-of-art" carpets that are often hung on walls or on furniture. They are not meant to be walked on. Wool is used in both older carpets as well as most new ones. The best "blend" for a carpet is a wool pile with a cotton foundation; it's a safe bet in terms of quality and durability. Beware of mercerized (i.e., preshrunk and tightly wound) cotton in cotton and rayon rugs being passed off as silk. For the laymen, it's almost impossible to see the difference. That is why it's imperative to seek a reputable carpet dealer.
Natural versus Chemical Dyes: An endless debate. Natural dyes, rarely used in new carpets and kilims, are made from crushed plants, roots, and bugs. This is the old-fashioned way of coloring a carpet, although special-project carpet production houses are increasingly bringing natural dyes back. The best-known type is the madder-root dye, which is used to give Turkish carpets and kilims their signature deep-red color. Proponents of natural dyes say the colors are deeper and better. Such carpets are certainly more expensive, mostly because of the labor involved in dying them: The plant roots from which the dyes are made must be cultivated, dried, and crushed.
Chemical dyes, also called aniline dyes, are the modern way of coloring a carpet, although they've been used since the mid-19th century. Proponents say they're more durable, and when of high quality they yield colors as good as natural dyes; opponents contend that chemical colors are harder and flatter. Note that most new silk carpets are done with chemical dyes, and either technique—natural or chemical—can produce a good carpet.
Compare one of each and decide if the quality difference justifies the price difference.
New or Antique: New carpets or kilims are usually less expensive, but they are not necessarily less desirable than antique ones. There are new carpets knotted in the old-fashioned way using original designs and quality natural dyes. Examples: Dobag rugs (difficult to get in Turkey but exported to the United States and Europe) and Ushak rugs from Adnan & Hasan (see Bazaar World box).
Officially, antique means at least 100 years old, and semi-antique is generally 70-100 years old. (The older the carpet or kilim, the more important it is to obtain a certificate of authenticity and age from the dealer. See Exporting Antiques box.)
Beware of fake antiques—new carpets that have been bleached or sun-faded. You can tell such an impostor by looking into the pile (especially easy to detect in red, green, or purple threads). If the color is not monochromatic and is deeper toward the knot and lighter at the tips, it's a fake. (Another sure tipoff: The dealer keeps bringing out similar-looking rugs.)
Know the Styles: Hereke is the classic and finest Turkish carpet, mostly floral in motif and made in the town of the same name. It comes in wool and cotton blends as well as silk (collector's items). Look for the name Hereke woven into the border, even though it's no guarantee that the item is genuine. Other good Turkish names: Kayseri, Milas, Antalya, Kula, Bergama, and Ladik. Don't bother with new Konya or Kars pieces.
Be Smart: Stick to the dealers listed in this guide. Never let a tour guide, hotel employee, or street tout refer you to a store: He gets a commission. Steer clear of carpet "department stores" in the Old City: The merchandise is mass-produced, the markups staggering.
Bargaining: Don't go in cold. First shop around to get ballpark prices. The salesman's first offer will usually be three or four times his purchase price, so make your first offer one-third to one-quarter of his. Trust your instincts and walk away if the price is too steep for what the carpet/kilim seems worth. (Note: The dealers we list have relatively fixed prices, but you're paying 50-70 percent less, for the same piece, than you would in the States.)
Bone Up: Here are a few good reference books: The Tribal Eye: Antique Kilims of Anatolia (Peter Davies, Rizzoli); Living with Kilims (Alastair Hull and Nicholas Bernard, Thames and Hudson); Kilim: The Complete Guide (Alastair Hull and Jose Luczyc-Wyhowska, Chronicle Books); Rugs to Riches: An Insider's Guide to Buying Oriental Rugs (Caroline Bosly, Random House).

Sailing Up The Bosphorous

Plan 1 Take the 10:35 a.m. public boat at the Bogaz Hatti terminal in Eminönü. The cruise takes you to the small village of Anadolu Kavagi. Lunch on fish, then hike up to the Genoese castle ruin for a sweeping view of the Black Sea. Catch the return boat at 3 p.m.
Plan 2 Take a tour boat with guide, such as the Bosphorus Princess, available from Plan Tours (212-230-2272; 230-8118). $30 for a half-day tour. Departs 1 p.m. Or book a spot on the Swissôtel's 15-meter yacht, which offers a three-hour evening cruise with full meal for about $60 per person. Have your hotel concierge handle the bookings.
Plan 3 Hire a private boat and design your own itinerary. Both Tann Tours (212-232-3278) and Hatsail (212-258-9983) have 35-meter yachts for up to 22 people. About $800 for up to four hours. Two possible stops for a lunch of meze and fish: Façyo (more formal) or Ali Baba (casual and closer to the water; cash only), both in Kireçburnu. Façyo: Kireçburnu Caddesi 13; 212-262-0024; 262-0898; Ali Baba: Kireçburnu Caddesi 20; 212-262-0889.

Bazaar World

Most visitors either love the Grand Bazaar or hate it. Said to be the oldest mall in the world, the Bazaar (also known as the Covered Bazaar) is both cultural phenomenon and souvenir spree. Orienting oneself is not as hard as it seems once you have a good map (ask your hotel concierge). There are several main streets, each specializing in a different product—gold, textiles, or carpets—and in the center is the Old Bedesten, full of antique jewelry, icons, some copper, and meerschaum pipes.
Go in the morning, at opening time (9 a.m.) if possible, when the Bazaar is least crowded. It is widely known that there are few bargains. As for bargaining, it is expected, but the dealers are better at it than you'll ever be. Decide on a price you feel is fair and stick to it, even if you have to walk away. Hours: 9 a.m.-7 p.m. daily except Sunday. What follows is a selective list, arranged by product, of good stores known personally to me or obtained through solid sources.

