The Washington Post
Istanbul is the new cool!
With its millennia-spanning historical heritage, wide array of cultural offerings, mouth-watering cuisine and breathtaking vistas, İstanbul is a destination guaranteed to inspire visitors from all walks of life. Take a closer look at the city where cultures and continents unite…
As one of the most vibrant locations in all of Europe, İstanbul is a pulsating cultural capital and creative centerpiece, drawing inspiration from its thousands of years of tradition and grandeur. Undoubtedly, the best place to begin exploring this bustling treasure trove is the Historical Peninsula. Some of the city’s must- see landmarks are within walking distance — from the iconic domes of the Hagia Sophia to the grand minarets of the Sultanahmet Mosque, also known as the Blue Mosque. Meanwhile, the former residence of the Ottoman sultans, Topkapı Palace, gives visitors the chance to discover the splendor of the empire’s court and the beauty of the harem, the sovereign’s private chambers. While the recently renovated İstanbul Archaeological Museums continue to pay tribute to the masters of antiquity, a five- minute stroll from these halls will take you deep underground to the 6th- century Basilica Cistern — a cavernous marvel that has welcomed several Hollywood blockbusters, including “From Russia with Love” and “Inferno.” With recent art installations adorning this hallowed site, the mysterious beauty of this watery subterranean setting is bound to leave a lasting impression on all who venture below.
Beyoğlu: At the Heart of the City’s Art Scene
Right across the Golden Horn waterway, one cannot fail to notice the imposing Galata Tower. Dating back to 1348, the tower stood as the tallest structure in the city for most of its history. In the Galata neighborhood, you’ll be quickly absorbed into the buzz of the city’s contemporary life, with a wide array of design studios, art galleries, coffee houses and fine- dining restaurants, lining the surrounding cobbled streets.
On the far end of the pedestrian thoroughfare that is İstiklal Boulevard, Taksim Square is the city’s cultural heartbeat once again, thanks to the renovated Atatürk Kültür Merkezi ( AKM - Atatürk Cultural Center), a vanguard palace for the performance arts. The center’s main Opera Hall, designed in the shape of a giant sparkling- red globe, welcomes a host of operas, symphonies and performing arts extravaganzas.
Each year, the neighborhood is also animated by the Beyoğlu Culture Route Festival, spreading over 80 important cultural heritage sites, including the İstanbul Cinema Museum, Emek Stage, St. Antuan Church, the Pera Museum and the Tophane- i Amire Arts & Culture Centre, as well as the city’s state- of- the- art cruise terminal, Galataport. Right next door, you’ll find the new home of İstanbul Modern, the city’s pioneering museum of contemporary art, which eagerly awaits the reopening of its gates in 2023. In the newly burgeoning neighborhood of
Dolapdere, pioneering contemporary art galleries and museums like Arter have firmly established their new presence in modern structures as well.
Rami Library is yet another hidden gem of the city, on the other side of the Golden Horn. The former 18th- century Rami Barracks have reincarnated as the city’s largest library — the first sustainable library in the country— with millions of volumes for all ages and imaginations.
Neighborhoods with Character
Every neighborhood in İstanbul has its own distinct appeal, with Karaköy (Beyoğlu) and Moda (Kadıköy) spilling over with trendy bars, cafes and restaurants; Balat and Fener full of timeless charm; and Şişli and Nişantaşı offering a wealth of shopping opportunities. Take a day to mosey off the tourist trail and explore the markets, vintage stores, antique shops, artisan studios and hyper-cool micro coffee roasters in these and other unique haunts. Many of the rustic former fishing villages lining the shores of the Bosphorus have since become hip neighborhoods where İstanbul society comes to see and to be seen. Arnavutköy, Kuruçeşme and Bebek, famed for their sumptuous array of Ottoman-era seafront mansions, are now home to elegant cocktail bars and gastropubs and the people to match.
A Slice of Country Life in the Metropolis
İstanbul’s delights are far from limited to the banks of the Bosphorus. A pleasant ferry ride takes visitors to the Princes’ Islands — locally known as Adalar and long admired by residents as a wistful escape from city life. On a clear day, these nearby jewels in the Marmara Sea are visible from the city’s coast. The Adalar consist of a cluster of nine small islands that have been explored and enjoyed by a notable line of historical figures. Walk the cobblestone streets framed by historic mansions, many festooned with mimosas, bougainvillea and other colorful flowers. You can enjoy this proximal escape from the city’s hustle and bustle, indulging in the temptation of the plethora of family- run seafood restaurants and cafes lining the picturesque waterfronts. Don’t forget to take a bathing suit with you, as this is the best place to enjoy the Marmara Sea in all its glory!