48 Hours in Istanbul

Contributed by Sarah Schneider

The Tig Archives 04 / 28 / 2015

There have been some lofty travel goals set in my wanderlust-filled life, but 48 hours in Istanbul was perhaps the most ambitious. It’s Istanbul, after all, with its grand bazaar, over 3,000 mosques to explore, rugs to strategically schlep back home, baklava to devour, culture-filled neighborhoods, the requisite hammam you simply must try, and oh yeah – that big ol Bosphorus. Case in point: there’s a lot to squeeze in.

Equal parts invigorating and dizzying, 48 hours in Istanbul is, indeed, an undertaking. Rest assured, your head will be spinning with (Turkish) delight once back on the plane, but undoubtedly, it’s worth every singular moment.

Check into the newly designed Soho House Istanbul tucked into the Beyoglu district. With 87 rooms, two rooftop pools overlooking the Bosphorus, and rooms that boast Turkish tiled floors and rainforest showers, it’s the perfect (and most stunning) place to rest you head. Have the hotel arrange a tour for you to check out the Grand Bazaar with the ever lovely host, Aysem Erginoglu. She speaks fluent English, Turkish, and German and will prove to be your trusted tour guide as she whisks you from the ritual of rug shopping (apple tea & five dedicated employees), through the nooks and crannies of the very overwhelming bazaar. Pick up one up a rug from Dhoku at a fraction of the cost; they sell to ABC Home in NY as well as Anthropologie. Well, well, well…you little product sourcer, you.

Venture to the spice market where you’ll have sensory overload and then tuck into a cup of Turkish coffee at Kurukahveci Mehment Efendi, where you’ll be able to swing some home for your very lucky friends. With your buzzy energy boost, you’ll be well on your way to take in some legendary sites. You can’t come to Istanbul and not see Hagia Sophia, which will certainly be on your top five list. So rich in history (think doors apparently made of wood from Noah’s Ark), this architectural masterpiece is quite near to the Blue Mosque, so you can ensure you make it to both Istanbul standouts.

Have lunch at Kiyi, a beloved seafood restaurant that has maintained its menu since the 1960s because if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. A quick stop at world renowned Gulluoglu for the best baklava you’ve ever tasted and then back to the hotel just in time for sun downers overlooking the Bosphorous. Take it easy and have dinner at Mandolin tucked into the hotel and offering mezze plates and local wines, or dine around the corner for traditional kebab at Camim Cigerim where plates of meats, herbs, and flat bread are dolled out to your table like clockwork.

Wake up and have breakfast at Namli Gurme, a colorful deli/restaurant where you can sample over 70 types of cheeses and endless honeys. Perfect for some light pecking before heading to the absolutely necessary Hamam experience. You can go old school and classic (albeit touristy) at Cemberlitas Hamam, which is the city’s most famous, or be a non traditionalist and go for a more Ottoman chic at Kilic Ali Pasa Hamam. The latter is housed in celebrated architect Mimar Sinan’s final structure from the 16th century.

Stroll to Peche de Malle to snag some hostess gift approved tea towels and beach blankets, ands to neighboring Hic, where the cools kids are finding their tchotchkes for the home. You’ll be close to the antique district, so you may as well mosey through there for any last minute finds. You’ll be tuckered out, so have some Turkish tea back at the hotel, and rest up. Last night of dinner should likely be Karakoy Lokantasi, where you will need the concierge to help you get a table. Chic and brand spanking new, it’s the hot spot for good reason. The team aft Soho House says to order the Midye Dolma (stuffed mussels with garlic sauce). Per usual, they are right.

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