Keskiner Antika: Delicate gilt icons, brocade slippers sized for dainty Ottoman feet, and antique silver pins and pendants, often encrusted with diamonds. Cash only. Sandal Bedesteni Sokak 7, Nuruosmaniye; 212-528-2990.
Sofa Art and Antiques: Up a pedestrian-only street outside the Nuruosmaniye Gate. Three floors of furnishings, paintings, ceramics, and kilims/carpets. Silver items are custom-made using Turkish, not European, designs, unlike much of the silver inside the Bazaar. Prices are generally on the high side. Nuruosmaniye Caddesi 42 and 1063; 212-527-4142; 522-1474; fax 212-527-9134.
click here for more info

Carpets, Antique
Bozdag Hali ve Kilim Ticareti Kavaflar Sokak 47; 212-527-0985; fax 212-512-6828.

Carpets, New
Adnan & Hasan One of several stores chosen to showcase wares to Hillary Clinton on her diplomatic visit in 1996. All major styles, plus kilims, caçiks (embroidered woven textiles, such as grain sacks), and nomadic pieces. Fair, but not cheap prices. Call ahead for an appointment with Hasan himself, or his partner Erol. Halicilar Carsisi 89-90-92; 212-527-9887.

Imperio Otomano Preferred by American Consulate officials (as well as the Clinton brigade, which bought 10 carpets). Also good-quality kilims. Divrikli Caddesi 57 and 54; 212-512-7463; 522-7505; fax 212-512-9227.

Punto Wide selection of large carpets and kilims. Patronized by tourists. Car service to and from your hotel. Gazi Sinanpasa Sokak 17, Vezirhan; 212-511-0853; fax 212-513-9747.

Necdet Danis: Floor-to-ceiling shelves stacked with custom-made local linen, cotton, and embroidered textiles, many made especially for the shop. Cash only. Yaglikçilar Caddesi 57; 212-526-7748; fax 212-527-2644.

Barocco: One of the best small silversmith shops in the Kalçilar Han, the centuries-old silversmiths' courtyard. Elaborate Baroque candlesticks, Ottoman-style round mirrors hung by slender chains, signature pitchers in a gentle swirl pattern, and handsome silver spoons that can be engraved. Cash only. Mahmutpasa Kalcilar Han 31; 212-527-8866.

Selvi El Sanatlari: Quality handmade ceramic platters, vases, cups. Cash only. Yaglikçilar Caddesi 54; 212-527-0997; 513-0442.

Copperware/Silverware, Antique
L'Orient: Dapper owner Murat Bilir exists happily in this tiny space crammed with merchandise. Best pieces: water pitchers, Russian samovars, and coffee pots. Prices are reasonable, and Murat is charming. Içbedesten, Serif Aga Sokak 22-23; 212-520-7046.

Folkloric Fashion
Gülseren Giyim Cash only. Yaglickçilar Caddesi, Ic Cebeci Han 50; 212-512-2708; 512-9751.

Gold And Jewelry
Hilat: Hefty, historical, handmade statement designs—for instance, a ring bearing a likeness of the Herakles knot with a matching diamond-laden bracelet. Seref Efendi Sokak 96; Seref Han 95-96, Nuruosmaniye; 212-512-7303.
Kafkas: The owner is a third-generation Russian Turk. Hence, such unusual pieces as a Caucasian-design 24-karat gold necklace and bracelet set in a flower and chain pattern typical of that region. Kalpakçilar Sokak 4; 212-522-0326; 527-4878; fax 212-513-1817.
Mercan: Custom-made and antique silver and gold necklaces, rings, and bracelets. Içbedesten 3 Nolu Kapi (Gate 3), Sahaflar Sokak 28-30; 212-511-9576.
Gilan: High-quality jewelry company (the size of a small department store) specializing in precious gems, gold, and Anatolian-inspired pieces. On the pedestrian street perpendicular to the Grand Bazaar's Nuruosmaniye Gate. Nuruosmaniye Caddesi 58; 212-519-3010; 519-1079; 519-0558; 519-0578; fax 212-519-1865. Also a branch in the Çiragan Palace Hotel Kempinski; 212-236-2183.

Leather And Suede
Dogan Bilgili: One of the finer-quality producers still in the Grand Bazaar. Takkeçiler Sokak 93-95; 212-527-6359.

Yerliexport: Antique pieces are in the back room. Icbedesten Serifaga Sokak 58; 212-526-2619; fax 212-522-2866.

Walk down to Sultanahmet Köftecisi for the best kebab and bean-salad lunch around (sit upstairs for decor, down for local color). 12A Divanyolu Caddesi; 212-513-1438.

Giving The Brush-Off
The Grand Bazaar is full of salesmen—freelancers that have been sent out into the marketplace to bring customers into a particular shop. These individuals are quite persistent and usually don't take no for an answer. If you find yourself being pestered, do what the Turks do when they want to shoo these flies away: Click your tongue on the roof of your mouth, and at the same time make a short, quick, upward movement with your head.

