How to see Istanbul in two days

The Sunday Mail (Queensland) - Escape - - FRONT PAGE -

Start with the Grand Pera Palace and fin­ish on the Bospho­rus wa­ter­front and ex­pe­ri­ence the best of the Turk­ish cap­i­tal in be­tween, writes Karen Hal­abi.

STANBUL has a split per­son­al­ity – half Eastern, half West­ern, half Mus­lim and half party town, it’s a heady mix of tra­di­tional and mod­ern, cut­ting edge and con­ser­va­tive.

It strad­dles Asia and Europe and is the most ex­cit­ing city on the planet right now and poised to take over Paris’s po­si­tion as the sec­ond-most-vis­ited city in Europe. The more than 11 mil­lion tourists who poured into Istanbul last year, mak­ing it the fastest grow­ing tourist city in the world, can’t be wrong.

Ar­rive at Ataturk Air­port. Take a taxi to his­toric Beyo­glu.

Check in to the op­u­lent Grand Pera Palace, the orig­i­nal 1890s ho­tel, which re­cently had a com­plete makeover. The Pera Palace was known as the ho­tel of choice for Ori­ent Ex­press pas­sen­gers and once counted Agatha Christie, Ernest Hem­ing­way and Al­fred Hitch­cock as guests.

Sip com­pli­men­tary mint tea on your bal­cony over­look­ing the Golden Horn and nib­ble on a plate of mac­arons and Turk­ish de­light.

Take a tour of the room where Agatha used to stay and the Ataturk Mu­seum. The ho­tel is fa­mous for its high tea served in the sa­lon from 3-6pm but you won’t be hang­ing around for that. In­stead …

Head out the re­volv­ing door and walk slowly up through Beyo­glu’s nar­row streets un­til you reach Istanbul’s most popular his­toric pedes­trian shop­ping street, Istik­lal Cad­desi, or In­de­pen­dence Ave. Here on this pretty, wide, Parisian-style 3km-long pedes­trian av­enue you’ll find bars, cafes, restau­rants, shops, gal­leries and mar­kets – from the hip, trendy and ex­pen­sive, to ev­ery­day and af­ford­able. Or­der a re­fresh­ing pomegranate juice, squeezed in front of you, and maybe a borek from one of nu­mer­ous side street cafes. Fol­low the throngs to­wards Tak­sim Square – the Le­ices­ter Square of Istanbul.

Walk down Istik­lal in the other di­rec­tion to­wards Galata Tower in the heart of the cob­bled Galata dis­trict. A stone spire built in 1348, it is an Istanbul land­mark and has amaz­ing views over the Golden Horn. Buyuk Hen­dek Cad­desi (9am-8pm; 19 Turk­ish lira or $A9).

Take a tram over Galata Bridge to Emi­nonu from where you take a short cruise on the Bospho­rus (about 1½-2 hours). A boat cruise is a lovely way to see the Euro­pean and Asian coasts for as lit­tle as 10 or 12 TL.

Dine at Ne­cati Yil­maz’s di­vine new restau­rant Der­aliye in Sul­tan­hamet to try Ot­toman cui­sine, the food served to the sul­tans; Di­vanyalou Cad­desi 10, Sul­tan­hamet; +90-212 520 7778, de­r­aliy­er­estau­rant.com. Yil­maz was re­spon­si­ble for dig­ging up the recipes from the Top­kapi Palace ar­chives that set the menu for the nearby Mat­bah restau­rant that also serves Ot­toman palace cui­sine. Linger over lunch, savour­ing each morsel of palace del­i­ca­cies such as lamb served on a bed of egg­plant and grilled Cir­cas­sian cheese. Th­ese his­tor­i­cal dishes are gleaned from palace records and an­tique cook­books.

Take a taxi back to your

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