Sunday, July 3, 2011


I think one of the best decisions I made in my life was to return to Istanbul! Don't get me wrong - NYC is probably one of the most dynamic cities in the world, BUT... it doesn't have the Bosphorus strait... life is really organized... the city is not an "old" city - not much history ... so it was time to return to my roots.

Istanbul has changed dramatically since my return 17 years ago... some for the better and unfortunately some not so. The "better" stuff include a better economy...more jobs...excellent housing...great restaurants, bars and clubs.. tons of new hotels, shopping malls, etc. The "bad" stuff includes traffic.. traffic... traffic and a city with a population of over 13 million people.

But... still in my mind, the "good" out weighs the bad!

Every city has a "best" season to visit, but I personally think that Istanbul is truly for all seasons - maybe I am a bit prejudice on this subject. We have been lucky in Istanbul for the past few years and have not had very very cold winters with lots of snow... so no matter when you visit, you will have a good time.

However, the spring and summer months is when Istanbul is at its best! The colors of the Bosphorus are magnificent and most importantly, Istanbul's wining and dining and clubbing scene moves outdoors! Almost every single establishment finds a way to throw a couple of tables in front of their eateries and those that don't have that option either close for the summer or temporarily move to other quarters in other parts of the city.

The city is also abuzz with lots of concerts (jazz, rock, classical, etc.) with worldclass groups and singers (Elton John and Bon Jovi will be giving concerts this week) as well as local talent. If you really want to have a different kind of fun time... plan on attending a concert by a Turkish singer! You might not understand the words, but the music will get you in the groove! Some recommended concerts are those of Tarkan, Kenan Doğulu, Hande Yener, Hadise or Ajda Pekkan to name but a few of the top contenders. You can go to Biletix ( to see a list of the upcoming concerts and book your ticket online.

WHERE TO STAY: Lots of choice here (all the major international hotel chains have hotels in Istanbul)- it depends on your budget and the part of the city you want to be in... but just to give you a heads up, below is a list of some of my recommendations:

Old city: Four Seasons Hotel, Empress Zoe (
City Center (Taksim & vicinity): Intercontinental, Pera Palace Hotel, The Ritz Carlton; Swissotel, The Bosphorus
Nişantaşı: The Park Hyatt, Sofa Hotel, The House Hotel Nişantaşı
Bosphorus shoreline (European side): Four Seasons on the Bosphorus, Çırağan Kempinski, Les Ottomans, The House Hotel Ortaköy, Bebek Hotel
Bosphorus shoreline (Asian side): A'jia Hotel, Sumahan on the Water

WHERE TO EAT: The list is endless here too! There are sooooooooo many very good restaurants in the city and below are just some of my favorites.

Turkish "home style" cuisine: Hünkar
Fine dining/ with a view: Sunset Grill & Bar (International & Japanese), Ulus 29 (Turkish & International), Zuma (Japanese), Mikla (Mediterranean & International), Vogue (International & Japanese), La Maison (French)
Other dining/with a view: Nu Teras (Mediterranean), Banyan (Asian Fusion), Al Bushra (Lebanese), muzedechanga (Mediterranean)
Trendy & Good food & drink: Lucca, Delicatessen
Other: Şans, Mangerie, La Brise Brasserie, Backyard

DINING & CLUBBING: Celebrating their 10th anniversary this year, Reina Night Club is a definite must visit. On the Bosphorus waterfront in Kuruçeşme, you can go for dinner or just for drinks. But, reservations are a must for dinner and it does tend to get crowded every day during the summer, so you might not be able to get in just for cocktails due to long lines. So, it is best to go for dinner. The night club has numerous independently run restaurants to include Park Şamdan (Turkish & International), Blue Topaz (set menu with appetizers and fish), Dragon Chinese, Köşebaşı (meats and kebabs), Itsumi and Mirror Lounge (Italian) along with Reina Restaurant (International). I recommend that you go to Reina during the week and not the weekend.

Anjelique is another popular club and restaurant on the Bosphorus waterfront in Ortaköy. Does tend to cater to the under 40 crowd with theme DJ night performances. It has 2 restaurants that is managed by the owners: one is International and the other Asian Fusion.

CAFES (Breakfast, lunch... light dinner): Lucca (this place is great no matter what time of day or night you go.. very trendy, good food, moderate prices), Kitchenette (has many branches throughout the city), Aşşk Kahve (Kuruçeşme), Masa (IstinyePark shopping mall), Mangerie, Fes Cafe (2 branches in Sultanahmet - one is inside the Grand Bazaar, the other close to the Nuruosmaniye entrance), White Mill (Cihangir)

SEAFOOD: Bebek Balıkçısı, Set Balık, Balıkçı Sabahattin, Iskele Rumehlihisarı, Kıyı

As you may have noticed, I did not include any info on sightseeing... that will be another article.. but I want my blog to be more of a look at "contemporary" Istanbul.. the other stuff you can find in most of the guide books on Istanbul.

My next article will be on Salt Bistro... a new venue that just opened a few months ago at the new Garanti Gallery in Taksim which I will be visiting tomorrow.

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