Print Shop

The Tünel and Beyoglu areas are rich in small shops carrying antique prints of local subjects. Here is a cache of addresses:
Atrium: Pricey, but the selection is vast and the staff professional. Tünel Pasaj 5 & 7; 212-251-4302; fax 212-249-8983; and at the Swiss &0circ;tel lobby-level shop; 212-259-0228.
Eren Sofyali Sokak 34; 212-251-2858.
Ottomania: Istiklal Caddesi Sofyali Sokak 30/32; 212-243-2157/58; fax 212-243-3016.
Galeri Cerceve: Upmarket with few bargains, but a great selection of frames. Galipdede Caddesi Timarci Sokak 3; 212-251-2651.
Cep Art Gallery: More modest than Cerceve, with better prices and quality framing. Cash only. Tünel Sokak 2; Tünel Eren Sofyali Sokak 34; 212-245-1996.
Levant Kolleksiyon: Small and atmospheric; good stock of antique postcards and other oddments. Tünel Meydani 8; 212-293-6333.
Librairie de Pera* Well known by collectors. Galipdede Caddesi 22; 212-252-3078.

Exporting Antiques

• An antique is defined as any object—whether copper, silver, carpet, kilim, ceramic, or curiosity—more than 100 years old.
• To take an antique out of the country you need a museum certificate—sometimes known as an eksperti in Turkish, because it is prepared by an expert.
• Any reputable merchant should be willing to get this certificate for you. The time required is normally a couple of days.
• Antique marble pieces and coins always draw the attention of customs inspectors, even if you have an eksperti. So be prepared for a delay.
• Pass up antiquities—that is, archaeological finds such as small statuary from the Greek, Roman, or Byzantine periods and even certain Ottoman antiques, such as daggers and knives. They're considered museum pieces and will probably be confiscated.
• Never try to obtain an eksperti yourself. It's a Turkish Catch-22: Any item brought to a museum by an outsider is suspect (and therefore might be confiscated).
• It might be wise to get an eksperti for items that are old but not antique, lest they be confiscated at passport control.

Private Guides

Judith Minoff-Togac, an interior designer who left her native New York for Turkey more than 20 years ago, is the kind of person you need at your side when negotiating prices. She speaks Turkish, and knows just where to shop and how to get the best prices. Guided shopping tour of the city, with commissions/fees based on itinerary. Cash only. Reservations: 212-263-6311; 265-8717.
Marilyn Hill-Henderson runs a personal shopping service that specializes in finding the best prices available in Istanbul. For additional information, consult Hill-Henderson's Web site:
FEST Tours has unusually thorough tours of the city and beyond, and it offers them in several languages upon request. Cash only. Call 212-258-2589/2573 for schedules.

Sultanahmet and Vicinity


Four Seasons Istanbul The only luxury hotel in this part of the city, this two-year-old, 145-room hotel is also one of the best. From it you can see—and walk to—the Haghia Sophia, the Blue Mosque, and Topkapi Palace. The building housing the hotel was once a prison—and for reasons no one quite understands many of the cells were fitted with large pointed-arch windows. That means the rooms are airy and bright. There are tasteful Ottoman touches decorating the lobby, from giant hammered copper candlesticks to silk and velvet wall hangings. The rooms themselves are plushly and tastefully done, but in an international style, though there are Turkish elements here and there, such as cozy kilims in the bathrooms and the occasional antique silver pitcher in the foyer. For a fine view of Haghia Sophia, book room 314. Otherwise, book a room with a sea-view terrace on the third or fourth floor. $225-$2,000. Tevkifhane Sokak 1; 800-332-3442; 212-638-8200; fax 212-638-8210.
Click here for more info

Yesil Ev The Green House, as it is known in English, is the best of the city's traditional townhouse hotels. It was restored by Çelik Gülersoy, along with many other konak (traditional houses) along Cold Fountain Street, which is near Haghia Sophia. Pasha Suites have views of Haghia Sophia and the Blue Mosque. The garden is a tranquil place for a drink before dinner. The level of service and amenities are about the same as at a three-star Left Bank hotel, but the atmosphere and location make up for the lack of luxurious touches. You might want to divide your stay—two or three nights at Yesil Ev, with the balance at one of the five-star properties. $125-$200. Kabasakal Caddesi 5; 212-517-6785; fax 212-517-6780.

Ibrahim Pasa Kilim-covered couches, a fireplace, heavy urns, and fat floor candles lend this townhouse hotel an air of style and comfort. A cozy breakfast nook adjoins the lobby (at night it becomes the bar); on sunny days the rooftop terrace is the place to soak up the view. Best-view rooms: top-floor suites overlooking the Sea of Marmara. $95-$135. Terzihane Sokak 5; 212-518-0394/95; fax 212-518-4457.


Develi The ultimate kebab house. Among the more than 50 skewered-meat (mostly lamb) dishes are fistikli kebab, made with pistachio nuts embedded in the meat; simit kebab, in which there is bulgur, pine nuts, and spices; and even a truffle kebab, whose main ingredient is sniffed out in the far reaches of Turkey. Mediterranean specialties such as lahmaçun (meat pizza) and humus are delicious. $30-$40. Balikpazari, Gümüsyüzük Sokak 7, Samatya; 212-529-0833; 529-0834; 632-7982; 632-7983.

