Istanbul mysteriously had found its way up my holiday wish list. Don’t ask me why, but thank God (and Allah) it did. My friend Rachel and I booked our tickets in January when we were desperate for some vitamin D so I have been counting down quite some days until it was finally time to dig up my summer wardrobe and start packing.
A taxi, airplane and bus ride later, we found ourselves in the heart of the city. Fortunately for us, we picked a period right before the recent unrest started.
Our Mama Shelter hotel, where Philippe Starck definitely worked his magic, was located in the new part of town and had just opened its doors.
After dropping off our bags, we realized it was five after happy hour so we went on a hunt to try out the local beer.
While enjoying the late afternoon sunset, we decided on 3 golden rules for our trip:
1) Vacation is a synonym for NO rush and NO work
2) Food & drinks are absolute necessities
3) At least one day should include sun and a swimming pool
O boy, how we lived up to these rules.
We switched off our work phones and made sure to sleep in every day.
Then, our second rule came into force. Istanbul has many many excellent restaurants, cafes and clubs. And we did our best to try and test as many as possible. So we ate. A lot.
We had Breakfast, Brunch, Lunch, Bites, Diner, Dessert, Snacks. You name it; we ate it. Our ultimate favourites were:
1. Unter is this great restaurant, tucked away in a small street, run by a Dutch woman and serves great breakfast.
2. Mama Shelter is not only a fantastic design hotel, but also has a crowded bar where both locals and hotel guests meet for drinks.
3. Delicatessen is located in Nisantasi, the upmarket shopping area of Istanbul. Perfect for coffee and sweets.
4. Karabatak Karakoy, across the street from Unter, has baguette sandwiches, fresh juices and lots of delicious cakes.
5. 5Kat is the spot for Sunday brunch, with a view to die for!
Istanbul just literally has it all: great food, striking rooftop bars, fancy clubs, beautiful historic eye catchers, arty farty neighbourhoods, shops and everywhere you look lots of young, gorgeous people.
We started off like the regular tourist:
but quickly turned into the local tourist:
After we threw the lonely planet out we decided to follow our own guts. We stumbled upon a cute little alley with design shops,
the Grand Bazar with colourful spices and Turkish delights everywhere you look,
and a fancy rooftop bar where we treated ourselves to some fine cocktails.
On our final day, we worked on rule number 3. Being slightly hungover after our visit to the infamous Reina club, we snuck into the Hyatt Hotel, pretended to be regular hotel guests and plunged into the swimming pool and worked on our tan. O, what a life..
Istanbul, you stole my heart!