At spring, Istanbul awakens, the sun is stronger, evenings are longer. And the city’s 15 million residents spill outdoors to sip tea al fresco on both banks on the Bosphorus. Alas, that traditional watery divide between European and Asian shores is no more.
In late 2013, a brand new sub-sea tunnel connected the bazaars and bars of Kadiköy with the markets and minarets of Sultanahmet – in just two minutes flat. Looking for tradition over modernity? Kick back on the car-free Prince’s Islands, a 30-minute ferry ride from downtown Istanbul.
Turkey’s largest city rises slowly. Linger over butter-soft börek and spicy menemen scrambled eggs at the Four Seasons Sultanahmet. It’s the best breakfast terrace in town.
Stroll past the fishermen on the timeless Galata Bridge and into the new SALT Galata Museum. Until late March, its Memory in an Ottoman Family exhibition uncovers early 20th-century Istanbul.
It’s time to sail from Europe to the Middle East. Vintage ferries puff across the Bosphorus from Galata to Kadiköy every 15 minutes. Go Istanbullu with a tulip-shaped glass of tea.
Çiya is many gourmets’ favourite Istanbul restaurant, and with good reason. Platters of okra, bulgur, wild greens, and aubergine are inspired by ancient Ottoman recipes, from the Adriatic to Arabia.
Make a return trip to Europe from Üsküdar station near Kadiköy on the Sub-Bosphorus Metro. Emerge in Istanbul’s historic Sultanahmet Old City with shopping bags in hand.
Shop ’till you drop. Or at least until you retire with a nargile and a pot of tea. Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar houses 3,500 stalls manned by some 22,000 staff.
Recuperate at the Ayasofya Hurrem Sultan Hamami, Istanbul’s finest day spa, which emerges from a sensitive renovation in March 2014. This spa pairs gold-plated bath bowls with marble surrounds.
Try the city’s newest gourmet hotspot inside the Armaggan Bosphorus Suites, the no-expense-spared luxury hotel that opened in late 2013. Dine on salt-baked sea bream as the Bosphorus streams past.
In a party mood? Then hail a bright yellow taxi to Babylon. Nightly oriental, Latin, and reggae concerts vie with DJ sets. Fellow partygoers are as welcoming as they are decadent.