Pandeli This restaurant, upstairs at the Spice Bazaar, is often touted as the place to have lunch in the Old City. It's true that competition in the area is scarce, so one tends to overlook the high prices for food that's good—especially the meze (Turkish appetizers) and grilled swordfish—but not fabulous. High on atmosphere, with blue-tile interior, and high on attitude—waiters who, if they do know some English, have little patience for it. Lunch only. 11:30 a.m.-4 p.m.; closed Sundays. $20-$60. Misir Carsisi 1, Eminönü; 212-527-3909.

Kumpkapi Area This former fish market, just a short taxi ride away from the Old City along the shore road, is now quite touristy, but its restaurants nevertheless serve good meze and fish. Gypsy minstrels serenade you silly, even getting up on the tables. Recommended venues are: Evren, Kor Agop, Olimpiyat, Kösem, and Liman. $28-$38. Some are cash only.


Topkapi Palace Museum Here's how to make the most of the sprawling complex in half a day:
Topkapi is generally jammed with bus tours, so go early on a weekday.
• Hire a private guide. They tend to be more knowledgeable than those employed by the palace.
• Try to start with the Haghia Eirene, one of the finest Byzantine churches left in the world. It's closed to the public, except for concerts, but a clever private guide might be able to get you in.
• Then take in the harem, which, although shabby, is worth a look. Most interesting: the tiled courtyards and the fruit-and-flower paintings in the dining room of Sultan Ahmet III.
• Follow with the miniatures room at the end of the Third Court, a sublime collection of narrative ink paintings and illuminated Koranic manuscripts, plus priceless inlaid ivory and alabaster writing sets.
• Finish at the Imperial Treasury, whose highlights include ebony thrones, the 86-carat Spoonmaker's Diamond, and the famous emerald and gold Topkapi dagger among other imperial trinkets.
• Lunch break: Take it at Konyali restaurant, which has a stupendous view of the Bosphorus and the Sea of Marmara. Try the flaky börek pastry. In the palace grounds at the end of the Fourth Court. 9:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m.; closed Tuesdays.
Click for more info

The Istanbul Archaeology Museum Part of the Topkapi Palace area. Enter within the palace walls or at the entrance to Gülhane Park. This prize-winning museum is unparalleled in Turkey for its fine collection of ancient treasures. The first things to see are the sarcophagi from Side (pronounced Sea-day) in the rooms off to the left just past the entrance, most notably the Alexander Sarcophagus (late fourth century b.c.). Then walk to the rooms to the right of the entrance to take in the extensive cache of Hellenistic and Roman sculpture, such as the head of Sappho and the pieces from Aphrodisias. Be sure to see the "Istanbul Through the Ages" section upstairs, an erudite archaeological and architectural overview of the city's history, with vivid fragments and four-color panels that bring the past alive as few of the city's museums do. The upper floor's relics of pottery since the Iron Age are of limited interest to the nonexpert (except for Troy buffs). 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m.; closed Mondays. Also see the Çinili Köskü and the Museum of the Ancient Orient, both fine museums; 212-520-7740; 520-7742.

Haghia Sophia The Church of Divine Wisdom, Istanbul's crown jewel of early Christianity, is still imposing but also time-worn and in need of a thorough facelift. Work has begun in fact: The fabled dome is partially obscured by scaffolding, nonetheless the atmosphere is magical. Shafts of light, let in by the small grilled windows high up, pierce the dusky interior, giving the church a palpable air of antiquity. Don't miss the mosaics upstairs. Go early and avoid weekends and national holidays. 9:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m.; closed Mondays.

Blue Mosque Istanbul's best-known landmark to visitors, this mosque, also known as the Sultanahmet Mosque, was designed by the Ottoman architect Mehmet Aga. The impressive ceiling is a virtual cascade of domes and semidomes, all supported by four elephantine pillars, each one 16 feet in diameter. Cables descending from the main dome support dozens of chandeliers of small glass lamps. They're only two or three feet above your head, which creates a doubtlessly intended effect: You're small, the dome infinite.
Note: This is the only mosque in Istanbul with six minarets.

Sokollu Mehmet Pasa Mosque Around the corner from the Blue Mosque. Exquisite tiles and a beautiful Baroque fountain.

Tomb Of Sultan Ahmet I At the entrance to the grounds of the Blue Mosque. Contains the tombs of a number of the Ottoman sultans as well as those of the sons of the imperial family. Instead of headstones, the graves are marked by sarik, a cloth and cushion. The effect is haunting.

Mosaic Museum Frequently overlooked, though it's just behind the Blue Mosque. This museum contains important mosaic fragments from the sixth-century Bucoleon, a maritime residence that was once part of the Great Palace of Byzantium.

Museum Of Turkish And Islamic Art A world-class collection of antique carpets and other handicrafts dating from the seventh to the 19th century. Located near the Blue Mosque. The collection is housed in the Ibrahim Pasa Sarayi, which is said to be the largest private home ever built in the Ottoman architectural style.
Upon entering, walk upstairs to the North and West wings to view the splendid Anatolian carpets, some of which are 500 years old, and the manuscripts, calligraphy, woodwork, and folk arts from the seventh to the 19th century.
Then take the large stairway back to the courtyard level to view the ethnographic collection (South Wing), which includes displays of carpet and kilim looms, cloth weaving and wool dying techniques, and goat-haired tents furnished with items from the nomadic tribes who came to Anatolia from Asia starting in the 10th century. 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; closed Mondays. Meydani 46; 212-518-1385; 518-1805.

