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Istanbul is Europe and Asia all in one. We all know the city’s attractions are amazing, from the Blue Mosque to the Hagia Sophia to the Basilica Cistern, and even though there’s been some political turmoil and even a bombing/shooting while I was there (thanks so much for the tweets and emails of concern!), I still think Istanbul is a leading tourist destination. And remember, we have more gun violence in America than Turkey does — by a wide margin.
Savvy travelers know that Istanbul’s hotels are fabulous and affordable, with lots of points options. Flight options to Istanbul are plentiful, as well, with Delta and Turkish flying nonstop from North America and several solid choices for award travel. And once you’re there, food, shopping, entertainment and nightlife are cheap. Talk about getting a bang for your buck … or rather, lira.
So without further ado, here are the five things that I loved (beyond the obvious) on my recent trip to Istanbul:
1. Walking on the roof of the Grand Bazaar
My tour guide, Erk Erkaya, knows a guy with the key to the roof at the Grand Bazaar, and I was treated to a unique experience I’ll never forget. Erk and his partner Ümit Aggül create custom tours at Locally Istanbul; I highly recommend their services.
2. Staying at Soho House Istanbul
My stay at Soho House Istanbul was thoroughly enjoyable — see my review for proof! I had a cool room; the clientele is fun and hip; and the design is chic and cool, with the club located in a former US consulate. I had the best massage of my life in the Cowshed Relax Spa (although my friend said that being treated like a sultan at the famous Hagia Sophia Hamam does not disappoint!). Also, with not one, but TWO rooftop pools, retreating to Soho House is a great way to relax in a hectic city.
3. Eating my weight in delicious food
Whether it was low-key Turkish tea and pastries or awesome temples of gastronomy, we ate like kings. Among our favorites were the grilled octopus at Karakoy Lokantasi and Sur Balık Arnavutköy‘s mix of classic and ambitious dishes, as well as a fantastic lunch at Çiya that left us stuffed to the gills. I think I’ll be craving Turkish food again before long.
4. Partying until dawn
From drinks at the Starck-designed Mama Shelter rooftop to meeting new, fun friends to roaming Taksim Square, we soaked up every ounce of nightlife that Istanbul has to offer, and the city never once let us down. A favorite among our friends is the LGBT Love Club nights at Love Dance Point, which are on Fridays and Saturdays. The party doesn’t get started until midnight and goes all night long.
5. Taking a sunset boat tour of the Bosphorus
The gang splurged a bit and we got a boat on the Bosphorus all to ourselves for two hours. After going under the Bosphorus and Fatih Sultan Mehmed bridges and watching the sunset while sailing between Europe and Asia, the captain dropped us off right at our dinner spot! That’s how memories are made.
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