Sumahan On The Water
This restored Ottoman Raki distillery-turned-boutique hotel is located right on the waterfront of the Asian side, which means you’ll be a ferry ride away from some of the main attractions, but you’ll wake up to panoramic views of all the iconic sites. Providing modern comforts within a historical setting, this luxury hotel provides all the amenities, complete with a traditional Turkish bath in each room.
Four Seasons Sultanahmet
While you can never go wrong with a Four Seasons property, their Istanbul location is truly something special. This centuries old fixture was once an Ottoman prison, but it’s been totally renovated with modern amenities that hint at ancient design traditions. The prime location is walkable from the gorgeous mosques and lively rooftop restaurants.
Çırağan Palace Kempinski Istanbul
Once a royal residence for sultans and now luxury hotel that hosts royalty and high ranking politicians. The property is extremely well maintained and truly grandiose, offering spectacular Bosphorus views and traditional decor evoking bygone era of Ottoman opulence. There are multiple restaurants on property, and they are all worth trying.
Çakmak Kahvaltı Salonu
The streets of Beşiktaş are dotted with fantastic breakfast spots and their crowded outdoor patios, but Çakmak is an Istanbul institution. Sit down for a full spread of traditional Turkish breakfast and settle in for lively street watching and an epic multi-course breakfast feast. Don’t forget the Turkish coffee!
If you don’t want the traditional spread of breakfast dishes, menemen is another great Turkish breakfast tradition. Part-omelet, part-egg cake, this unique dish can be customized endlessly – add cheese, chicken, roast eggplant, or all three! Best served alongside fresh baked sesame bread and copious amounts of Turkish tea.
Locally famous chef Şemsa Denizsel serves a seasonal menu that changes daily. Locally sourced ingredients are served at peak freshness among a setting of fresh cut flowers for an exquisitely elegant lunch inspired by Turkish culinary traditions and international gastronomic trends. Try and sample as many dishes as you can!
Karadeniz Pide ve Döner
Doner is a quintessentially Turkish street food that is must try before leaving the city. Meat shaved off of a giant rotating stick served three ways: as is, in a sandwich, or wrapped in a pita – with your choice of sauce. Pro tip: GET ALL THE SAUCES. As the unofficial best doner joint in town, Karadeniz usually has a crowd going, but it’s well worth the wait!
Rooftop bars and restaurants are a dime a dozen in Istanbul, and luckily they mostly all provide some solid local cuisine. 360 Istanbul has an especially ideal location for rooftop views, as it towers so far above the surrounding sites and has floor to ceiling windows that provide a more polished look. There is nothing bad on the menu, but we recommend settling in for rounds and rounds of mixed hot and cold appetizers.
Serving up Anatolian inspired dishes with a side of gorgeous aerial views of the city, Milka is an upscale locale that celebrates the country’s rich food culture. Opt for the tasting menu with wine pairing for a truly unforgettable dining experience and come early for pre-dinner cocktails.
The “Maiden’s Tower” has a colorful history filled with more legend than truth. A small tower on a tiny Bosphorus Island that was reportedly used to protect the daughters of Sultans has now been converted into a funky little restaurant. Accessible only by boat, this unique spot offered unparalleled views of the city from many angles.
Petra Roasting Co
This hip new company brews small batch coffee straight from the source and is always a lively place to be and be seen. The best part? They have a whole selection of coffee cocktails! Sparkling Americanos, Espresso Juleps, and much, much more.
This tiny shop makes everything pickled – artichoke hearts, lemons, grapes, even pinecones! Customers can order any flavor of pickle juice paired with pickled treats of their choice. The fermented elixir has amazing health benefits and there something surprisingly refreshing about sipping an ice cold mug of spicy sweet pickle juice and crunching on a selection of preserved fruits and vegetables… Buy some jars to bring home, these treats last up to two years!
A trip to Turkey isn’t complete without a night of hookah. This cozy spot offers all the favorite flavors, along with the traditional drinks and snacks for a classic Turkish night out. By the end of the night, you’re sure to walk away with a new lifelong friend or two. Wildcatters choice flavor: Rose and mint together!
Is it a bar or a highly curated vintage antique shop? This funky bar is decked out with old books, nostalgic posters, and other peculiar pieces. Serving Turkish and international drinks, this is nice spot for casual drinks and great photo opportunities.
Private Yacht Tour of the Bosphorus
Sitting on a giant boat, eating family style with a bunch of other tourists isn’t exactly our idea of a good time. Luckily there are countless companies that provide luxury yachts for hire, providing a private drinking or dining experience while cruising the calm waters between Europe and Asia. Plan an early morning picnic or an evening cocktail hour, but make sure to catch a sunrise or set from the boat!
If you want to stock up on gifts before you go, this is the place to do it! This enormous covered market is just like what you see in pictures – filled with intricate woven textiles, bright colored candies of every flavor, exotic spices, and handmade crafts. Don’t be afraid to haggle with the shopkeepers…it’s a sport to them! Also not to miss: The Spice Bazaar.
There is a small collection of islands right of the Golden Horn that offer a quaint and secluded getaway from the big city sights and sounds. A short ferry ride away, these islands are stuck back in time, as there are no motor vehicles allowed there at all. Stay for the day or stay for the night, but be sure to catch a sunset over Istanbul from a view unlike any other.
Visit Ottoman Palaces
Istanbul has always been a world capital and as such is home to many lavish palaces with extensive art collections and historical artifacts. Be sure to stop by Dolmabahçe, Topkapı, Çırağan, and the Beylerbeyi Palaces to see how past Wildcatters lived, but if you can only hit one: definitely visit Topkapı and take plenty of time to wander to epic palace gardens and breathtaking views.
While it seems like there might be a mosque on every corner, the Suleymaniye and Sultan Ahmed Mosque right in the city center are something in a different league. Stained glass windows, handpainted scriptures, and gorgeous Ottoman tiling make these monstrous buildings even larger than life. Don’t forget to cover up and take your shoes before entering any mosque. Also off the beaten path: Sancaklar Camii – an underground mosque with a truly unique modern interpretation of a minaret.
Unique City Tours
Whether you want to go mushroom hunting in the Belgrade Forest with a local expert, tour the city’s lively street art with a local professor, or try all the best street food with a local chef, there is something for everyone. You can even take a private city tour in the sidecar of a vintage WWII motorcycle and walk away with a dvd of the body camera footage…why not?
Ayasofya Hürrem Sultan Hamamı
Visiting a traditional Turkish bath is an experience unlike any other, and truly something not be missed while in Istanbul. This historical Hamam was built by the the most famous and beloved architect in Turkish history entering the giant domed building is like stepping back in time. Following centuries old bathing rituals, you’ll come out feeling like a sultan.
Four Seasons At The Bosphorus
If getting rubbed down by a team of old Turkish aunties in front of a crowd of curious locals doesn’t sounds too relaxing, luckily for you the Four Season offers a solid spa experiences that expertly combines classic Ottoman treatment with a modern sense of luxury and privacy. From traditional hair removal treatments to the classic couples massage, this place has all the extravagant comfort you’d expect from a Four Seasons with just the right touch of Turkish flair.
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