Basilican Cistern This maze of underground vaulted arches, canals, and Corinthian columns, which was constructed in 532 as part of the water-supply system of Roman Constantinople, is one of the unheralded sights of the city. A bit drippy, so dress accordingly. 9 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Yerebatan Caddesi; 212-522-1259.

The Egyptian Market (Or Spice Bazaar) Its name derives from the fact that the merchandise once traded here came by boat from Egypt. Marvel at the array of birds, plants, rabbits, seeds, and flowers crammed into the outer stalls. The inner market is less interesting. Stop in at Cennet fabric store (Misir Carsisi 48; 212-522-0908) for the striped-satin fabric used on those pom-pommed Ottomanesque slippers for sale everywhere in the city. Monday-Saturday 9 a.m.-7 p.m.

Suleymaniye Mosque This, the mosque you see from the Galata Bridge, is considered the greatest mosque in Istanbul and the finest work of the great Ottoman architect Sinan. The best way to appreciate it is to enter from the side door, walking to the back of the courtyard to take in the multitiered facade. The simple interior—four immense pillars supporting the great dome—breathes the holy reverence of Islam as few other major mosques do. From the Golden Horn side of the complex there is an incomparable view. Also see the türbeler, or tombs, and impossibly calm cemetery—at twilight, if possible.


Kurukahveci Mehmet Efendi Historical, authentic, and touristic all at once, not to mention the fact that it is a feast for the olfactory senses. Its trademark is bags or tins of fine Turkish coffee. Cash only. Tahmis Sokak 66, Eminönü; 212-511-4262.
Click here for more info


This, the historic area on the north side of the Golden Horn, was traditionally Istanbul's European quarter. Stroll up Istiklal Caddesi, the main thoroughfare of this section and the Champs-Elysées of the city. Close to the major sights in Sultanahmet.


Pera Palas Hotel Aside from the charms of its still grand lobby, and the mystique derived from Agatha Christie, perhaps its most famous guest, there is little reason to stay here. The hotel is in desperate need of a major overhaul. The rooms are stale and noisy, the furniture is dingy. Soak up the nostalgia in the convivial marble bar, where the likes of Hemingway and Garbo had drinks (and the service today is hit or miss), or take tea and tarts in the peach- colored Art Nouveau tearoom. (The faded but curious cocoon chairs by the window are the best seats in the house.) $180-$323. Mesrutiyet Caddesi 98-100, Tepebasi; 212-251-4560; fax 212-251-4089.


Inci Pastanesi Famous for its profiteroles; other sinfully good sweets abound. Delectable dishes range from the chicken breast pudding to asure—a gelatin-based concoction with 40-plus ingredients said to be the invention of Noah when he was running out of supplies. Cash only. Istiklal Caddesi 124/2; 212-243-2412.
Click here for more info


Galata Tower One hundred seventy feet high, this is the grandest remnant of Genoese influence and a city landmark. Climb to the top for a panoramic view.


What was once a mecca for eskicis (junk collectors) plying their trade to and from the Grand Bazaar is now a small quarter, not far from Galata, for antique furniture and objects at Western prices.


Susam is a hip place for dinner after a day spent shopping or seeing the sights. In spring and summer the restaurant's terrace offers an incredible view of the Old City. The Turkish-European menu is much appreciated by locals and visitors alike. $60. Susam Sokak 6; 212-251-5935; 251-5936.


Asli Gunsiray* specializes in Anatolian doors and furniture. (This shop also sells fabrics, but they're mostly imported.) The owner is a society darling who's a good source of information if you can catch her in the store. Cash only. Çukuruma Caddesi 74; 212-293-1998; 252-5986.

Resto A redone townhouse with each room decorated with items for sale: from 100-year-old Dervish hats to a 16th-century fragment of Iznik tile, all priced in the four figures. Sales help can be uninformed, so call ahead to see manager Yaman Mursaloglu. Cash only. Faikpasa Caddesi Resto Han 41; 212-251-9587; 245-7454; fax 212-243-0279.

Hikmet + Pinar* Everything from the painted and gilded wall hangings to the silk divans and velvet cushions in this shop's richly stocked, cavernous space is truly tempting, but buyer beware: Certain merchandise for sale here is not allowed out of Turkey. Cash only. Faikpasa Yokusu 36; 212-293-0575; 243-2400.

Samdan Antique andsome carved-wood panels, rustic cupboards, and candlesticks (the word samdan means just that). Cash only. Altipatlar Sokak 20; 212-245-4445.

Meshur Asri Tursucu is an Istanbul institution, famous for its pickles and pickle juice. Heads of state have come here to imbibe the latter, which is said to lower blood pressure and improve circulation. The fainter of heart might take home a jar of pickled cucumbers, garlic, or melon. Cash only. Agahamam Caddesi 29; 212-244-4724; 251-4876.


Taksim Square, a modern area, is a major crossroads. Northeast of Beyoglu and just south of Nisantasi, it has good road connections to the city center.


Hyatt The rooms have inlaid wood cabinets concealing TV and minibar, as well as thick curtains and tasteful prints. Staff are pleasant, if not always perfect. The Polo Lounge is a good spot for a break from the noise and bustle of the city. Try the Agora restaurant's buffet for Turkish specialities; upscale locals like Spasso for its northern Italian food. $290-$2,500 (without breakfast). Taskisla Caddesi, Taksim; 212-225-7000; fax 212-225-7007.
click for more info

Hilton The oldest five-star hotel in Istanbul—constructed in 1955—has undergone a much-needed renovation over the past two years. Its corner suites (approximately $480) offer the nicest views. And the slightly cheaper standard doubles on the water ($270) are more pleasant than the rooms on the garden side of the hotel. The outdoor pool is a hangout for locals in summer months; the hotel also has squash and tennis courts. The convention center draws a steady stream of business travelers. $242-$310. Cumhuriyet Caddesi, Harbiye; 212-231-4650; fax 212-240-4165.
Click for more info

Ceylan Inter-Continental Istanbul The overall effect at this former Sheraton, now renovated, is a bit splashy—gurgling fountains and giant palm trees in the lobby, as well as a slightly ambitious Californian menu in the cactus-strewn Brasserie upstairs. There are, however, a few things that more than compensate here: the Bosphorus Suites (the best rooms in the house, $700), which have a view of the famous strait from the Jacuzzi; topnotch workout equipment in the health club (plus an artificial putting green); voice mail and computer-modem connections in every room; the Thai-French restaurant, Citronelle ($100); and the rooftop Turkish restaurant, Safran ($66). The hotel's second-best rooms: deluxe sea-views from the seventh to 15th floors ($275). $235-$3,500. Asker Ocagi Caddesi 1, Taksim; 212-231-2121; fax 212-231-2180.
Click for more info


Divan Considered by Stamboulis one of the city's finest restaurants. It serves excellent meze—especially the dolma and Circassian chicken—and wonderful grilled swordfish. A good choice if you are staying at the Çiragan Palace, as Divan is only 15 minutes from the hotel by taxi. $110. Divan Hotel, Cumhuriyet Caddesi 2, Elmadag; 212-231-4100. Note that the food here is preferable to that of the Divan Kuruçesme branch, up the Bosphorus.


On the opposite side of the Golden Horn from the Old City and not far from Taksim-Harbiye. Besiktas is on the Bosphorus, and Maçka is on the eastern edge of the Taksim-Harbiye area. Besiktas is the site of several Ottoman monuments, including the türbe, or tomb, of the famous Ottoman admiral Hayrettin Pasa, known in the West as Barbarossa; the tomb is one of the earliest works of Sinan (dated by an inscription over the door 1541-42). Nearby is the mosque Sinan Pasa Camii (completed 1555-56), built for the Ottoman admiral Sinan Pasa. There is also a statue of Barbarossa by the Turkish sculptor Zühtü Müridoglu. Twenty to 40 minutes by car, depending on traffic, to the city center.


Çiragan Palace Hotel Kempinski Istanbul A member of Platinum Card Fine Hotels & Resorts. Right on the Bosphorus, the hotel consists of two parts: a 19th-century palace containing 12 suites, which are used by heads of state and other such VIPs, and a gourmet Turkish restaurant; and an adjoining modern building with 310 other guestrooms. The iragan (pronounced Shear-on) is very comfortable, the staff efficient, and the lobby a gathering place for Istanbul professionals at cocktail hour. Notable amenities include a Turkish bath and a lip-pool that looks out on the water, as well as a putting green along the Bosphorus. Ask for a Bosphorus-side room: The view is terrific and the balconies spacious. Rates: $230-$5,000 (breakfast not included). iragan Caddesi 84, Besiktas; 212-258-3377; fax 212-259-6687.
Click for mor info

SwissôTel The Bosphorus Although a professional operation overall, the hotel at times falls short on service (switchboard operators who cut you off or do not alert you to messages). Still, one fine restaurant (Sark Sofrasi), a decent health club, and a topnotch bakery (surly staff but the sweets are worth it) make this a solid choice for those who want a modern hotel. Book either a Panorama or Butler room ($370); both have good views of the Bosphorus. $220-$2,300. Bayildim Caddesi 2, Maçka; 212-259-0101; fax 212-259-0105.
Click for mor info

Conrad International Istanbul Mostly patronized by business travelers, but worth a stay on a leisure visit for its well decorated Bosphorus ($610) and junior ($495) suites. Rooms ending in the high 30s and 40s have good sea views. Best amenity: the 14th-floor Summit Bar. The Manzara restaurant ($66) serves fine Turkish fare and offers tasteful belly-dancing revues. $230- $1,500. Yildiz Caddesi; 212-227-3000.
Click for more information


The city's best luxury shopping area with antiques stores and art galleries, this district also has a number of top restaurants.


One of the best choices for a light lunch on a shopping day. You will be in good company too: Smartly dressed Turkish women linger at this café post-purchase. Try the chicken salad, and save room for dessert. $65. Cash only. Mim Kemal Oke Caddesi 1/4; 212-225-2019.

Park Samdan On the other hand, if you want an elegant lunch in Nisantasi this understated restaurant—cream walls, beveled mirrors, brown chairs and banquettes—is the place for it. $70. Cash only. Mim Kemal Oke Caddesi 18; 212-225-0710.


Gunes OztarakçI* There are not many women in the rug trade in Turkey, and of the few, Günes tends to outshine the competition. Her long experience (three generations in the business) makes her popular with Turkish high-rollers who collect textiles, carpets, and kilims. The range is vast, from bright red and blue handmade Caucasian carpets about 80 years old (approximately $5,000) to the more common pastel Kars varieties ($300 and up). Her kilim stock is always rich and varied; antiques abound. Prices are fairly fixed, but quality is a given. By appointment only. Mim Kemal Oke Caddesi 5; 212-225-1954; 225-1968; fax 212-225-1940.

Sengor Carpet House* Eight decades of selling carpets puts Sengör at the top of the pile. Many of the carpets are done with vegetable dyes. The man to see: the president of the company, Cem Sengör. Abdi Ipekci Caddesi, Feyzi Feyzioglu Sokak 1/2; 212-234-3330; fax 212-247-9170.

Urart* This is the only firm with official permission to draw upon the unimaginably rich archives at the Istanbul Archaeological Museum to make reproductions of ancient jewelry designs. Thus their copies, everything from Byzantine coin earrings to Selçuk-motif gold-link necklaces, are exact. Specify the type of item you're interested in; wares are not displayed but are brought out for inspection in little velvet-lined trays. An appointment, with Suzan Sagmanli, is advised. Abdi Ipekci Caddesi 18/1; 212-246-7194; fax 212-248-0326.

Senem This is the place for interesting costume and semiprecious jewelry—both old and new designs. Cash only. Rumeli Caddesi 84; 212-240-1891.

Raffi Portakal* Antiques dealer to Istanbul's rich and famous, known for his divalike attitude toward his work, but respected for his collection of fine Ottoman-era furniture, from massive carved-chestnut writing desks to gilt dining chairs and accessories, such as Iznik ceramic platters and pre-20th-century portraits of Turkish citizenry. Prices reflect the swishy location. Cash only. Mim Kemal Oke Caddesi 12; 212-225-4637; fax 212-225-3713.

Freon A Western eye for design combined with a Turkish sense of whimsy produce the hats, bags, and jewelry in this shop. Cash only. Abdi Ipekci Caddesi 14/2; 212-225-5680; 225-5682; fax 212-295-8215.

Artisan* This shop carries couture and ready-to-wear clothing with an emphasis on embroidered silks and lace. Zafer Sokak 5; 212-234-3740; 231-6433.

Gonul Paksoy Hand-knit sweaters in natural wool and silk; raw silk and linen clothing; and chunky antique Ottoman jewelry. Prices here would be at home in New York or Paris. Atiye Sokak 6/A, Tesvikiye; 212-261-9081; and Atiye Sokak 1/3; 212-236-0209.

Ttr Handmade* A very good source for Turkish-made ceramic plates, table linens, and floor tiles done with flair. Cash only. Atiye Sokak 9; 212-233-5225.


A modern quarter beyond Nisantasi.


Sans Pronounced Shanz, this restaurant is well worth the trip from Sultanahmet or Beyoglu for its superb Turkish nouvelle dishes, from the meze (including eggplant puree and stuffed grape leaves) to the delectable eksili kofte (made with ground beef cooked with spices), the Sans kebab (house special grilled lamb), and paprika chicken. For dessert try the sutlac (Turkish rice pudding), ayva tatlisi (poached quince), or ekmek kadaif (a very sweet pastry). The buzz of chitchat, two-cheek kissing, and greetings from across the room—not to mention the touch of parrots in cages—provide almost as much diversion as the fine food. $50-$70. Haci Adil Sokak 1 (behind Yapi Kredi Plaza); 212-281-0707.

Up the Bosphorous

If traffic is reasonable, this is a pretty easy drive—even for dinner—from hotels in Besiktas-Maçka or Taksim-Harbiye.


Sadberk Hanim Museum Perhaps the city's best small collection of Turkish ethnographic and antique objects, including costumes and textiles, silver and jewelry boxes, porcelain and ceramic tile. A fairly recent addition is the archaeological annex, which has superbly displayed pottery, metal, and stonework. 10:30 a.m.-5 p.m.; closed Wednesdays. Büyükdere Caddesi 27-29, Sariyer; 212-242-3813.


Pasha Open only from late May until September-October, this grownup's mini-theme park of restaurants is a hub of activity on a warm evening. Among its eateries and bars is a branch of Samdan Restaurant and Café with the same fare as its Nisantasi counterpart ($52). There are a couple of Bosphorus-view bars, such as Absolut Bar, where patrons frequently enter from their speedboats at water's edge. A wide-screen movie amphitheater and dance floor plus body-skimming fashions complete the picture. Main drawback, the steep entrance fee: $25 per person. Muallim Naci Caddesi 142, Ortaköy; 212-259-7061; 259-7161.

Asian Istanbul


Korfez On the water, almost beneath the Fatih Mehmet Bridge, this is a destination restaurant. It also makes a terrific conclusion to a day spent driving up to the Black Sea. The food we had—from the mezes to the fish baked in salt—was excellent, and the service attentive. The restaurant runs its own boat-shuttle from Rumelihisar on the European side of the Bosphorus. $60. Körfez Caddesi 78, Kanlica; 216-413-4314.


Beylerbey Palace Built in 1864-65 as a summer palace. Today its well-restored interiors make it the rival of its grander counterpart across the Bosphorus, Dolmabahçe. Gilded Baroque chairs have been recovered in Hereke silk fabric to match the originals. The marble bathrooms are opulent—"the colour of the sea and porphyry," said Empress Eugénie, wife of Napoleon III, who once stayed here. 9:30 a.m.-4 p.m.; closes earlier than noted sometimes, so don't arrive at the last minute. Closed Mondays and Thursdays. Cayirbasi Duragi, Beylerbey; 216-321-9320.


PasabahçE Cam Fabrikasi Turkey's premier glass manufacturer, and still the best one-stop shop for all manner of breakable gift items—lovely crystal decanters, gilded bowls with matching vases, and more modern çesmibülbül (swirl-pattern) lamps. The shop's traditional tea sets are also popular souvenirs. Pasabahçe; 216-322-6166.
Click here for more info

Further Afield

Here is a list of sights certainly worth seeing but that are either secondary or away from the usual tourist districts.

Sultanahmet Side of the Golden Horn

Kariye Camii (The Church Of St. Saviour In Chora) One of the greatest monuments of Byzantine art in existence. Dating from the late 11th century, and converted to a mosque in the early 16th century. After Haghia Sophia, considered, because of its superb mosaics and frescoes, the most interesting Byzantine church in Istanbul. The 14th-century mosaics and frescoes of St. Saviour in Chora, contemporary with Giotto's, are a sneak preview of early Renaissance humanism. 9:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m.; closed Tuesdays. Kariye Camii Sokak, Edirnekapi; 212-631-9241.

St. John Of Studius The oldest Christian sanctuary in the city (fifth century), now Imrahor Camii; a rare, outstanding example of Byzantine architecture. Imam Asir Sokak, off Imrahor Ilyas Bey Caddesi.

Theodosian Walls The city's monumental land walls, constructed during Theodosian's reign in the fifth century, protected Istanbul from invaders for a millennium or so. Drive along the periphery; start at the Marble Tower near Yediküle and end at the Ayvansaray Gate at the Golden Horn.

Horhor Bit Pazari One of the best antiques markets. Much of the merchandise is not Turkish, but what is (chests, desks, tables, for instance) can be of good quality. Good or bad, however, prices are high, so it is advisable to go with a personal shopper. Aksaray.

Sts. Sergius And Bacchus Called The Little Mosque of Haghia Sophia, it's one of Istanbul's extant sixth-century churches. On the edge of Sultanahmet.

Mahmut Pasa Camii Near the Grand Bazaar; a significant example of the "Bursa style" of mosque architecture, referring to the city in western Turkey that was once the capital of the Ottoman Empire. This is one of the oldest mosques in the area.

Çorlulu Ali Pasa Medrese This quiet square, just down the Divan Yolu from the Grand Bazaar, is one of the few places you will find a narghile (water-pipe) salon, with some nice kilim shops to boot.

Teahouse Of Pierre Loti High on a hill above the Golden Horn, this offbeat café was frequented by the French expatriate author while he was writing many of his novels. Browse through his works while taking coffee or tea.

Rustem Pasa Mosque Of the great imperial architect Sinan's smaller works, this is arguably one of the prettiest with its famous Iznik tiles. Between Beyazit and the Golden Horn in the Market Quarter.

Beyoglu-Galata Side of the Golden Horn

Ihlamur Kasri Also known as the Linden Pavilion. An elaborate 19th-century mansion recently restored along with its surrounding gardens. 9 a.m.-5 p.m.; closed Mondays and Thursdays. Ihlamurdere Caddesi, Besiktas; 212-261-2991.

Galatasaray Fish Market Caviar, local cheeses, smoked salmon, and produce adorn the sidewalk stalls of this pedestrian street between Taksim and Tünel. A colorful scene. Istiklal Caddesi, Beyoglu.

Divan Museum The former home of the whirling dervishes; a bit scruffy now, but do go for the actual whirling ceremonies, last Sunday of each month (check schedule beforehand). Closed Mondays. Galipdede Caddesi 15, Tünel; 212-245-4141.

Yildiz Park Among its charms are the Yildiz Palace, a former royal residence and now a museum; the Ottoman-era Malta Pavilion, where lunch is served alfresco on warm days; and the tiny but curious Çini Magaza (Porcelain Shop), which sells china made in the adjacent factory as it once was made for the sultanate. Divine little gilt coffee cups, as well as blue and white Iznik-style painted plates. 9 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Besiktas; 212-260-2370.

Other Locales

Princes' Islands Beloved by royalty among others, this group of nine islands is a great getaway for a day. Take the fast seabus from Kabatas Pier, or the more authentic but slow regular ferries from Eminönü to Büyük Ada, or Big Island. Transport on the island is by fringed surrey, which you catch near the ferry landing. Opt for a half- or full-island ride, the latter being more picturesque. In either case there is a stop at Luna Park, a tea garden area from which you can also hike (or ride a donkey) up a steep, cobblestoned path to the scruffy but sweet Aya Yorgi Monastery and restaurant for lunch. The chicken sis and the monks' own bottled wine are recommended. Back in town, have a drink at the Splendid Hotel, a grand old Victorian structure with a pool; 216-382-6950. Have dinner at Milto, a seafood restaurant along the water on the far side of the ferry dock; fried calamari and catch of the day are usually very good.

About This Guide

Prices In U.S. dollars. Unless otherwise noted, the establishments listed accept the American Express Card.
Hotel Prices Hotel prices are based on double occupancy with breakfast unless otherwise noted.
Restaurant Prices Restaurant prices are for four-course meals (cold appetizer, hot appetizer, main course, and dessert) for two without wine or service.
Menu Items Cited Current at the time of the review, but may well have changed by the time you dine at the restaurant.
Telephone Numbers The country code for Turkey is 90; the city code for Istanbul in Europe is 212, Istanbul in Asia is 216.
Platinum Card Travel Service (PTS)
For assistance, call 800-443-7672. From abroad, call 602-492-5000 collect.

* Denotes shops in which some English is spoken.